Manny not quite Manny anymore
Manny Ramirez's recent struggles have relegated him to a once-popular catchphrase
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- "Manny Being Manny."
It was a catchphrase that used to make you feel good. It used to bring a smile to your face every time Manny Ramirez high-fived a fan after catching a fly ball. It used to make you laugh every time he, um, relieved himself behind the doors of the Green Monster. It used to make you jump out of your seat every time he hit a home run in front of thousands of screaming fans wearing dreadlocked wigs.
All catchphrases, however, inevitably run their course and cease becoming relevant before slowly becoming sad reminders of a bygone time when we were seemingly amused by anything. "Manny Being Manny" has now become as outdated as saying "Wazzup!" on the telephone or "Wa-wa-wee-wa!" in the middle of a conversation.
Ramirez, in all his dreadlocked goofiness, has turned into baseball's version of a bad viral video you wish would just retire and go away.
Ramirez, however, is still around (just barely from an offensive standpoint) and still acting like the popular yet past-his-prime player who was waived by the Los Angeles Dodgers and picked up by the Chicago White Sox a month ago.
By all statistical measures, Ramirez, who is costing the White Sox $3.8 million for his one month stint on Chicago's South Side, has been an abject failure in the Windy City. He had 55 plate appearances for the White Sox before posting his first extra-base-hit, a solo home run a week ago Friday against the Detroit Tigers. The home run was Ramirez's first since June 19 in Boston, ending an 84 at-bat homerless drought. The streak isn't so surprising when you consider Ramirez hit only 21 home runs in 456 at-bats with the Dodgers after he served a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's substance-abuse policy last season.
When Chicago picked Ramirez up, hoping he would add some power to their lineup, they were 3.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. The White Sox now sit 11.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins, who clinched the division Wednesday and ended Chicago's postseason hopes.
Ramirez's apologists, few and far between these days, will argue he has been able to get on base recently, posting a .431 on-base percentage since being traded to Chicago. The White Sox, however, weren't expecting walks and singles sprinkled in between strikeouts and groundouts when they claimed him.
Then again, you never know what to expect with Ramirez.
As Ramirez walked into the visiting clubhouse at Angel Stadium prior to his first game back in Southern California since leaving the Dodgers, he smiled as he jokingly sang Jay-Z's "On To The Next One." It's an appropriate tune for a player who will likely be playing for his third team in a year this offseason.
When he spotted a couple of familiar media members from his time with the Dodgers waiting by his locker, he said, "You guys have nothing better to do? There's nothing going on in Los Angeles? You have to come down to Anaheim now?"
As much as we'd like to say there's something better happening on a baseball diamond in Los Angeles or Anaheim, the truth is for the first time since 2003 both the Dodgers and Angels are out of the postseason and neither team was really in contention after the All-Star break. Sadly, Ramirez's return to Southern California might be the last significant baseball story outside of a courtroom we'll see around these parts this season.
"I heard Joe [Torre] is gone," Ramirez said as he walked over to a table in the middle of the clubhouse and started doodling on a USA Today with a blue Sharpie. "Donnie [Mattingly is] a good guy. He'll do a good job."
When Ramirez was asked about doing a proper interview, not one where he is talking out of the side of his mouth while playing tic-tac-toe on a newspaper, he said, "No, I'm done talking about that soap opera."
That Ramirez wasn't even referring to the McCourt divorce, a situation he was later briefed on by a reporter, illustrated how rocky his tenure was with the team toward the end.
"I need my interpreter," Ramirez said when pressed about doing an interview again. "I need my interpreter. Ask Alec Rios. He's a big deal in Chicago."
When Rios, a Puerto Rican who was born in Coffee, Ala., is asked to help interpret for Ramirez, he smiled and said, "I don't speak English," in what can only be described as perfect English.
It seems the only people who dislike talking about Ramirez more than Ramirez are his former teammates who were with him in Los Angeles. White Sox outfielder Andruw Jones, whose disastrous tenure in Los Angeles can be credited for the Dodgers going after Ramirez in the first place, simply rolled his eyes when he was asked about Ramirez before the game. "I'm not talking about Manny," he said. "No Manny."
Another Sox outfielder, Juan Pierre, who filled in for Ramirez in left field while he served his 50-game suspension last year, simply smiled when asked about Ramirez. "I think that guy's following me," he said. "Everywhere I go, he shows up."
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After Ramirez finished flipping through a copy of the DuPont Registry, and pointing out six-figure cars to bat boys who stare in awe of the Ferraris and Maseratis on the pages, he was once again confronted at his locker and asked why he didn't speak to reporters when he left the Dodgers and continues to be difficult with the media.
"I don't know. I just want to play and go home," he said. "There's no problem with that. It doesn't mean that I'm a bad guy."
No, it doesn't necessarily mean that he's a bad guy. In fact, judging by the way his teammates gravitate toward him, he's probably a great guy, but he's a guy who continues to be misunderstood when he refuses to answer simple questions about his time in Los Angeles.
"Why? Why do people want to know what I'm thinking?" he asked. "I'm not into giving my opinion. Who am I?"
He has a point there. Currently, Ramirez is nothing more than a 38-year-old .241 hitter on a team playing out the stretch.
Yet during a season as listless as this for Los Angeles baseball fans, "Manny Being Manny" still represents all the good, all the fun and all the joy of the two seasons prior when the Dodgers won the NL West and went to the NLCS in consecutive seasons for the first time in 32 years.
That's why beloved Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley and her husband, Bill, drove down to Anaheim to catch up with Ramirez and Pierre, before leaving for their home in northern Nevada prior to the opening pitch.
"When Manny arrived, the team wasn't doing anything and he just brought a spark," said Hefley, who gave Ramirez and Pierre a big hug each in the visitor's dugout. "He brought a spark to the team in the dugout and on the field and made it very exciting."
Chicago was obviously hoping for a similar spark when they brought Ramirez over but all they've seen so far are false starts and misfires, which came to define his final days in Los Angeles.
During Chicago's 2-1 win over the Angels on Friday, Ramirez was welcomed by a chorus of boos from the crowd of 41,046 at Angels Stadium as he stepped into the batter's box in the second inning and grounded into a double play on the first pitch. In the fifth inning, he grounded out again before finishing his dreadful night by flying out to right field in the seventh inning.
When White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was asked about Ramirez's impact on the field, he let out a big laugh before saying, "He doesn't make too much impact on the field, but he's been great man."
"Manny Being Manny," like all great catchphrases, clearly lost its effectiveness and charm a long time ago but at least it's still good for a laugh now and then. Unfortunately as Ramirez reaches the end of the end of his career, we're laughing at him now, not with him.
Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ArashMarkazi.