Preparation truly defines Ramirez's offensive approach
Originally Published: May 31, 2008By Sean McAdam | Special to ESPN.com
Forget, for a minute, everything you know about Manny Ramirez.Forget the time he ducked into Fenway Park's left field scoreboard during a pitching change and barely made it back to his position before play resumed.
|Players who have hit 500 home runs in their careers:|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||599|
"Obviously, he's a natural," says Red Sox utility infielder Alex Cora, one of Ramirez's closest friends in the game. "But he works at his craft every day. He doesn't ever take the game for granted. Without a doubt, he's the hardest working guy I've ever been around -- and I've been around a lot. "I see him walk into the clubhouse every day with this big smile on his face. And I finally decided that the reason he's so relaxed is because he knows -- he knows." Once the game begins, Ramirez's at-bats are, for those in the game, a thing of beauty. Nothing happens by accident; everything is by design. "Even when he's going well," teammate Mike Lowell recently told the Boston Herald, "he's trying things in the cage to really lock himself in. I feel like telling him, 'Hey, Manny, you're already locked in!' He's on a constant pursuit for what he feels is the right swing." If Ramirez takes what appears to be an eminently hittable pitch, there's a reason. It might be that he's setting up the pitcher for later in the at-bat or even later in the game. Ramirez won't be persuaded by form or conventional wisdom. In 45 3-and-0 counts in 2007, he swung just three times. Clearly, in these at-bats and, for that matter, all his plate appearances, he has other plans. "I don't know if he's setting people up or he knows what's coming or what," says Cora, shaking his head in a mixture of confusion and awe. "He probably just sees something we don't." In turn, people enjoy watching him. Opposing players study him in batting practice. Teammates try to learn by observation. And fans make him appointment viewing. "Every time he hits," Red Sox manager Terry Francona says, "I bet you people never get up to get a beer or go to the bathroom. You never know what you might miss. Manny's that type of hitter." He's the type who mixes raw power with hitting artistry. In addition to his 500 homers, he's a pure hitter. How consistent is Ramirez? In eight seasons with the Cleveland Indians, he compiled a .313 batting average. Before the start of his eighth season with the Red Sox, Ramirez had hit exactly .313. He's the type who generates such blinding bat speed that he can allow the ball to come to him before he unleashes his swing. When he connects, he can drive the ball to -- and out of -- every part of the ballpark. "He's a complete hitter," a longtime advance scout says. "It used to bother me that all the work I did, all the preparation, didn't help [get him out]. But I'm resigned to the fact that he's in a special category. It isn't that he doesn't have any weaknesses. But he doesn't have many, I'll tell you that. And just when you think you've got a way to get him out, he finds a way to beat you."
AP Photo/Shizuo KambayashiManny Ramirez has hit 30 or more home runs in six of his seven full seasons with the Red Sox.
I see him walk into the clubhouse every day with this big smile on his face. And I finally decided that the reason he's so relaxed is because he knows -- he knows.
-- Alex Cora on teammate Manny Ramirez