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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It’s Just Manny Being Manny-san

When I read the news that retired Major League Baseball (MLB) great Manny Ramirez was re-starting his career in Japan after pretty much 19 years of great play in North America, I was curious to see which team was willing to take a flyer on the now 44-year-old Dominican ball player.

The Yomiuri Giants? The Chunichi Dragons? The Hiroshima Tigers or maybe even the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters?

Sadly, none of those Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) baseball teams did… though the team that did have some fight in it.

Ramirez signed with the Kochi Fighting Dogs of Japan’s independent Shikoku Island League Plus.

The what Dogs of the what league? I never heard of them.

It's like a logo designed for one of the leagues in the Pokemon television program where trainers go to try and win a badge.

It turns out you would have to be a real Japanese baseball fan to even know about the four-team independent league situated on Shikoku, Japan’s smallest and least populous of its four main islands.

Can Manny still be Manny?

“Manny being Manny” was quite the famous baseball phrase and one uttered by more than one teammate, coach, media outlet and fan over the course of his career.

The term first came to light in a 1995 Newsday story in which his Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove was commenting on the then very young baseball player as being a bit spacey.

Apparently he had forgotten his paycheck in a pair of boots left in the visiting team’s clubhouse. “That’s just Manny being Manny.”

A 1997 Akron Beacon Journal newspaper of Ohio piece wrote about how Manny Ramirez had invited former coaches and teammates to various games, promising them free tickets at the gate—and then  forgetting to do so.

No one ever got mad at him, merely noting that it was just “Manny being Manny.”

In 2000, Manny apparently promised to pay for his old high school’s new baseball uniforms… and had forgotten… even forgetting that he had lunch with his old high school baseball coach and some young baseball players.

Just Manny being Manny. He was 28 years old at that time.

When in 2001 he refused to play Left Field for the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Herald newspaper shrugged it off by claiming… you guessed it: Manny being Manny.”

He once had to pee during a game, and went inside the hollow and hallowed Green Monster wall at Boston’s Fenway Park… and well… Manny being Manny.

Last year during my son's City of Toronto baseball championship game, one member of the 10 & 11-year-old opposition had to pee 14 times... leading me to wonder if there was something physically wrong with his bladder.

I was just a fan, so I felt it appropriate to note to their coach that he should consider having his peeing #10 ball player be #1... adding by the time he got to his eleventh pee he should keep changing his jersey number to match his pee breaks.

He just went and peed against the outfield chain link fence that had a house's backyard on the other side... we could all see the homeowners walking past the vegetation that obscured the homeowner's view of the going's-on's... anyhow, we were yelling ineffectually at the owners to take a pee-k.

Your jersey says you are #10, kid, but are #1 in our books.      

Manny... still, for all his weirdness, Ramirez’ eccentricity was just him being a harmless but a bit weird.

According to an ESPN article, by 2001 “Manny being Manny” was used about once per year… by 2002 it was 11 times… by 2004 - 29 times.

In 2004, Ramirez batted .308 (very good!), hit 43 Home Runs (very, very good!!), and drove in 130 RBI (runs batted in) - very, very, very good!!! in helping the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series title in 86 years since they stupidly traded a young and very good left-handed pitcher who could also hit the ball some named Babe Ruth… arguably the greatest and certainly most well-known baseball player ever.

Lauding his ability to remain focused on just playing baseball rather than the media circus of everyone talking about the Curse of Babe Ruth, in seeing Ramirez being named the World Series MVP, people applauded him and said it was just Manny being Manny.  

This was just Manny being a really good baseball player.

Now we get to Manny being a jerk…

By 2007 he refused to pinch hit… in 2008 he pushed a 64-year-old Boston traveling secretary, complained of some ailment that was never diagnosed and sat out games… eventually Manny being Manny got to the point where he said that Boston didn’t deserve a player like him. 

The Boston Red Sox agreed and traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008.

With just two months left in the season, Ramirez cut his famous long, braided hair, was accepted by his teammates, and even hit .396, including 17 home runs and 53 RBI. If that were the entire season, we’d be looking at 49 home runs and 159 RBI… holy crap… that would have been most excellent.

Just Manny being Manny, right.

Then in 2009, he was suspended for 100 games by MLB for using some hCG (human chronic gonadotropin), a female fertility drug - used as a PED (performance enhancing drug).

Ramirez decided to retire rather than be suspended… but after the still-unserved suspension was reduced in December of 2009 to 50 games, Ramirez came out of retirement… but for most professional athletes over a certain age sitting out a year… the skill eroded, making it difficult for him to make the MLB roster of the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers or Chicago Cubs.

His life time statistics include: 312 batting average; 555 home runs (15th most all-time); and 1,831 RBI (18th most all-time). His suspension for performance enhancing drugs has tarnished his reputation for possible inclusion in Baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY…

Just Manny being Manny. 

Manny Ramirez will turn 45-years-old on May 30 of 2017.

As for Manny-san in Japan - why did Manny opt to play for the Kochi Fighting Dogs

Well... along with the Kochi Fighting Dogs, the other three teams are:
  • Ehime Mandarin Pirates (mascot is apparently a prate with an eye-patch - so you know he’s a pirate… but with a Mandarin orange for a head)

  • the Kagawa Olive Guyners (a guyner is a combination of the local dialect "gaina" meaning "strong" and the English word "guy.” I think there’s an olive to denote the team colors - like an olive green giant)

the Tokushima Indigo Socks  - which feature a spider with four blue socks covered by bright yellow shoes)

Manny’s new team logo (seen near the top of this article) depicts a a muscular dog flexing its muscles like guys always do in front of a home bathroom mirror… the dog looks like he is wearing the costume of a sumo wrestler.

I think Manny may have chosen his team based on the look of the team logo. 

Which version of Manny being Manny will the Kochi Fighting Dogs of Japan’s independent Shikoku Island League Plus get? I can't wait to find out!

Andrew Joseph

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