The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.

David Ortiz Doubles Machine

Only three players in baseball history have amassed more than 600 doubles and 500 home runs. The first was Hank Aaron, baseball’s home run king from 1974-2007. The second was Barry Bonds—baseball’s home run king since then. They were recently joined by David Ortiz doubles machine. Ortiz finds himself in pretty good company, alongside two of the greatest hitters who ever lived. Now, please tell me why he’s not a Hall of Famer.

David Ortiz Doubles Machine

When David Ortiz joined the 500 home run clubs last year, few were aware that he was David Ortiz Doubles Machinealso on the verge of 600 doubles. If anything, people probably assumed Ortiz had fewer doubles than home runs, given that he’s never been particularly fast.

And yet, Ortiz was racking up doubles long before he learned to hit the long ball. When he joined Boston in 2003, he had twice as many career two-baggers (76) as four-baggers (38). Moving to Fenway—a doubles paradise—ensured Ortiz would continue piling up two-base hits as long as he wore a Red Sox uniform. Thankfully, Ortiz has only donned the blue and navy since 2003.

Still, 600 doubles is a lot. Ted Williams didn’t reach that benchmark, and neither did Willie Mays. It’s a milestone that longtime teammate Manny Ramirez fell short of, as did Wade Boggs—another doubles machine who spent a considerable portion of his career in Boston. To get there, one must average 30 doubles a year for 20 years. This is Ortiz’s 20th season, so I’ll let you do the math.

It may come as something of a surprise that as great as Ortiz has been at hitting home runs—his 513 rank 22nd all-time—he’s been even better at hitting doubles. He’s one of only 15 players to total 600 in his career and has the most of any active player. His next two-bagger will tie Bonds on the all-time list, and assuming he hits 25 more over the rest of the season (a reasonable assumption given that he hit 31 from this date forward last year), he’ll leapfrog Aaron into the top 10.

Unless he plays until he’s 50, Ortiz isn’t catching Bonds or Aaron on the home run list. But there’s a strong likelihood he winds up with more doubles than either of them, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Do Steroids Even Matter Anymore?

I overheard an interesting question between two fans at the opening of the Red Sox v. Astros series last week. “You think he’s back on steroids?” someone asked about Ortiz as he stood at-bat. I thought about how unlikely that would be. What does Ortiz have to gain by using steroids? So he can leave baseball at the top? That’s quite a risk for someone who has already been mentioned in rumors about usage. But on a larger level I have to ask myself, “Do steroids even matter anymore?”

A lot of people will say yes, they matter a lot. They say that steroid usage is cheatingSteroids Even Matter because it prolongs a player’s career, makes him unnaturally strong, and gives a team an unbalanced advantage over another. But it’s not like PEDs haven’t been around for years. Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four details amphetamine use in baseball in the 1960s and 70s. Players would take them by the handful before a game to stay energized. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to find bowls of the stuff in locker rooms throughout baseball. So when the question of whether to induct Roger Clemens comes up, why don’t the same critics who point to his alleged steroid usage also call out the Hall of Famers who took amphetamines over fifty years ago? What’s the difference between a guy like Barry Bonds, and Willie Mays, who allegedly kept a liquid form of amphetamines in his locker during his final days with the Mets? I honestly think it comes down to its label. “…if there was a pill that could guarantee you would win 20 games but would take five years off of your life, players would take it,” Boutin added. “The only thing I didn’t know at the time was the name.” In the 1960s, no one really knew what amphetamines were, much less thought about the ethics of taking them. So there was no proper noun to speak of that people could use as a weapon to label players they didn’t like.

So Do Steroids Even Matter?

On one hand, I don’t think players who routinely took and depended on steroids during their careers should immediately be inducted in the Hall of Fame, including Roger Clemens. It’s not just because of their usage, but also because of the tremendous amount of arrogance they displayed when using. The humbleness that has often been consistent with baseball was absent in their demeanor. Combine that aspect with a disregard for rules, and the general disregard for their own bodies is enough for me to keep them out of the Hall of Fame. Not to mention they’re terrible role models for teens who don’t understand what steroids can really do to your body. On the other hand, it’s not fair that players like Willie Mays used amphetamines and were never criticized, while Ortiz and Clemens are continually condemned for their alleged usage. So what does it come down to nowadays? “[Steroids] matter in terms of players are still getting suspended for it and can cost their team,” says Christopher Cooper, a personal trainer and co-owner of Active Movement & Performance in Massapequa Park, NY. “They can disappoint fans, but it’s not as much in the limelight as they were a few years ago. So it’s almost as if they don’t matter, unless your team’s player gets caught.”

So do steroids even matter anymore? To loyal fanboys the answer is no; they’ll stay loyal to their favorite player. But to opposing fans, it most certainly does. It’s a label that will always be used as a weapon to attack the opposition.

Brad Halsey Drugged When He Let up Bonds’ 714th HR

brad halsey

A career tainted by steroids just got a little more interesting for Barry Bonds, after some recent allegations were revealed, not about him personally, but about someone who directly relates to his career.
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According to a piece by USA Today, Brad Halsey who surrendered Bonds’ 714th home run on May 20th 2006, was on “cocaine and other drugs” when he allowed Bonds to tie for second in the all-time home run list, according to a pair of acquaintances of the late Halsey. On the day, Halsey tossed 6.1 innings and allowed two runs, both of which are on solo home runs, and struck out four men in total.brad halsey

These allegations would make sense given that Halsey was found dead at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff this past Halloween in Texas at the age of 33. Late in his life, we was battling drug addiction, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.
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He had a recorded incident earlier this year, police found him walking chest-deep in a river, calling himself by another name and talking to people who were not present when police confronted him for throwing rocks at people on inner tubes in a nearby river. When police took him to a hospital for a mental evaluation, they concluded years of drug use led to his mental deterioration.

In his three year big league career, Brad Halsey went 14-19 with a 4.84 ERA in 88 appearances, 40 of which were starts. Each year, he played for a different team. In 2004, he wore pinstripes as a member of the New York Yankees. In 2005, he went to the Copper State and played for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And finally in 2006, he spent time with Billy Beane and and the Oakland Athletics.
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As most know by now, Barry Bonds went on to break the all-time home run record previously held by Hank Aaron with 762, but steroid allegations haunt Bonds to this day which taint what was otherwise one of the best careers in MLB history.

Even if this was true and Bonds received an unfair advantage in this at-bat and this at-bat alone, he still would have hit 761 career home runs and would still have been crowned the home run champ— just a little bit later.
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