Well, that was a record-setting self-implosion in a new locale, even by the Saturday morning cartoon standards of Manny Ramirez.
Ka-pow! ... and goodbye.
"Put in a good word for me," Manny told me this spring, one last burst of charm in the beginning pages of what turned out to be a stunningly short final chapter of the man, the myth, the steroid abuser.
Here's a word, Manny: Shame.
|Manny Ramirez is getting his way again by evading a suspension. (Getty Images)|
Now free to be filed on the "fiction" shelves by historians and Hall of Fame voters: The storybook career totals of 555 home runs and 1,831 RBI from the man who already had retired by then -- on the lam, ahead of the posse.
There is no more covering for Manny now. No more shrugging off some selfish act as Manny Being Manny. No more explaining away immature or boorish behavior as that of a hitting savant with an artistic temperament.
Boston, let's hear from you first: You told us so.
Los Angeles, Tampa Bay ... in the end, Manny couldn't pass the smell test there either.
When Ramirez tested positive for a female fertility drug two years ago, earning a 50-game suspension, he nearly ruined a Dodgers' season along with it. He was never the same player again. His home run power shriveled. We were pretty sure we knew why.
But while that was all disgusting enough, listening to then-Dodgers manager Joe Torre when Manny returned after the All-Star break in 2009 was laughable.
In 231 at-bats in the second half of '09, Manny mustered only 10 homers -- one every 23.1 at-bats.
Torre maintained throughout, and even into 2010 before the Dodgers traded him to the White Sox, that Manny's troubles in the batter's box stemmed from his "embarrassment" over the suspension. Torre talked about Manny's wounded pride and how that had eroded his confidence.
Measure that against Manny's unbelievably torrid stretch in August and September of '08, just after the Dodgers acquired him from Boston and he carried them all the way to the NLCS. He walloped 17 homers in 187 at-bats -- one every 11.
Ramirez didn't wither away in Los Angeles from the second half of '09 on (at 36 and 37) because he was embarrassed.
He stopped banging because he had been stripped of his performance-enhancing drugs (or maybe he was simply depressed because he couldn't get pregnant?).
Ramirez played people like a cheap banjo throughout his career, turning on the charm when applicable (and man, he really can be charming) and sinking into his dark shell whenever that would help (when he wanted a new contract, when he didn't feel like playing that night, when he no longer felt like playing in whatever city he was in).
|More on Manny|
More snapshots: With the Yankees and with the Dodgers, Torre always had a rule against music in the clubhouse. Suddenly, with Manny rockin' in '08 as the Dodgers stormed down the stretch, Ramirez was playing clubhouse DJ and the tunes were cranking.
Torre and the Dodgers also had a rule against long hair and promised Manny would get a haircut when they acquired him. About a month into his Mannywood days, he did: The bottoms of his dreadlocks were trimmed maybe an inch, from touching the top of his No. 99 to maybe level with the name on the back of his jersey.
Point is, as long as he hit, Manny pretty much did what he wanted, when he wanted, throughout his career. Those were his salad days, days we would soon discover came with extra House Steroid Vinaigrette on the side.
The stunning part of it isn't just that Ramirez wound up getting caught twice in baseball's tightened drug net, it's that there remains this giant loophole within the game's improved policing -- still no testing for human growth hormone -- and Manny still got tripped up despite that. I mean, duh?
When caught the first time, it was natural to at least consider giving him the benefit of the doubt that maybe Manny, heading toward his upper 30s, succumbed to Vitamin S temptation to combat advancing age.
Nailed a second time, it's clear that anybody who believes that also believes there is a secret key for unlocking the batting cage.
No, by his own hand, Ramirez just torpedoed his own career completely, spectacularly and with finality.
There is no more Manny Being Manny. There are only uncovered lies, and Manny exposed.
The truth is this: In the end, he hit for a higher average peeing in a cup than he did swinging a bat. Two failed PED tests in three years, as opposed to an embarrassing .059 batting average in five games for Tampa Bay.
Put in a good word for you, Manny?
How about two: Good riddance.