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Real Dumb or Real Genius? (Is there a Difference?)
2007-10-18 06:08
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

"Man, I'm just happy to do something special like that. I'm not trying to show up anybody out there. I'm just trying to go have fun. If somebody strike me out and show me up, that's part of the game, I love it. I like that. I like to compete, and when people strike me out and show me up, it's all good. It's not a hard feeling. I ain't trying to go out there and show anybody up."

Manny Ramirez

Reggie Jackson spoke to a group of reporters in the Yankee dugout last week before Game 4 of the ALDS. Initially, he talked about Alex Rodriguez, but soon, he was talking about himself. He recalled how he used his large ego to help him succeed in the playoffs. He talked about how tough Fausto Carmona's sinker was against the Yankees in Game 2, and then about how daunting it was facing Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and John Matlack in the 1973 World Series.

Eventually, someone brought up Manny Ramirez, and Jackson smiled. "Did you see that?" said Jackson referring to Ramirez's game-winning home run in Game 2 of the Red Sox series against the Angels. Jackson mimicked Manny's celebration at home plate and cracked everybody up.

Clearly, Reggie admires Manny. He likes the chutzpah, he likes Manny's flakiness. ("How can you be offended by Manny?" he suggested.) Mostly, he likes the fact that nothing fazes Manny and that Manny hits bombs. How much better can it get?

Ramirez, who has been ridiculously locked-in at the plate this October, pulled his usual home run schtick the other night even though the Red Sox were losing 7-3. Mike Lowell wasn't sold on the routine, but most of the Indians didn't seem to mind. Nobody really cares because it's just part of Ramirez's make-up, because showboating is an accepted part of the game, and because, like Reggie, most players simply admire Ramiez's talent.

Yesterday, Manny told reporters:

"We're not going to give up," he said. "We're just going to go, play the game and move on. If it doesn't happen, so who cares? It's always next year. It's not like the end of the world."

Now, how do you bother somebody with that kind of attitude? Perhaps you can't.

I was talking to the baseball writer Pat Jordan the other day and suggested that CC Sabathia should brush Ramirez off the plate--not hit him necessarily, just give him something to think about.

"No, that won't work. You can't outsmart a dumb guy."

Then Jordan, who pitched in the minor leagues for close to three years, told me a story.

"There was a game in the Midwest League, 1960, where I faced Jimmy Ray Hart, who was a dumb guy. There were two out in the first inning. I had walked the bases loaed and struck two guys out, which is the way it went for me. Hart comes up and he's a dead fastball hitter. The count goes to 3-2. I'm throwing him nothing but fastballs. So I decide to throw him an overhand curve, figuring that even if it bounces in the dirt there is no way he'll be able to lay off it. So I throw a curve, a good one. It falls right off the table and is at his ankles and Hart rips it over third base for a double. My manager comes to take me out and as I'm leaving I turn to Hart and say, 'Hey, Jimmy, how the f*** were you sitting on a curve ball?' And Hart says, 'Curve ball? Hey, was that a curve ball?'"

"The secret to a dumb guy is that you can't guess along with him. They are irrational and there is no way to predict what they are thinking. You can outsmart a smart guy because you can figure out a smart guy's intelligence and then outguess him. But you can't outsmart a dumb guy like Manny."

Sabathia has been wild in both of his October starts this year. He didn't want any part of Ramirez in Game 1. It will be interesting to see if he challenges Ramirez tonight. On thing seems certain though; he won't get in Manny's head.

Comments
2007-10-18 07:20:04
1.   Murray
Jordan's statement is the pithiest, most accurate assessment of players like Ramirez that I've ever seen. I cannot remember where it was written, but Ramirez himself was quoted as saying that he's basically unaware of the count when he's at bat. Ramirez may be a moron, but he's Michelangelo with a bat in his hands.
2007-10-18 07:25:27
2.   Raf
Manny's just a hitting savant. Like I said before, hitting the way he does, he could do the cabbage patch while rounding the bases for all I care.

Dusting or drilling him won't make a difference, hell, you may wind up upsetting him. If he's real dumb, I don't think you would want to make him mad, he's liable to do something stupid that will get someone hurt.

2007-10-18 07:34:09
3.   rufuswashere
It's kind of like when you're playing poker with someone who doesn't really understand the game. You can try to figure out what they're doing, but ultimately it's not possible. If they're lucky (or in Manny's case, just can flat out hit), then you're sunk.

OK, ok, it's kind of a strained analogy, but it was the first thing I thought of when I read Jordan's comments.

2007-10-18 07:36:28
4.   Schteeve
I think Manny has a ton of functional intelligence. It goes like this. I can hit the ball if I stand "here." So, I'm going to stand "here." If they brush me back, I'm still going to stand "here." If they drill me, I'm still going to stand "here." Bruises heal.

I think he's more fearless than dumb.

2007-10-18 07:44:58
5.   Just fair
I understand how ridiculously talented Manny is at the plate. Anyone out there want to investigate how many total pitches he saw this year and how many he swung at out of the strike zone. My guess is about 2. He has some sort of echolocation type nerves in his dreads. All that said, I can not overstate how much I despise his act at home plate after hitting a homerun. He would not have survived in another era with the likes of Bob Gibson, who may have ended his career after that showboating, look at me, act. BLECH.
2007-10-18 07:45:52
6.   Sliced Bread
Manny's not dumb. He's (hands up!) the biggest a-hole in baseball, a one-man swarm of midges, an overstuffed rally monkey.
I thank the Good Lord for not making him a Yankee.
2007-10-18 07:50:16
7.   Schteeve
6 Really? He's the biggest A-hole in baseball? Or were you being sarcastic? He's a manchild, he's a flake, he's aloof. But I don't think he's an asshole on the order of Milton Bradley, or Barry Bonds, or Peer-zin-skee.
2007-10-18 07:51:16
8.   Felix Heredia
Reminds me of that regular season series in Fenway when Manny homered off Proctor two nights in a row, showing him up badly after the first. After the home run the second night, Mo came in and immediately threw a fastball under Manny's chin, causing him to fall out of the box. It was the only time I can recall seeing Mo intentionally buzz someone. Mo then struck Manny out, begging the question: why doesn't anyone respond to Manny's antics by burying a fastball in his ribs?
2007-10-18 08:04:48
9.   Raf
6 I'd be willing to wager that the Yanks would have been more successful in the playoffs had they signed both Manny & Moose back in 2000. Then again we wouldn't have had any Karim Garcia jokes, so it all evens out in the end, I guess... (:

8 Probably because hitting him doesn't work, just adds to his OBP (career .409; he doesn't need any help in that dept.). And as potent as the Red Sox lineup can be, do you really want to add unecessary baserunners?
2007-10-18 08:12:49
10.   Sliced Bread
7 The league is littered with cheaters, buffoons, hotheads, and even a few bonafide bad guys, but by my definition of a-hole he stands alone as the biggest in the sport.
2007-10-18 08:20:55
11.   nemecizer
I actually don't think Manny is an asshole. I think he is just fucking crazy. And I mean for real crazy. The guy is not all there in the mental department. I think there is something clinical wrong with him, like borderline autism. He shows a pathological lack of social skills (like saying "who cares?" if the Red Sox lose tonight).

No matter what, though, the dude is entertaining.

BTW, agree with 8 , we should pitch him inside more.

2007-10-18 08:22:27
12.   51cq24
2 "something stupid that will get someone hurt"

like intentionally throwing a baseball 90 mph at someone?

5 why do people romanticize the old school tough guy game? is it good that people like bob gibson would potentially end manny's career just because he stands and watches his home runs? i agree that it is showboating and annoying, but in the end who really cares? his showboating doesn't add to their score. throwing a baseball at someone is not such a great thing. maybe we've gotten more civilized than that.

the problem with baseball now, i think, is that with all the armor hitters can stand right in the strike zone and are still awarded 1st base if a ball grazes their elbow pad. i don't think the solution is to take away their armor, the solution is to make a rule that says that when a hitter is hit by a ball within a foot or so of the strike zone, it's just a ball (or strike if it's a strike, which does sometimes happen).

2007-10-18 08:24:59
13.   51cq24
11 i actually think the indifference is a nice approach. it is just a baseball game to these guys. it's worse for fans. it would be one thing if his performance were affected by those feelings. but he obviously performs well regardless of whether he cares or not. so...who cares?

and by the way, i don't see any evidence of him being dumb.

2007-10-18 08:25:48
14.   Josh Wilker
For what it's worth, he seems to be beloved by many teammates, and he loves them back. I don't think the same can be said of some other players who might get nominated for biggest a-hole.

I think this hilarious clip from earlier in the season shows a bit of Manny's bizarrely endearing qualities:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmFX_RGX0hU

2007-10-18 08:33:24
15.   monkeypants
12 I agree and disagree. The solution is not to allow pitchers to head hunt in retribution of such antics, I agree. Then again, I am also on record for eliminating other traditional, macho parts of the game (like the collision at home plate--dead horse warning).

On the other hand, I do think that such behavior shows poor taste and poor sportsmanship, and I do think that there is still a place for such atiquated values in the professional game. To encourage more sportsmanlike behavior, the league would simply need to introduce penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. The tough part would be what sort of penalties--would they include game penalties (loss of a base, automatic out, ejection, etc.) or non-game penalties (suspensions, fines, etc.).

I also don't buy that Manny is so dumb or childlike or unaware as his apologists say. It is pretty easy to tell spontaneous celebration in sport from more or less scripted or even ritual showboating.

2007-10-18 08:38:48
16.   Sliced Bread
14 being beloved has nothing to do with being an a-hole. Ever been to a frat house? Everybody loves their "brother," but that doesn't mean he's not an a-hole.
2007-10-18 08:42:43
17.   vockins
14 I've watched that clip about 20 times.

Smart, dumb, whatever, the fact of the matter is the guy is unfazed about anything. That's sort of different than not caring in my opinion. He cares, he just isn't rattled by anything. Perfect player for a place like Boston or New York.

2007-10-18 08:46:08
18.   theblastphemous
Ramirez simply gets a free pass. Why? Because he keeps his mouth shut - for the most part. Sure, he'll strut and preen like a cock, but he usually keeps out of the reach of the media. So, if the media can't access him they go to the clubhouse. And what clubhouse is that? The c. 2004 cowboy up, longshoremen bearded idiots. Manny's act would not last in another big market. But with his "Manny-being-Manny" tag being applied and sticking from that point on, he's been cruising. He isn't an (total) imbicile unaware of his actions effects, just a healthier, more talented version of J.D. Drew. That alone should get him more criticism than he usually gets.
2007-10-18 08:47:11
19.   51cq24
15 it is poor taste and poor sportsmanship. but i don't think taste and sportsmanship can be imposed through penalties. it just has to be encouraged by players like bernie williams, paul o'neill, etc. especially since then you'd have to determine when a player can celebrate, how exactly he can, etc. if he hits a walk off home run, obviously he'd be allowed. what if he hits a home run that ties the game in the 8th inning? what about in the 2nd inning? what if he hits a home run that brings the team to within 1 run with 2 outs in the 9th? etc
2007-10-18 08:50:06
20.   51cq24
by the way, good for YES, playing so many feel-good classic games
2007-10-18 08:54:22
21.   Knuckles
19
Penalty= fastball up around his coconut...

If Beckett can do it to Ryan Howard in a Spring Training game, there's no reason why Manny shouldn't be fair game.

2007-10-18 08:59:10
22.   51cq24
21 if pitchers don't throw at manny for his tactics in a playoff game, there's no reason why beckett should be doing it to ryan howard in spring training.

how would you like having a hard object thrown 90 mph at your head? you're talking about risking serious injury here because of showboating.

2007-10-18 08:59:14
23.   Raf
11 He isn't the first player to put things in perspective, nor will he be the last.

"I starting telling myself 'Why are you so nervous? This is supposed to be fun. What's the worst thing that could happen? If you lose, you'll be back home in Colorado hunting elk.'" - Goose Gossage

"I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I get this guy out." - Bill Lee

12 Besides, once the pitcher throws the ball, he has nothing to defend himself with. The hitter, however, still has the bat. Ask Jose Offerman, or Juan Marichal or Bert Campaneris what they're liable to do with that bat... And for what?

2007-10-18 09:02:01
24.   Schteeve
I find Manny's comments refreshing regarding, "if we don't win tonight so what." He's not saying he isn't going to try hard, he's saying that some of the outcomes are not directly influenceable, so you don't beat yourself up if you lose, you come back out and go really hard the next time.

Winning the WS is so flukey. You can't judge your team a failure for getting beat in the playoffs. You come back out next time and try again.

There's a great quote that I love so much I have it tattooed on me and I think it's a more eloquent way of saying what Manny is trying to articulate:

"A man is not finished when he is defeated
A man is finished when he quits."

2007-10-18 09:03:51
25.   Raf
Blast from the past; Ben Christensen vs Anthony Molina.

http://tinyurl.com/342g3l

2007-10-18 09:13:40
26.   theblastphemous
24 23 Would you all be saying this if a Yankee had made those comments? As a fan I can put things into perspective (after initial feelings have waned), but in the heat of a series I don't want to hear that.
2007-10-18 09:21:37
27.   Raf
26 Sure. I quoted Gossage from the 1978 AL East playoff game. The fact of the matter is, they're playing a game. I would love to see a Yankees WS dogpile, but if I don't, it's not the end of the world.

If the comments were coupled with a lack of effort, then I'd see a problem. But to put things in perspective like Manny did, I see nothing wrong with that.

2007-10-18 09:24:15
28.   51cq24
26 it depends on the context really. if a guy has an awful series and then says he doesn't really care, that's going to really annoy people. but if he had a great series (or is in the middle of a great series) and says something similar, i think less people will be annoyed.
2007-10-18 09:31:58
29.   JL25and3
21 I'd hope we wouldn't use Josh Beckett as our standard. I find him a much more objectionable a-hole than Manny.
2007-10-18 09:32:19
30.   Shaun P
24 Well said, and I agree.

Manny is pretty near the bottom of the list of guys in baseball who bother me.

2007-10-18 09:36:50
31.   51cq24
0 i just noticed it says "genuis"
2007-10-18 09:37:22
32.   Sliced Bread
24 Manny should tattoo this where the sun don't shine:

"A man is an a-hole when he celebrates his defeat."

2007-10-18 09:41:15
33.   Bama Yankee
Put me down in the "buzz Manny's tower" camp...

I think he's a great hitter, but all that "Manny being Manny" stuff gets under my skin.

At least save the showboating for a "game winner", not a "brought us to within four runs-er"...

2007-10-18 09:52:09
34.   Bama Yankee
32 Hey, Sliced, that reminds me of a joke:

A Red Sox fan loved Manny and Big Papi so much that he got their faces tattooed on his butt (one player on each cheek). He just had to show his new body art to his friend (who was a Yankee fan). The friend's response: "That one on the left kinda looks like Manny and that one on the right sorta looks like Papi... but that one in the middle is a dead ringer for Youkilis..."

2007-10-18 09:53:26
35.   Zack
I have no problem with Manny. Yeah, he admires his HRs a bit too much, but hes a goofball. I do take issue with the notion that he is a moron or anything like that, because nothing I have ever seen or read suggests that he is lacking in the mental faculties, hes just laid back, in his own world, and kudos for him. Whatever it takes to succeed. Look at A-Rod, look how long it took him to figure it out. Is Manny admiring his HRs any worse than Papelbon or Beckett or Joba doing the fist pump and yell when they strike out a guy, its still just a reaction to what you've done.

I can promise you that Manny isn't intending to "show up" anyone when he does these things, its just who he is. A lot lot lot of people hated Paul O'Neil for his "act," yet we as Yankee fans loved it. Just enjoy watching one of the greatest right handed hitters ever to play the game. Ever.

But I would agree with 29 Beckett is the type of insufferable, holier than thou, I play the game the right way and you don't no matter what I actually do, type of player that drives me insane. That is being an A-hole, and baseball is filled with them...

2007-10-18 10:01:49
36.   Sliced Bread
34 perfect!

35 Joba turns his back to the hitter when he does the fist pump. It is clearly a spontaneous celebration of his own success.
O'Neill took out his frustrations on water coolers and other equipment, which could never be mistaken for opponents.
Big difference between that and Manny's tired act which could still easily be perceived as upstaging/grandstanding etc. no matter how he explains it.

2007-10-18 10:02:32
37.   Alex Belth
I actually spelled Genuis wrong purposely. That was a wise ass move on part.
2007-10-18 10:04:51
38.   fanerman
Manny's not an a-hole. He's eccentric. Sure he shows off from time to time but there's an innocence about it. He's just happy. I'm glad he's not boring, always say the "right" thing, always play the game the "right" way. It's not like he takes the game for granted or anything. He's just an adventure. And that makes baseball more interesting.

I think if you're offended by him, you're taking him too seriously, and that's thinking about him the wrong way.

P.S. Manny is like my favorite player.

2007-10-18 10:05:16
39.   Alex Belth
On second thought, I'm going to change it...I don't mean to come off like a jerk...
2007-10-18 10:10:35
40.   JL25and3
34 I heard that joke many years ago, but in that version a woman gets a tattoo on each thigh. "But the one in the middle, that's got to be Willie Nelson."
2007-10-18 10:34:23
41.   monkeypants
19 Many other sports have penalties for breech of sportsmanship. Whether they "work" or not is, I guess, a matter of debate. But really, it simply would not be difficult to establish a set of parameters, write them into the rules, and give the umpires discretion.
2007-10-18 10:51:00
42.   cult of basebaal
10 16 36 you have still yet to, at any point, actually provide any explanation for why manny is an asshole, let alone explain how he qualifies as the biggest asshole in baseball ...
2007-10-18 10:58:31
43.   Sliced Bread
42 jeez, ya got me, cult. I can't explain why Manny is an a-hole. He just is?
2007-10-18 11:08:26
44.   cult of basebaal
43 ah, so to you, assholery is like pornography to Potter Stewart? You can't define it, but you know it when you see it???

Perhaps you should consider the unendearing qualities of others that you consider assholes, then you could select common personality failings and compile a Grand Unified Theory of Assholism!

2007-10-18 11:20:56
45.   Bama Yankee
40 Yeah, it's a pretty old joke and I'm sure it's been told countless ways before...

Now that I think about it... wouldn't it have actually been better to substitue Paplebon (ol' "Preparation H"-mouth himself) in for Youkilis in my joke (maybe you could use Youk in place of Willie in your joke)?

2007-10-18 11:24:36
46.   Sliced Bread
44 Nah, no need for a grand what-cha-ma-call-it regarding a-holes, but feel free to come up with one of your own if you wish.

After submitting this comment I don't intend to waste another brain cell on Manny today, let alone define for you, or his fans why I consider him an a-hole. I think you and them know exactly where I'm coming from even if you disagree.

You have some beef with me, cult? Are you doggin' me for some reason?

2007-10-18 12:38:05
47.   yankster
It's hard to imagine Manny reacting rationally to any set of disincentives that baseball can come up with. Those disincentives usually are related to taking away something you are really attached to, like money, participation in future games, or the chance to win the current game.

If the disincentives don't work, and I don't see how they could with Manny (I got a car to sell in Atlantic City) Ramirez. In the end the fans would be the only ones to lose out. Do you really want to reject one of the great hitters of our era from the game for essentially peripheral and relatively harmless reasons? We let steroid takers, greenie poppers, wife beaters, and drunk drivers stick around.

I'm not a fan of Manny's Muhammad Ali pose - but his dedication to the art of hitting and of having a clear mind at the plate is extraordinary. I don't suggest to know what he is thinking, but what if he is thinking, "wow, something special just happened!" In some kinds of Buddhism that sort of beginners mind and happiness is the whole goal. Do we really want to throw a baseball at the head of someone like that?

Prepare to groan: Maybe we can learn from Manny to have more delight.

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