Friday, September 12, 2008

Zen Dayley: Manny is taking it easy for all us sinners

The Daily Breeze in southern California is the one whistling through John Klima's ears.
Manny Ramirez is the worst baseball player I have ever seen.

I am not kidding. (Ed.'s notes -- who said you were?)
A ticket-selling novelty slogan is a great excuse for a player you do not want to settle your fate with his legs, arm, glove or mind. (L.A. should go get McGlovin, then -- for Manny, straight up.)

In other words, this guy is a liability anytime he doesn't have the bat in his hands. (Thank god there is no such thing as "anytime.")
One can only assume that Klima is begging to get FJM'd. Far be it to joke that he's got an old head injury that means he not only has to go around wearing one of hockey namesake's old Jofa buckets for his own protection (see photo, right), but occasionally writes the odd column that should be sponsored by Nutella. That could really the only other explanation for why an intelligent man would spread such a brilliant bit of misinformation, possibly tinged by xenophobia.*

A slugging corner outfielder's worth is about 80-90 per cent concentrated in what he does "anytime" he has a bat in his hands. That's the biggest takeaway from today's rant.

It's high time people who get this stood up, Obama-style, "Enough is enough." For far too long, there have been media types who have got away with spreading a completely false idea of how a baseball player, especially a slugging corner outfielder, earns his keep. It's about whether he gets on base and can consistently hit for extra bases, which are far and away the two most important qualities which are tied to winning.

Manny Ramírez is a phenomenal baseball player for what he does and doesn't do. All of the hit-run-throw, fetishing-of-fundamentals that Mr. Klima and many others are guilty doing is the equivalent of the restrooms at the Louvre. Would someone judge the Louvre by the cleanliness and comfort of its restrooms?

That might be a bad rhetorical question. Some sports journalists and sports fans actually would judge the Louvre by its washrooms. It would be true testament to their tendency toward bullet-counting and beside-the-pointitis.

No one is denying that Manny Ramírez's act sets many people's jaws to "grind." It just doesn't matter that much when he's hitting. As a fan, one doesn't have to deal with him personally on an everyday basis. He's probably not going to move into your neighbourhood, and if he did, you would be asking for his autograph.

Managers and coaches who have been in baseball their whole lives have seen all manner of aberrant athlete behaviour. It's their job to keep it from driving a wedge through the ballclub. His teammates, let's be honest, have a lot more to worry about than their left fielder being a full-blown bozo. That bozo, by the way, is hitting a loaded .396 since he came over from the Red Sox (getting on base at a .488 clip and slugging. 796).

Klima should get credit for writing a column, "I've never seen a player of Ramirez's level, experience and salary play the game so poorly and with such disregard for obvious basics, as if the ordinary rules do not apply to him because he can hit" at this point.

Since Aug. 30, Manny has had seven homers, 17 RBI, 10 runs scored, slugged 1.000 and had a .489 on-base percentage. The Dodgers have won 10 of Ramirez's last 11 games to move 3 1/2 clear of Arizona in the sinkhole which is called the NL West division. How that's for "obvious basics?" Scoring or driving in 20 runs in 11 games is as serious as a heart attack.

Point being, you might not care personally for Ramírez, much the same way you don't like teenagers who seem hard-pressed to find a pair of pants which actually cover their entire bum. However, you're not going to change such behaviour.

There's a good personal rule is that if you claim to love baseball so much, or claim to have once loved it back when, as per Klima, it "was considered a throwing and running game," whenever the hell that was (1892?).

Be it resolved that if one loves sports so much, you have to put up with the crazy bastards who get away with being crazy bastards because if their ability to perform a socially needless act. What is it to John Klima, or the 70,000 readers of his suburban daily, that Manny Ramírez is not fully engaged with the cosmos all of the time?

If anything, be grateful that Manny Ramírez is out there, taking it easy in left field for all us sinners. In his second Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James wrote in his comment on Rabbit Maranville, an old-timey ballplayer who was similarly uninhibited (and is in this thing called the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maranville, wrote James, "made a mockery of the game, and he was so good that he got by with it. You and I will never see the like of him."

It turns out that we are -- and James and Ramírez each had something to do with the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and '07. So lighten up, and be glad we have this clown who keeps us entertained and is good enough that people tolerate his act, at least until his bat slows down.

Klima and the choir he's preaching to -- and it's a very small choir -- might not like this. Since they played Little League, they have had their idea of What Should Be in baseball instead of What Is, "a watered-down version of what the game was designed to be."

Baseball is not a "throwing-and-running game." It has not been since Manny's old team took their ace left-handed pitcher, a guy by the last name of Ruth, and stuck him in the outfield in 1919.

Sorry for getting up on a Seamhead soapbox, when there's political strife at home and abroad. It's just impossible to sit idly by when professional writers and commentators who have little idea of how to figure out a ballplayer's worth, or do know and don't care while they focus on the unimportant and trivial and go for the lowest common denominator. It's small wonder that a brother-in-baseball-geekhood yesterday described newspapers as a "race to the bottom."

Point being, John Klima should take his cue from a cult movie that was filmed in his corner of the world. Manny is a little lax on the fundamentals, but he hits ropes almost every night? The dude abides.

(Digression: Let's not even go into the fact a guy at a paper in white-bread Torrance, California, rips a Latino outfielder, then near the end of the column where he says, "Corporate America loves baseball. America loves basketball and football." For pity's sake, and I'm saying this as a Canadian, can we not have an end to people inferring who's a real American and who's not, and what real Americans like? It's completely unbecoming and completely unanswerable in a country of 300 million.

Oh, and what league has a more cozy relationship with Corporate America than the NFL? No one's sleeping on the couch in that relationship.)


Duane Rollins said...

Post of the year.

Tao of Stieb said...

We picture Neate actually yelling this across a table in a bar, with his face getting progressively rosier, sweat beading on his brows and his nostrils flaring with perfect inflection.


eyebleaf said...

i'm standing.

and clapping.

and ppl around my cubicle think i'm going batshit crazy.

well done.

Von Allan said...

Throw my voice into the chorus - I really enjoyed this piece, too.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Also a big fan of this post. I understand where Klima is coming from, as Manny Ramirez annoys the crap out of me for most of the reasons he mentioned. He is still a tremendous ballplayer though, and as Neate pointed out, all he needs to be able to do as a corner outfielder is hit, which is the point Klima is sadly missing. Moreover, he's a character who adds a lot of hilarity to baseball and is valuable as such.