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I first became aware of at least part of what people meant when they talked about "Manny being Manny" some time back, when he was playing for the Red Sox. It was some business Manny was doing with a sports memorabilia dealer that caught my attention. Manny was making about $20 million a year playing baseball at the time.
I called the dealer and learned that pairs of Manny’s used baseball shoes were "jumping off the shelf" in this guy’s store. The guy’s words, not mine. He was also offering lots of Manny Ramirez jerseys and various other items Manny had brought home from the ballpark, and signed, and made available.
Lots of players sign stuff and sell it. But Manny had apparently made of the practice a cottage industry. I wondered where Manny had gotten all the uniform jerseys and pants that he’d signed. The dealer said players were allowed to buy a certain number of their jerseys from the team, then sell them for whatever they could get.
I don’t know what the "whatever" was in Manny’s case. Maybe the IRS does. I do know that the memorabilia dealer cut our conversation short, because business was good and he couldn’t be wasting time on the telephone.
But back to those two current reasons Manny’s in the news this week.
Reason No. 1 is that he just signed a contract to play in Japan. It can’t be for the money, can it? According to Baseball-Reference.com, over 19 years, Manny Ramirez made $206,827,769 playing baseball in the U.S. Even by being Manny, Manny can’t have spent it all, right? And even if he did, there’s the bag of cash he got from the dealer each time he hauled more shoes and jerseys out of the clubhouse at Fenway Park.
So Japan has to be for love of the game, or at least the love of hitting, because it always seemed to me that love of hitting a baseball was the essence of Manny being Manny.
Reason No. 2 is that Manny’s name is on the Hall of Fame ballot. This has provoked some baseball writers to tell us why they aren’t voting for him, despite his worthy numbers. Lots of them are concentrating on what they consider one particularly unworthy number, which is the number "2," which is how many times Manny was suspended for enhancing his performance by means of substances Major League Baseball had decided were off-limits. One of the writers maintained that having been caught twice doing that, Manny is too stupid to deserve a vote.
That’s a soft toss hanging up there for somebody to whack, isn’t it?
"So Japan has to be for love of the game, or at least the love of hitting, because it always seemed to me that love of hitting a baseball was the essence of Manny being Manny."
But we’re concerned with baseball here, and Manny Ramirez, who made $206,827,769 over the course of 19 years doing exactly what he was best at, is off to have some fun hitting baseballs in Japan. Doesn’t seem stupid to me.