This week, TOC will be looking at five players who recently announced their retirements from the game and their potential Hall of Fame cases. Today, we'll close with a player who hasn't officially retired but looks done – Manny Ramirez.
None of the other players we've profiled this week carries the stigma of steroids quite like Manny Ramirez. Not only was Ramirez associated with PEDs (like Pettitte), but he was suspended for PED use – twice. He retired from the Rays in 2011 to avoid having to serve a suspension before pleading that suspension down and coming back with the A's AAA club in 2012 before being released by Oakland. He spent some time in Taiwan this year, and then latched on with the Rangers, who released him from their AAA team after a little over a month.
But here's the thing: Ramirez was such an ungodly hitter that he was probably a Hall of Famer even before he was suspended for PED use, just like Alex Rodriguez. Just how good was he? Keltner List, initialize!
Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
During Ramirez's prime, he was a freakishly good player. From 1998-2005, Ramirez hit .318/.416/.623 with 326 homers. That's insanity, and it cuts out both the beginning and end of his career. But of course, his prime came at the same time as a fellow named Barry Bonds.
Was he the best player on his team?
Those mid to late '90s Indians teams were loaded. Once Albert Belle left town after the 1996 season, Ramirez was the best hitter in a loaded offense that included Roberto Alomar, Jim Thome, David Justice, and Kenny Lofton. Ramirez was either 1 or 1A in Boston's lineup during his run in Beantown, with David Ortiz occupying the other spot.
Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
Manny Ramirez, "outfielder", was one of the most ridiculous sights to behold during his career, but he could really, really hit, whether he was in left field or right field. That Bonds guy was also in left when Ramirez was standing in front of the Green Monster, so once again, he gets overshadowed.
Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Manny Ramirez career Postseason statline: .285/.394/.544. That'll do. Ramirez played in four World Series, losing his first two with the Indians and winning his last two with the Red Sox. Ramirez even produced during his tenure as a Dodger, homering five times in 16 playoff games in the blue and white.
Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime?
His last great year was 2008, when Ramirez was 36. He played well in 2009, but was suspended for 50 games in the middle of the season. He was still decent in 2010, but missed a solid chunk of time due to injuries. He played in just five games with the Rays in 2011, and hasn't played in the majors since despite two minor league contracts.
Is he the very best player in baseball history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
Nope. That Bonds fellow smashes him again here.
Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Ramirez's JAWS is 54.5, tenth all-time among left fielders and above the average for the position. The only left fielders with a higher score not in the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds (of course), Pete Rose (of course, and Rose also played at least 5000 innings at five positions), and Tim Raines (who will be getting in sooner rather than later). Seven of the eight players immediately following Ramirez in the JAWS rankings are also in the Hall. His 555 homers are 14th all-time, and his 2574 hits are exactly as many as Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and just behind Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Ernie Banks. Ramirez's 154 OPS+ is 26th best of all-time, and nearly every eligible player that cleared 150 is in Cooperstown.
Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Yeah. Oh yeah. This isn't even a discussion.
Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
I think everyone realizes how good Ramirez's statistics are, and the PED question simply makes you wonder if like Bonds, Ramirez's use pushed him from a 65 grade hitter to an 80 grade hitter.
Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?
How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
This is weird: not only did Ramirez never win the MVP award, he was never the runner-up either. But from 1998-2008, Ramirez finished in the top ten nine times, and four of those were top five finishes.
How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the other players who played in this many go to the Hall of Fame?
Manny was a 12-time All-Star, the fifth most of any left fielder. The only players with more are Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Rose, and Bonds. Those five, along with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Medwick, are the only left fielders to earn ten All-Star Game nods.
If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
He actually wasn't the best player on the 1995 or 1997 AL Champion Indians, but arguably was on the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. During Ramirez's prime with Cleveland, they were a perennial 90 win team that just couldn't get over the hump after 1997.
What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
On the field, Ramirez didn't change much in the way of rules. But off the field, he had a pretty profound effect on MLB's anti-drug policy due to his pair of suspensions and his skirting of the second one.
Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
Ramirez's issues with PEDs are overshadowing every one of his accomplishments on the field. He was also a malcontent at times in the clubhouse, and numerous "Manny Ramirez is a crappy teammate" stories have come out over the years. Remember on Monday, when I talked about Mariano Rivera being the perfect gentleman and teammate? Ramirez is the antithesis of that.