The mystery that is Manny Ramirez the person has always been a topic for conversation. Case in point is the recent New Yorker Magazine piece on Manny by Ben McGrath.
“Manny Ramirez is a deeply frustrating employee, the kind whose talents are so prodigious that he gets away with skipping meetings, falling asleep on the job, and fraternizing with the competition. He makes more money than everyone else at the company yet somehow escapes the usual class resentment, and even commands more respect from the wage slaves, who suspect he is secretly one of them, than from his colleagues in business class. It’s not that he is anti-establishment, exactly, but in his carefree way he’s just subversive enough—“affably apathetic” is how one of his bosses put it recently—to create headaches for any manager who worries about precedent.”
Well, thats just half of Manny being Manny. The other half, and the more important half to Red Sox fans across the country, is Manny the hitter - Manny the .320, 30 home run, 100 plus RBI hitter.
The problem is, we are still in the uncomfortable position of waiting on that Manny to show up and the Red Sox offense isn’t the potent force we are used to without him anchoring the middle of the lineup. 2007 hasn’t gotten off to a good start for the slugger savant. Over his first thirteen games, Manny is hitting under .200 with no home runs and six RBI. It’s not often Manny has gone through periods of lack of productivity like this. He’s making contact at similar rates as he has in years past. But there is a noticeable lack of quality contact being made off his bat. Normally more of a fly ball, line drive hitter, Manny’s current GB/FB ratio is over 1 for the first time since his first season in the Major Leagues.
As consistent as Ramirez has been over the course of his Red Sox career, there isn’t really reason yet to panic, but the slow start is the worst that he has experienced in Boston.
Looking at the first twenty games of the season by year for each year of Manny’s career in Boston, you can see that over the past three seasons, a slow start has been the norm. Like I said, no reason to panic yet. Manny doesn’t stay down for long. A hitter that good will get hot and even a small hot streak this time of year can move rate stats a long way back to the expected levels. If, however, Manny’s slump continues through the weekend series against the New York Yankees, it may be a sign that this is more than your usual slow start.
As troubling as his below .200 average is, almost as - if not more troubling is his lack of power. Ramirez’s current slugging percentage (.210) is less than 1/3 of what we expect from the Red Sox cleanup hitter and his OPS (.510) is half of the 1.007 that he has posted over his career.
This can also be seen when looking at Manny’s home run totals by game over the same period. You can see that by this time of year, Manny has usually found his home run swing and gets on a little bit of a tear. But like last season, the power is not there early for Ramirez.
I fully expect that we will see the Manny being Manny to which we have become accustom, but you can color me a little more nervous about the slow start this year than years past.