So many people said that they wished Manny Ramirez would just go away that he did. How do you say, “That’s just Manny being Manny” in Chinese?
Still, the announcement that the once sure-thing-bound Hall of Famer is off to Taiwan to play ball ranks as only the second weirdest international border crossing highlighting a prominent American-based athlete in a week. Unless Ramirez starts hobnobbing with descendents of Mao and hanging in Beijing across the divide during his spare time (almost surely a no-no), he will be hardpressed to match the images of Dennis Rodman buddying up to the president of North Korea.
There’s time, though, for Ramirez to surpass Rodman if he really tries, I suppose. Rodman was in and out of one of the world’s nuttiest countries in like three days. Images of him watching basketball with North Korean head honcho Kim Jong Un (not to mention the word that Mr. Dictator was a Chicago Bulls fan…Who knew?) followed Rodman home. This was for all of us sports fans that thought we had seen it all.
Ramirez plans to spend the whole summer in Taiwan. I’m betting that he is out of there in less than two months, announcing that he was misunderstood when he exits. Of course, Ramirez is practically always misunderstood. Nobody can comprehend what he’s talking about even when he’s talking, which he has chosen not to do much of in recent years.
At the very least Ramirez will add to his frequent flyer miles account by flying round-trip to Taiwan. The real question is whether he will add to the batting order of his team. In 19 Major-League seasons Ramirez slugged 555 home runs, drove in 1,831 runs and batted .312. Those are Hall of Fame numbers and Ramirez expected to grow them in recent years before he got injured and before he twice flunked Major League Baseball drug tests.
Everyone ages so the Domincan-born Ramirez was bound to slow down eventually, but probably not shy of 600 home runs and 2,000 ribbies. Things unraveled for Ramirez gradually, and then swiftly. It was bad enough when Ramirez tested positive for an illegal substance and was benched for 50 games after the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and LA fans showered him with love. As we have all seen, those who guard the front door of the Baseball Hall of Fame kingdom in Cooperstown have not been particularly welcoming to anyone who was a documented performance-enhancing drug user or who even saw his name accidentally typed into a sentence that mentioned PEDs.
And then Manny really tore it by failing another drug test. The phrase two-time loser was applied to him and that pretty much cemented his long-term fate in terms of being accepted into the Hall. The deadly combination of PED user, advancing age, and weak statistics also meant that Ramirez’s phone stayed silent when he became unemployed.
Although now an American citizen Ramirez spent his winter sharpening his game in the Dominican Republic winter league to show Major League teams he could still play. Nobody bit. So it is off to Taiwan for Ramirez, where he is scheduled to play for a team called the Rhinos. (They should have awesome souvenir stuff with Rhino symbols on it.)
We don’t really know if Ramirez can still play, though that translates to “hit.” Manny was never a gazelle in the field anyway, but he always, always made noise with his bat. That was the best of Manny being Manny. Who knows how Ramirez will take to Taiwan and how Taiwan baseball fans will take to Ramirez? Still, the one way Ramirez can top Dennis Rodman’s North Korean stunt is if one day we see an Associated Press wire service picture of Manny riding a rhino bareback. Then, perhaps, we truly will have seen it all.