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December 6, 2011

The BP Broadside

The Singular Love of Manny Ramirez

by Steven Goldman

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As a foolish youth, envisioning life as a swashbuckling adventure akin to an Errol Flynn film rather than days of drudgery punctuated by bouts of physical and emotional constipation only occasionally relieved by moments of elation and release, I imagined that love was caring about someone more than you cared about yourself. My lady, I will do anything for you: take that bullet, throw my body in front of that train, and go to the store to buy you tampons at 3 AM.

This attitude tended to bring me into relationships with the wrong kind of women, specifically the ones who would let me do all of those things. They were beautiful, intelligent, witty—all wonderful things that draw me like a moth to a supernova to this very day—but they were also entirely willing to accept my extraordinary exertions on their behalf, radiating small doses of noncommittal affection and praise in return. There was always one more superhuman feat for me to perform—“Fetch me the singular lotus blossom that grows on the frozen top of Mons Olympus"—before I could receive the ultimate reward, which in this case was not sex (though that could be part of it), but the full expression and permanent possession of their love.

I never did get there. The insurmountable obstacle, I eventually realized, was that I was always competing with a rival I could never defeat, someone she would always love more than she loved me: herself. Thus, to go along with one of my cardinal rules of existence:


I now had another key rule of self-preservation:


Love does not need to be a suicide pact. My initial formulation, love is caring about someone more than you care about yourself, was flat wrong and only led one into frustrating cycles of unrewarded self-sacrifice. The correct and healthy version is this: love is caring about someone as much as you care about yourself—and even that had damned well better be reciprocal from day one, communicated in hundreds of tiny and seemingly insignificant gestures that say, “You may have had to cross the street for me today, but I will cross the street for you tomorrow. You have bent for me today, but you will not always need to be the flexible one. I will do for you as often as you do for me.”

Having realized this one tortured night when I was about 20, I walked out of the house, stood under a beautiful, starlit sky, and shouted unto Heaven, “That's it, God! No more crazy women!” From that moment on, my life got better. Like any recovering addict, I have slipped a time or two since, always with painful results; recalling my vow and rule #2 helped lead me back to the light.

Each of us has a list of qualities that attracts us to a romantic partner that is unique to ourselves. For many people I have known well enough to meet their parents, a major component seems to be that they want to marry a girl like dear old mom (or dad, for women). There are certain physical qualities that stimulate each of us, of course, but I speak mainly of psychological components. For me, intelligence, humor, intellectual curiosity, and wide-ranging knowledge and tastes are what initially attract me. It took years for me to understand that other qualities, such as loyalty, consistency, compassion, and the simple ability to give of oneself in an unconditional way were so much more important, and if you didn't have those things, you might as well not worry about all those other qualities. In computer parlance, caring is the basic system, a sense of humor is an app.

General managers and other baseball decision-makers are often like I was as an infatuated youth, falling in love with players who will never reward them. They see speed and don't think about on-base percentage. They see power and don't think about defense. They see playing skills and are willing to overlook personality.

Manny Ramirez wants back into baseball. There are many obvious reasons why teams should not risk even an NRI on him, mainly his age and a skill set that was already limited to hitting when last we saw him play regularly, as well as the typical degradation of skills that is seen when a player of his age misses so much time. Those old muscles lose some of the snap they had left when they have been idle for too long.

Forget all of that. The main reason not to bother with Manny, even if he can still hit, is that he is who he is. “Manny being Manny” was always a way of laughing off the man's essential narcissism. Somehow, the man's self-serving nature was made to seem cute. It wasn't, but his ability to hit was so great that teams were forced to put a pretty face on someone who had so little interest in the teamwork aspect of the game. His failed drug tests are the ultimate expression of his narcissism, as he committed acts which would deprive his team of his services if he was caught. He didn't fail himself; he failed those who had been foolish enough to count on him.

People like Manny are not cute, they're toxic, deadly to your well-being at any time but when they are standing at home plate. There was a time when Manny offered enough that this was worth tolerating, but that time has passed. He will never love the GM or manager who takes a chance on him as much as he loves himself. That is a relationship of enduring, permanent commitment. Whoever tries to take the place of his true love will soon reap the inevitable rewards—a few spring training home runs followed by a quick trip to the disabled list for amorphous reasons or another failed test. There are better ways to spend money and your daily allotment of tolerable stress.

“It's just Manny being Manny” always should have been, “It's just Manny loving Manny.” If you want to give him his heart's desire, get him a honeymoon suite and a mirror, not a baseball uniform.

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

Related Content:  Humor

22 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Agent: "Manny, did you see the terrible and near-libelous article in today's BP about you?"

Manny: "Yeah, it sure is great to see my name in the baseball news again."

Dec 05, 2011 23:10 PM
rating: 14

Honestly, as someone having listened to the up and in podcast every week, and checked the site daily for articles to read and information to digest, this is my absolute favorite bp piece of all time. Once again another great reason to go to baseball prospectus.

Dec 06, 2011 01:55 AM
rating: 2
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1) The relationship between Manny and a prospective team is not anything like that between a naive youth and a narcissistic lover. It's a business transaction. Dispassionate and cold, despite what Boston fans and writers would have you believe (think Tommy from Quincy).
2) Moral soapbox-climbing is best left to ESPN and the newspaper beat writers. I like to think BPro is where I go for some rational analysis about baseball, not turning baseball decisions from moral molehills into mountains.

Dec 06, 2011 01:58 AM
rating: -4

Part of the point was that doing business with a narcissist can be a very bad *business* decision as well - not just a bad moral decision. Manny's narcissism leads to failed drug tests, questionable DL stints, et al.

Maybe the analogy works the other way - not that business is like love, but that love is like business, and you don't "fall in love" with a player who's going to screw you over at the first conflict between team and self-interest.

Dec 06, 2011 09:11 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

No soapbox intended, just drawing lessons from the real world in terms of my own experience. Every situation requires a certain set of tools to analyze. Sometimes statistics are the right way, sometimes there are other ways to go. In any case, I wasn't talking about morality, I was talking about self-preservation. Manny's ingestion of one substance or another is less important to me than that the decision to do so meant he might remove himself from the lineup--which come to think about it, IS a moral issue, not one about PEDs, but rather about being part of a larger community.

Dec 06, 2011 09:49 AM

There are a lot of narcissists out there. If they can hit, I want them on my team. They win. Manny's got his foibles, but, don't we all work with at least one guy like Manny? Aren't we able to just deal with that guy since he so frequently produces at a stellar rate?

Dec 06, 2011 04:31 AM
rating: 1

He no longer produces at a stellar rate.

Dec 06, 2011 09:39 AM
rating: 2

That is true, but we were debating his value "even if he can still hit" as was posed in the article.

Dec 06, 2011 09:47 AM
rating: 0

This is the first BP article that I forwarded to my wife. I have often defined love as you do, and appreciate your perspective on the subject. Manny is just an after thought.

Dec 06, 2011 08:11 AM
rating: 1

Regarding jtanker33, I believe current research holds that toxic people do more harm than good, they adversely affect the productivity of most all the people around them. Environments free of such people are much productive overall. But I am out of the research biz now, so can't comment as to the extent or reliability of such research.

Dec 06, 2011 09:06 AM
rating: 0
John Carter

I don't think we need to narrow BP to what you think of as "rational analysis". We are free to read whichever articles we want. The parallel between falling in love with a narcissist and signing Manny may be flawed, I don't know, but I thought this was a stimulating and heartfelt read. Joe Sheehan used to do this sort of thing here and he was greatly missed we he left. Steve just stepped into that void and hit a home run. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.)

Dec 06, 2011 09:12 AM
rating: 6
John Carter

Oops. That was meant as a reply to onlyatad. If you start a reply, then click somewhere else (such as to check the spelling of "Sheehan"), then return - the reply looks in tact, but is apparently placed at the bottom of the page instead of where you were originally replying.

Dec 06, 2011 09:15 AM
rating: 0

I think we look toward BP not for a highly narrow or specific template, but rather for the ever evolving contributions and analysis from the writing staff, whatever direction it may come from or whichever view it may espouse. The point isnt always to read something that you expect to agree with and then complain about it when you dont, but rather to expand our paradigms to reason that expectations are meant to be challenged,and that the staff is, and very well should be, free to express themselves in any manner which results in compelling pieces, its what sets BP apart.

Dec 06, 2011 09:20 AM
rating: 3

I don't know. I'm a Mets fan and I would be thrilled if they went out and signed Manny. Even if you could promise me that, after serving his suspension, Manny would hit .200/.250/.290, with one home run and six errors, for three weeks before retiring after an ugly incident with management and/or a fan, I still think it makes the outlook for next season much brighter.

There's love, and then there's what happens when you are bored and horny and just don't care any more.

Dec 06, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 12
Pat Folz

I kind of want Milwaukee to sign Manny to play first, because it would be funny.

Dec 06, 2011 10:19 AM
rating: 0

Outside of the Rays at the end Manny was only considered a cancer on bad teams. The Indians didn't call him a cancer when they where better than they had ever been before. The Red Sox had no complaints of his cancerous ways as he lead them in two different World Series winning years. The Dodgers had no complaints until there inability to spend money, due to Frank McCourt, limited there ability to improve. It seems unfair to isolate the bad years and throw away the years that he was unquestionably the best hitter on his team and most likely in all of baseball. So he is a narcissist most people that reach the heights he has have a lot of narcissism in them. Weather it's cute or not he has a unique skill set that many teams should and well take a chance on. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say he would be the 2 or 3 best hitter on the Giants right now.

Dec 06, 2011 11:00 AM
rating: 3
Randy Brown

The Red Sox placed him on waivers with 4 or 5 years to go on his contract and said to the entire league "here, take him". No one did. So yes, they did consider getting rid of him, even while he was still a productive hitter.

Dec 06, 2011 11:48 AM
rating: 3

Context alert. He was demanding a trade that offseason, iirc. I got the impression they put him on unconditional waivers to show him he really had no grounds for his belly-aching. This wasn't as much a case of the Red Sox trying to get rid of him as it was trying to put an employee in his place. Delusions of grandeur come with the narcissist package, yeah?

Dec 06, 2011 13:58 PM
rating: 1

2011: The Year that Steven Goldman made his Johan Santana like 2004 leap.

Steven, you've written about a dozen great pieces this year. This one, the one about the dorky guy who you went to HS with, Cabrera's Grapes of Wrath, and a bunch of others. Really, really nice work. You are now the must read on the site.

Dec 06, 2011 11:19 AM
rating: 2

This is a good piece, you should be proud of it. Personally, I come here for the hardcore baseball reporting, but you did a nice job. It's not easy to do this type of piece and please a mainstream and hardcore audience, well done.

Dec 06, 2011 16:28 PM
rating: 0
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I'll always believed he juiced before he became a MBL player, along with scores of others. Those players, in effect, denigrated the stats of the players that played clean, and those that played decades before PEDS. The fact is, I'll never know how great some of these players were, how many sucked otherwise clean players into the cesspool just so that they could have a job, and of course how they stack up against the untainted. Oh, and anyone that wants start on the amphetamine use v. steroids and HGH debate, either you are brainwashed, ignorant, and naive. Other those attributes you'll do well on Wall Street......

Dec 06, 2011 22:16 PM
rating: -4

The hypocritical stance towards steroids, HGH, and similar substances has to go. There have ALWAYS been PEDs in baseball. The most used, and most dangerous, one is till in rampant use. It has been eliminated from the minor leagues and now has restrictions in the show. The vast majority of HOF members used it: nicotine. As long as one tobacco user is in the HOF everybody suspected of using the juice in the recent era should be eligible, and welcomed. Anybody who doesn't think tobacco is about a hundred times more dangerous than steroids has never lost a relative to lung cancer.

Dec 07, 2011 10:59 AM
rating: 0
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