IF Manny is not on you-know-what (which, in my book, includes HGH), then he is one of the greatest hitters of all time. And I mean Top 10 for sure.
The rest of the career .600 slugging percentage club consists of guys who played primarily or entirely before WWII (Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg and the
guy with the blow-out-a-computer slugging stats, Babe Ruth), plus Ted Williams and the two guys with huge asterisks: Barry Bonds and Todd Helton.
Yeah, Helton's asterisk is different, but look at his home/road splits and you'll see his .600 slugging average is phonier than a $3 bill. And Bonds'
career slugging average was never within light years of .600 until... well, let's just say, until he became Babe Ruth Jr., from ages 36 to 40, from
2000-2004, with his head size doubled, heart fibrillations, etc., etc., etc., etc.
IF Ramirez is clean--and I'm aware of zero evidence which says he's not--then all that's left is the fact he plays in Fenway. Now, I've seen Jimmie
Foxx's career home/road splits--and remember, he played all of his real seasons as a right-handed hitter in Shibe Park and Fenway Park, the same
two parks where Lefty Grove spent 100% of his career, as a left-handed pitcher--
and you wouldn't believe how laughably inflated Foxx's career
numbers are from BOTH of those parks--which just proves how incredible Grove's NINE e.r.a. titles in 17 years were. One year... I'm not making this
up... his slugging percentage was 350 points higher at home than on the road.
I've studied the home/road splits of Helton and Walker at Coors Field. Walker should never be allowed near the Hall of Fame, except as a visitor.
Helton, in my opinion, is a very low-level Hall of Famer, but probably a legit Hall of Famer, nonetheless. All the same, his stats are obscenely
bloated. There have been VERY few seasons in MLB history where someone got 100 extra base hits. He has TWO of them, as did Chuck Klein at the
ancient Baker Bowl of the Phillies, which was a far bigger joke than Coors Field, if you were a lefty (272 down the RF line; 300 to RF; about 320 to
RCF; 40 ft. high fence). Klein won a Triple Crown one year, then was traded to the Cubs and became their #4 outfielder the next.
Anyway, I've never seen home/road splits on Manny to suggest he's nearly so big a product of his home park. A hitter's two biggest stats, by far, are
slugging and on-base percentage. His are astronomical... and I'm talking about CAREER figures. He hits tons of HR's, scares the hell out of
pitchers, DOES take walks (take note, please, you other 98% of Carribbean and South American players who think it's unmanly), gets on base all the
time, and has stats of historical proportions.
I don't like to rate players until their careers have been over for a few years and the dust has settled. I was comfy rating Schmidt #1 at 3B before
he was through, because he was obviously better than Brett, and he reached a point where he had clearly surpassed Eddie Mathews. It's obvious to me
that Mike Piazza is the greatest HITTING catcher in MLB history--and second only to Josh Gibson among all catchers, offensively--but there are at
least four other catchers you can make a strong, rational case for rating ahead of him on the all-time list: Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra
and Mickey Cochrane. And maybe just maybe--though I don't buy it--Carlton Fisk. (NO, not Pudge "I'm too manly to walk" Rodriguez.)
Same thing for Clemens and Maddux. Maddux can still pitch complete years, but I don't see his winning Cy Youngs or ERA titles, and I sure don't see
his coming close to those mindblowing years he had. (Do y'all know that until Pedro came along, Maddux had the #1 all-time AND the #2 all-time
single-season Adusted ERA's ever??!!!!! Kind of like Ruth's single-season slugging records until Bonds met BALCO; Ruth had the Top 3, and SEVEN of
the Top 11.) And I don't see Clemens doing TOO much more, but since he basically walks on water....
Anyway, I want to wait until they're both retired before I firmly decide where to rank them among Grove, Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver, Grover Cleveland
Alexander and Pedro Martinez (for whom I must also wait).
Well, same story with Manny Ramirez. I want to live long enough to see his final numbers and assess them properly. Sure, I will have no trouble
comparing his raw numbers to those Gehrig, Foxx, et al., but I want to see analyses of his era's run productivity vs. the 20's and 30's, so the proper
weights are given to the runs produced by each of these players, including the all-important adjustments for ballparks. (It's not just pitchers who
need ballpark adjustments, though it's most important with them.) And with a right-handed hitter in Fenway--just as in Grove's case, with a LH
Pitcher in Fenway--REALLY careful and intense adjustments must be made.
Ruth and Gehrig were NOT helped by Yankee Stadium, and in fact both did better on the road than at home--a fact which astonishes people. But Foxx
just ate up those home parks. To a somewhat lesser degree, so did Greenberg and, believe it or not, Ted Williams had significantly better career home
stats than road stats. Then there's Mel Ott. He's the phoniest member of the 500 HR club (other than guys like Palmeiro), since he hit only 188 HR's
on the road, and a whopping 323 at the Polo Grounds, where it was 257 down the RF line and 288 or something to straightaway RF. On the other hand,
outfielders bunched together at the Polo Grounds, and many of Ott's other numbers suffered.
In other words, assessing the effects of players' home parks on their batting numbers can be pretty easy in an egregiously favorable park, like Coors
or the Baker Bowl, but it also can be very tough (like with Ott), or one can fall victim to myth, like the lie that cavernous Yankee Stadium helped
Ruth and Gehrig.
What I will say for now is this: Love him or hate him, if Manny Ramirez is not using the same sort of cr@p that certain stars obviously used, and
that so many others PROBABLY used, he is one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. And not just one of the 20 or 30 greatest. At least
one of the 10 greatest.
I happen to like the guy. But I hate Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, and I still give them a world of credit. I rate Cobb as the #3 MLB player of
all-time, and Speaker as the #6... despite the fact he took part in what is probably the most egregious single sin in MLB history: the deliberate
throwing of Game Six of the 1912 World Series, in order to get back at the owners for something really s---ty the owners had done to them about gate
receipts, knowing full good and well this meant they would have to face CHRISTY MATHEWSON in Game 7 of the Series. Unfortunately, they got 2 in the
bottom of the 10th and beat him.
Give Manny his due, folks, at least until there's SOME circumstantial evidence of b.s. on his part. His fielding is awful, his attitude seems to go
over good with his teammates but stinks from what we can see, and he sure doesn't hustle all the time. But that is EXACTLY what Bill James has
repeatedly said--and he's right--about Ted Williams in his playing days
. But hitting is by far the most important thing a player does. That's
why Ted Williams, despite my multi-faceted loathing for the man, is my #4 player of all-time, and it's why Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest
players who ever lived.