Manny Ramirez is so far ahead of his time. Eighty-nine years ahead, to be precise. Remember the eight players from the 1919 Black Sox who threw the World Series for money? Perhaps one of the original Black Sox came back as Manny. "Shoeless Joe," back as "Clueless Manny." Black Sox outfielder Oscar Felsch, known as "Happy," back as "Dopey."
Well, the boys are back in town, and they have a new teammate. Keep in mind that the band of eight hatched the plan to throw the Series right here in Boston. Ironically, teammate No. 9 did the same thing. And for the same reasons. It was dissatisfaction with $15,000 back in 1919 and displeasure with $20 million to $40 million in 2008. Their strategy: Play less -- for more pay. And, 89 years later, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Yeah, different circumstances, but the motive is the same. After all, no two bank robberies are identical. It doesn't make 'em different just because they are not the same. Get it? Well, get this:
None of the original eight was found guilty. Nor was the ninth. The eight were banned from baseball and never considered for anything like the Hall of Fame, which, at that time, didn't exist. And by all accounts, "Say it ain't so, Joe," might have made it.
Fast-forward to a new super Hall of Fame ballot before the Baseball Writers of America. (By the way, and it's not only my observation, I believe the electors would have trouble passing over the famous Hall of Fame character clause.) Here is the super ballot of villains before us today:
- Pete Rose
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens
- Manny Ramirez
My poll question: If you had to leave one out of the Hall, which one would it be? Three get in, one stays out. Well, I am not hiding my vote. The one I keep out is the former one-tool Boston left fielder, now a five-tool LA Dodger, who is 89 years ahead of his time. You have to know where this is going by now. I am not pleading for any reinstatement of the eight from 1919. I am making a case for the ninth of 2008.
Rose gambled on games. Did they affect the outcome? We don't know. Bonds is, by all accounts, a narcissistic and unpleasant fellow with great baseball ability, who may or may not have lied to a grand jury. He may well have injected his way to the top of the game. But I was never under the impression that he injected anything to help him perform worse and, perhaps, help his team to lose.
Clemens. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Lying to Congress? Maybe. But if the needles fit, they have to acquit! He did what he did to enhance his performance and thus that of his team.
Sure, cheating is cheating. But cheating to win is a whole lot different than cheating to lose. Ask the Black Sox.
If the baseball writers let Manny Ramirez into the Hall of Fame, they need to ignore the character clause. Character is the issue, and we can't forget it. Agent 99 can't hit enough home runs, get enough RBI or assists, or steal enough bases to make this go away.
He dogged his way out of Boston. Even the Westminster Kennel Club would flush him out in a second.
Hey, none of us saw anybody lie, place a bet, or inject anything. But 38,000 of us, on a regular basis, could be called as witnesses to something much worse: purposeful, wanton, and selfish disregard for team, owners, fans, and the game.
Manny Ramirez, potential Hall of Famer? I don't think so. His place in history was 89 years ago with a group that thought the way he thought and acted the way he acted. Manny didn't just take a leak behind that Green Monster. He took a leak on everybody in front of it. You don't have to be from Boston to know that to be true.
Veteran TV personality Bob Lobel is an OT columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org