Kentucky Derby 2011

Manny Ramirez, one of the greatest hitters, ends career in disgrace: Major League Baseball Insider

How many times can the same sto

ry be written? The same disappointment be expressed?

This is the second time for Manny Ramirez, who as a young man loved baseball so much that he ran the hills of his Washington Heights neighborhood near Yankee Stadium with one end of a rope tied around his waist and the other tied to a tire. Dragging the tire made him stronger and faster.

His high school coach said Ramirez was going to be the next George Bell, the fierce, power-hitting outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays. Ramirez was better — way better — and he didn’t need Bell’s fierceness to do it. He always seemed to be just messing around with baseball. That he just stumbled across a bat, picked it up and hit the first thing thrown his way 450 feet.

Mickey White, former Indians scouting director, found Ramirez in the Bronx. White said he was led to him by the sound of his bat hitting ball after ball. It made a distinctive sound, baseball’s version of Morse code, saying that there was something different about this player.

Game of Threes

Baseball is a game of threes. Three strikes and you’re out. Three outs in a half-inning. Here are two more sets of threes to consider from the first few days of the season.

THREE UP

1. In starting the season 6-0, Texas scored 43 runs and hit 13 homers.

2. After hitting 105 mph last season, Reds rookie pitcher Aroldis Chapman hit 104 mph Thursday against Houston.

3. Mariano Rivera saved the Yankees’ first four victories to move within 37 saves of 600.

THREE DOWN

1. Through their first six games, the Red Sox hit four homers and allowed 14.

2. Tigers pitchers and catchers led the big leagues with six wild pitches through their first six games.

3. Angels catcher Jeff Mathis went 0-for-6, while the opposing Royals were 6-for-6 in steal attempts, last Sunday.


Stat-O-Matic

Heavy lifting: Twins closer Joe Nathan needed 31 pitches to record his first save April 3 after missing last year with right elbow surgery.

The Flash: Veteran Willie Bloomquist stole five bases in his first five games for Arizona.

Four’s the charm: In the past two seasons, Asdrubal Cabrera (Thursday), Luis Valbuena (May 25), Jayson Nix (June 28) and Trevor Crowe (Sept. 29) have squeezed home runs for the Indians.


The List

bmaker.ag has calculated the percentages on Derek Jeter’s pursuit of 3,000 hits. Here are some of them.

• That No. 3,000 will be a single: 71.43 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be a double: 28.57 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be a triple: 8 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be a homer: 11.11 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be on 1-1 pitch: 16.67 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be on 0-0 pitch: 11.11 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be on 0-1 pitch: 13.33 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will be on a 3-2 pitch: 16.67 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will come between June 21 and July 1: 40 percent.

• That No. 3,000 will come between July 2 and July 15: 40 percent.

Note: Entering the 2011 season, the Yankees’ shortstop needed 74

White persuaded the Indians to take Ramirez with their first pick in 1991. Colleges weren’t a problem because Ramirez wasn’t a scholar. Four years later, Ramirez was in the big leagues to stay.

The stay ended Friday when he told Major League Baseball that he was retiring after testing positive for a banned substance in spring training. Ramirez, suspended 50 games in 2009 when he played with the Dodgers, was looking at a 100-game suspension this time. Rather than take that kind of hit, or even go through the appeal process, he told MLB officials Friday that he was retiring.

Ramirez is 38 and pretty much done as a player. It’s still a waste. He’ll never get in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. His numbers belong there, but he doesn’t.

It’s documented that he’s a two-time drug offender. The New York Times reported that he also failed the 2003 confidential drug test that all big-league players took to see if there was an actual steroids problem in the game. Those tests eventually created the program that drove Ramirez into retirement.

Good for the game. Shame on Ramirez.

He told ESPN Deportes that he’s at peace with himself. He said God has a plan for him and that he’s taking “his old man” on a vacation to Spain. So the kid who ran the hills of Washington Heights just shrugged and walked away? The game, his reputation, leaving a struggling Tampa Bay team in a lurch, didn’t mean a thing to Ramirez?

Don’t believe it. Not for a second.

Ramirez’s gift was a great swing. Charlie Manuel, the Indians former manager and hitting coach, said Ramirez shifted the weight in his lower body better than any hitter he’d ever seen. It gave him the ability to hit with power and average to all fields.

The swing entailed work. Ramirez was never “Manny being Manny” when it came to hitting. Indians second baseman Orlando Cabrera was amazed at the amount of preparation Ramirez did when he joined the Red Sox in 2004. Travis Fryman said the same thing when he joined the Indians from Arizona via Detroit.

“There’s a reason why some hitters are superstars,” said Sandy Alomar Jr., Ramirez’s teammate with the Indians. “It takes preparation. Manny did a lot of preparation. . . . When it came to hitting, he was a very smart guy.”

No one walks away from such a gift without regret. If Ramirez doesn’t realize it today, he soon will. If he’d done this right, if he’d stayed clean, this season could have been his farewell tour. A last chance to see a great hitter at work, but he took his dreadlocks, bandana, bats and baggy uniform and went home because he was stupid.

When you write about baseball, there are certain players you like and dislike. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ramirez. Still do.

If I saw him today, I’d walk up to him and say, “Why, Manny, why?”

By Paul Hoynes, The Plain Dealer