Previous Chapters of The Book of Manny
Chapter Four: A Fresh Start in Boston
Manny Ramirez signed with the Boston Red Sox in the winter of 2000 and everything was rainbows and sunshine from then on. Or at least that’s what the expectation seemed to be among Red Sox fans once the arrival of the new cleanup hitter was official.
Having a Big Three is typically the barometer for title contention in the NBA, but adding Ramirez to Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra felt like it could be the missing piece to finally getting past the Yankees. Boston’s World Series odds in 2001 were +800 (up from +1000 the season before) which tied with the Mets and Giants for the 3rd best odds in the league.
The Sox were adding a player in the prime of what was heading towards a first-ballot Hall of Fame career (we’ll get to how that turned out later). Ramirez was arriving at Fenway with 236 career home runs, 30 career WAR, and an OPS near 1.000.
Here’s Manny’s final season with Cleveland:
- 38 home runs
- 122 RBI
- .351/.457/.697 (BA/OBP/SLG)
- 186 OPS+
And here’s Ted Williams 162 game average in his career:
- 37 home runs
- 130 RBI
- 191 OPS+
It would have been overly optimistic to think the Sox were adding the second-coming of the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived. But Ramirez’s first two years in Boston came pretty close to making this an appropriate comparison.
Red Sox Year One
Suffice to say Manny came in pretty hot when he first started patrolling left field for the Sox. In March/April of 2001, Ramirez slugged 9 homeruns and knocked in 31 runs while hitting .408/.482/.735. Over the first half of the season, Manny had 26 homeruns, 84 RBIs and a slash line of .335/.432/.649. These awe-inspiring numbers also earned Manny his first All-Star appearance as a Red Sox.
The first time I saw Manny Ramirez play for the Red Sox was Sunday, April 29th, 2001 against the Kansas City Royals. I was sitting close to the third base line so I was maybe 200 feet from Manny when he entered the batter’s box. Two pitches later Ramirez sent a ball sailing deep over the Green Monster for a three-run homer.
I expected every Manny Ramirez at-bat to end with a baseball being nearly crushed into dust from that point forward. And I was rarely disappointed.
In the 3rd inning, Manny sent another ball deep to left but it was caught. Then in the 6th, he led off the inning with another homerun, this time going deep to center. He came up an inning later with the bases loaded and we all waited to see Manny’s first Grand Slam as a Sox. He grounded into a Fielder’s Choice but still got his fifth RBI of the game.
Derek Lowe would blow the save in the ninth giving fans another chance to witness a three-homer game. In the 11th, Manny hit a line-drive single and finished the game 3 for 6 with 2 homeruns and 5 RBI. The Red Sox lost 11-8.
Fun Fact About This Game = At one point early on, my friend Dan (who was only 17 at the time) booed Luis Alicea and he turned around and gave us the finger.
Ramirez forming a new power trio in the AL with Martinez and Garciaparra was a leading story in the offseason. However, the three were not able to realize the potential of their union in the 2001 season.
Garciaparra graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in March and the SI curse took effect almost immediately. Nomar suffered a wrist injury and would not appear in a game for Boston until July 29th. He homered and had 2-run game-winning single, but this would be the bright spot of his season. Garciaparra would be shut down on August 27th after playing in only 21 games.
Pedro entered the 2001 season having won two straight Cy Youngs and was the clear-cut best pitcher in baseball. His 1999 and 2000 seasons are arguably the greatest back-to-back seasons ever thrown by a pitcher ever. For the last two years every time he took the mound, Pedro had no-hitter stuff. Martinez soon began showing wear and tear from throwing upper 90’s fastballs while only being 170 pounds. He was shut down with a shoulder injury on June 26th after allowing four earned runs in less than five innings vs. Tampa Bay.
Martinez would return on August 26th but only made three starts before being shut down for the season. This would be the only time Pedro did not make at least 29 starts in a season for Boston.
The 2001 season ended without Ramirez, Garciaparra and Martinez ever appearing together in the same game.
Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox did not finish the season by hoisting the World Series trophy. The team fired manager Jimy Williams after 118 games and did not fare better under interim manager Joe Kerrigan. Boston finished 82-79, which put them third in the AL East.
2001 Final Figures
Despite a disappointing finish for the team, Ramirez’s first year in Boston was a resounding individual success.
Manny’s final numbers included:
- 41 homeruns (4th in AL, 8th most in Red Sox history at the time)
- 125 RBI (4th in AL, 18th most in Red Sox history at the time)
- .306/.405/.609 (4th in AL in SLG)
- 5.2 WAR
- 9th in AL MVP voting
A New Hope – Take Two
The Red Sox were sold to an ownership group led by John Henry during the 2001 offseason. Dan Duquette, the man responsible for bringing Ramirez and other significant players to Boston, was relieved of his duties as General Manager. After this eventful winter, Ramirez busted out of the gate in the 2002 season. Across 23 games in March/April, Manny hit 7 homeruns and drove in 26 RBIs with a slash line of .346/.495/.679. Ramirez went on the DL from May 12th to June 25th after breaking his finger on a headfirst slide. His first half still included a .340/.464/564 slash line in 46 games and he was named an All-Star.
First Person View
The first time I saw Manny Ramirez play the Yankees was on Saturday, April 13th, 2002. My friends and I were positioned across eight bleacher seats, including the infamous Ted Williams red seat that marks the spot of the longest homerun hit at Fenway Park.
Manny would fly out to right in the 3rd inning, but that would be the only time he’d be retired in the game. In the 4th, Ramirez’s line drive single would score Johnny Damon. Then he walked in the 6th before scoring Damon again on another single in the 8th.
The Sox were trailing 6-4 after Manny’s single and the Yankees brought in the impenetrable Mariano Rivera to close the game. Rivera had blown the save in Game 7 of the World Series the year before and for the first time he seemed vulnerable.
Rivera got Tony Clark to ground out, but that still scored Garciaparra to make it 6-5. Then Shea Hillenbrand took Mo deep over the Monster, scoring Manny and giving the Sox the final lead.
Fun Fact About This Game = As my friends and I walked down Newbury Street after we saw Boston Celtics guard Tony Delk and I yelled “Tony Delk!” at him. Screaming the person’s name loudly at them is my go-to move when I see someone even borderline famous.
The Return of Two Amigos
Martinez and Garciaparra returned to form in 2002 after each going through the most forgettable seasons of their Red Sox careers the year before.
Garciaparra hit 24 homeruns, drove in 120 RBIs and had a slash line of .310/.352/.528. He made the All-Star team and finished 11th in AL MVP voting.
Martinez won 20 games, was 1st in the AL in ERA and came in second for the Cy Young award (Barry Zito won). What was just as significant is Pedro’s Batman finally found his Robin in the starting rotation with Derek Lowe.
Lowe was joining the rotation after flaming out as the team’s closer. Lowe won 21 games, finished 2nd in the AL in ERA, came in third for the Cy Young and started the All-Star Game. Boston’s pitching staff also included Tim Wakefield, who came in 3rd in the AL in ERA.
The Red Sox scored the 2nd most runs in the AL and had the best 1-2 punch of any rotation in the league. It wasn’t enough as the team finished 93-79. Their final record put them 10.5 games behind the Yankees for the AL East and 1.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the Wild Card.
2002 Total Tally
Even though Manny’s team missed the playoffs again, his stats were still something to marvel.
His 2002 final stats were:
- 33 homeruns
- 107 RBI
- .349/.450/.647 (led AL in BA & OBP)
- 6.0 WAR
- 9th in AL MVP voting
Where Does Manny Go From Here
The Red Sox performance in Manny’s first two seasons was certainly not what fans had hoped for. It was two more years of looking up at the Yankees in the standings and asking, “What else can we do?” Add one of the best cleanup hitters in the league? We did it. Add another 20-game winner to the rotation? We did it. It still wasn’t enough.
Sox fans could not complain about Ramirez’s performance though. He delivered on every penny of his mega-contract and more. And even though the first two seasons didn’t go as planned, Manny being part of the Sox lineup still provided hope. Maybe the solution hadn’t been found yet on how to overcome New York. But Manny was seen as a key ingredient of whatever that final recipe would be to beat the Yankees. Manny and the Red Sox headed into 2003 with purpose and were about to start two of the most memorable postseason runs in baseball history.
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