Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The World Loves to Overlook the Obvious

Manny Ramirez hustles as much (or as little) as 99.98 percent of all other major league players. That's pretty much all the time with some flagrant exceptions.

Ramirez, however, has many critics who say he's preternaturally lazy on the field anywhere except at bat. This slanderous fallacy stems from reading way too much into some clearly observable facts. Ramirez is no threat to beat out a grounder into the hole, and more than occasionally fails to reach balls hit into left field.

The mystery is how these facts add up to a character flaw when ANYBODY who's seen Manny play more than a few times, which basically is everyone in New England, has all the evidence they need to reach the correct conclusion about Ramirez's deficiencies. They're physical, not psychological.

Mother Nature gave Ramirez about the worst first step of any professional athlete this side of the Professional Bowler's Association. Nose tackle Ted Washington would beat Manny out of the starting blocks ten times out of ten. Ramirez's hand-eye co-ordination is so superb it's hard to fathom how his feet-eye co-ordination could be so poor, but nonetheless, it is, and leads to 90 percent of his "lazy" rap.

Ramirez is not a slow runner, once he gets up to speed. This, however, takes him as long as the average 150-car freight train. On a routine grounder, Manny's reaching maximum velocity approximately one stride from first base.

The same is true of Ramirez' fielding. All Sox fans can remember some amazing Manny blunders in the outfield. They can also, if they're honest, remember an equal number of spectacular plays. Think back fans. The overwhelming majority of Ramirez's stellar glove work have come when he's reached top speed. The bulk of his butchery stems from being frozen in place at the crack of the bat.

Ramirez would need a fielding average of .150 to erase what he does for the Sox with his bat. Red Sox sluggers are always subject to unwarranted abuse. It's a civic psychosis. What's interests me about the accusations of laziness thrown Manny's way is how they reflect an overly common trait in sports analysis-looking to a competitor's mind rather than his body, searching for hidden meaning where none exists.

Well, "Manny accelerates poorly" doesn't fill many columns or hours of talk radio, so one can understand why outsiders might fall into that trap. But athletes themselves do it all the time. They'd rather admit to being "flat" or "complacent" or any number of character flaws after a loss than say, "hey, today we weren't the best team out there."

That I don't get. And never will.


At 8:23 PM, Blogger chris said...

Excellent point about the first step Michael.


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