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T.J. Simers: Manny Ramirez, the hits keep coming

September 14, 2011 | 10:52 am

Photo: Manny Ramirez. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.  

SimersManny Ramirez was the best thing to hit Los Angeles.

And nothing that has happened recently changes that.

He was a performer, an overnight sensation in Los Angeles after arriving late in 2008, providing almost unmatched escape for those who find their release in sports.

It was so much fun, the anticipation and eventually the expectation that he was going to deliver something memorable.

He had big hit after big hit, and the Dodgers were suddenly a hair away from playing in the World Series. And it was the same again the following year.

Dodger Stadium was the happening place in town, something considered almost unfathomable right now.

Some folks later would say they almost had to stop what they were doing to watch TV and see whether Manny was going to do something extraordinary.

What more do you want from sports?

When he proved human the following year, the undoing of so many performers, he became a joke. That’s also part of the sports’ experience, fans turning quickly when betrayed by expectations or left disappointed.

First he was caught using a female fertility drug, resulting in a suspension, then came a drop in power, the fun-loving guy becoming more a recluse.

There was still a pinch-hit grand slam to win a game, a .290 batting average and what some folks forget, another shot at making the World Series. But Mannywood was never the same.

And then he was gone, almost as quickly as he had arrived, and all the good times in Dodger Stadium were gone as well.

He would be caught again using something to juice his performance and faced another suspension, but he quit baseball instead.

Now he’s accused of slapping his wife in a domestic dispute, and how much lower can someone sink?

He appeared in court wearing a dark blue jumpsuit worn by prisoners. Interesting that no one reported it as “Dodgers blue.’’

Released on bail, and asked about the incident with his wife that prompted the call to police, he said, “That’s my problem, not your problem.’’

That’s Manny how we remember him.

E-mailers were quick to respond, one noting, “I see your boy Manny shines again. I can’t believe you ever defended this clown to sell papers.’’

It doesn’t seem as if a whole lot of people are interested in selling papers anymore, but I still like the idea. And I wish we had more clowns; there are so few characters anymore, with everyone striving to be politically correct and bland.

 Manny was a clown who could deliver entertainment like few others, so what was not to like?

Had someone said he was going to slap his wife and be placed in handcuffs, it would have been different.

Now as a columnist, I enjoy digging deeper to learn more about a great performer, sometimes finding a lousy human.

For the most part no one wants to hear of it -- if the athlete is doing well, most fans come to the conclusion that anyone who can do amazing athletic feats must be a terrific guy.

Maybe the critics had it right all along and Manny was a lousy human but because of his remarkable skills, some folks kept finding a reason to embrace him.

It happens all the time in sports, a bad guy doing well, becoming a good guy as a result until he goes wrong again.

Sports are all about being fickle. Gary Sheffield plays for the Dodgers, is one of the team’s best players, but threatens to quit if he doesn’t get more money. On opening day the fans boo him every time his name is mentioned, he hits a home run to win the game and the fans give him a standing ovation.

The separation between performer and human being is a tough one to grasp. Do you watch a Mel Gibson movie because he’s a great actor or stay away from it because he’s proved to be such a bad actor as a human being?

I still find Manny fascinating as a columnist, wondering how someone could rehab their reputation in Los Angeles, then chuck it aside seemingly overnight, the decline now continuing.

Is it as simple as saying, he’s stupid or a lousy human, or is he complex as a person as most people are?


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 --T.J. Simers

Photo: Manny Ramirez. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times.