When you mention the year 2004 to any Boston Red Sox fan, one thing will come to mind: the year the curse was broken. It was the year a Red Sox team came back from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat their rivals, the New York Yankees. It was the year that saw them enter the World Series and sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games. So many players contributed to these epic wins and a year that had such a storybook ending. One player, though, seemingly made it all possible. This man didn’t have a good ending to this career in Boston, but that all seemed to be forgiven today as the Red Sox honored that 2004 team. That man, is Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez is as colorful as any baseball player can be. When he signed with the Red Sox in the year 2000, the expectations for the former Cleveland Indians‘ slugger were sky-high. Ramirez, true to form, delivered. His first season ended with a .306 average with 41 home runs and 125 RBIs. However, throughout the years and the monster numbers, headaches were born for the Red Sox. Numerous incidents throughout the years really put Ramirez in the spotlight, but for the wrong reasons. Missing games due to the death of his grandmother(s), knee injuries that seemed to switch legs, cutting off a throw in the outfield by Johnny Damon, pushing down traveling secretary Jack McCormick because he couldn’t get last-minute tickets for Ramirez, disappearing into the Green Monster during pitching changes resulting in Ramirez not being in position until mid-pitch … You name it, Ramirez did it.
In 2008, a shocking three-team trade was pulled off at the trade deadline that sent Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox got outfielder Jason Bay from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Red Sox as a team lost a lot of personality after that trade. Even though Ramirez might have been someone who drove fans nuts with this antics, you can’t deny the fact that Ramirez was an exciting, dynamic and clutch player. If a big-time situation came up during a game and Ramirez was due up, Fenway park was locked on every pitch Ramirez saw. He was a special player.
Before today’s game, the Red Sox honored the 2004 World Series team by throwing them a pregame ceremony for the ages. Players were introduced, given the ovation they deserved and had fun together as we saw highlights from that magical season. The biggest highlight for me was seeing Ramirez selected to throw out the first pitch. The 2004 World Series MVP, with his new Mohawk hair cut, was given a great reception from the fans. It looks as if the Red Sox and Ramirez have patched things up; throwing the first pitch was a great indication of that.
Love him or hate him, Ramirez will go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time. Some of you may bring up his PED use and that’s understandable. For me personally, a pure hitter is a skill you have regardless of what players may or may not take. I will remember a Ramirez who gave the Red Sox walk-off hits, clutch home runs and by far my favorite home run trot in the game. The No. 24 may never be retired, but no one will match the man that is Manny Ramirez.