Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pure Joy and other musings

There's a lot of talk about the right way to play the game - whether football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or whatever else out there people play. I've noted before in this space that when I was growing up that Pete Rose was the example.

Rose was a hard-nosed, blue-collar sort of player. He never took a play off, he didn't walk around the bases. Even on a home run, he ran down the line. He played every game like it was going to be the last time he was going to be allowed to step onto a field. Charlie Hustle brought an intensity to the game that few did. He played the game with love and respect. The Red Sox had Fred Lynn and Carlton Fisk - both of whom played with a similar intensity.

We used to say that these men played the game the "right way."

But that isn't the only way that is the "right" one.

There are others.

Manny Ramirez does not bring the intensity that those competitors did. At times he has infuriating and confounding lapses of concentration. But the man demonstrates a pure joy in playing the game. He revels in it.

We call it Manny being Manny, but its the Red Sox' man-child playing the game with the same sort of excitement as a five-year old child finding his first bicycle under the Christmas tree. He laughs, he jokes with the crowd, he slaps a high five with a fan at the outfield wall before doubling the runner off with a cannon throw back to the infield. He might be the best pure hitter I've ever seen.

Better than Yaz, Wade Boggs, or even the inimitable Tony Gwynn. There is a certain effortlessness to his swing, born, I suspect, of the joy with which he approaches the game.

It is as much the right way to play the game as the approach of Rose, Fisk, and Lynn. And it's part of the reason that Ramirez hit his 500th homer this weekend.

Big Papi...

The buzz in the national press is that the Red Sox are in trouble with the wrist injury to David Ortiz. They might be - but I think the bullpen woes have been a bigger problem than being without Ortiz for a month...or the remainder of the year, for that matter...will be.

The Sox have an enormous amount of depth - both in the line-up, and in the starting rotation - but pitchers that were lights out in the pen last year, are a crap-shoot this year.

Can they replace Ortiz's production? Maybe.

But I wouldn't be surprised, if he's lost for the season, to see the Sox make a run at someone like Junior Griffey, or even Adam Dunn in an effort to replace the production if they are unable to do it from within.

Of all the teams in the East, only the Sox are well enough stocked in minor league talent to pull something like that off.


Dave said...

I think the only players the Sox have ever had that compare to Manny in both hitting for average and power are Ted Williams and Jimmy Foxx. So to be able to watch him in his prime...wow. I don't think enough people appreciate that.

For pure hitting, I think Gywnn may still be a little better. 19 straight seasons of .309 or better, lifetime .338 hitter. But factor in power and Manny is way ahead overall.

Kevin Smith said...

I will admit, it's a hard call with Gwynn, who really was a technician at the plate. But I think that the overall package with Manny is better - not by much, but I think you touched on it - Manny's power puts him over the top.

David Sullivan said...

I have always loved Manny, even with Cleveland and I almost creamed myself when I heard he was comming to Boston...OK, I DID cream myself. Anyhow, I would go as far to say that he is the best hitter of his generation due to the fact he has had no allegations of steroid use and he has been so consistant in so many areas. He makes it look easy, so he doesn't get the props he deserves.

Kevin Smith said...

Um...dude...waaaayyyy too much information.