Why do we insist on making baseball a morality play? As much as the most ardent fans among us may protest, baseball is a multibillion dollar entertainment business, its stars play a game and do not work miracles, and all in the industry, from players to peanut vendors have clay feet, like the rest of us.
Let's argue it both ways. Players have bad days. They weary of the 'marathon', they argue with their wives and girlfriends (we hope not at the same time), they get injured, have slumps, and occasionally aren't good people but self-indulgent boors. Like the rest of us.
Manny Ramirez doesn't bust it down to first base every at bat. Manny gets paid spectacular money to give his total effort. We expect him to prepare and perform at the highest level, satisfy the wishes of every reporter and every fan, and do it with a smile. Manny regularly produces forty homers, a hundred twenty RBI, hits .300 and plays a lot better leftfield than is generally appreciated.
Do you give 100 percent, every minute of every day, every week? Does every other major league player? Does everyone on the Red Sox? If David Ortiz grounds out to second and runs '90 percent', are we on his case?
Manny Ramirez doesn't have the commitment to play for the Red Sox. He sometimes demands a day off (for whatever reason), and might even feign injury or illness to get one. The dog eats his homework, illness in his family keeps him away from us, and he's seldom a great interview.
The last three seasons, Manny has played over 150 games a year. He averaged 112 runs scored, 42 homers, and 125 RBI. The 'good Manny' argument always gets down to those damn numbers, right? During those years he was an All-Star and won a Silver Slugger each year, and averaged fourth in the MVP voting. He was in the top ten in on-base percentage and slugging each of those years, and led the league in each category once during those years. He was in the top three in homers two of the three years and the top four in RBI each year. For sabermetricians, he was in the top five in runs created each year, and led or was second in two years. He averaged over ten assists and was the World Series MVP. That sounds like commitment to me.
Manny is moody. Supposedly Manny was upset about not getting credited for a hit in the Yankee series. Manny may have not wanted to play. At times Manny can get frustrated at work. Manny even has been known to socialize with the enemy, in the infamous Enrique Wilson case. (A billion Chinese couldn't care less.)
None of our readers ever gets upset over not getting credit for what they do. And all of us can't wait to get to work EVERY day. And we never get frustrated with our boss, coworkers, or customers.
Manny gets paid a fortune to do what he does. Manny isn't putting out enough effort to get paid more money than all of us. Why is he getting paid so much to play a game?
Most fans don't get paid as much as professional athletes. "Life isn't fair". Schoolteachers and nurses perform more valuable work than rockstars, but they don't get paid like them. If any of us can do what Manny can, we'd get paid close to what he gets paid, unless of course, we worked in some desert like Kansas City where we'd only get paid half as much. And by the way, if you get paid more than you're worth, exactly whose fault is that?
We're positive that Manny's negative. Maybe Manny isn't the happiest guy in an incredibly shrinking universe. I'm not happy that Pluto is only a Disney character instead of a full-fledged planet. Can we accept a guy for what he is, a mercurial first ballot Hall-of-Famer who has the talent to hit a baseball better than 99.99999998 percent of humans?