[Ed's note: We first published this piece on October 10th, 2008, before Game 2 of the Dodgers-Phillies NLCS. In it's conclusion we suggested that Manny's post-season performance would dictate his free-agency. In light of everything that's happened since, we found it still surprisingly relevant.]
Batting .350 while leading the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years? Just Manny Being Manny. Rocking a coif only Captain Jack Sparrow could love? You know the line. Since he entered the league, the phrase "Manny being Manny" has appeared in print over 1,621 times, according to the Lexis Nexis search engine. (A Google search for the phrase yielded over 143,000 hits.) Everyone knows the subtext behind "Manny being Manny, " but the history behind the phrase is a bit more nuanced. We're taking a look back through the years to show you how people have used it to mean very different things.
ORIGINS OF A PHRASE
The very first usage of the phrase in print was attributed to then-Indians Manager Mike Hargrove in a 1995 Newsday story. By then, Manny had already developed a reputation for his singular obsession with baseball and his aloofness regarding everything else. (His high school coach said: "If I told Manny to be there for a game at 1 p.m., he was there two hours early. If I said the team picture was at 1 p.m., he'd forget and not show up.") While referring to one such incident, in which Ramirez had forgotten his paycheck in a pair of boots at a visitor's clubhouse, writer Jon Heyman picked up on an interesting quote from Hargrove, "That's just Manny being Manny," he said. "He's a lot better than he was two years ago."
Translation: Manny's spacey and little strange, but he's still a kid. Give him a few years and this kind of behavior will be a thing of the past.
MANNY BEING MYSTERIOUS
The expression didn't appear in the press again until 1997 when an article in the Akron Beacon Journal mentioned how Manny had invited former coaches and teammates to games, promised them tickets, then forgot to leave them. The article's author, Terry Pluto, wrote that his friends weren't angry, they assumed it was just "Manny being Manny."
Translation: He's a professional athlete who was always a little flaky. Maybe he'll grow out of it.
The phrase surfaced again in 1998 while Manny began occasionally holding himself out of the lineup with the Indians. When he defended himself by saying he had "sore calves," the press jumped and another reference to "Manny being Manny" popped up in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
When Pluto visited Manny's high school coach Steve Mandl in 2000 for another Journal story the phrase reared its head again. Apparently, Ramirez had promised to pay for new uniforms for the coach, but never did. He had forgotten. Just like he forgot when he made promises to have lunch with Mandl and some of the players who idolized the real-life Major Leaguer.
"He never showed up, or he was there, and said he forgot we were waiting, and then he went off with someone else … I used to think it was just me," Mandl said. "But Manny tends to lose track of everyone. When he was younger, we'd just say, 'It's Manny being Manny.' But he's now 28. "
Translation: I can't believe the kid hasn't grown out of this.
MANNY BEING MALIGNANT
When he arrived in Boston in 2001, the Manny Being Manny mystique continued to grow and his random acts of Manny-ness transcended the sports pages.
He refused to play left field and the Boston Herald responded, "Manny being Manny."
Over the course of his stay in Boston the antics began to multiply: He loped to first base on ground balls; he peed mid-inning inside the Green Monster; his efforts to corral fly balls could be mistaken for performance art; he high-fived a fan after a leaping grab at the wall; he lost his $15,000 diamond earring sliding into third base; he refused to stand with a Little Leaguer for the national anthem during a public relations promotion.
Up until 2001, the phrase had been used in the press roughly once a year. In 2002 it jumped to 11.
By 2004 it had reached 29 instances.
MANNY BEING MASTERFUL
In that special year of 2004, while hitting .308 with 43 HR and 130 RBI in the regular season, Ramirez delivered to Boston what neither Roger Clemens, nor Carl Yastrzemski, nor Ted Williams ever could—a World Series title—with an MVP to boot. The title-starved town focused more on his numbers than his off-field antics. They even applauded his ability to seemingly check the drama at the dugout steps.
"Is there anyone else on the planet other than Manny Ramirez, who could put all that aside, forget about his anger (Hello, Nomar) and turn up as the MVP in the Red Sox' first World Series win in 86 years?" wrote the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian. "Probably not. But once again, we have Manny being Manny."
Translation: Do you like World Series rings? I do. If Manny can kill curses, maybe the rest of his act isn't so bad.
Number of occurrences in the year the following the World Series: 220.
MANNY BEING MALIGNANT (PART II)
He brought another title in 2007, but he was refusing to pinch hit. When Manny shoved a card-carrying member of the AARP, Boston's 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick in 2008, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe penned a column entitled, "This Time, Manny Being Manny is Unacceptable."
Translation: This routine is now toxic.
As the trade deadline approached this year, Ramirez complained to Boston Manager Terry Francona of a mystery ailment and sat out consecutive games. He went on the offensive in the media, spouting off that Boston didn't deserve a player like him. The team agreed, paying a chunk of his contract and parting with two minor league players to rid themselves of him just before the 4 p.m. deadline. In the days since Manny was traded to L.A., "Manny being Manny," has popped up 379 times. The irony is that when he arrived in Los Angeles, Manny stopped being Manny.
Or did he?
MANNY BECOMING MANNY
In L.A., Manny yukked it up with the media. He won over his teammates. He even cut his hair. On the field, he hit .396 with 17 HR and 53 RBI in the final two months of the regular season … and he stole two bases.
So far this postseason, he has batted .500. The cliché now required a counterpoint: This is Manny Being His Best.
When the Dodgers swept the Cubs, Dave Lassen of the Ventura County Star said: "Manny Ramirez, the man who has turned Hollywood into Mannywood, not once but twice. The first time, looking like a man who had been dropped into a Moet dunk tank. The second time, Manny was being Manny."
The fans responded, gobbling up his new No. 99 jersey and flaunting t-shirts that read "We Love Manny Being Manny." Dodgers first baseman James Loney wore one during the NLDS celebrations.
While questions remain about the permanence of Manny's new found inspiration (teams will be debating this fiercely during free agency), one thing is for sure: Manny being Manny can and does mean anything these days. According to a Google search conducted today, October 10th, 2008, the phrase has popped up 274 places in the last 24 hours.
Who will he be tonight?
[P.S. He only went 1 for 4 that night, but his hit was a three-run homer in the fourth.]