Manny Ramirez was back to being Manny in a live baseball game on Friday, and that marks a good time to get something off my chest that I know many other fans will agree with: All this Manny bashing by Red Sox fans has gone far enough.The subject came up within our community here at MLB.com over the last 24 hours, and it seems to have touched a nerve. The guy came to Boston, put up Cooperstown stats and the Red Sox became winners. He was fawned over by Sox fans. They ate up the whole "Manny being Manny" thing and rode it through two parades.
Then he was dealt during the 2008 season to the Dodgers, and he proceeded to absolutely demolish National League pitching right through the playoffs. Instead of tipping their caps -- as so many once did after Carlton Fisk bolted for Chicago in switching his 27 to 72 -- some Red Sox fans are continuing to delight in trashing Ramirez, focusing mainly on his "work ethic" while playing for Boston.None of his teammates was Cal Ripken Jr., but it's not even necessary to go there. The bottom line is: Manny came and they won. Period. I sat out in the right-field power alley seats that red-moon night in October when he was named World Series MVP after leading the Red Sox past the St. Louis Cardinals to end the "Curse of the Bambino." I sat up on the Green Monster while he was down in front of me in left field, the player who led Boston to an early and safe lead over Colorado in the 2007 World Series. Many people are responsible for the turnaround of Red Sox Nation fortunes in this decade, but none moreso than Manny. Trashing him now just sounds comically bizarre. In fact, his No. 24 jersey should be retired at Fenway one day. That is how wrong the perspective is, completely and amazingly wrong. If you dare to interject an opinion as an "outsider" who is not technically part of Red Sox Nation, then you are told that, "You just don't get it." On the contrary, it is time for many Sox fans to hear an outside perspective on how it looks when The Nation is bashing a guy who came and led them to a promised land awaited by generations. It is actually a little surprising, because nothing in Major League Baseball can beat singing "Sweet Caroline" with the Fenway crowd, few fans know their baseball quite like Sox fans do, it's Harvard country and thus a habitat of generally smart-thinking people, and no other park can send a chill down your spine quite the way it feels when you walk into that pantheon for the first time. Where did this hate come from? Manny should get a hero's welcome whenever he comes back to Boston. I probably will be casting a Hall of Fame vote for Manny five years after he quits. This past October, I was amazed at how many levels he was above any other player in a Major League uniform. He was performance-drama at will, batting .500 or better in both postseason series and homering four times. At the advanced age of 36, well past what general managers consider a player's "prime" (roughly 27-32), Ramirez in 2008 played in a combined 153 games and hit 37 home runs, drove in 121, scored 102 runs, had his most hits (183) since 2003 and had his highest batting average (.332) since 2002. That was an incredible season, and just a typical one in Manny's career. But since he left, the more he succeeds and makes news, the louder many of his former fans seem to grow against him. Is it just bitterness now, and will that subside when he eventually retires? I hope so. Even some Sox fans are tired of hearing it from their Nation. "As a Red Sox fan, I see many Sox fans forgetting that," said Ken Goyette of Lowell, Mass. "I am a Red Sox fan, but I agree with you, he came, we won," said Sox fan Giuseppe Marmina. Disinterested MLB fans I talked to about the subject expressed mutual hope that the Manny bashing will end soon, that good sense will prevail. "Only when Manny came to the Red Sox did they win," said Josh Allen of Papillion, Neb., near Omaha, where they also saw what Ramirez did for Boston. Sox fans, deplore the obvious occasional lapses in initiative all you want. It's all well-known. Bemoan the fact he unabashedly showed his interest in playing somewhere else last year. But to be revisionist and constantly hurl comebacks denying his massive impact on the club's positive fortunes, that is just wrong. Manny came to Boston, and the Red Sox became winners. That is how he should be remembered there. This will not be a popular opinion in some New England circles, but you have to see how it looks to those outside Red Sox Nation when all this Manny bashing finally becomes enough. Look it up. Ramirez hit 274 of his 527 homers while with Boston, the rest previously with Cleveland or in 2008 (17) with L.A. In all or part of eight Red Sox seasons, he either hit over .300 or barely missed it. And again, he led them to two World Series championships during that time, two more than Boston won since Babe Ruth left. Many other people deserve credit for the new era of Red Sox success, on the field and in the front office. No one deserves it more than the player who is being hammered with criticism almost constantly since he left. That's enough. Fun's fun, but kiss and make up because one day it will be time to retire the jersey number and celebrate him again. Meanwhile, he's back on the field and in a Dodgers uniform at last.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.