Congratulations, Manuel Aristides Ramirez.
It’s easy to forget, between the trade demands and the posing controversy and the bathroom breaks and the dreadlocks, that we are watching one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the history of baseball. Let’s take a moment to appreciate what Manny Ramirez has accomplished — indeed, is accomplishing — before our eyes.
Twenty-four batters now have crossed the threshhold of greatness — that traditional metric against which the best sluggers of all time have been held. Five hundred home runs. The names in an instant tell the history of baseball: Bonds, Aaron, Ruth, Mays, Sosa, Griffey, Robinson, McGwire, Killebrew, Palmeiro, Jackson, Schmidt, Mantle, Foxx, Rodriguez, McCovey, Williams, Thomas, Thome, Banks, Matthews, Ott, Murray … and Ramirez.
Ramirez victimized 324 pitchers en route to 500 home runs. Chad Bradford, a teammate in 2005, gave up the memorable homer — Ramirez’s second against him. Bradford joins Melido Perez (#1, in 1993), Tanyon Sturtze (#100, in 1997), Dave Eiland (#200, in 2000), Ramon Ortiz (#300, in 2002) and Gil Meche (#400, in 2005) in giving up key homers to Ramirez.
Although Manny became Manny in Cleveland, he clearly settled into being Manny in Boston. He has now hit more homers as a member of the Red Sox (264-236) and in Fenway Park (135-132 over Jacobs Field). Of the 12 pitchers against whom Ramirez has hit at least four home runs, four are current or former Yankees. With 29 homers in Yankee Stadium, Ramirez hits bombs there more often than in any other visiting ballpark in baseball.
More of Ramirez’s home runs have come with runners on base (253) than without (247). More have come on the first pitch (84, including his 500th) than on any other count, and 198 have put his team ahead or tied the game.
Of the 24 elite home run hitters of which Ramirez is now a part, he ranks …
- 4th in batting (.312)
- 5th in slugging percentage (.590)
- 5th in OPS (.998)
- 7th in isolated power, SLG-BA (.278)
- 8th in on-base percentage (.408)
- 11th in OPS+ (154)
- 11th in doubles (484)
- 15th in RBI (1,638)
- 15th in runs created (1,763)
- 17th in extra-base hits (1,002)
- 18th in runs produced, RBI+R-HR (2,514)
- 19th in hits (2,267)
- 20th in total bases (4,288)
- 20th in times on base (3,505)
… despite ranking 23rd in plate appearances (8,580), more than 1,000 behind any non-active player.
Consistency has always been Ramirez’s hallmark. For nine consecutive years from 1998-2006, Ramirez never hit fewer than 33 or more than 45 home runs. He averaged just over 40 homers per season in that stretch, with an average of 127 RBI and a line of .318/.418/.622. In baseball, only Barry Bonds put up a higher OPS during that span.
In fact, for the 10 years from 1997-2006, Ramirez was among the best ever — certainly putting together one of the best decade-long stretches of hitting seen by any member of the 500-home-run club. Here, ranked by OPS+ with a minimum of 5,000 plate appearances, are the best 10-year stretches by each member (additional peaks included if there is little or no overlap):
- Babe Ruth, 219 (1920-1929) // 204 (1924-1933)
- Barry Bonds, 209 (1998-2007) // 179 (1990-1999)
- Ted Williams, 190 (1939-1951)*
- Mickey Mantle, 179 (1952-1961) // 169 (1959-1968)
- Jimmie Foxx, 173 (1930-1939)
- Mark McGwire, 172 (1990-1999)**
- Frank Thomas, 168 (1991-2000)
- Frank Robinson, 166 (1960-1969)
- Willie McCovey, 165 (1965-1974)
- Willie Mays, 163 (1954-1963) // 157 (1962-1971)
- Manny Ramirez, 163 (1997-2006)
- Mel Ott, 161 (1929-1938) // 159 (1936-1945)
- Hank Aaron, 161 (1955-1964) // 160 (1965-1974)
- Jim Thome, 157 (1995-2004)
- Harmon Killebrew, 156 (1961-1970)
- Reggie Jackson, 156 (1971-1980)
- Eddie Mathews, 155 (1953-1962)
- Mike Schmidt, 155 (1974-1983, 1978-1987)
- Ken Griffey Jr., 152 (1991-2000)
- Alex Rodriguez, 151 (1998-2007)
- Sammy Sosa, 145 (1994-2003)
- Eddie Murray, 143 (1981-1990)
- Rafael Palmeiro, 140 (1993-2002)
- Ernie Banks, 133 (1955-1964)
* Williams’ peak 10 seasons occurred over a 13-year span as he missed 1942-45 while fighting in World War II. Losing time in 1952-53 to the Korean War also likely cost Williams the 950 or so plate appearances he would need to qualify for a second 10-year peak, from 1951-1960, with an OPS+ of 187.
** While the 23 other players sustained success for most or all 10 years of their given streaks (with no more than one season shortened by injury), McGwire’s 10-year "peak" isn’t quite that at all, as the first five are injury-marred seasons supported by the tremendous success of the final five.
Ramirez until last year performed at a level akin to that of Willie Mays and Mel Ott throughout his peak years — at his best, distinctly worse than only the most elite of his fellow elite sluggers: Ruth, Bonds, Williams, Mantle and Foxx. Of his contemporaries, only Bonds and Frank Thomas can argue they were better hitters.
Here’s to Manny Ramirez. One of the best we’ll ever see.