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):

  1. Babe Ruth, 219 (1920-1929) // 204 (1924-1933)
  2. Barry Bonds, 209 (1998-2007) // 179 (1990-1999)
  3. Ted Williams, 190 (1939-1951)*
  4. Mickey Mantle, 179 (1952-1961) // 169 (1959-1968)
  5. Jimmie Foxx, 173 (1930-1939)
  6. Mark McGwire, 172 (1990-1999)**
  7. Frank Thomas, 168 (1991-2000)
  8. Frank Robinson, 166 (1960-1969)
  9. Willie McCovey, 165 (1965-1974)
  10. Willie Mays, 163 (1954-1963) // 157 (1962-1971)
  11. Manny Ramirez, 163 (1997-2006)
  12. Mel Ott, 161 (1929-1938) // 159 (1936-1945)
  13. Hank Aaron, 161 (1955-1964) // 160 (1965-1974)
  14. Jim Thome, 157 (1995-2004)
  15. Harmon Killebrew, 156 (1961-1970)
  16. Reggie Jackson, 156 (1971-1980)
  17. Eddie Mathews, 155 (1953-1962)
  18. Mike Schmidt, 155 (1974-1983, 1978-1987)
  19. Ken Griffey Jr., 152 (1991-2000)
  20. Alex Rodriguez, 151 (1998-2007)
  21. Sammy Sosa, 145 (1994-2003)
  22. Eddie Murray, 143 (1981-1990)
  23. Rafael Palmeiro, 140 (1993-2002)
  24. 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.

18 comments… add one
  • I should note that the stats, as usual, would be impossible to gather without the help of Baseball-Reference’s invaluable Play Index.

    Paul SF June 1, 2008, 3:28 am
  • I love baseball-reference too. I abuse it regularly on my own blog.
    Manny’s career is made more impressive when you consider what an easy-going guy he is. He is proof positive that you do not need to be high-strung to succeed. He’s just out there, doing what he loves, having fun. If baseball weren’t the huge pro sport that it is, he’d still be in the Dominican, playing for free. He’d probably work just as hard and play just as well, too.
    The Boston media was rarely kind to him for his eccentricities, mainly because he rarely talked to the media. I didn’t blame him one bit for that. Now that he grants interviews, it turns out that he doesn’t have that much to say… I suspect they’re just not asking him the right questions.
    In any case, he remains the world’s most interesting ballplayer. Here’s to Manny.

    Kazz June 1, 2008, 5:17 am
  • The Globe has an amazing feature at their site for tracking all of Manny’s dingers. Link here:

    SF June 1, 2008, 6:20 am
  • Nice post, Paul, as usual.

    SF June 1, 2008, 6:22 am
  • Great post. But let me correct the record: Manny became Manny in NYC!
    And check out the great story in today’s NYT on the next Manny, Washington Height’s own Pedro Alvarez, who rejected a million dollar offer from the Sox to go to college, and will be re-entering the draft next week as a top prospect:

    YF June 1, 2008, 9:23 am
  • Manny became Manny in NYC!
    Haha, fair enough. That’s a good enough segway as any to point Manny fans back to this post I did last year.
    To Kazz’s point, I’m not sure I’m particularly thrilled with the lede Gordon Edes put on his game story. Edes, of course, has some history with Manny. The story is well written throughout but begins like this:
    He stood at home plate long enough for Gilbert Stuart to sketch the outline of his portrait. Long enough for Armand LaMontagne to cut the first rough carvings of his sculpture. Long enough for Annie Leibovitz to frame her photograph just right.
    Of all the ways to lead a story about the greatness of Ramirez’s accomplishment, Edes chooses the least important aspect — and, along with that, the most controversial. I don’t think Edes was thinking about using the piece to advance any kind of anti-Manny agenda, but I think it shows what goes through Edes’ mind when he first thinks of the slugger — and it’s clearly not the positive, all-time-great-in-action thoughts I would have.

    Paul SF June 1, 2008, 10:47 am
  • Despite constantly torturing my favorite team, I could never help but love Manny. This is a nice retrospective on what a wonderful hitter he was.

    Blackadder June 1, 2008, 11:16 am
  • “Edes chooses the least important aspect — and, along with that, the most controversial.”
    That’s what makes him Manny! It distinguishes him. If he didn’t do the statue routine, he’d be some other slugger on the 500 list. But that is his identity in baseball history – the hitting fool – See baseball. Hit baseball. Watch baseball. Fifty years from now, you read that lede you know it’s describing Manny or someone else doing a Manny routine.

    A YF June 1, 2008, 11:41 am
  • the funny thing is Manny didn’t really pose all that long last night. Edes, who I think is a fine, fine writer, exaggerates here for effect, and I am not sure it’s useful.
    As for the above photo, it was an AWAY game!

    SF June 1, 2008, 12:52 pm
  • See, that’s exactly my point. Only for Manny does “didn’t really pose all that long” make sense.
    And I’m not intending to moralize at all – just Manny being Manny has a clear historical meaning. That’s him! The effect is the unique place Manny has in baseball history. The numbers make him a HOFer (and those aren’t so different from Frank Robinsons’). The antics make him a legend (and thus more interesting).

    A YF June 1, 2008, 1:17 pm
  • Congrats Manny! I love the fact that it was a 410 foot bomb to right center.

    LocklandSF June 1, 2008, 1:32 pm
  • So, the guy that caught Manny’s 500th just gave it to Manny, classy move on his part for sure, but that ball is worth close to half a million dollars.
    I like to think I would give it back too, meet Manny, hang out in the clubhouse, get some signed stuff, etc…
    I like to think that.
    What about you guys?

    LocklandSF June 2, 2008, 12:16 pm
  • That’s a tough one. I like to think I’d give it back to him. But part of me would think, “Ok, I could be done saving for college for BOTH kids!” Or, “The house is paid off!” Like I said, I’d like to think I’d give it back but honestly, I’m not sure. Interesting though what a difference between this fan and the guy who caught Bonds’s 756.

    rootbeerfloat June 2, 2008, 12:48 pm
  • No way I am giving that ball back for nothing, not if it is really worth half a million. No chance.
    As generous and classy it is for the fan to return it to Manny, the ball isn’t Manny’s. I couldn’t ever give away that kind of money, though I’d certainly offer Manny himself a big discount if he wanted it back – he can afford it, right?!

    SF June 2, 2008, 1:09 pm
  • better yet, you could have Manny sell it on e-Bay for you. I’m sure he’d be up for it.

    Nick-YF June 2, 2008, 2:07 pm
  • Yeah, that’s why I said I like to think it that, but frankly, it’s too much money to give up.

    LocklandSF June 2, 2008, 2:08 pm
  • I think I would give it back for a nice haul of paraphernalia that I could turn around and sell to recoup some of the money I lost.
    Maybe. We do have a mortgage, a student loan and a baby on the way though…

    Paul SF June 2, 2008, 3:02 pm
  • > you could have Manny sell it on e-Bay for you
    That made me have to re-read the dugout chat.

    attackgerbil June 2, 2008, 3:32 pm

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