Now that baseball players at the minor league level are biting off the ears of their teammates, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the comportment standards of big league ballplayers seem to have declined proportionately.
The behaviors big leaguers once derided as bush league suddenly seem fairly tolerable when compared to the random cannibalism of Class AAA.
In a season that has seen a near epidemic of Tommy John surgeries, Los Angeles Dodgers minor leaguer Alex Guerrero last week became, you’d imagine, a candidate for baseball’s first Evander Holyfield surgery, after Albuquerque teammate Miguel Olivo chomped off part of Guerrero’s ear in a dugout fight.
Unlike legendary Holyfield attacker Mike Tyson, however, Olivo had the good manners not to go back for seconds, although that might have had something to do with the speed at which the Dodgers released him.
When Guerrero makes it to The Show, he’ll see the way players ought to behave in this grand old game, by which I mean jumping on each other like imbeciles after every walk-off victory (Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis just went on the disabled list after stepping on a catcher’s mask while celebrating a no-hitter), by mocking pitchers with preening home-run trots, by celebrating strikeouts from the mound as though you’d just been introduced to start at middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and, of course, by punching people in the head.
And like the game’s least-accomplished ambassador, Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez, by refusing to apologize no matter what affront to the culture you have just authored. Gomez once incensed so many Atlanta Braves with a home-run trot that he couldn’t even touch the plate before a brawl started, last month hacked off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole so badly that a four-suspension donnybrook started after a Gomez triple, and this week publicly blamed a teammate for not running hard enough on a play on which Gomez was thrown out at third.
That the prime sources of such brain-crampish, chest-thumping antics are spread pretty evenly throughout both leagues reminds me of the question comic Sebastian Maniscalco asks on stage after describing a guy checking into a luxury Las Vegas hotel carrying a George Foreman grill and a 30-pack of the weekend beer special.
“Isn’t anybody even embarrassed anymore?”
And then BOOM! — the thunderclap answer to the only semi-rhetorical question: The Chicago Cubs hired Manny Ramirez.
To mentor young players.
You didn’t expect him to teach chemistry, although that would more effectively tap Manny’s actual qualifications.
So, no, clearly — no one is embarrassed anymore.
Here’s an actual quote from Cubs general manager Theo Epstein, who witnessed Manny’s act firsthand as general manager of the Boston Red Sox:
“If Manny Ramirez makes one hitter smarter in the box [or provides the] know-how to approach the right-handed breaking ball better or helps one hitter from going down the PED path, then this move will be worth it.”
This is what happens when the Cubs happen to good people.
There isn’t a single person in the entire Cubs organization, not in coaching, scouting, player development, videography, psychology, psychiatry, dentistry, no one, anywhere, who could possibly help with a down-and-away slider?
You need Manny Ramirez?
This would be the same Manny Ramirez who once admitted that he frequently didn’t know the count, who was discredited with 29 separate so-called game-altering failures to hustle in one season by designer-stats man Bill James, who punched out the traveling secretary for not honoring a tardy request for tickets, for getting the club thrown out of a Florida hotel for the disgusting manner in which he defiled his room, who stiffed clubhouse men from coast to coast, who quit on the club to force a trade in 2008 and who finally “retired” from the game in 2011 rather than face a second drug suspension, or because he was as tired as everyone else of Manny peeing Manny.
What accredited youth-mentoring program did this guy come out of?
For his part, Ramirez issued a statement indicating that he has made some mistakes in this game, but is anxious to give back. Give back what is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably not any of the approximately $200 million he made in what one news service last week described as a “colorful” 19-year career.
Yes, it’s always colorful when a player who spent too much time abusing his status and abusing the occasional human, as well, says he wants to be a good guy at the exact time he realizes he’s a gone guy.
Plenty of good baseball men are trying to find jobs like the one the Cubs just handed Manny Ramirez for no earthly reason. Sorry boys, you’re just not detestable enough.
The Cubs will put Manny somewhere in their minor league system, where I guess as long as he doesn’t bite off anyone’s ear, he’ll have improved the landscape.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.