Claim to fame: In short, Ramirez was a regular All Star, he was one of the greatest hitters of his generation, and he was Manny. Next to Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, Ramirez also was perhaps the most prominent confirmed steroid user, and were it not for his abrupt retirement last Friday at 38, he may have been the first elite ballplayer with multiple suspensions for the issue. He served a 50-game suspension for the issue in 2009 and was facing a 100-game ban when he walked away.
Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Having quit baseball after playing a handful of games this season, Ramirez will not be eligible for consideration by the Baseball Writers Association of America until the 2017 induction.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? I suppose this is going to be a fairly polarizing debate among fans and baseball researchers, with one large group condemning Ramirez’s steroid use, another saying his 555 home runs cannot be denied and steroids have no proven ability to help a player hit a ball farther (which I think is revisionist nonsense), and a small subset disregarding the issue and attempting to make the bizarre case that the real reason Ramirez won’t belong in Cooperstown is his lack of defense.
Whatever the case, I doubt any of this will matter to the writers, who’ve already shown a strong aversion to honoring any admitted or suspected steroid user. Rafael Palmeiro retired with 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, and an inglorious positive test for stanozolol at the end of his career, and for this, he received just 11 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in January. Juan Gonzalez was very nearly a one-and-done candidate in the same election, Jose Canseco suffered that fate in 2007. Mark McGwire has done best, hanging consistent with about 20 percent of the vote, and since Ramirez has about the same number of home runs for his career, I’m guessing he’ll fall somewhere in the same range.
The wild card in all this is that a lot of suspected or confirmed steroid users who would normally have ironclad credentials for the Hall of Fame will be arriving on the ballot in the next few years, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being the two most prominent examples I can think of, though I would not be at all surprised if other prospective candidates are unmasked or accused in the next few years. It’s the great witch hunt in baseball of the 21st century with everyone a suspect. And when one of these players finally gets in, even if it takes all the way until Rodriguez, it will make it easier for the Mannys and McGwires.
All this being said, the question remains, does Manny Ramirez belong in the Hall of Fame? Some months ago, I wrote here that I’d wretch if Palmeiro were honored. For some reason, though, I’m less averse to having Ramirez in Cooperstown. For better and worse, he was one of the players who defined his era. As time passes, I think he’ll be one of the guys who’s remembered from this time, for better and for worse. If he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, a lot of his contemporaries don’t.
Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.
Others in this series: Adrian Beltre, Al Oliver, Alan Trammell, Albert Belle, Allie Reynolds, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Billy Martin, Cecil Travis, Chipper Jones, Closers, Dan Quisenberry, Darrell Evans, Dave Parker, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, Don Newcombe, George Steinbrenner, George Van Haltren, Harold Baines, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Joe Carter, Joe Posnanski, John Smoltz, Juan Gonzalez, Keith Hernandez, Ken Caminiti, Larry Walker, Maury Wills, Mel Harder, Moises Alou, Pete Browning, Phil Cavarretta, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Ron Santo, Smoky Joe Wood, Steve Garvey, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Tim Raines, Will Clark