Let the debate begin: Should Manny Ramirez represent the Dodgers and Major League Baseball in the 2009 All-Star game?
And through all of the good times, there seems to be a strong continued support for Manny even now after a 50-game suspension for breaking the leaugue’s banned substance policy. No matter the broken hearts and the embarassing deconstruction of his own Section in Dodger Stadium, there is still an overriding majority of fans who support his cause. None of this is more evident than the fact that he trails Carlos Beltran for the third outfielder in All-Star voting by less than 35,000 votes as of today.
Manager Joe Torre expressed his position, saying he didn’t think Manny should take part if voted in. He also obliged that Manny would probably feel the same way at this point. So why does Manny continue to receive so many votes from his fans? It’s for the same reason Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds were such polarizing athletes in the media and in the fan’s homes: Persona. While Bonds and McGwire shunned the media and presented a holier-than-thou attitude for most of their careers (ok, McGwire lightened up a tiny bit at the end), Manny has always been the exact opposite.
In front of fans and the media, he has always played the role of an average Joe who happens to have an exceptional talent. Manny is jovial, he’s carefree, he’s so damn talented, and the fact of the matter is fans have and always will appreciate Manny. They continue to ignore the contract disputes and the back talk he’s become famous for while airing his disputes in the media. If nothing else, Manny is this: Popular. And let’s not forget the All-Star ballot is a popularity contest won over and over again by good players in big markets. The player with the better first half does not always win, and in no case (outside of farewell tours for retirees) will this be more evident than in 2009.
Manny being voted in this year will make for more fodder than journalists will be able to keep up with, and we are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg. As a fan of Baseball and spectacle, Thank You Manny Ramirez for creating this ongoing debate for months to follow.