This is it! This is “The Final One.” Bernard Hopkins, all jokes...
Manny Ramirez, Deion Sanders and More
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Manny Ramirez may not have won an MVP award while in Cleveland and, at times, it may have seemed that he didn’t put forth a 100% effort, but, in 2001, Ramirez has proven he is worth every dollar Boston paid the superstar to come play at Fenway Park. Ramirez came to Boston as the 2nd highest paid player in baseball behind Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers, so the expectations were extremely high for Manny, and many people were wondering if he could fulfill those expectations.
Well, the verdict is in and Ramirez has been found guilty. He’s been found guilty of being the best hitter in baseball.
As of Monday, Ramirez was batting .405 with 9 HR’s, 34 RBI’s and 16 walks. He currently ranks in the top 5 in more than 3 offensive categories and, at this point, has a very good opportunity to be the first player since Ted Williams to win the Triple Crown Award (home runs, RBI’s and batting average.).
In Manny’s last 3 seasons, he has hit more than 35 HR’s and driven in more than 120 RBI’s in each season. In the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Ramirez became the first person since Ted Williams to average an RBI a game for two straight seasons. Ramirez was thought to have been a pure power hitter, but over the last two seasons, his average has constantly increased, peaking this year over the incredible .400 mark.
When Ramirez signed with Boston as a free agent, many people predicted great things from the Red Sox, who would now have the awesome power of Ramirez to go along with the all around great play of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. As of Monday, Garciaparra has yet to play a single game in the 2001 baseball season and the Sox are tied with Toronto as the AL East leaders. Garciaparra has been sidelined with a wrist injury and is not expected to return to the lineup until late May or early June.
With Nomar and Ramirez in the lineup together, the Sox become a far more dangerous team. They will make, perhaps, the best duo in the history of the game, much like the Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr. combination of 1998. The difference with the Sox will be the pitching. With Pedro pitching like only he knows how to do and Hideo Nomo flirting with no-hitters, seemingly, every time he pitches, the Sox will not have to score massive amounts of runs as they have had to do in previous years. In Pedro’s 7 starts, he has given up 9 runs with 8 of them being earned. He’s tied for the league lead with 72 strikeouts and is second only to Kevin Brown in ERA, standing at 1.44.
If Ramirez and the Sox will be able to post 4 or 5 runs per game, they will win the AL East crown, and once Nomar returns to the lineup, be expecting to see the Sox fighting for their share of a World Series ring in October.
In the National League, the talk of the town is “Prime Time.” That’s right. Deion Sanders is back! He may not be returning punts for TD’s or intercepting opposing quarterbacks, but he is playing baseball for the Cincinnati Reds. On May first, “Prime Time” came back to Major League Baseball after a four-year absence. And what an impact he has made. On Tuesday, Deion went 3-3 with a home run, a stolen base, and 2-runs scored in a 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With Ken Griffey, Jr. still on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury, it was Deion’s chance to prove to the world that he could still play the game of baseball on the Major League level. Deion’s talents have never been questioned, but his focus and inability to play a full season have always hindered his chances of becoming a great baseball player.
While in the Minors, Deion was leading the league in batting and trying to be one of the guys. It’s kind of hard being one of the guys when you are the guy who has 3 Super Bowl rings, holds several other records, and has the press following him around constantly. He is definitely “Prime Time,” and if he keeps playing the way he is now, he could find himself hitting baseballs against Greg Maddux instead of covering Randy Moss on Sundays.
Over in Arizona, something seems to have gone bad. Luis Gonzalez has 16 home runs in just over 1 month of baseball. They can’t blame it on the strike zone this time. What is happening is a change in the way the game is being played. There is a good chance that the 50 or 60 home run mark may become the benchmark, as did the 30-40 mark a few years back. When Babe Ruth hit his 60 home runs, it was more than any other team’s season total. In 2001, there is a chance we could see 2 players on the same team hit over 40.
So, with all the home runs being hit, there has to be extremely high ERA’s going around the league. Right? Not even close. In the NL, there are 3 pitchers with ERA’s under 2.00 and in the AL there is, well, Pedro Martinez. Even past that statistic, there are 12 other pitchers who are under the 3.00 mark. The game is becoming much more balanced than in the past years. In 2000, Pedro had an ERA of 1.74, with Roger Clemens running a distant second at 3.70.
As this 2001 season continues to move forward, all we can really say is look for the unexpected to happen because you never know what might happen in the World of Baseball. Please continue to check back for our weekly updates and player spotlights.