04/08/11 10:20 PM ET
Cabrera, Alomar reflect on Manny stories
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Of course Cabrera had stories. Lots of them.
"Wow," Cabrera said. "I could freakin' write a book, man."
On Friday, a few hours before the Indians' game against the Mariners, Cabrera told a handful of humorous anecdotes about Ramirez. Later, standing inside a hallway leading to the dugout, Cleveland first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., a teammate of Ramirez's during his days in Cleveland, added his own tales of the former Indians slugger.
Cabrera and Alomar both described Ramirez as a hard worker, an amazing hitter and a great teammate. Their stories came after learning of Ramirez's sudden retirement from baseball after 19 seasons. Reportedly facing a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance, Ramirez ended his current tour with Tampa Bay.
Alomar was saddened to hear about the potential reason for Ramirez's retirement.
"I don't even know what to say," Alomar said. "That's kind of sad, because Manny was one of the best hitters I ever saw. In his generation, and the years he played here, he was unbelievable. He was one of the most disciplined right-handed hitters I've seen in my career. He dominated the game for many years."
Major League Baseball issued a formal press release about the matter.
"Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," stated the release. "Rather than continue with the process under the Program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter."
Alomar and Ramirez were teammates with the Indians from 1993-2000, during which Cleveland made the postseason five times and the World Series twice. Originally selected in the first round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft by the Tribe, Ramirez hit .313 with 236 of his 555 career homers in a Cleveland uniform.
Asked for his favorite memory of Ramirez, Alomar smiled.
"As much as everybody talks about 'Manny being Manny,'" Alomar said, "what people didn't see was his preparation before the game. He was a guy that prepared himself every single day. He had a routine in the cage. There's a reason why players are good, but there's a reason why some hitters are superstars. It takes preparation.
"The other part about 'Manny being Manny,' I'm not even going to discuss that. Manny brought so much joy to us and he had some great seasons here in Cleveland. He was a great teammate. I really admired him and enjoyed playing with him."
Cabrera, who played alongside Ramirez with the Red Sox in 2004, did not hold back.
"He was a great guy, man," Cabrera said. "He was a really smart player. I learned a lot from him. He was a great teammate. Obviously, he was a little bit different. He was a guy with multiple personalities, but a great friend."
Cabrera said Ramirez was as dedicated to his craft as any player the Indians infielder has ever seen. Cabrera would wake up early on the road and always saw Ramirez headed to the hotel gym in the morning -- hours before being required to show up to the ballpark.
"Everywhere we'd go," Cabrera said with a laugh. "Everywhere. Seven o'clock in the morning, you'd go down in the hotel and you'd see Manny Ramirez going in a hockey shirt. Yeah, he'd wear like the biggest hockey shirt. I don't know where he'd find these things."
Later, at the ballpark, Cabrera would see Ramirez in the video room.
"He'd be the first person you'd see watching the videos," Cabrera said. "He'd just watch them quiet, like he didn't want anybody watching him studying the pitchers."
Once in New York, Cabrera saw Ramirez studying Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina. Ramirez was not watching his at-bats, though. Instead, he was breaking down at-bats of other No. 3 hitters who faced Mussina that season. Curious about the approach, Cabrera asked Ramirez about his plan.
"I said, 'Hey, what are you going to do?'" Cabrera recalled. "He goes, 'Second at-bat, third pitch, I'm going to hit a curveball. Home run.' He goes, 'Don't tell anybody.'"
On Sept. 24, 2004, Ramirez strolled to the plate against Mussina in the third inning. He only saw two pitches in his first at-bat of the game. The next pitch released by Mussina sailed out of Fenway Park for a two-run home run.
"Third pitch. Breaking ball. Boom," Cabrera said. "I was like, 'That's why I can't be like you. That's incredible.' I tell that story and people don't believe it. I saw it."
What Ramirez was not known for were his skills as an outfielder.
That said, Cabrera said he never saw a player work as hard on defense as Ramirez did when it came to the Green Monster -- the 37-foot wall in left field at Fenway Park. Cabrera said Ramirez would hold daily practice sessions in left to perfect fielding caroms off the famous fence.
"To me, he was the best left fielder to ever play the wall in Boston," Cabrera said. "He's so smart. For you to get a double when he was playing left field, you better hit it on the ground. A line drive? You're not going to get to second base.
"He practiced that every day. He was the only guy that practiced throwing to third, throwing to home, before batting practice. He was just not that good and he knew that. He knew it. He just had to work hard at it."
Cabrera's favorite "Manny being Manny" moment, however, involves a lapse in left field by Ramirez during one of Curt Schilling's starts for the Red Sox in 2004. Ramirez butchered a fly ball, allowing a run to score, putting Boston behind in a late-season game.
Schilling was fuming when he returned to the dugout.
"Schilling comes to the dugout all frustrated," said Cabrera, beginning to chuckle again. "And Manny comes in laughing into the dugout. He's laughing. He saw my glove, picked it up and he goes, 'Gold glove.'"
Then, Ramirez motioned to his own glove.
"He looked at Schilling and said, 'I've got a bronze glove,'" Cabrera said. "And Schilling was so mad and this guy is just laughing in the dugout."
What did Ramirez do next?
"He comes up, bases loaded," Cabrera said, "and hits a grand slam. And Schilling's like, 'That's why I can't say anything. He's got a way to fix things and that's the way he does it. You have to just let him be.'
"That was one of the classic 'Manny being Manny' moments. It was amazing."