Sports Outside the Beltway

Editorial: Let Manny be Manny

The below represents the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the other writer’s at Outside the Beltway Sports, its ownership, management or its sponsors.

Manny apologist alert – Consider yourself warned.

The amount of scrutiny applied to a professional baseball player in Boston is outlandish. If he cleared his absence with the team, then who cares what he is doing with his time. Number one, fans indirectly pay Manny’s salary, by attending games and buying team related merchandise, however, they do not make the decisions regarding his salary. That doesn’t mean they cannot complain. Of course they can, but to do so is to take more involvement in an issue that fans have no ability to control. Manny may be a public figure, but he is not a public official. He loves classic cars. There was a very nice story in the Globe about 18 months ago about how he spent his off day in between Interleague series in St. Louis and Chicago by overseeing the restoration of a car he was to give to his father. The car is the one that is to be auctioned. The photo essay of Manny’s trip is here.

He shows up when he wants to and probably gets sick and tired of listening to people complain about his choices and decisions. Since those choices do not materially affect our lives, why does it matter? Is he a great role model? Maybe not. There isn’t enough information to judge. And the little information there is has been filtered through the media lens of the bile belching Boston Baseball beat writers. Who knows what kind of a husband, father, friend Manny is? His wife, son and friends, and they aren’t telling us. Is he a good hitter? You bet. Can I live with the lack of the information about the former with the abundance of the latter. Yeah I can.

One of the things that I think bugs me is the amount of scrutiny we apply to athletes. It’s not like they are leasing a pricey Cadillac DTS using taxpayer money or hiring a scheduler for his wife that gets paid much more than I do using taxpayer money. Those are worthy of boos. Manny being Manny is just not that big a deal to me.

Other fans disagree, and it is reasonable to do so. Some folks need their sports heroes to be spotless role models. And that is their choice. Maybe I am cynical. Players are people, not some gilded statue without flaws, without selfish feelings. Not many people are capable of dealing with the harsh glare of the adversarial media, especially in a sports obsessed town like Boston.

I cannot, nor would I want to forget that he led my team, the Boston Red Sox, to a World Series victory. He helped them win in a magical season. Credit is due and deserved. When former Sox closer Keith Foulke announced his retirement, many Sox fans recalled with fondness his gutty contributions to the Sox 2004 Title. Why is it different with Manny, who arguably has produced more to the Red Sox success in his career with the team, than Foulke did in his Sox career?

Manny’s contract and frequent missteps with the team has made him a lightning rod for controversy. And the Boston media has whipped every misstep into a paper selling, channel-flipping adventure. As a result fans pay more attention to his mistakes, his lapses and his lolly gagging, which only compounds the whole situation. Let Manny be Manny, Boston. We have enough real worries in this world to allow ourselves to get vexed about Manny showing up on the mandatory day players must report to camp, rather than early like the clubs prefer.

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