No, really: he does. At least a little…but not to any of the Sox beat writers; instead, he decided to share (a very little bit of) the Tao of Manny with The New Yorker‘s Ben McGrath* for an article that comes out tomorrow (and is now online).
It’s quite a good piece. It’s long (it’s hard to imagine another magazine that would devote eight pages to Manny) and strikes a nice balance between introducing his Mannyness to the non-baseball world and offering insight to those of you who…well, to those of you who read my blog everyday. Some choice bits:+
* Ortiz calling Manny “a crazy motherfucker” and then practically insisting McGrath put it in the piece.
* The beautiful anecdote about how the teenaged Manny used to wake up every morning at 5:30 and run up a hill behind his high school with a spare tire attached to a rope that was tied around his waist.
* A semi-plausible explanation of why Manny’s uniform pants are so baggy — while in Cleveland, he “borrowed” the pants of 250-pound bullpen catcher Dan Williams one day before a game.
There were some disappointments as well. The Manny portrayed here is a sort of sweet, almost Zen-like figure. There’s some truth to that, to be sure; almost every time I’m asked about Manny, I tell people I’ve never met anyone who seems to simultaneously work so hard and remain so disengaged. But some of Manny’s true…well, insanity doesn’t come out.#
Another part of Manny’s personality I would have liked to have seen explored (or explained) a little more is his seemingly tenuous connection with a world in which reality is not mutable. Even after his annual “trade me/I love it here” episodes, I’ve never thought Manny was a liar; my impression has always been that Manny believes whatever it is he’s saying whenever he’s saying it.
One more complaint: in the one place where I’m mentioned, Feeding the Monster isn’t acknowledged, and there’s an unspoken rule in journalism that if you’re going to use someone else’s reporting, you do the common courtesy of letting the world know where said reporting originally appeared. (In a section that alludes to my description of how Manny, after he was placed on irrevocable waivers, called the Sox ownership “motherfucking white devils,” McGrath writes, “The next spring, according to the writer Seth Mnookin, Ramirez let the Sox ownership know that he felt angry and insulted.” This anecdote, as it’s related in the piece, also leaves what’s arguably the most crucial detail: that Manny’s reps had signed off on the waiver filing because at the time, Manny was desperate to get out of Boston.)
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out one error that somehow made it past The New Yorker‘s much vaunted fact-checkers: Manny is identified as being six feet tall, which is, indeed, how he’s officially listed. This is definitively false. And yes, I have proof. I’m about 5-11.5…and Manny, as you can see, is shorter than I am.
McGrath doesn’t quite get to the bottom of Ramirez; the Sox employee who pulled me aside and pleaded that I discover what was actually going on in his head is likely to remain as frustrated as ever. That’s not to say this isn’t a wonderful piece, and likely the best one we’ll get about the best right-handed hitter of the last twenty years.^
* Note: Ben^^ is somewhere between a friend and an acquaintance. He’s also the son of Chip McGrath, who reviewed my book for the Times. Us Red Sox fans: we travel in packs.
+ My prediction: the Boston media is going to seize on the following quote: “You know where I want to go? I want to go to China. I want to go and see–it’s a city that I don’t know how to say. It’s the Prohibit City? I saw it on the History Channel. They do a lot of tours over there.” This will serve as one more piece of evidence used to prove that Manny is a moron. That is profoundly unfair, and it goes a long way towards explaining why there are those players who say Boston is an exceptionally tough city in which to play.
# This might be a bit unmerited; after all, I didn’t include these stories — and I’m sure they’re stories Ben heard as well — in my book, and I imagine we both left them out because we couldn’t get anything close to on-the-record confirmation. That said, in his Times review, Ben’s dad criticized FTM for not including nearly enough “porn — intimate, Boutonesque details about the players’ off-diamond lives and antics,” and, you know, the whole sons bear the sins of their fathers thing…`
^ Albert Pujols has a ways to go before he supplants Manny.
^^ Ben’s demonstrated the extent to which us journalists can use our jobs to satisfy our obsessions: this is his third Sox-related piece for the New Yorker, following one on Bill James and one on Tim Wakefield (although purportedly about the knuckleball).
` Chip McGrath also said I larded my book with copious footnotes. Some habits die hard.