Manny Ramirez has been labeled many things during his 19 seasons in Major League Baseball. He's been called one of his time's best right-handed hitters, he's been called a quitter, and almost everything in between.
When push came to shove, it was just Manny being Manny. But was Manny being Manny enough to insert him into the discussion of one of the Red Sox' all-time greats?
The answer varies from person to person, but if you sit down and look at the cold hard facts, how can anyone argue that he isn't?
Like him or not, Manny Ramirez was indeed one of the greatest hitters of his time. Following his retirement on Friday afternoon, Ramirez career numbers are the following: .312 batting average, 2,574 hits, 555 home runs, 1,831 RBI.
In eight seasons with the Red Sox, Ramirez hit .312 with 1,232 hits, 274 home runs and 868 RBI.
Ramirez ranks sixth all-time in home runs in franchise history and is seventh all-time in RBI. In addition, Manny ranks ninth in lifetime batting average and 18th in hits in franchise history.
More importantly is the fact that Ramirez was key to bringing the Red Sox two World Series titles in the last decade, even winning the World Series MVP award in 2004.
It's clear that Manny has the numbers of an all-time great, and he's certainly got the hardware in two World Series rings and a World Series MVP award.
However, there is another part of the debate that is important to consider: he was a proven cheater. Ramirez was suspended for 50 games back in 2009 after violating MLB's performance enhancing drug policy.
Now, Ramirez's latest illegal drug snafu led to his decision to retire, as reports surfaced that he had failed a performance enhancing drug test in spring training that would have resulted in a 100-game suspension.
Ramirez played only five games for the Tampa Bay Rays this season after signing a one-year deal worth $2 million in the offseason. Ramirez was a mere 1-for-17 (.059 batting average) with zero home runs and one RBI.
There's no defending Manny on the drug front. He broke the rules of baseball, and he did it twice. That in itself is unacceptable, and will most likely cost him a spot in baseball's Hall of Fame, a place where a player with his numbers certainly belongs.
Yet, as crazy as it might sound, that has little to no bearing on whether or not Ramirez is an all-time Sox legend.
Regardless of his steroid use, Ramirez solidified himself as a Red Sox all-time great by winning two World Series titles. It's safe to assume that, had the Red Sox not had number 24 in left field in both 2004 and 2007, they may still be stuck at five World Series title. In fact, the Sox may have been in the midst of a 92-year World Series drought.
Like it or not, Ramirez's steroid use has no bearing on his status as a Red Sox legend. I am in no way defending or supporting Manny's drug use, but you just can't ignore the facts, and the facts prove that Ramirez is a Red Sox legend.