Manny Ramirez: A “What If” Scenario
Posted by JD on April 9, 2011
If you haven’t heard by now, Manny Ramirez abruptly retired on Friday. Apparently he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs a second time (which would result in a 100-game suspension) and retired rather than having to deal with it. Whatever your feelings on Manny (I mostly agree with Joe Posnanski’s take on him), his antics, and how his career ended, I think we can all agree that he was an amazing hitter.
That got me thinking: where would Manny rank on the Mets offensive leaderboard? The Mets have long been known as a pitching-first franchise (think Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Dwight Gooden, among others), so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Manny absolutely dominates the leaderboard. John Olerud would still own the highest average and OBP, but Manny would lead in OPS, runs scored, hits, total bases, home runs, doubles…you name it, Manny would lead it (and it’s not especially close).
It’s fairly unrealistic to act as if one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time suddenly played his entire career with the Mets. But what if the Mets had claimed him off of waivers in the fall of 2003? As you may remember, the Red Sox put Manny on irrevocable waivers that year: anyone could have taken him had they been willing to pay his full contract. Nobody claimed him then, but what if the Mets had?
Well, they would have gotten seven-plus years of miserable defense in left field. But beyond that, they would have gotten 1,251 hits (trailing only Ed Kranepool’s 1,418), 2,289 total bases (242 more than Kranepool), 262 doubles (1st all-time, though David Wright has 261), 254 home runs (two more than Darryl Strawberry), 670 walks (90 more than Straw), and 725 runs scored (63 more than Straw). Olerud would still hold the highest batting and on-base averages, but Wright (.305) and Dave Magadan (.391) would drop to second behind Manny’s .308 batting average and .411 on-base average. Mike Piazza’s .542 slugging average would fall to Manny’s .564 and his .975 OPS would be almost 50 points higher than Olerud’s. And did I mention that he put these numbers up between the ages of 32 and 39? That’s just ridiculous.
Going further down the rabbit hole, Manny was worth 23.7 rWAR (Baseball-Reference.com’s version of WAR) during those years. That would place him eighth on the Mets all-time list, below Piazza’s 24.6 but above Jose Reyes’ 23.3. That total wouldn’t get his jersey retired, but it dwarves the total put up by Mets left fielders since 2004. Cliff Floyd (5.4 rWAR in three seasons and a personal favorite), Moises Alou (1.9 rWAR in two seasons), and Jason Bay (1.2 rWAR in one season) played the most left field during those seasons (2008-09 saw 10 different players get more than 10 games each in left field; I didn’t bother adding up their rWAR totals).
What would Game 6 have looked like with Manny Ramirez starting in left? Endy Chavez’ catch, one of the most iconic moments in franchise history, never would have happened, but would Manny have hit a home run to match Scott Rolen’s blast? Or, in the most alternate universe I can think of right now, what would have happened had Endy started the game (thus making his awesome catch) but Manny appeared as a pinch hitter instead of Cliff Floyd? How loud would Shea Stadium have been if Manny delivered the game winning hit, and how would Carlos Beltran haters denigrate him today if he never had to face Adam Wainwright’s wicked curveball? Would the 2007 Mets have made the playoffs? Would we be looking back on an era with multiple division-winning teams? Have I gotten carried away?
If you’ve read this far (thank you!) I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t accounted for park factor. You’re right: the numbers listed above were compiled when Manny played most of his games in Fenway Park, a notorious hitters’ haven (although he did play 223 games as an LA Dodger during those seasons). Also, there’s the not-so-small matter of Manny’s salary during those seasons: he’s made more than $140 million since 2004. So, no: this is not the most likely scenario. But isn’t that the fun of asking “what if?”