It had to be different, everything had to be different. The bright lights and legions of loyal fans that followed him from Jacobs Field to Fenway Park and all the way to Chavez Ravine and Dodger Stadium, gone. Being referred to as the greatest right-handed hitter in the history of an American pastime, gone. Manny being Manny, Mannywood, and the flashing light bulbs, gone. I'd say things were far different for the now 19-year veteran, Manny Ramirez.
For Ramirez, a World Series MVP and 12x All-Star, heading into Tampa's spring training and the 2011 season was unfamiliar territory. His manager openly questioning bringing him on board. A team of young players no longer looking up to him. What kind of season was he hoping for? A season where he'd regain some of what he'd lost in recent seasons? Was it to erase the memory of a guy who hit just 28 home runs in two seasons after his initial failed drug test in 2009? To forget those 30+ days he spent on the south side of Chicago at the end of last season, hitting just .261 with only one long ball. 19-Seasons into his career, Ramirez was most likely looking to do all those things and to also make a return to the prominent slugger he was in his prime. The guy who tore the cover off the ball, who flipped the bat, jogged around the bases, and hugged his teammates in the dugout. For Ramirez, that instant gratification is most likely what led him to a second failed drug test and unfortunately, his retirement.
To be without the adoration from millions of fans, to be without the millions and millions of dollars, to be without the towering homeruns and a locker room full of teammates who loved being around him, Ramirez clearly felt there was no other way, no way out. Today, on April the 12th, there continues to be the negative backlash toward Ramirez' career. "He quit," "he was selfish," and "I'll never vote for him to the hall of fame." However unnatural Ramirez' career was, or you believe it to be, remember this, from the mid-90's through last week, the story of Major League Baseball cannot be told told without Manny Ramirez, that's a fact.