Being a Red Sox fan in New York was much different back in 2000.  

My family did not own a high-quality computer—the Macintosh we used allowed little more than writing papers and playing Oregon Trail—and even if we did, the Internet had not become the 24-7 news source that it is today. 

Following baseball’s hot stove was much more difficult.  There was SportsCenter before school and WFAN 20/20 news flashes throughout the day after.  Anything else was gravy.

Back in those days, I slept with my radio tuned in to WFAN.  I would fall in and out of sleep most nights listening to bits and pieces of Joe Benigno’s (and originally Steve Somers’) overnight show.  If I woke up and heard Imus, I turned the radio off.

One night in December, I quickly awoke in disarray, not to Imus or Benigno, but to an update guy reporting that the Red Sox had agreed to an eight-year, $160 million contract with Cleveland Indians outfielder Manny Ramirez

Could this be true? 

The Red Sox had pursued Ramirez for weeks, but I never expected them to sign him.  The negotiations mirrored the Sox’s courting of Bernie Williams in 1998.  All along, it felt like Ramirez was stringing the Red Sox along to raise the stakes for the Indians.

I was not sure if I had been dreaming, so I stayed up an extra 20 minutes until the next 20/20 flash to make sure.  Sure enough, it was true: Ramirez was signed.

I woke up for school the next morning as tired as I was hopeful.  Unlike my brother, who entered St. Francis Prep as a fan of the defending World Series champion Red Sox, being a Boston fan at SFP was no easy task for me.  (The Yankees won the World Series three times during my four years there!)  A victory in December was a World Series to me.

Ten years have passed since that December night.  At the time, I never realized how much it would change the complexion of the franchise.  Twenty-five percent of the time that the Red Sox employed Ramirez, they won the World Series.  It may be the most successful free agent contract in MLB history. 

Manny was an offensive artist whose at-bats were his masterpieces.  Baseball knows of no image more beautiful than that of Ramirez standing at home plate, admiring another laser that he just deposited into the Mass Turnpike.

Sure, his tenure was a roller coaster.  But I like roller coasters.  I go to Six Flags once a year. 

Some will say that Ramirez’s involvement with performance enhancing drugs tarnishes his legacy.  I say, get real.  If Major League Baseball cared about performance enhancing drugs, there is a slight chance I would, too.  It is too late for that, though. 

In the meantime, take a quick glance around the sport.  The hypocrisy is all over the place. 

There is Ryan Franklin making good money closing for St. Louis, Edison Volquez starting Cincinnati’s first playoff game in 15 years, Andy Pettitte, who would be welcomed back with open arms the next time Phil Hughes gets rocked, and a list that goes on and on. 

There is a place in baseball for “cheaters”—that is, as long as you are not that good.  

Well, I, for one, do not discriminate against greatness.  On a day when the greatest left-handed hitter of my lifetime was ridiculously convicted of obstruction of justice, I am writing to salute the greatest right-handed hitter of my lifetime.

Cheers to you and your Hall of Fame career, Manny Ramirez.  Baseball will never be the same without Manny being Manny.

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