One subplot of the Phillies-Dodgers NLCS series includes the theatre associated with Manny Ramirez. Manny is both center stage and a side show at the same time, by his own doing. He loves the big stage and commands a great deal of attention, but it is easy not to be a Manny fan.
The LA fans quickly developed a lovefest for him when the Dodgers obtained him last season after the Red Sox decided he was too much of a distraction and detraction for their team. "Mannywood" was launched as he went on a second half tear that lasted through their playoff elimination in the NLCS. The fame and celebrity landed with a thud this season when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games due to violation of Major League Baseball's banned substances rules.
Not to worry, though, as his celebrity immediately resumed upon his return to the field. Ramirez came back at mid-season to fan fare usually reserved for returning heroes. Fox Sports broke into their game of the week telecast involving the Phillies and Mets to show each and everyone of Manny's AB's. Unlike Barry Bonds and other fallen stars, any judgment of his transgressions were quickly left behind as the network and many others celebrated his return from a "break."
Manny made sure to put himself at center stage last night, drinking in the attention during every plate appearance. His entire "look at me" persona was firmly in the spotlight in the 5th inning when he launched an ill advised Cole Hamels change-up into the stands for a 2-run homer. He stood triumphantly watching his majestic shot, defiantly slammed the bat to the ground and then pompously leered into the Phillies dugout. He slowly circled the bases, seemingly celebrating the greatness of Manny. It is unclear whether he realized that the Dodgers were still trailing 5-4.
If he played another sport, Ramirez would undoubtedly be a wide receiver celebrating a touchdown via an elaborate dance with his team down 35 points. Or, he would be posing for the cameras after a dunk with his team about to lose.
It is apparent that we will see more of the Manny act over the balance of the series as both TBS and Ramirez himself will make sure that happens. The attention, and its subject basking in the limelight, makes for great theatre, but it also makes it easy not to be a Manny fan.