American Baseball Parallels: Mannywood Heads For Texas. Yasiel Puig Celebrates First Independence Day.

Remember when the Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez in 2008?

The man who’s considered by some to be the best right-handed hitter to ever play the game, who propelled the Dodgers to the 2008 NL West Championship and helped take the team to back-to-back NLCSes in 2008 and 2009, the man who found himself caught up in steroid and performance enhancing drug controversies throughout his career, may find himself getting one more shot at the Major Leagues with the Texas Rangers.

Ramirez’s thousand megawatt smile, “Manny Being Manny” antics, and 555 home runs would, at minimum, put a few curious fans in the seats at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington if he’s able to get the call-up to the big club.  For now, Ramirez, who spent the past season in Taiwan, will report to the Rangers’ AAA team at Round Rock.  It’s expected that Ramirez will play a few games in Round Rock before being promoted to the big club in Arlington to hopefully infuse some additional offense into the Rangers’ lineup.  Ramirez is reportedly even trimming his hair to follow team rules at Round Rock and attempt to be a solid citizen.

Manny Ramirez in the early 90’s generated the same sort of excitement in Cleveland as Yasiel Puig is right now in Los Angeles. Ramirez found himself on pennant and World Series winners in Cleveland and Boston, has 555 career homers, but has also found himself at the middle of controversy around his use of PEDs. Could Puig find himself on a similar career path to Ramirez, less the PEDs? (Image source: http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/manny-ramirez-indians.jpg)

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Yasiel Puig is reminding people a lot of a young Manny Ramirez.  A strong, powerful right-handed hitter who’s outfield antics make him an adventure every time he takes the field and who appears to be fully capable of single-handedly winning a ballgame for his team with his bat.

It’s hard to argue, however, that the defensive parallels between Ramirez and Puig are similar.  Ramirez was a notoriously bad defender.  Puig, on the other hand, not only has a cannon arm but has already made some incredible plays in his young career, flashing the arm and the glove, but having some problems with outfield walls.  Still, despite being a fairly weak defender by reputation, Ramirez made his fair share of stellar defensive plays, including a “did you just see that?” play where he caught a fly ball in Baltimore near the wall, high-fived a fan after making the catch, then turned and completed a double play on a runner that had strayed too far from the bag.

While lacking Manny Ramirez’s on-camera antics and PED controversy, the excitement that Yasiel Puig has generated in his first month in the big leagues and the results he’s gotten at the plate are very similar to that of the man who turned left field in Los Angeles into “Mannywood.” (Image source: CBS Sports at http://sports.cbsimg.net/u/photos/baseball/mlb/img22347150.jpg)

Making and Ramirez further similar, both were born abroad.  Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic, Puig in Cuba.  Both celebrated a first Independence Day in America at different times in their lives.  Ramirez displayed his pride in being an American, missing a Red Sox game during his time in Boston to become an American citizen and returning to the field the next game waving an American flag that he planted near the left field foul pole, while Puig will celebrate his first Fourth of July on U.S. soil tonight in Colorado.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, this great article on Yahoo Sports by Jeff Passan detailing an experience that Yasiel Puig had with several U.S. Coast Guard personnel during one of his defection attempts went public, showing what Puig went through just to get here.  Puig’s defection story in and of itself shows just how dedicated the man, who could have been a superstar in his native Cuba, was to finding a better life and living his big league dreams here in the U.S.

Manny Ramirez waving Old Glory as he takes the field for the Red Sox a day after becoming a U.S. Citizen. Might Yasiel Puig some day be able to relive this scene for himself? (Image source: http://www.thelmagazine.com/binary/2bbe/1272908188-manny-ramirez-flag.jpg)

Arguably “The Greatest Right Handed Hitter To Ever Play The Game” or at least of his generation of players is fading out slowly.  His heir apparent to that title, meanwhile, is rising meteorically in Los Angeles.  If Puig can continue to hit pitching the way we’ve seen him hit so far and provide the excitement to fans that he’s displayed so far, it’s a near-sure bet that Yasiel Puig will have a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration and with a similar energizing impact on fans that Manny Ramirez has had just about everywhere he’s gone.

One thing remains true of both ballplayers, though.  On this Fourth of July, both men will be celebrating the freedom offered by the United States of America and the great game of baseball.

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