It was redemption. Plain and simple.
The signature moment of Manny Ramirez’s season was an explosion, a cannon fully loaded and ignited at just the right time - a walkoff three-run homer in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Angels.
And how did we know? Manny told us.
After another regular season of silence and oblivion, which included an unusually pedestrian .296 average with 20 homers and 88 RBIs in 133 games (”I haven’t been right all year round,” he said), Ramirez put his stamp on the season - and the Angels - with a moon shot off indomitable closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning at Fenway Park to give the Red Sox a two-games-to-none lead.
”My train doesn’t stop,” said Ramirez after his first walkoff in a Red Sox uniform.
But it usually takes a detour. This year’s express was rerouted in late August because of a left oblique strain and lasted 24 games, during which the Sox went 12-12 as they staggered to the AL East title.
Ramirez was injured in a 5-3 loss to the Yankees Aug. 28, and his return bordered on the interminable - “He’s still a little tender . . . He hasn’t been cleared for baseball activities . . . He took 15 swings off the tee . . . He’ll continue to be examined by the medical staff” - as the Sox’ lead over the Yankees dwindled almost daily.
But he returned a new man, hitting .389 in the final six games of the season, a prelude to his postseason prowess.
After ending Game 2 against the Angels, Ramirez’s road show included another humongous homer in the Sox’ 9-1 rout in Game 3, and he finished the series with the two clouts, four RBIs, and hit .375.
”He’s been phenomenal,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s been dialed in. Just about every workout has been optional [this postseason] just because of the times we’ve arrived in cities. He’s probably been the first one there every time. He’s beaten me there a couple times. I didn’t think people could do that. It’s been impressive.”
A mute to the media but a savant with a bat in his hands, Ramirez understood the significance of his resurgence in the postseason.
”I guess, you know, when you don’t feel good and you still get hits, that’s when you know you are a bad man.”
And when he was bad, he was very bad.
Ramirez joined forces with David Ortiz to destroy the Indians in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. The sluggers combined to reach base in all 10 plate appearances - Ramirez had two singles, three walks, and three RBIs - conventional wisdom being to avoid the Sox’ 3 and 4 hitters at all cost.
”Well, you really pick your poison . . . Both those guys are terrific,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Game 2 of the Division Series.
Ramirez didn’t need his super powers in the World Series, although he scorched the Rockies with three hits, three runs, and two RBIs in the Sox’ 13-1 thumping in Game 1.
Even when Ramirez was a little off, as he was in Game 3, getting thrown out at the plate during the Sox’ six-run third inning, he seemed intent on the task ahead.
”We don’t want to eat the cake first before your birthday,” he said.
Ramirez didn’t have to wait long to blow out the candles. A sweep cemented his status as a big-game player.
He finished the postseason with impressive numbers: a .348 average with four homers and 16 RBIs in 14 games, and he became the all-time leader in postseason home runs (24).
And although not as important, he talked a good game, too.