Manny Ramírez enjoyed a delayed honor Monday night at Fenway Park.
The former Red Sox star was recognized for his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame, with longtime lineup partner David Ortiz presenting Ramírez with his plaque before Ramírez threw out the first pitch to his former teammate to an enormous ovation.
For Ramírez, who hit .312/.411/.588 with 274 homers and 868 RBIs in 7½ seasons with the Red Sox (2001–08), the moment proved deeply moving.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I never thought that this thing was going to happen. To come into Boston after all the things that I went through and receiving it this way is unbelievable.
“That’s the way they receive you when you come home. This is my first home. I was here in 2000 to 2008 and I’m happy to be back home.
“Boston and those fans, they’re the best. It doesn’t matter how bad you do. They always remember you, they always support you.”
Though Ramírez and Ortiz were both part of this year’s Red Sox Hall of Fame class, Ramírez recognized that he won’t follow his teammate into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. As much as Ramírez is looking forward to attending his friend’s ceremonies in July, he understands that multiple suspensions for the use of performance-enhancing drugs during his career will very likely prevent his election to Cooperstown.
Ramírez acknowledged that his exclusion is the product of his own actions — and he suggested he has come to terms with those transgressions in a way that has allowed him to become a better father and family member.
“I know what I did,” said Ramírez. “David did it right. I made some mistakes but that mistake is helping me being a better person and being in the great spot that I’m in right now.
“I’d rather give [up] the Hall of Fame than give [up] my family and my kids. That’s me.”
Ramírez noted how much he is cherishing the chance to throw batting practice to his son, Manny Ramírez Jr., who is playing with the Brockton Rox of the Futures League.
“My family and my kids are going to give me more joy than being in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Every time I’m watching my kid and throwing BP to my kids, it makes me feel like when I hit a home run off Francisco Rodriguez [in Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS].”
Ramírez expressed “a little bit” of regret for forcing his way out of Boston in 2008, when he set in motion a trade in the final guaranteed season of his eight-year, $160 million deal by pushing team traveling secretary Jack McCormick, engaging in other erratic behavior, and demanding that the Red Sox deal him if they wouldn’t immediately guarantee the option years on his contract.
With hindsight, Ramírez suggested that he wishes he had remained in Boston longer rather than bouncing among the Dodgers, White Sox, and Rays. He considered that while taking stock of the potential free agency of current Red Sox stars Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
“Everybody knows it’s a business,” said Ramírez. “They’re not a doctor, going to be a doctor the rest of their life. No, they’re baseball players and their careers are short. All you’ve got to think, how much money do you really need to be happy? Where do you want to be?
“Because I bet you [Albert] Pujols, when St. Louis offered him less than Anaheim [after the 2011 season], I bet you [if] he would have known what was going to happen, he would have stayed and taken less money in St. Louis than going to Anaheim.
“Everything is going to come down [to] how much money do you need? They’re great players. Everybody knows every cent you get paid. Whatever we do, all we have to do is support them and respect their choices, because it’s a business.”
While Ramírez made the media rounds, Ortiz sat next to the Red Sox dugout during the game, something he has done on multiple occasions in recent days. Ortiz spent much of the game engaging with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, another former teammate.
“At some point, we have to sit David somewhere else, to be honest with you,” joked Cora. “It’s nonstop. It’s not Fort Myers, bro. I love it.”
What subjects does Ortiz cover with his in-game banter? Hitting? Pitching? Metaphysics?
“Everything,” said Cora. “Pitching and this and that, and at one point he started talking about this thing they did at Fox talking about stuff and pitchers not throwing strikes, and he doesn’t understand how hitters are struggling when they don’t throw strikes.
“This is going on for five minutes. I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ Just listening and laughing and giving him seeds so he can stay quiet.”
Yet Cora appreciates the opportunity to bring legendary members of the franchise to interact with current members.
“When the big boy [Ortiz] is here, it’s awesome,” said Cora. “The hitters love it. He goes into the cage and talks to them.
“I haven’t seen Manny in a while. To meet him, I know it means a lot [to the players]. The more the better. I am a big believer that the guys around here, they bring a lot to the equation.
“I grew up in an organization where you always had somebody. I grew up in the Dodgers. Maury Wills and [Steve] Garvey and all these guys. You learn from them and you keep getting better.”