The signing of Manny Ramirez is not only one of the best in Red Sox history, it also might be the most important. He was the first marquee free agent to sign in Boston and not only opened the flood gates for other big names to consider the Red Sox in free agency, but along with Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz, energized the city’s Dominican population into a loyal segment of the fanbase.
Ramirez spent the first eight seasons of his career in Cleveland before becoming a free agent in the winter of 2000. Then-Red Sox GM Dan Duquette signed him to a ten-year, $200 million contract that was the second largest of all time behind only Alex Rodriguez (who signed his record-breaking ten-year, $250 million deal that same winter).
Manny immediately paid dividends, hitting .306 with 41 home runs and 125 RBI in his first season in Boston in 2001. In the World Series winning years of 2004 and 2007, Ramirez hit .308 with 43 home runs and 130 RBI and .296 with 20 home runs and 88 RBI, respectively. He was also named World Series MVP in 2004.
For his Red Sox career which ran from 2001 to 2008, Manny put up a .312 average to go with 274 home runs and 868 RBI. From 2003 to 2008 he teamed up with David Ortiz to form one of the most potent 3-4 tandems in all of baseball. As for his defense, Ramirez wasn’t the greatest left fielder, but that wasn’t why the Red Sox signed him in the first place.
With his goofy personality and carefree approach to the game, not to mention his gorgeous swing, Manny became a fan favorite despite his defensive shortcomings and frequent lack of hustle. “Manny being Manny” was tolerated and celebrated until it began to wear thin in 2008.
His Red Sox career came to an ugly end and he was traded at the 2008 deadline, but for eight years Manny thrilled Boston fans with his relentless hitting. Even better, he showed other top free agents that Boston was a place worth going to in free agency.