Remember when Gary Sheffield said Latin-American players were replacing a lot of the African-Americans on rosters throughout baseball because they are easier to control?
It seemed as though every media outlet in the country felt compelled to attack the oft-outspoken Tigers designated hitter for being insensitive and making such a blanket statement about a large number of people. But it was Ozzie Guillen, undoubtedly the most candid Latin-born figure in the sport, who came to his defense, citing among other things, the fact that Latino players are in the country specifically to play baseball and if they are let go, they end up back home with nothing.
It took only a few days before the story was largely forgotten and Sheff and Ozzie had moved on to new controversies, but with Manny Ramirez at the center of the baseball world, it's only fitting to broach the topic again.
Since essentially forcing a trade from the Boston Red Sox in July, Ramirez has emerged as the model player for a young Los Angeles Dodgers team that has gone from having a famous manager with an irrelevant roster to the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Depending on who you talk to, Manny is either a misunderstood star (everyone in Los Angeles) or the epitome of all that is wrong with the athletes of today (the rest of the known world).
There is no denying that Manny wore out out his welcome in Boston, but for a guy that can be considered one of the greatest winners in the history of the organization, you'd think his actions caused the club to become a bottom-feeder, like say, the Oakland Raiders when Randy Moss decided to quit on the team or the Miami Heat when Shaquille O'Neal chose to train for his future on the show COPS instead of getting into playing shape.
Yet while Moss and O'Neal have been praised as being ideal teammates in their new homes, critics continue to treat Manny as though he was caught electrocuting puppies. Could this be because he is a Latin-born player who is supposed to stay quiet, know his role and simply appreciate the fact that he's playing the game at all?
Last month, Guillen told the Sporting News that Latino players had it more difficult because they have to overcome not being able to speak English and are not given translators like many of the players who come over from Asian countries. He said the reason Asians receive better treatment might be because they bring fans, TV and revenue to the sport.
Or maybe Latin-born players simply aren't supposed to make such outlandish requests.
Manny, of course, poses a challenge to that easy-to-control stereotype. He is the guy who makes sure his batting practice pitcher joins him when he moves to a new franchise. He also knows his value and has always had powerful representation to make sure he gets the most money possible. This is not the case for many Latino players - see Jose Reyes.
You see, because Latin-born players rarely go through contact squabbles, people act as though Manny, who considering the numbers he put up in Boston, deserved to be given clarification on his future, is the most selfish player in the sport.
The truth is, he played the system the same way Moss and O'Neal did, the same way ARod did last winter and Johnny Damon and J.D. Drew have done in recent years.
Manny wasn't being Manny, he was being every other stud athlete in pro sports.
Every other American-born stud athlete, that is.