FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston’s loss is Juan Carlos Santana’s gain.
The Red Sox announced Tuesday that Manny Ramirez will not arrive at spring training until March 1, missing Wednesday's scheduled reporting date for all position players. It also was learned that once Ramirez arrives at City of Palms Park, he will be slated to stay there throughout the month of March, choosing not to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
The news sent Red Sox fans into a tailspin, wondering how this latest hint of dysfunction was going to affect the team’s cleanup hitter and his teammates.
Could the perceived laissez-faire lifestyle of Ramirez actually survive another week outside the structure of spring training? The Red Sox say he would be “completing an extensive training regimen.” But is that just another public relations smoke screen?
Santana, Ramirez’s personal trainer for the past five years, has a different viewpoint.
“I can guarantee you. Guarantee you!” exclaimed the 47-year-old Santana on whether Ramirez is better served at his current location, the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, than Fort Myers. “I’ll bet my house with my children inside that there is nobody putting their baseball players through what we’re putting our baseball players through. No doubt about it. Believe me, most of those who come through here are begging for spring practice. This is nasty here.”
The image portrayed by Santana isn’t easily accepted by the outfielder’s critics, who insist that his laid-back attitude does more harm than good.
But the man who was voted among the top 100 personal trainers in the nation by Men’s Journal wants to set the minds of Sox fans at ease. Manny, he says, will be ready.
“He wants the MVP this year in the worst way,” said Santana, who assigns Andy DeRojas to work specifically with Ramirez. “The one thing people don’t know about Manny, and that Manny doesn’t get enough credit for, is his work ethic. He is one of the hardest workers, most deliberate guys that I have here. He shows up. And when he shows up, it is game time and he gives you everything he’s got.”
Santana reports that Ramirez has visited the center 40 minutes north of his house religiously five times a week, partaking in intense, hour-long training sessions.
“We don’t mess around here. We get people ready for 12-round fights, and they don’t train for more than an hour,” he said. “The intensity that we put on our athletes and our fitness clients is beyond what is seen anywhere in the fitness industry. So the quality is through the roof, and if the quality is through the roof, the time can’t be long.
“He attacks the workout. He has a lot of fun, but he always says, ‘Let’s work now. I’m here to work!’ That’s kind of the theme of Manny’s demeanor.”
Besides the answer to what exactly Ramirez will be doing while away from his teammates this upcoming week, Santana also has insight to a few other Manny mysteries.
For one, the trainer thinks he might know the reason Ramirez struggled so mightily in the first few months of last season.
Tired of making the drive to Boca Raton, Manny decided to spend last offseason with a few of Santana’s former interns from Florida Atlantic University. But instead of coming in at his usual 226 pounds, Ramirez arrived in Fort Myers six pounds lighter than usual, which in his mentor’s opinion, wasn’t ideal.
“He called this year and said, ‘It’s not the same thing.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me, really?’ “ Santana said. “He said, ‘I think it’s worth the drive.’ I said, ‘Come on back, we would love to have you.’ He’s a character.
“Last year, he came in at 220. Very light. Coincidentally or not, no one will ever know, but I think he had the first year below .300 (.292) in a long time. (He batted .294 in 1998.) Although he might have looked much better in terms of looking fit, being fit and being a baseball player are sometimes two different things.”
Santana reports that Ramirez is back on the same training plan as five years earlier.
“The key for Manny is to maintain good muscle mass,” he explained. “We thought he came in a little light last year. One has to understand, all things being equal, 228 pounds will send a ball 10 feet further than 224 pounds. We got Manny at about 224 this year and shot him up to about 230. We said, ‘Hey bro, eat as much as you want. Eat good foods, but eat as much as you want.’ We put some muscle mass on him. Then toward the end, we tighten up a little bit on the diet. We usually release him somewhere between 224 and 226. He’s solid.”
Santana’s track record for success with Ramirez began with work on Manny’s troublesome hamstrings. And that work brings the trainer closer to answering another one of the seemingly annual quandaries surrounding the $20 million-a-year man.
“The first thing one has to notice was when Manny was with the Indians he had hamstring issues,” Santana said. “We took our approach to rehabilitating the hamstrings and training the hamstrings. Since then, he hasn’t had hamstring issues, ever. There have been a few times that the media has said he has had it, so I would call (former Sox trainer) Chris Correnti and say, ‘What’s up bro? I sent you a Ferrari. Don’t tell me you have a Volkswagen with a flat.’ He said, ‘No, no man. Every time he needs a little time off he blames the hamstring, but he’s perfectly healthy. It’s all good.’ “
Starting March 1, the Red Sox, and Santana, are banking on it staying that way for Ramirez.
Rod Bradford writes for The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass.
X X X
RED SOX PRESS RELEASE
“With permission of the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez will report to spring training in Fort Myers on March 1, 2006. Manny is in Florida completing an extensive training regimen and is prepared to have an exceptional season.”
Classic Manny Moments
At this point, Red Sox fans should not be surprised by Manny’s antics. Here’s a look at a few of Manny’s blunders since the Red Sox acquired him in 2001:
November 2001 — As a free agent, Manny agrees to sign a deal with the Red Sox, under one condition; he gets to bring Cleveland clubhouse attendant Frankie Mancini, who set up the pitching machine for Manny when he played for the Indians.
September 2002 — Manny is fined by manager Grady Little for not running out a grounder in a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay.
Summer 2003 — After sitting out an important game against the first-place New York Yankees with pharyngitis, it is learned that Manny was spotted in a hotel bar with close friend, Yankees infielder Enrique Wilson, the night before.
July 2005 — After initially being given the day off, Manny refuses to play after Trot Nixon is injured.
Slugger won’t report until March 1
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston’s loss is Juan Carlos Santana’s gain.