In the seeping hole of howling misery that Twitter has become, one of the few bright lights that elevates my timeline is the account of Craig Hyatt. Through the very normal handle @HyattCraig, this hitting instructor cranks out GIF after GIF of baseball players hitting bombs. Normal speed, slo-mo, just showing the load or just the swing or just the follow-through, his work runs the gamut. It's wonderful. The hashtag #Sundayswings just means more bombs on a lazy Sunday. On Tuesday, we were graced with this dazzling little video:
Here’s another angle:
Now, many will say Manny Ramirez isn't the greatest. By many measures, perhaps he isn't the greatest. But he was pretty damn great. Shoot, maybe the greatest. But really, he’s Hall of Fame material, and it all came from this fun swing. This isn't even Manny's prettiest swing. That happened like a million different times. It’s not even my favorite swing ever of his. That’s this:
Two pitches in places where you really shouldn’t be able to do any damage. Yet somehow, time and time again, he made going after a hard-to-hit pitch look smooth as silk.
Young Manny was such a sight to behold. Who could have known that slim young slugger in Cleveland would have become the frumpy pile of dreads and dingers that we saw in Boston and Los Angeles. There was something about his hands that always seems so aesthetically pleasing to me. Even on that homer above, he's caught out on his front foot, he has to slow the bat down as it gets to the zone, and still gets solid wood on it. It’s like his hands are almost disembodied, moving in this eternally lockd in groove no matter the pitch. His whole body is doing something else, but those hands go right where they’re supposed to. That's skinnier David Wells pitching, in what is supposed to be the easier part of the lineup. Instead he was dealing with Manny Ramirez batting sixth after fighting past Julio Franco and had Jeff Kent looming on-deck. I know it's been beaten to death, but every time I look at a mid-90's Indians lineup I am agog with how they had almost too much talent.
By the way, what's with those pants? The indelible image of Manny is that of ill-fitting pants and some kind of weird bag hat underneath his cap or helmet. I've been looking for a project, I should track just when those pants of his started to grow, track it and see how they grew as his paychecks or average home run distance grew. This game is from October 1996, his third year in the major leagues. He was still the young gun on the team, not the lead dog but just another guy in a clubhouse of baseball demolition experts. Maybe he was just following a leader, before he found his own way. Tight pants were all the rage back then, I think. Except for JNCOs.
Watching that hit, and really any early Manny video at all, you realize in retrospect just how ungodly his talent was. He was probably never the best hitter in baseball, but the level of natural talent he had it's almost like he was born with a third, smaller lobe in his brain dedicated solely to hitting. Whether this wiry young kid or the big bag of potatoes looking guy in Boston, nothing screamed doom for pitchers with Manny. , David Ortiz glowering massively behind him had much more of an aura. Thome, or Belle, any of the monsters he played with seemed more dangerous just by stature and attitude. And yet it's the kid from Washington Heights that did the most damage, is the most heralded of all of them at the plate. Well, maybe aside from Belle For like four years he was a permanently exploding nuclear weapon. But you can't account for or train for pure fury. You know Manny was putting the effort in, he had to. Baseball is hard. But between that swing and just who he is, it didn't look like it. It was amazing. We should all have such an approach to life. I guess we all just have to be prodigies in something.