The wait for Manny is interminable. He has done it again, cranked a homer off the Yankees on an 0-and-2 pitch for the second time in two days, and his totals against the New Yorkers during the past 48 hours are 5 for 8 with 7 RBIs.
The man is hitting again (as if we ever had any doubt), but he still isn't talking about it. That is and always will be his prerogative. Time ticks on after the Red Sox' 7-5 loss is officially in the books, but still, Manny Ramírez does not materialize from the showers.
Twenty, thirty minutes pass. Players come, players go. Forty, 50 minutes have gone by before it comes painfully obvious that Boston's left fielder, one of the best righthanded hitters ever, is long, long gone -- much like the home run he blasted off Yankees reliever Scott Proctor in the seventh inning. As one clubhouse official succinctly explained, ``Manny showers with his clothes on."
They tell us Manny is happier this season, at peace with himself and his place in Red Sox lore. Why not? He has played in every single game. He is healthy and beloved. His teammates continue to speak of him in revered tones reserved for the elite. There even has been a children's book penned about him called, naturally, ``Manny Being Manny."
It took him 16 games to hit his first home run, but we have grown accustomed to the possibility that Manny's body of work will mature slowly throughout the season, like a fine wine that needs to breathe.
Before the Yankees came to town, Manny was in a mild 4-for-27 (.148) tailspin. History tells us these stretches are never permanent with Ramírez. We are certain Manny would tell us that himself if he cared to discuss such matters.
But he'd rather not. It's really that simple. He has other matters to attend to, and most of them involve hitting a baseball.
Yesterday morning, Manny showed up at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. That, for those of you scoring at home, is 8 1/2 hours before game time. He had work to do. Work on his timing, his hitting, his stance.
``Manny is always doing something," said Kevin Youkilis. ``When we're on the road, he goes early every day to work out. People get this idea about him. They see how he plays left field sometimes, or how he runs out there kind of slow, and they perceive him as someone who doesn't care, who doesn't work. But they couldn't be more wrong."
It cannot be an accident when someone hits the ball as well as Ramírez does. Yes, Manny has physical gifts, but he has honed them in the privacy of a ballpark that does not normally spring to life until 3:30 in the afternoon. He studies tape, then tries a new technique in the cage, then looks at the film one more time.
Last night, Manny was swinging with the kind of confidence we've come to expect. He singled sharply to left off Jaret Wright in the first, but was left stranded on first base when Trot Nixon flied to center field to end the inning. In the seventh, with Youkilis and Mark Loretta aboard on full-count walks, he fell behind, 0-and-2, to Proctor before blasting a three-run shot into the seats.
There was no doubt when the ball left his bat, so Ramírez dropped the bat triumphantly, then stared at Proctor for effect before he casually jogged around the bases. If Alex Rodriguez dared to display such showmanship, he would be marinated, skewered, cut into tiny pieces, and served on toothpicks for hors d'oeuvres.
But Manny, it seems, is given a pass by opposing players because . . . he's Manny.
``He's done it for so many years," shrugged Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. ``Everyone knows that's Manny. It really doesn't bother me."
Of course, it wasn't Rivera who was on the mound when the ball flew out of the park. Proctor was the one who had to stand there and absorb the humiliation.
``I'm sorry, but I'm not really going to get into that," Proctor said politely.
Proctor freely admitted he was having trouble locating the ball last night. On the pitch to Ramírez, catcher Jorge Posada set up about a foot outside the plate. Proctor brought it inside instead.
``Manny is a great hitter," Proctor said. ``Even when his numbers aren't good, he's the kind of guy who, with one swing, can get back in the groove. You've got to respect a guy like that."
``The guy is amazing," said former teammate Johnny Damon. ``I mean, how many times has he hit big home runs like that? It was on an 0-and-2 pitch. He's not supposed to get a hit in that situation. But he always does."
Damon acknowledged that the view was a little different from the opposing side when Ramírez dropped his bat and stared down Proctor.
``Yeah, I guess we're a little upset," Damon said, ``but Manny's done it so many times -- and he'll do it again, too. And, come on, that ball was a no-brainer. Everyone knew it was going out."
Rivera, one of the greatest relievers of all time, relinquished an RBI single to Ramírez in the bottom of the eighth. He always has enjoyed the challenge, and looks forward to the next time he will face Manny in a key situation, which could well be as early as tonight.
``He's tough," Rivera acknowledged. ``But he's not scary. It's not like I fear him. What's the worst thing he's going to do? Hit a home run? He's dangerous because if you leave one ball over the plate, he's going to crush it. But that's the battle."
You wonder how Manny is feeling now that the ball is flying off his bat again. You want to know more about this ``at peace" business. Does it involve incense? Yoga? Caffeine-free soda?
If you wait much longer to unearth these gems, there will be no more editions of the morning paper. At some point, you must cut your Manny losses. When the vacuum cleaner begins purring, and the clubhouse is completely empty, you realize that, like most nights, Manny will have nothing to say.
Then again, his bat said plenty.
Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.