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Ramírez apologizes for latest dustup

Edes on Ramirez

The Boston Globe's Gordon Edes gives his take on the clubhouse incident between Manny Ramirez and traveling secretary Jack McCormick.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 1, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - In the wake of a physical altercation between Manny Ramírez and Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick, which occurred before Saturday's game in Houston, manager Terry Francona met with Ramírez at least twice yesterday to discuss the incident. But general manager Theo Epstein and Francona insisted the situation was an "internal matter," declining to expand upon what disciplinary action might be taken.

Ramírez, who was the designated hitter last night against the Rays, downplayed the situation with laughter when he met with reporters before the game. But, in a private moment with a reporter, Ramírez wondered aloud about possible repercussions, asking if it was possible he might be suspended for a game. That appears unlikely, with a more probable outcome being a fine or a charitable donation. As of late last night the Sox had not come to a decision on a disciplinary action for Ramírez.

It was yet another act in the drama that has played out over Ramírez's eight years in Boston. Other issues have included trade requests, controversial absences from All-Star and regular-season games, sometimes lackluster play in left field, and the occasional lack of hustle on ground balls, all occurring during his run to the Hall of Fame.

But rarely - outside of a June 5 spat with Kevin Youkilis in the dugout - had it turned physical, as it did when Ramírez shoved McCormick, 64, who fell to the ground.

This season has been remarkably placid for Ramírez, who has professed happiness personally and with the team on numerous occasions, including both Saturday and Sunday.

"In the clubhouse, this is a family and whatever happens in the clubhouse, it stays in the clubhouse," Ramírez said. "Me and Jack, our friendship is good and he's going to continue being my friend yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

Neither Epstein nor Francona was interested in speaking at length about the situation. Epstein, in an e-mail yesterday morning, wrote, "We take such matters seriously, but we handle them internally and we do not publicly discuss internal club discipline."

Epstein, who is not in St. Petersburg, also spoke to Ramírez yesterday.

"When things happen with us, we take things really seriously," Francona said. "We deal with things respectfully to all parties, but we also do it internally. This is something that happened between friends. It was handled."

A call to Ramírez's agent, Scott Boras, went unreturned.

On Saturday around 2 p.m., before the clubhouse was open to the media, Ramírez became angry when McCormick said he might not be able to fulfill the slugger's request for 16 tickets to that night's game.

Ramírez shoved McCormick with multiple players witnessing it. Francona did not see it, but came into the hallway when he heard the commotion, according to McCormick. Ramírez and McCormick met later in the day and Ramírez apologized.

"It escalated on his part," McCormick said yesterday morning. "He said something about me not doing my job. But it was over in a couple of seconds."

McCormick, the team's longtime traveling secretary, added that he harbors no resentment or ill will toward Ramírez. "I just want it to die," he said. "It's over. He apologized. That's it. I want us to get back to our winning ways.

"There's no animosity on my part. I hope there's not on his. I think he feels the same way. I'm satisfied with how the club handled this. Everything's fine."

Several players, including David Ortiz, referred to the team as a "family" while discussing the incident. Ortiz slung an arm around Ramírez's shoulders while the left fielder was addressing the media. "We are a family," he said. "We deal with things here."

The altercation came just days after a similar incident in Houston. Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon shoved general manager Ed Wade to the ground last Wednesday after Wade requested a meeting with him. Chacon was suspended before being put on waivers Thursday. He was released and his contract was terminated yesterday, though the union planned to file a grievance.

Back on June 5, the night the Sox brawled with the Rays, NESN cameras caught Ramírez slapping Youkilis in the dugout. The pair had gotten into an argument over excessive and chronic complaining by Youkilis about the strike zone, and had to be separated by teammates and coaches. Both said the fight was a "misunderstanding."

With Ramírez angling for the Sox to pick up the first of two $20 million options in his contract, which otherwise expires at the end of the season, he has been entirely different than in past seasons. Instead of staring through reporters, he is often eager to talk and express his contentment and lobby for his option to be picked up. Internally, the team has found him easier to deal with, as well.

But yesterday the talk was not of his comfort level, nor was it of his accomplishments. Instead, it was about possible disciplinary action and his relationship with McCormick. Ramírez did appear to be contrite for a moment, before dissolving into smiles and laughter. He seemed anxious - as did McCormick - to impress upon others that the matter was finished.

"I'm going to get maybe four tickets," Ramirez said, leaving the group of reporters. "The soap opera is over."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.

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