THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Now he's a guaranteed out

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / July 26, 2008

The Red Sox have had it with Manny Ramírez.

Manny has punched his ticket out of town. It's over. O-VA. Adios, amigo. Good night, Irene. Turn out the lights. Last night's 1-0 loss to the Yankees (think they could have used Manny?) was the proverbial last worthless evening.

Ramírez sealed his fate with the club yesterday afternoon. After longtime enabler Terry Francona filled out a lineup card with Manny batting fourth, the Sox made an announcement that Manny could not play in the biggest game of the season. Seems there were problems with his right knee. Manny was a late scratch.

It was extraordinary. In the past, management and the manager would do handstands to excuse Manny's strange acts. No more. This time, the manager - apparently confident there's nothing wrong with the slugger - put Manny's name in the lineup, then sat and waited for Manny to pull himself out of the lineup. Manny complied. Never concerned with wins or losses, Manny told Brad Mills he was unable to play and took himself out of the batting order for the (thus far) biggest game of the season.

It was predictable. It was ridiculous. It was the last straw.

Former state treasurer Bob Crane happened by the EMC Club, pregame, and spoke for many fans when he said, "Manny's got to go. Enough's enough. Fans are finally sick of this guy."

The possibility exists that Manny truly has a sore right knee. No one can get inside the head of an athlete and evaluate game-readiness. If Manny's knee is killing him, there is no way for us to know, and we are wildly unfair to question his condition. I'm willing to take that chance. I don't believe him.

Call me a cynic. Call me a nitwit. Whatever. I'm comfortable with the theory that Manny is using his alleged knee injury to send a message to the ball club. We don't know why. We never know why. Manny shut it down in 2006 and he's toying with the Red Sox again. In the middle of a pennant race. It is despicable. And the front office and his teammates are burning. Off the record, of course.

Ramírez had an MRI yesterday and it was clean. This time, the Sox plan to do something about this situation. Soon.

Ramírez was in the throes of an 11-game hitting streak (.487, 11 for 39) when he showed up at Safeco Field in Seattle Wednesday and told Francona he could not play and could not pinch hit. It was odd.

For the first time since July 2005, when Manny insisted on taking a promised day off in Tampa even though Francona told him he was needed because the team was shorthanded, the manager made no effort to excuse his savant slugger. Francona said Ramírez's name had not appeared on the injury report and the injury took him by surprise.

In the old days, Tito would have talked about a day game after a night game and referenced Manny's multiple complaints about knee problems. There was none of that. The manager said Manny's knee injury came out of the blue. There was no history. It was just Manny being unavailable.

That's what happened yesterday. When the clubhouse doors were thrown open to the media at 3:30, Manny was sitting in front of his locker with an ice pack on his right knee. Despite this, his name was in the starting lineup and when Francona was asked about Manny just after 4 p.m., the manager said, "We told him, 'If you can't play, come tell us.' "

While Tito was speaking, Manny went to Francona's aide-de-camp, Mills, and said he was unable to play. The Sox revised their lineup and media members went to work deciphering the Manny Code.

At 4:36 p.m. owners John Henry and Tom Werner were standing behind the batting cage, blissfully unaware their star had bailed yet again. When they learned the hard news, they saw Francona emerge from the dugout.

"We'll go have a conversation," said Werner.

No one was saying much after the meeting.

"No comment," said Henry and Werner.

When Theo Epstein saw this typist approaching, notepad and pen in hand, the general manager put his Blackberry up to his ear.

"Veteran move," said Theo.

Something's got to give. The owners are mad. The manager is frustrated. The GM is frustrated. Teammates are angry. Even with sycophants who excuse everything, Manny may have finally exhausted his reservoir of goodwill. He quit on the team in 2006 and now it looks like he's quitting again. Is that OK with you, Red Sox Nation?

Manny's snit comes after he flattened 64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick over a ticket allotment in Houston. It comes after he ripped ownership for allegedly lying to him in contract negotiations. It comes after he was rebuked by Henry. It comes after his giggle-fest when he played a popup into a triple while the Sox were being swept in Anaheim.

This might be a poor read of the tea leaves by Manny. He is not as valuable as he was. For $20 million (club option for 2009 and again in 2010) the ball club can expect to do better than .301 with 19 homers and 61 RBIs after 104 games. Stat geeks, take note: Manny's OPS is down the last two years. By a lot.

Sox management is at the end of its long rope. This has been an interesting and rewarding eight years, but Manny is acting out in a decidedly unflattering fashion. Red Sox owners have had enough. There will be meetings with the slugger in the next few days. Something has to happen.

The Yankees beat the Red Sox, 1-0, last night to close within one game of Boston in the loss column. It was supposed to be the magical night of the return of David Ortiz. Instead, it was another ridiculous night in Mannyland.

Stay tuned. The manager and the owners have had enough.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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