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Salvage operation

Ramírez open to a trade if both sides can be 'happy'

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin and Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / July 28, 2008

Manny Ramírez has long nursed a hurt about his years with the Red Sox, but has seldom, if ever, articulated it publicly.

That was not the case yesterday afternoon, when the slugger, speaking with a gravity seldom present in his exchanges with reporters, said: "I don't want to talk to them about contracts right now. So what? I know they got me, but enough is enough. I'm tired of them, they're tired of me. After 2008, just send me a letter or whatever. You don't even got to call my agent or whatever. 'Hey, thank you for everything. You're going to become a free agent. We're not going to pick up your option in '09.' "

Ramírez, repeating what he had said earlier in the day in a phone conversation with ESPNDeportes, said he would be open to a trade before Thursday's deadline "if both sides are going to be happy." But he said he didn't expect that to happen, saying, "Boston is not stupid. They're not going to do it. They can say whatever they want. But when it comes to make a deal, they're not going to pull the trigger, because they know what they've got here."

Asked if he was happy here, Ramírez said: "I'm happy. But enough is enough."

Enough is enough?

"That's it," Ramírez said. "You've got to ask [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and [owner] John Henry. They know."

Henry told the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy in an e-mail, "We are concentrating on one thing - a playoff spot."

Epstein had a similar response.

"We will have no further comment about this situation," the GM wrote in an e-mail. "Our focus is on this team - which is in the middle of a pennant race - and in any case it would be premature to comment now on an offseason contractual issue."

Ramírez appears correct about the unlikelihood of a deal. "There's nothing going on," said one industry source close to the situation.

Ramírez, as a 10-5 player - 10 or more years in the major leagues, 5 or more years with the same club - has the right to veto any deal. The Sox have been down this road before - in 2005, they came close to satisfying Ramírez's demand to be traded, but a three-way deal with the New York Mets and Tampa Bay unraveled. An hour after the trading deadline passed, Ramírez came onto the on-deck circle at Fenway Park to pinch hit and received an electrifying ovation, which grew even louder when he singled in the go-ahead run.

This time, the Mets are not interested, according to a source who spoke directly with GM Omar Minaya, and while ESPN's Peter Gammons said last night the Sox would pick up the remainder of Ramírez's 2008 salary in any deal, club sources said they did not expect to get a suitable response before the deadline. Those same sources have indicated that the goal is to have Ramírez playing here.

Last night, for the second straight game since missing two games with what he told the Sox was a sore right knee, Ramírez was in the starting lineup, batting cleanup, and playing left field. Asked about his knee, Ramírez said, "It's OK. I'm sucking it up. I'm playing."

He made a nice running catch in the left-field corner to take away a potential run-scoring hit by Alex Rodriguez in the first inning, then doubled home a run in the bottom of the inning. He then ran through the stop sign of third base coach DeMarlo Hale to score on Mike Lowell's single. Ramírez added another double in the fourth and scored on Jason Varitek's double.

The Sox, with manager Terry Francona saying he was taken by surprise in Seattle when Ramírez said he couldn't play because of his knee, had questioned that assertion, treating it with the same skepticism that has accompanied some past Ramírez complaints about his hamstring. Friday night, they sent him for MRIs on both knees, and said the tests came back clean.

Ramírez, though he did not address it yesterday, is clearly stung that the Sox did not take him at his word. On at least one occasion, Ramírez has told people close to him that he feels he has little backing in the clubhouse and front office, though teammate Julio Lugo was supportive yesterday.

"I've been here two years, I think I'm one of the guys closest with Manny," Lugo said. "I've been closer to Manny than anybody else. As a friend, I'm trying to defend him. He cares so much.

"He says he's hurting, he's hurting. Nobody knows. Sometimes you've got tendinitis in your knee and it doesn't show anything. But if you're hurting, you're hurting. I can't say anything. I know Manny, he plays every day. He's been hurt for a while. They ask me the same thing, 'Is he hurt?' I'm like, 'He tells me that he's hurting. I can't tell you that he's not hurting.' I shouldn't even be saying that. I know. I know he's been hurt for a while. If you ask me, that's what I'm going to tell you. He tells me that he's hurt and I believe him."

Publicly, no Sox teammate has been as outspoken about this current controversy as David Wells was in 2005, when he said, "The guy's messing with my cake. Whatever it is, he better have a great excuse because we need Manny in the lineup. I don't care what, this team needs him."

"Manny says a lot of things," said third baseman Mike Lowell. "Some of them are entertaining. Some of them make your roll your eyes and spin your head, but it seems like every time after he says something, he goes 3 for 4. Maybe we should encourage him to say something like that. I don't know. It's a weird situation. I'm glad I'm not the one that has to make those decisions."

Francona acknowledged the situation has been stressful.

"The situation we're dealing with the last few days, I think if you're doing your job, how can it not be stressful?" he said. "If you care about what you're doing, it's certainly going to be stressful. That doesn't mean it's not going to work.

"I think my responsibility is not to hold grudges. That would be an awful way to be a manager. I think that was what I was referring to, and how we deal with difficulties. We all have difficulties. How you deal with them and move on is what's important."

Ramírez's disenchantment with Boston has been present almost from the time he first signed as a free agent after the 2000 season. In his first spring training with the Sox, he asked friends in the Cleveland organization if there was any way he could return to the Indians, a sentiment he has repeated numerous times over the years. In 2006, after the Sox failed to satisfy his trade demands over the winter, he called the Sox owners "[expletive] white devils."

He is uncomfortable with the passion of the fans, the scrutiny of the media, the lack of privacy he has encountered living here, and has struggled to achieve the same sense of belonging in the Sox clubhouse as he did in Cleveland, especially since close friend Julian Tavarez, who was with him in the Indians organization, was let go earlier this season.

Francona, asked to gauge Ramírez's level of happiness, said: "I don't know. I'm not sure that it matters. I'll take a guy hitting .500 that's miserable, as opposed to somebody who seems like they're passing out bouquets of roses to teammates and they're hitting .145."

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