THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Slugger's act has grown very tiresome

Kevin Youkilis beats Alex Rodriguez's tag after going from first to third on David Ortiz's first-inning single. He later scored. Kevin Youkilis beats Alex Rodriguez's tag after going from first to third on David Ortiz's first-inning single. He later scored. (John Bohn/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / July 28, 2008

Remember the trading deadline in 2004?

The Red Sox had a disgruntled superstar who refused to play in a big game against the Yankees. He hated the new owners. His contract was coming due. The parties reached a hardball critical mass.

Nobody believed the Sox would actually trade Nomar Garciaparra, but general manager Theo Epstein pulled the trigger on deadline day, then watched the energized Red Sox win a World Series.

Could it happen again? Would Epstein make a deal to get Manny Ramírez out of town between now and Thursday?

Doubtful. But while Manny continues to scald the baseball (3 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs last night), he's doing his best to get himself traded.

The savant slugger spoke to the media before Boston's 9-2 win over the Yankees and said, "I'm tired of them - they're tired of me."

Well put, Manny.

It's a shame it had to come to this. Ramírez put up Hall of Fame numbers in his seven-plus seasons in Boston and for most of that time he's been a fan favorite. But it's ending badly. His sit-down strike Friday night appears to have been the tipping point.

Manny said he's certain the Sox will let him go at the end of the year. He doesn't think the ball club will pick up his $20 million option for 2009. Good guess.

The Sox spanked him publicly Friday. For the first time. Outraged he would quit on them at the start of the Yankee series, they let him dangle in the breeze for all the world to see. Convinced he was lying about his right knee, they sent him for an MRI on both knees (in case Manny suddenly tried to claim it was the left knee). Then they made sure we all knew the MRIs were clean - getting word out before the end of the game. Late Friday, the club told him he'd be suspended if he refused to play Saturday - a sanction the Players Association would have grieved and won.

Epstein has wanted to get rid of Manny since the end of the 2003 season. Now he has the hammer. He has an owner who has seen the light. Manny insulted John Henry during the All-Star break and the once-naive billionaire is now on board with his baseball operations people. They all love Manny's presence in the cleanup spot, but the nonsense has reached a point where it's just not worth it anymore.

Henry wouldn't take the bait. Asked for a response to Manny's remarks, the owner e-mailed, "We are concentrating on one thing - a playoff spot."

Manny is a 10-5 player and can veto any deal. He says he's agreeable to being traded and we're pretty sure he'd sprint to Shea Stadium if the Sox and Mets could strike a deal. The Phillies and Dodgers would seem to be logical landing spots, but the best bet is that Manny is going to finish the season in Boston. And there's no reason he can't contribute mightily. It's in Manny's best interest to put up numbers which will draw interest in the winter market.

Putting up the numbers is never much of a problem for Manny. After making a nice running catch in the top of the first, he cracked an RBI double to right-center on a 1-and-0 pitch in the bottom of the inning. When Mike Lowell followed with a single to center, Manny ran through DeMarlo Hale's stop sign, but scored easily to give the Sox a 3-0 lead.

It was the perfect Manny metaphor. Manny's talent has allowed him to run through stop signs for his entire adult (we use that term loosely) life. He gets away with it. Things work out. He has success. Even when he blunders, it turns out OK.

That's the quality that has endeared him to so many Sox fans through the years. That, plus 35 homers and 110 RBIs per year.

So the ovations will keep on coming. The hits will keep on coming (he had another double in the third, and an RBI single in the sixth). With a little luck, there might even be another ring in it for Manny and everybody else on Yawkey Way.

But it looks like these are the final days of Manny Ramírez in a Red Sox uniform. He said it himself. Enough is enough. He's tired of us and we're tired of him.

The start of last night's game was postponed 52 minutes because of the threat of rain. It was one of those increasingly frequent and annoying Doppler Delays. Weather technology is not your friend at Fenway in 2008. In the old days, the Sox would start on schedule, then delay the game when it actually started to rain. Now they wait to start because they believe it might rain. It's good for beer sales, but bad for customer relations.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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