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Hip trouble... and lip trouble

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe columnist / March 5, 2009
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FORT MYERS, Fla. - Anywhere but here.

There was much baseball news today and once again, none of it was generated in Camp Sominex.

While the Snooze Sox were losing, 9-5, to Team Puerto Rico (you can throw out the records when the Sox meet the Puerto Ricans), hardball headlines were streaming out of points north and west.

As reports leaked of Alex Rodriguez possibly needing hip surgery, ESPN and the MLB Network broke into regularly scheduled programming for live coverage of Manny Ramírez's introductory press conference with the Dodgers in Glendale, Ariz.

These monstrous issues have two common denominators: Scott Boras and the Red Sox. Boras represents both superstars. And no matter what happens in Baseball America, it's always about the Red Sox.

The Rodriguez news, changing by the hour, has more immediate impact on the Sox. A-Rod seems certain to miss the beginning of the season, could be out until late summer, and may have a career-threatening condition with $275 million still owed from the Yankees. News of his hip condition (torn labrum) is the latest bombshell in A-Rod's Brangelina/Michael Jackson spring circus. He's seems certain to be blamed for the Madoff Ponzi scam before the end of March.

Still, we couldn't take our eyes and ears off Mr. Manny. And the press conference was a mind-bender even by the lofty, loony standards of the Man Ram.

Try this on for size:

When Manny was being "grilled" by assorted sycophants (intermittent applause) and some actual media members, he dropped this whopper on the capital of Red Sox Nation:

"Sometimes you're better off to have a two-year deal in a place that you're gonna be happy than have an eight-year deal in a place that you're gonna, you know, suffer."

There you go, Sox fans. Manny was suffering while you were cheering for him. He was suffering when the Sox paid him $160 million. It must have been hell, making all that cake, hearing the applause, and seeing little kids and big dads wearing his No. 24 Sox jersey. I guess we'll never know how hard it was to win two World Series, playing in front of baseball's best fans in baseball's best ballpark. It must have been tough to face zero sanctions or team exposure when he repeatedly quit on his team.

Manny wasn't alone in ridiculous commentary. Check out this one from Dodgers owner Frank McCourt:

"I have great admiration and respect for him as a ballplayer, but what's been most enjoyable to me, particularly in the last few days, is getting to know him as a person . . . "

John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner no doubt were rolling in the aisles when they heard that one.

There's nothing evil about Manny, but his departure from Boston was shameful and McCourt sounds like a smitten teenager when he talks about his savant slugger. Once again we have an otherwise smart millionaire losing all common sense and business acumen in the aura of a star athlete.

Ramirez's two-year, $45-million deal calls for him to donate $1 million to the Los Angeles community for youth fields and educational opportunities. It's a nice touch by Manny and the ever-manipulative Boras, but the cynic in me thinks it's just an extra million that Boras extorted (and McCourt produced) to make Manny look good with the fans. The generous gift is certainly a departure for a ballplayer who wouldn't come out of the clubhouse to say hello to Jimmy Fund kids when he played in Boston and still hasn't sent a penny to the equipment-needy ballplayers at his old high school in Washington Heights, N.Y.

Oh, and then there's the soon-to-be-infamous Ramírez Provision.

After telling us what a funny, swell guy Manny is, McCourt said, "I told Manny . . . that we're going to put a provision in every player contract as long as I'm steward of the franchise, called The Ramírez Provision."

Wow. Sounds like a sequel to The French Connection and The Shawshank Redemption.

It got me wondering. Would The Ramírez Provision perhaps be a clause guaranteeing franchise silence if a ballplayer quit on the team or assaulted a club executive?

Actually, no.

According to the doofus Dodger owner, The Ramírez Provision will be part of the Dodger player contract boilerplate. "Contracts will have . . . a blank line and it will be up to the player to fill in how much he's going to give to the community in which he plays. But he will have to fill in a number. So Manny's already left a legacy here in that regard. He's going to make us better at being generous to the community that supports us so well."

It'll be great in LA for Manny again, certainly for a while. And $45 million is a lot of dough. But it's not the five-year, $100 million Manny and Boras envisioned when he shot his way out of Boston.

Which brings us back to Rodriguez, the only baseball player who makes more money annually than Manny. Just when you thought A-Rod's spring couldn't get any stranger, now he might go on the shelf with a suddenly serious hip condition. This time, instead of a nefarious cousin injecting A-Rod with boli, it's A-Rod's brother breaking news about possible hip surgery. It looks like the Yankees want him to eschew surgery and go the therapy route (sounds like the Schill situation). Like everything else with Rodriguez, the situation is curious, critical, and combustible. It's simply never just baseball anymore with Rodriguez.

A-Rod can always look at the bright side; at least he's not suffering the way Manny did all those years in Boston.

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

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