Somewhere in the midst of Manny Ramirez daring Theo Epstein to trade him during his annual hissy fit, the Red Sox slugger unintentionally made a very ironic statement.
"I’d even play in Iraq," he told ESPNDeportes.
Odds are that even being shipped to a war-torn region would do little to wake the clueless Ramirez from his narcissism. While the rest of his teammates were fighting off insurgents, he’d probably be sitting back in his bunk, claiming some convenient injury wouldn’t allow him to aid in the fight.
Whether the timeline is four days or two months, we are witnessing the final days of Manny Ramirez in Boston. That much is increasingly becoming certain. The left fielder held court yesterday and said he would approve a deal if the Red Sox were able to find a team willing to take him on. Even if Epstein doesn’t find a suitor for Ramirez before Thursday’s trading deadline, the occurrences of the past week pretty much assure that there is no way the team is picking up the $20 million option for next season.
The man has made more than $160 million during his stay in Boston, and is whining like an underappreciated child over the team's reluctance to dedicate itself for the next two seasons to his whims and offense. We've reached boiling point, everybody pretty much ready to wash their hands of the maddeningly enigmatic Ramirez.
In an age of conceited, rich, spoiled athletes with no clue as to how the rest of the human race goes about day-to-day life, Ramirez is the undisputed champ. The Boston fan base has done nothing but fawn over him the last eight years here (including the embarrassing ovation on deadline day in 2005), ignoring the bouts of immaturity and deceit, cheering him with unrivaled delight every time sawdust cracked on contact. A great hitter. One of the best in Boston history.
But as far as all the other stuff is concerned, Manny Ramirez is one opaque human being, spoiled rotten since he could first hit a baseball, and expecting, demanding it to never end. And because there was always the threat of Manny quitting when he didn't get his way, everybody simply enabled him further. But now, there's no more to give, no more reason to roll eyes and chalk instances up to cases of "Manny being Manny." Ramirez's legacy with the Red Sox will certainly be more good than bad, but he'll be leaving on a note that too often defined his stay here, as an unappreciative oaf who was given the world only to have it all not be enough. The quips of him being a child in a man's body are no longer cute, if they ever really were. He's a classic case of Peter Pan syndrome, a brat who always took his toys and went home.
The likelihood of him being traded before Thursday is most likely slim.
But that doesn't mean we can't root for it to happen.
From a baseball standpoint, trading Ramirez might not make a whole lot of sense. Even though the numbers are down, he's still a threat in the heart of the order, and one can only wonder what will happen to David Ortiz's production without him hitting behind him in the lineup. His OPS of .932 is sixth-best in the American League, and his torrid month of July further aids in the theory that the team can't afford to give him away. Now add in the complexities of Ramirez approving of a deal -- just because he said he will doesn't mean, when it comes down to it, that he actually will -- as well as getting decent value in return. All before Thursday. Epstein did it brilliantly with the Nomar Garciaparra deal, but the question remains as to whether lightning can strike twice.
On the other hand, washing everybody's hands of Ramirez now dulls the headache and assures that he won't quit on you down the stretch in September. The threat of that alone is reason enough to fervently work the phones this week. There's talk of the Phillies, Dodgers, Mets, and Diamondbacks being interested, according to Sean McAdam. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman says that Philadelphia is the only likely landing spot. But even that likelihood is slim, writes Ken Rosenthal, in that no GM stresses makeup like Pat Gillick, and that Ramirez would probably need to play right field.
Still, Epstein should try and deal Ramirez, and get something in return that will aid the Red Sox in another World Series run, or hope that he won't remain a distraction for the remainder of the season. Then in the offseason the Sox can go out and try to acquire the likes of Mark Teixeira or Adam Dunn as a free agent. At least, that was the plan up until this past week. Now the Red Sox may be forced to make a play for one of the sluggers via the trade market and hope that either an extension can be signed, or that they'll secure a contract prior to free agency. Essentially, the team could be forced to alter its long-term plans based on the whims of one Manny Ramirez.
For all he has done on the field for the Red Sox, Ramirez's actions have left a stain on his place in Red Sox history. He helped lead them to a pair of World Series titles, and classic moments like the high-five in Baltimore are so positively goofy that you can't help but to laugh at them. But there's nothing humorous about these latest transgressions, the absolute final straw of Manny's time in this city.
As much of a threat as he is at the dish, he's just as much so in the clubhouse, where his penchant to quit on his teammates has to be of ultimate concern to Terry Francona. Rid yourself of that risk going forward, and the team can rest assured that they've got the commitment of each and every player on the roster. Keep him around after Thursday, and who's to say that some other phantom injury pops up in a few weeks?
A lot of folks have tried their best to avoid any Ramirez talk the past two months. We rolled out eyes at the Kevin Youkilis and Jack McCormick incidents, not wanting to fully demonize Manny for incidents in which we didn't know 100 percent of what took place. We refused to jump on the bandwagon of folks that insisted Ramirez kept the bat on his shoulder as an act of defiance a few weeks ago at Yankee Stadium. Ramirez comes up with a mysterious knee injury, and we were just too tired about all things Ramirez to even have a standpoint, even though our calendar said it was well past time for his annual week of histrionics.
Around the same time Ramirez and his underlords, aka, his teammates, were putting the wood to Sidney Ponson and the Yankees last night, HBO aired the third installment of its summer miniseries, "Generation Kill," about a group of Marines in the opening stages of the Iraq war. Unapologetic in its realism, the show gives viewers a glimpse into the violent lives of our servicemen, looking for a fight to break out, ready to kill at first chance, for that is what they have been taught to do.
It's an environment in which Ramirez wouldn't last 10 seconds. You just wish there were some way he, and every pampered athlete, could experience that sort of realism just once in order to understand the luxurious existence he leads rather than complaining about the Red Sox not picking up an option worth more than what most of us will see in a lifetime of working.
He will still remarkably have his apologists as long as he can hit a baseball. But with those even shrinking in number after the past few days, Epstein needs to at least try and rid himself of the daily headache that is Ramirez.
It's probably not going to happen. But we should hope that it does.