For anyone still left with their head stuck in soupy sand, in spite of everything we’ve learned, insisting to wave their Manny jersey in an announcement of forever fandom, this has to be a dark day. The player they defended despite multiple wounding transgressions, the player known as much for his aloof behavior as his devastating swing, the one they turned the other cheek for despite continued bouts of selfishness and confrontation was shipped out of town yesterday in a trade that shouted just how desperate his employers were to rid themselves of him.
In order to free themselves of Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox had to pay his salary, give up Brandon Moss, and surrender the Craig Hansen Project. Both names have come up in plenty of trade discussions (Moss could have been had for lefty relief in Kansas City’s Ron Mahay) over the years, the Red Sox hanging on to their promise instead. And for what? So that they could be included as throw-ins to the Pirates in a deal done at the final hour, a fraught decision by Theo Epstein and Co., who proved they needed to do anything and everything to say bye, Manny.
Call it Ramirez’s final destructive blow to the team he called home for 7 ½ seasons.
He’s Los Angeles’ problem now, re-joining former teammates Jeff Kent, Derek Lowe, and Nomar Garciaparra, who ludicrously supports Manny’s recent statements comparing the ways the two players left Boston, apparently the only town where players are not signed to lifetime deals. Under new manager Joe Torre, he may have to cut his hair. We wonder how that’s going to go down, and whether or not Frank McCourt will cower to the request in much the same way Red Sox ownership enabled him since Day 1.
Not our issue anymore.
Manny wins. He’ll be a free agent, and he made the Red Sox organization a little weaker on the way out the door. The only dig on Moss’ potential outfield career in Boston was that there was no place for him to play, and despite the conundrum that Hansen has become, Terry Francona still thought enough of him this season to put him into key situations out of the bullpen.
Jason Bay is younger and just as good as the Manny of today, but indeed not the one of yesteryear. He isn’t a future Hall of Famer. He won’t be referenced by first name with universal knowledge. He won’t entertain fans with sideshow acts and goofy moments. He’ll hit though, and that’s all the Red Sox want - and desperately need – at this stage of the game, 15 of his 22 home runs in a deep left field at PNC Park, a nice hint as to what he’ll do with the wall in left (Manny only hit eight of his 20 at Fenway). One flashing concern, Bay has hit just .190 against lefties this season, with a pair due to go for the A’s this weekend in Dana Eveland and Dallas Braden.
He’ll make his debut tonight at Fenway Park, where there will certainly be some mourning in the stands. The clubhouse, on the other hand, will be more relaxed, free of a player who many perceived was ready to quit on them, a situation that should have sparked at least some pretense of conscience in folks like Jason Varitek, JD Drew, and Daisuke Matsuzaka about their choice in agent. If indeed Scott Boras had something to do with this – as many have opined – is that the sort of man you want representing you, one that will undoubtedly get you the best deal, but also one willing to have a part in sabotaging whatever team you’re on?
I suppose we would agree with Nomar on this: Perhaps there are some similarities. Maybe these Red Sox will go on a run like their 2004 predecessors did, sparked by ridding themselves of a cantankerous headache in the clubhouse, a guy who obviously didn’t want to be there, and made it known by essentially quitting on his teammates.
Nomar sulked in the dugout at Yankee Stadium. Manny had a boo-boo knee.
They deserve each other.
In a perfect world, the Red Sox will go on to win another title, doing it this time without their hurtful slugger. Ideally, Manny will go to market in the fall only to discover nobody willing to give him the money he thought was owed to him, much like Nomar did after an unimpressive half-season with the Cubs. Garciaparra, remember, once turned down a $60 million deal. He’s earned half that number since departing Boston.
Oh, the irony if nobody is willing to give Ramirez anything more than what the Red Sox held in contract options.
It’s August now - the month of life, according to the Finnish - and Manny in Boston is no more. The Red Sox today are no better; no worse, than they were 24 hours ago, the Manny Ramirez situation casting a pall on any and every other move that needed to be made to dramatically improve a club at the crossroads of a season.
Ramirez will be forever remembered in this town as a baseball hero and an unpleasant citizen, one who could only be bothered when it was convenient for him, the complete antithesis of a team player.
He’s gone, somebody else’s problem now. And with the pangs of regret for having to surrender so much, you’d better believe there’s a sigh of relief today in all corners of Yawkey Way.