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Cheer or jeer, will Manny care either way?

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  June 18, 2010 08:45 AM

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There's one subplot to this whole overplayed "Boo or Cheer Manny?" debate.

Either way, you think he'll give a damn?

Manny Ramirez and his latest drug controversy (sorry, "soap opera") return to Fenway Park tonight for the first time since he was shipped to the Dodgers at the trading deadline in 2008, and all of Boston is aflutter with the possibilities that Ramirez will receive either a standing ovation or a cacophony of jeers tonight when the Red Sox and Dodgers kick off a three-game series.

The one thing I wouldn't expect is for Ramirez to acknowledge the fans' greeting either way.

You really have two options: Cheer him for the titles, the home runs, and the zany memories he left you during his stint in Boston. Or, boo him for quitting on his team, tossing team personnel to the floor, and being an overall cantankerous presence in the clubhouse during his final days here.

Cheer the numbers or boo the person? Depends on where you stand on that sort of thing.

Initially, I thought there was no way that Ramirez would step on the Fenway field to anything other than a cacophony of insults, frustrations, and other naughty words emitted from the Fenway stands. But what's the point? If you boo Ramirez, you really think he still won't be locked in against Sox starter Felix Doubront? Maybe the poll questions shouldn't ask whether Ramirez will be booed or cheered, but how many times he'll take the Sox rookie deep tonight (I'll go with twice).

The greetings that former Boston players Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez, Dave Roberts, and Trot Nixon have received, among others, over recent years meant something, because even in Damon's case when he was mercilessly booed during his return as a Yankee, the player emitted a certain emotion during his first at-bat.

And Manny? Keep dreaming.

Don't get me wrong, it should be a fun weekend in the Fens, but what's done is done. Theo Epstein rectified the situation almost two years ago now, which makes this weekend nothing more than a run down memory lane. The time to boo Ramirez would have come should the Red Sox and Dodgers had met later that year in the World Series.

In 2010, what's the use?

Ramirez was traded, which makes his return a lot different than had he jumped ship to a rival like Damon did prior to 2006. In some fans' minds, that seems to suggest he didn't have a choice, that maybe his repeated proclamations about how much he hated Boston were just myths perpetrated by that evil Boston media.

He didn't choose to go per se. He was shipped out by the team.

Everyone else knows that for a crock.

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.

Cheer the stats or boo the man?

Or is everything Ramirez did to finally earn a ticket out of here in the past?

My guess is Red Sox fans on the whole these days are pretty forgiving, which could be interpreted as saying they forget a lot more easily than they used to.

He'll be cheered. He'll be booed.

And Manny won't care either way.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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