I may have been on an island when the most bizarre of all the Manny Ramirez library of odd situations, excuses, and half-truths came to light last week, but I wasn't deserted for information.
I picked up my Globe daily, caught Providence sports anchors trying to sort out the latest, and received frequent updates from a friend's Blackberry -- surfing the 'net to find a new trade rumor every quarter-hour -- as yesterday's deadline drew closer.
I didn't get it. I still don't get it.
Yes, the Red Sox are a better team with Manny Ramirez, but that's like saying the Stooges were better off with Curly than Shemp. Tell me something I don't know. Like when we can expect this little episodic adventure to repeat. Because you and I both know it will sooner or later. Whether that's in a few weeks, a month, or, if he is still in Boston, next season, Ramirez will flare up at something, demand a day, visit a relative, and we'll all roll our eyes once again. Manny being Manny is the refrain that automatically excuses a very rich, grown man from acting like a seven-year old, pouting until he gets the attention he so deserves. And just like that, everything is fine in Red Sox Nation.
Booed Friday at the Fens, Ramirez received an ovation yesterday, pinch-hitting in the eighth, louder than I remember hearing anyone get last October. For a guy that had just days earlier said he wanted to jump ship? Sure, makes sense to me.
One local sportscaster last evening even called it one of the greatest moments in Boston sports history. Like I said, I don't get it.
Here is what I can surmise. Manny pouts, gets in a fight with Curt Schilling. Manny sits. Manny wants to be traded. The Red Sox try to deal him to the Mets. They can't get the deal done. Manny says he loves Boston and wants to stay. He hits a dribbler up the middle. The Sox win and Manny is a hero in Boston once again, the very same city he basically spat on days earlier by turning his back on it and its fans, not to mention his teammates.
And yet 35,000 went nuts over his arrival yesterday. When Ramirez needs a backrub and coddling, I guess he can always depend on the Fenway Faithful. No matter what.
You can pretty much guarantee that 2005 is it for Ramirez in Boston. He'll lead the Red Sox to the playoffs, perhaps another title, but after this latest incident, it's easy to assume Red Sox ownership has had enough, and will tell Theo Epstein to deal him off to the Mets come winter. Ramirez complains that he doesn't have enough privacy in this city, yet he invites Globe Magazine photographers into his home to take snapshots of his child's room. And oh, yeah, that privacy should be much better in New York with the tabloids following a star's every move. Good luck with that one.
I suppose there is something to be said for the forgiving nature of Red Sox fans (I've had to start a new folder in my Lotus Notes just for angry Keith Foulke retorts). But it's not necessarily so in the front office, where the damage I have to assume has irrevocably been done. Heck, it was two years ago when the team put him on irrevocable waivers, willing to part with him for $1 and a handshake. For nothing in return. The assumption was that Ramirez had changed. That happy-go-lucky dude who was World Series MVP last season? An act apparently. We've become more accustomed to the sourpuss Ramirez of last week than the gleaming guy who ran across the field with an American flag upon becoming a US citizen.
I like Manny Ramirez. He's entertaining to say the least. I don't have much of a problem when he's taking a leak in the Green Monster as Wade Miller is winding up, although I can see how Miller would. I don't have much of a problem when he's grossly misplaying balls in the outfield, but I can see how his teammates would. I don't have much of a problem with him making a gargantuan $20 million a year, but I can see how John Henry and Epstein would. I don't have much of a problem with Manny being Manny, but I certainly can see how Terry Francona would.
For all of those reasons, we can expect these to be the final few months of the Manny Ramirez era in Boston. Folks like to blame the media, but when you've got players speaking out about their team's star lollygagging and taking time off (Schilling, David Wells), it's a scapegoat excuse. Period.
In the offseason, Epstein can find a better deal for Ramirez than the one that produced Aubrey Huff and Mike Cameron over just a few days. He'll have the proper time to look into more three-way deals, perhaps shifting money in some creative way to alleviate some of Ramirez's contract. With any luck, he could unload Ramirez and bring back a stud starter. Particularly if Schilling starts to decide he could get used to this bullpen thing, in which case, the Red Sox would only be spending $20 million on a pair of closers.
The 2005 Red Sox are a better team with Manny Ramirez than without him. In 2006, that will not necessarily be the case. Just Manny being Manny, after all.
For someone else.