I am getting quite the chuckle out of this season’s annual L’affaire du Manuel.
Let’s be clear, I could care less whether Manny Ramirez decides to blow off the All-Star Game in lieu of a three-day vacation. I do think he owes it to the three million fans who wanted him to be there, but I’m through fighting that battle with those who argue the point that I have no right to think that.
Besides, should we be shocked, anyway? We knew for weeks Manny wasn’t going to Pittsburgh, the seeds planted a month ago when Terry Francona lauded his often controversial superstar’s actions this season, climaxing in the (seriously) breaking news that he in fact does NOT want to be traded. Within a fortnight, we learned that (lo and behold) Manny’s knee was hurting, and Francona would really like him not to go to the All-Star Game, falling on the inevitable sword of criticism that was sure to follow.
As Dana Carvey’s church-loving matron might ask, “Isn’t that conveeeenient?”
Call it a public relations campaign backfired if you will, but when you’re the leading vote-getter (a distinction they actually give an award for, mind you), it’s a little more difficult to slink into obscurity.
But that’s just ... well, you know.
The end result, of course, is an overreaction from everyone involved, from the fans, to the evil journalists, to the angry message board participants who want nothing less than certain columnist heads on roasting sticks if they dare to chide perhaps the greatest righthanded hitter in Boston baseball history.
In between the “Manny good” and “Manny bad” brigades is everybody else shrugging their shoulders, wondering why in God’s name the extremes are acting as if this is all something new.
But, and this is where it gets hysterical in my book, it is, of course, the media’s fault.
Check out some of the Red Sox-related gathering ground on the Internet today. It’s a relative mud-slinging, hate-fest toward Boston’s fourth estate, everybody laying out the multiple reasons why they don’t read the Globe or the Herald or listen to WEEI, and then just as vehemently describing what they read that made them so angry in the Globe or Herald or heard on WEEI. Anybody who tries to walk that ever-teetering line between controversy and the truth is in for trouble. And if it’s the latter that’s uncovered, but nobody wants to hear it, then it’ll simply be labeled as stirring up the former.
One website, well-known for directing venom at the local media, detailed how Boston media members have tried to skew the public’s image of Ramirez, whom they claim they don’t like because he doesn’t talk to them. It also portrays a rush to the free buffet line, something I’ve never witnessed in my time in the press box most likely because the butter-laden cafeteria style food is eaten in the 10 minutes most writers can squeeze in before game time, and actually costs anywhere from $8-$10.
The fact that Ramirez doesn’t talk to the press is, for whatever reason, Ramirez’s business. Nobody dislikes Ramirez for it, but when push comes to shove, it’d be nice to have his view on certain things, in particular this whole issue here that has overblown to the point of hysteria. It just would make things easier for the press, the Red Sox, and certainly Manny himself.
Manny Ramirez has not had an MRI, according to the Red Sox, yet Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus is reporting that Ramirez has an injury that can most likely only be determined with an MRI. The Red Sox say it’s bogus and should have Ramirez playing the field tonight against the Oakland A’s, something they didn’t want him to do in Pittsburgh.
If you’ve never called in sick on a powder day, then cast the first stone. Maybe Ramirez has an obligation to his legion of adoring fans, but that doesn’t mean it has to be through the press. Fine.
But let’s not make this into a Manny Ramirez and the fans vs. the evil Boston media. Because that simply is not true.
Ramirez was booed by the fans in Pittsburgh, was he not? Unless the Boston media sold out the place and laid them upon him. Indeed, I’m sure the Boston media must have somehow infiltrated the following articles to get their agenda across.
Red Sox fans seem to want to try and paint this as merely the “tough” Boston media against a superstar who simply won’t bow to their ways. If anything, the Boston media of the past few years has been a pussycat version of its former self. If the fans took off their rose-colored specs for a few moments, they might realize that this isn’t a media vs. Manny issue. All of baseball rolls its eyes when Ramirez pulls a stunt like this. Fans in other markets have to wonder how Red Sox fans don’t feel disrespected. Well ... it’s because he hits, and they’re far too deep in their See No Evil aura of a renewed and rich Fenway to realize any differently. Example No. 1: Ramirez demanded a trade last summer, only to be wildly cheered by the fans when he emerged from the dugout on deadline day after a week of jerking them around.
Many considered that the high point of the 2005 season. For me, it was most certainly the low point.
That was the very moment I realized Manny Ramirez could stomp on his fans as long as he wanted and get away with it as long as he stayed productive on the field. Because, even as we question Bay Area fans’ unconditional support for Barry Bonds, that is apparently all that matters.