And we'll ask again. Whom would you rather have on your team, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez?
Is neither an option?
Turns out it just might be. Less than three years after the pair of future Hall of Famers were at the epicenter of one of the most surreal attempted trades in baseball history, there remains the very real and increasing possibility that both could be playing for teams other than the Yankees and Red Sox next season.
In Boston, the Ramirez trade watch is an annual offseason tradition. With his Angels struggling and the offense sagging down the stretch, owner Arthur Moreno has made it known he'll be willing to sink more money into the club for 2007. Whether that means he'll give up the pitching (Ervin Santana, to start) to make a deal possible with Boston, however, remains to be seen.
The Angels have scored just 705 runs this season, better than only Tampa and Seattle in the American League. Meanwhile, the Halos have the third-best team ERA (4.09), aided in part by the explosion of phenom Jered Weaver. Boston's 4.81 is better than only Tampa, Baltimore, and Kansas City.
"There are some things that are going to have to be fixed from outside the organization," Moreno told the Press Enterprise. "We are committed to accomplish what we want to accomplish either through free agency or through the trade market."
Of course, in trading Ramirez, the Red Sox would be hurting David Ortiz at the plate, leaving him without an All-Star hitting behind him. But there is a dearth of free agent pitching on the market, and Boston is in dire need of quality arms with the impending departure of Curt Schilling after next season and the unknown return date for Jon Lester. While he might not be their prototype on-base machine for a leadoff hitter, Alfonso Soriano's talent is undeniable, and could be a force at the top of the lineup. That could open up room to try and make a deal with the Braves for Andruw Jones (Coco Crisp and Josh Beckett?) to plug in behind Ortiz. And can we please stop with the ridiculous obsession with Juilo Lugo, please?
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, Yankee fans are wringing their hands over their playoff chances, thanks to the presence of Rodriguez, who is in major need of an October Heimlich. They know it, and his teammates know it.
Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci interviewed Rodriguez more than a half-dozen times in four cities for this week's phenomenal piece on the Yankees third baseman, chronicling his New York struggles, and how his teammates have exasperatedly tried to snap him out of it.
"We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent," [Jason] Giambi recalls telling Rodriguez, "but you've got to get the big hit."
"What do you mean?" was Rodriguez's response, according to Giambi. "I've had five hits in Boston."
"You f------ call those hits?" Giambi said. "You had two f------ dinkers to right field and a ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you missed!
Of the previous submission, Rodriguez pulled a Billy Bulger and told Verducci he couldn't recall the conversation.
One day last month, wading into that current, I asked Rodriguez whom he has relied on most during his difficult summer. He first mentioned Cynthia.
But to whom has he turned on this Yankees team?
He looked down and thought in silence. Ten seconds passed.
Finally he said, "Rob Thomson." Thomson is the team's special-assignment coach who throws batting practice.
"And Mo. Mariano is the best. Those three."
And that was it.
And that's it. He appears to be a man without a place to turn within his own clubhouse, a situation that borders on sad. But Rodriguez continually makes his contract the excuse for the reason that people see him differently. The Verducci piece makes it even more clear that, as a player, he's more obsessed with the personal numbers than his team's ultimate goal.
"Mussina doesn't get hammered at all," he said. "He's making a boatload of money. Giambi's making [$20.4 million], which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team...."
Yeah…that'll go over well.
It may have gotten to the point in the Bronx -- where Rodriguez is hooted on a nightly basis by Yankee fans -- that Brian Cashman sniffs around for a deal this offseason. Some wild rumors at the trading deadline suggested he might be dealt to the Phillies, but of course, nothing materialized.
It could be that what we saw three years ago was nothing compared to what we might see this winter. Two of the game's most prodigious hitters could be on the market again, with at least one common team (the Angels) sneaking a peek at both.
Oh, right. The other guy involved in all that trade talk a few years ago, Nomar Garciaparra, is doing his best Kirk Gibson impression for the Dodgers, hitting game-winning homers and limping around the bases. And Magglio Ordonez is headed to the postseason with the resurgent Tigers.
Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez might be out for the season and Alex Rodriguez is fighting back the possibility that he will once again be his team's playoff goat.
And in a few months, both could be gone elsewhere.