I’ll be heading out on vacation for a week in mid-July.
I say that not to brag, but to give you some idea as to when Manny Ramirez will request to be traded.
Manny Ramirez (or at least his agent) says he is happy in Boston and wants to finish his career here. He’s taken his condo off the market. He showed up “early” to Fort Myers. He even reportedly apologized to Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino for all the “trouble” he has caused this spring.
And I couldn’t care less. Because it will all be moot in a matter of months.
By now, Year 7 of the eight-year, $160 million deal now seen as a bargain across the baseball financial landscape, we realize that the only other absolute besides Ramirez putting up monstrous numbers year to year is that every time he says he is happy or wants to be traded, it has to be treated like the New England weather. Today he’s happy to be here, tomorrow, he’ll be asking buddy Carlos Baerga if they have any openings at ESPN Deportes.
But rest assured that Ramirez really, really means it this time. Why, I have no idea, but I suppose it sounds good.
When we last left the Manny saga, the superstar slugger was sitting out the final weeks of the 2006 season, with what was said to be patellar tendonitis, but perceived by many as quitting on his teammates. Long-time defenders of Ramirez finally agreed it might be time to ship Manny out of town, a request that Ramirez reportedly made to the Red Sox brass last September.
When asked Monday if Ramirez no longer wanted to be traded, agent Greg Genske said, “He’s just focused on the season right now. He’s reported, he’s here and he’s ready to go.”
Well, that’s convincing. What is perhaps more frightening is that it seems a carbon copy of what Ramirez or his agent has uttered upon arriving every spring the past few seasons. And those were all event-free, right?
Fast forward a few months, and we’re back to where we always are, Ramirez causing an early stir before showing up in camp with a “What Me, Worry?” grin on his face. “What’s the big deal?” his fans ask. “He’s here, he’ll put up numbers. Stupid media.”
Ah, yes. Now we’re at the real crux of all things Manny, aren’t we? The media.
It is, of course, the media’s fault that Ramirez has requested multiple tickets out of town ... that Ramirez was placed on irrevocable waivers back in 2003 ... that classic car shows put the superstar on the bill when he’s due to be with his teammates ... that Manny wouldn’t come off the bench in 2005, prompting, you guessed it, another trade request.
Manny Ramirez has irked Red Sox front office members, his teammates, and you’d better believe manager Terry Francona with his annual antics. Every once in a while, they'll air their frustrations publicly, but more often than not, anonymously. After all, Ramirez might shut things down or the fans might consider you Public Enemy No. 1 for saying something mean about Manny.
Manny's supporters will point the finger any time something occurs straight at the curmudgeonly writer whose mission it must be to run Ramirez out of town. It doesn’t matter how many people on the Red Sox hold Ramirez “accountable” for whatever situation he creates for himself. It’s all an annual media creation, don’t you know? Those holes that Francona and Theo Epstein dug in their bottom lips last week when explaining that Ramirez was being given extra time to arrive? Some vindictive TV guy must have planted them there.
Popular opinion will always back Manny, and this I find incredulous. But I won’t argue, and frankly, as I said, I could care less. I became ambivalent about all things Manny Ramirez on that July 31 trading deadline two seasons ago, when after a week of Ramirez whining and moaning about being dared asked to come off the bench in Tampa, he emerged from the Red Sox dugout to a rousing standing ovation from a crowd that was in the dark as to whether he had been traded.
In a way, this was the official death of the Red Sox fan I used to be well-acquainted with, and the birth of pink-hat dominance.
That’s not to say we don’t live in a sports world that isn’t without forgiveness and absolution, just a question of how popular opinion shifted so quickly in a matter of days. The Boston fan I used to know had a deep-rooted pride - often mistaken for negativity, one that wasn't easily swayed with a Neil Diamond ditty and a happy ending. Earlier in the week, Ramirez had heard some unfamiliar boos directed his way in left field. By Sunday, everything was fine. Manny, you know. Cue Tessie.
When it comes to Ramirez among the Boston fandom, it’s fool me once shame on me, fool me twice ... oh, Manny. He can do no wrong in this city, where wide-eyed fans are willing to settle with soap operas every single season, as long as he hits 40 homers and drives in 120-plus. I shudder to think what our perception might have been had a steroid-induced Barry Bonds broken the home run record in the Back Bay. Now before you react, that’s not a comparison of the two situations ... can’t express that enough in that my Inbox won’t handle the overload. But dare we criticize San Francisco fans for being gaga over Bonds when in Boston, we are on the whole Ramirez apologists?
It’s fun for the fans to support Manny, even when he allegedly quits on them for a month and continually decides again and again that he’d be better off without them. But it’s Manny, .300, 40, 120, which might as well be his new nickname.
And he’s finally happy in Boston. Hallelujah, cries the Boston masses.
On July 16, I’ll be on the beach. And I have no doubt at some point in the ensuing days, somebody will kick off a conversation with, “Hey, did you hear about Manny?”