For seven-plus seasons the Boston Red Sox have been unhappily dating superstar left fielder Manny Ramirez. It’s been a roller coaster-esque relationship highlighted by two world championships, but ultimately the Sox have played the role of the overprotective boyfriend for too long. Since his arrival in Beantown, Manny has been the girlfriend that doesn’t treat you right, but you’re too scared to call it quits, for fear of her being happy with someone else.
Oh, but they’ve tried.
Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein has tried to part ways with his Latino luminary on countless occasions. Seemingly every offseason Manny trade talks simmer on the hot stove and just before every July 31 trade deadline, Manny says he’s unhappy, Epstein toys with shopping him, but he always ends up with BOSTON sprawled across his chest. In October of 2003, Epstein even placed Ramirez on waivers, daring anyone – even the rival Yankees – to claim him. Of course, no one did, and a year later Manny was named World Series MVP after the Red Sox were crowned champions of the baseball universe following a painful 86-year drought.
His mental state is as stable as Ruben Studdard on a tightrope, but there’s no doubting his talent or production. Every season you can count on Manny hitting .300, belting 35 homers, driving in 120 runs, and slugging .550. He’s an underrated outfielder with an above-average arm and a mastery of playing the monster that looms behind him. After his “I’m sick of them; they’re sick of me” comments late last week, it’s clear that Manny is tired of being Manny in Boston. But even when his hose are in a bunch, Manny still produces, as evidenced by his performances over the past two nights (5-10, HR, 5 RBIs).
So what’s the problem? Why has this unhealthy marriage taken a spin for the worst, again?
I can understand the Red Sox’s frustration. Since signing his $160 million contract in 2000, Ramirez has been treated like royalty (or Pedro Martinez, perhaps?) in Boston. He’s faked injuries, dogged it in the outfield, refused to pinch hit on days off, stood in the batter’s box on groundballs, missed a pitch while relieving himself in the Green Monster, jogged-out double play balls, rolled over a stagnant post-fly ball after diving and missing by feet, dove to cut-off a Johnny Damon relay throw from center, badmouthed the organization…
For seven-plus seasons, Red Sox management has turned the other cheek on Ramirez’s infantile behavior simply because of what he can do while standing left of home plate. But that last slip-up mentioned in that laundry list of Manny-isms, was the last straw. The line has finally been crossed. It’s time for Manny to go.
It’s obvious why the Red Sox want to breakup with their superstar slugger: They’ve had enough of his shenanigans. But what I can’t seem to understand is why Manny is so adamant about a uniform change all of a sudden. Like I said, Manny has gotten away with baseball murder since he put a down payment on his Ritz Carlton apartment. We know he hates the Boston media, but why, out of the blue, is Manny, a man so indifferent, so nonchalant about life itself, so angry?
Ramirez is in the eighth year of a ten-year contract with two $20 million, one-year team options in 2009 and 2010. Perhaps it stems from his agent, Scott Boras, baseball’s green-seeking bad guy who still pickpockets grade schoolers in southern California ice cream parlors. Boras was not Manny's agent at the time of the signing and would love to stir up controversy for a subsequent restructured contract with a new ballclub.
Feasible? Yes. But because Manny has been reluctant to be controversial (at least vocally) in eight seasons in Boston, I find it hard to believe that Boras has puppeteered his client into crying like a six-year old in the aisle of Toys R Us.
Then, what is it, you ask? Why doesn’t Manny want to play in front of the Fenway Faithful anymore?
Like Joe Paterno said Thursday: I. Don’t. Know.
What I do know, however is that the Red Sox have some decisions to make. The majority of Red Sox Nation wants their once happy-go-lucky left fielder to stay, as seen by the plethora of “Don’t Trade Manny” posters held up in Fenway last evening. They love the home runs, the entertainment. The organization? They, like me, appreciate the game being played the right way. The way the Los Angeles Angels, not Ramirez, play ball.
Because of his sheer production at the plate, a trade for Ramirez of equal value before Thursday’s trade deadline seems wildly unlikely. If the Rockies could package lefty closer Brian Fuentes and last year’s NL MVP runner-up Matt Holliday in a deal for Manny, I’d do it. If the White Sox sent outfielder Jermaine Dye and shortstop Orlando Cabrera – a vital piece of the 2004 Red Sox championship club – to Boston, I’d do that, too. But both seem incredibly unrealistic at this point.
As for this year, I foresee a change of events on Aug. 3, while I’m sitting in Fenway Park. I foresee a Ramirez walk-off bouncing single up the middle off Oakland closer Houston Street. In a postgame interview, Manny will announce with a smile: “This is where I want to play!” and everyone will cheer as if Ted Williams had risen from the dead.
From my crystal ball? Not exactly. More like déjà vu.
Yeah, we’ve seen that one before.