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I was at Manny Ramirez’s first game at Fenway, when he drilled his first pitch for a home run over the Monster. I was there last year, in Game 2 of the ALDS, when he hit an absolute bomb over the left-field light towers to deliver the electrifying, walk-off win. And I was there for countless at-bats in between, aware that I was witnessing a Future Hall of Famer at work, aware that greatness was possible whenever he stepped up to the plate.

That’s over now. Now, the Red Sox have moved one of the smartest and most dangerous hitters in the game, a hardball god who, no matter what his other faults, always worked his ass off at hitting, for a hitter who, though younger and skilled, is of course a mere mortal.

This is looking more and more like a trade Boston’s front office wanted to make for personal reasons and less and less like a good move for baseball reasons. In addition to Ramirez, they also had to give up two good prospects who, even if they didn’t fit with Boston, could have been used to help get us something we actually needed, such as a quality lefty reliever, a young catcher, or a third base prospect. Instead, they chose to respond to a crisis that they themselves helped manufacture, with a deal that shipped their most productive hitter out of town. It may yet work out—but on balance, it’s not a good way to run a business.

So far I don’t see anyone in Boston interested in hearing the other side of this catfight—namely, Manny’s side. Nope, his complaints are dismissed as half-crazed whining. The airwaves and newspapers are filled with “Manny’s a bum, Manny’s a selfish child, Manny’s had to go.” I’m not saying those things aren’t true—I’m just saying there are two sides to every story. And so far, we’ve really only heard one. After all, unflattering anecdotes about Manny have been leaking out of Yawkey Way offices for a month now at about the rate that oil leaked out of the Exxon Valdez.

Mannylove

The Red Sox seemed oddly interested in escalating the controversy, creating a sense of crisis, and publicly humiliating their player—an attitude that may have decreased his trade value. As someone who lives in this city, I’m getting mighty tired of us/the FO/the media/large swaths of fans having to trash every good player who leaves town. Whatever happened to the bland-but-inoffensive, “The organization’s decided to make a change”? Although Manny, oddly enough, also did plenty to drive his own value down, once it became clear the Red Sox were not interested in giving him the four-year deal he wanted; this may have actually been a strategy to force a trade and wiggle his way out of the two option years on his contract, which had become an albatross. That, of course, brings you to Scott Boras—the man who announced A-Rod’s opt-out during the World Series last year. He’s got to be happy that Manny will be a free agent at the end of this season. After all, a four-year deal will be much more lucrative for Boras than the big fat goose egg he would have gotten had the Sox picked up Manny’s option.

There’s generally a Manny firestorm every year, so at first, I wasn’t particularly interested in this one. However, when it didn’t blow over, the writing on the wall quickly came into focus. Management was not playing the same game this time around—someone on Yawkey way had to call Bob Lobel with that intentional-strikeout story. As Lobel himself said, it’s not like it came to him in a dream.

And frankly, I know Manny makes about eleventy quadrillion dollars more than I do, but if some reporter came along and looked at all my sick days, I have to admit they’d notice that a few came on the Fridays before long weekends, or on 80-degrees-and-sunny June Mondays. So I would feel hypocritical calling out Manny for skipping work over the All-Star break. (Key AL East games? Different story.) As for the idea that he has faked knee injuries, the experience of having a boyfriend who recently underwent what was supposed to be “minor, noninvasive” knee surgery and ended up on crutches for almost two months has made me a little sympathetic to mysterious, lingering knee problems (and it’s worth noting that my honey’s issue never showed up on MRIs, either).

Plus, I’m getting a feeling from what I’ve read today in the Globe and the Herald, and what I’ve heard on WEEI, that there’s a sense among the commentariat that the city of Boston enabled Manny. In fact, certain pundits are practically foaming at the mouth at the opportunity to slam fans for the way we indulged and spoiled the slugger. Excuse me? Was Manny Ramirez not a grown man when he came here? And did he ever show the slightest inclination to let anyone—manager, teammate, fan, Dan Shaughnessy—affect his behavior on or off the field? Then there’s the ever-popular idea that Manny is some sort of idiot savant, a talented athlete who succeeded despite his work ethic, not because of it, and who has been “babied and pampered his whole life,” to quote the WEEI caller I heard this afternoon. I guess that caller also spent high school waking up at 5:30 in the morning to go running in the Bronx, a tire tied to his waist dragging behind him.

But I suppose, when a hitter of Manny’s caliber is forced out of town—forced by the front office, forced by his own disruptive behavior, and encouraged by his agent—we have to find a way to talk ourselves into his replacement. And Jason Bay, helpfully, walked into the Fenway circus and delivered a key diving catch and the go-ahead run in Friday night’s game. (Manny, I know, could never have made that catch, or stretched the extra-inning double into a triple. But the cynic in me says that with Manny in the lineup, the Red Sox wouldn’t have needed extra innings to score their second run.)

So I wish Manny well with his new team. I wish that now, the Red Sox could go back to winning and the city could just sheeeeuuuuuuut up. And I really, really wish I could overhear that first conversation between Manny Ramirez and Jeff Kent.

Let’s go to the links.

Babes Love Baseball had a breakup letter to Manny (written when it appeared he was on his way to the Marlins), which is like the perfect update of my first Metro column. Well done, girls!

Via Extra Bases, which has a transcript of sorts from yesterday morning’s WEEI interview with Curt Schilling, the injured pitcher echoed my own thoughts: “The hard part for me was this derailed into a train wreck so quick, so fast, and so oddly. You had the Buddah Zen Master guy in spring training…maybe there’s some feeling on his part that if he did what he did last winter and he came out and had a monster first couple of months that they’d sit down and say ‘OK we want to keep you here the next four years, let’s get something done,’ and it felt like to me that the second he realized that that was not an option, this just went straight downhill.”

Beyond the Box Score breaks the deal down and hands out prizes: Red Sox and Pirates = winners, Dodgers = losers.

Over the Monster takes a close look and says it’s the best the Sox could’ve hoped for.

Baseball Think Factory has a quick-and-dirty analysis, with ZiPS projections for the players involved. Their Sox Therapy blog also likes the deal.

Charlie Pierce wants to know who’s crazier: Manny, or the Sox fans who hate him, and this paragraph is so good I just have to quote the whole thing:

Is the poisonous presence of Manny Ramirez the reason catcher Jason Varitek is petrifying almost by the hour, or why Josh Beckett hasn’t thrown a changeup in six weeks, or why most of The Kids have been playing like people who got lost on the way to the AAA park? (Jacoby Ellsbury, the speedy young center fielder who was such a sensation in last year’s World Series, is hitting an abysmal .186 since the All-Star break and has stolen one base since June 17.) And has Epstein himself been so distracted by Ramirez’s performance that he’s failed to notice that his middle relief corps is a landfill? As near as anyone can tell, as the Rays and the Yankees both strengthened themselves for the final weeks of the season, the only thing the Red Sox front office worked on in the days prior to the trading deadline was finding a way to ship Manny Ramirez and his 20 home runs out of town.

While Bugs and Cranks asks: who is the bigger jackass? Manny…or Favre? (Can you even imagine this question being asked six months ago?)

And The Big Lead sees an ugly trend in Beantown.

Center Field has sensible words, reminding us that you have to take the good with the bad; it’s all just part of the Manny package.

ShysterBall picked up on an unintentionally hilarious quote from Frank McCourt, calling it “Great Moments in Buck Passing.” I wonder if Joe Torre’s laid-back Cali lifestyle has just come to an abrupt and screeching halt.

Walkoff Walk is sad, while at Me and Pedro, the only thing to do now is drink Presidente. Surviving Grady is also skeptical.

YFSF has a concise and all-too accurate rundown of the next few weeks in Boston Medialand.

Joy of Sox remembers Manny as a teenager.

Soxlosophy finds it hard to be mad at Ramirez, pointing out that Manny won’t be Manny for very much longer.

And Sox & Dawgs has, via Gordon Edes, Manny’s final, and very odd, Manny Moment in a Red Sox uniform.

And finally, my favorite-ever Manny Ramirez story, from a 2007 issue of the New Yorker.

11 Responses to “Manny Roundup: Links and Random Thoughts”

  1. Paul Moro says:

    Lame, Coley. Lame. I mean, proposing to your girlfriend? How cliche is that?

    Congrats, man.

    And to the ladies of Tucson, I’m sorry.

  2. Kirk Miller says:

    I’m on vacation in Canada, so not much time to say much except that my team is finally moving up in the standings, which feels rewarding. Can’t wait for Papi to return for the stretch run.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    I think it means I get to go to both the bachelor AND the bachelorette parties!! Word, indeed.

  4. Sarah,
    What a great overview and analysis of the whole “Manny” situation. I completely agree with your assertions here and also have wondered why teams have to trash a guy when they’ve decided to go a different direction. Schilling’s quote seems to be a pretty accurate assumption of things as well. When all of the Manny trade talk started I did not think Boston would want to lose him from their lineup regardless of how much they considered him to be a pain. There is no doubt the front office had to have been trashing him off the record and I think that says more about them than Manny. I guess they felt they had to sway public opinion against him to get rid of him, I am so tired of that approach by management. If you can’t tell your fans we are doing this because we feel it gives us the best chance of winning a World Series, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it. Considering that they trashed the guy and wanted to dump him I am surprised they were able to get a guy in return that really should fit in nicely and help this team to continue winning.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    Thanks, Melissa. I don’t know why there’s this pattern of trashing guys—it seems as anathema to Theo’s stated business model as a $160 million, 8-year contract. Uff da.

  6. Yes, there are two sides to every fight and I don’t see it all… but frankly over the last couple of years we’ve seen several phantom injuries. Right now, he looks more worried about his next contract than winning the big one.

    As for trashing players who leave… I think that statement is a little overrated. Take Nomar for example. It was very clear he wasn’t part of the 2004 culture and his defense was becoming a liability, add to the fact he started bashing Boston for not giving him a ridiculous contract in line with Jeter and Arod.

    That said, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a vigorous defender of Manny for a while now. But it was starting to get to the point where a divorce was best for both parties.

    On a different note, I think Bay is going to like Fenway, see his triple last night? That was an out at virtually every other stadium.

  7. I think Francona and the other 8 hitters in the lineup, AND Dave Magadan, like that the Manny situation overshadows the more serious problem that is the lack of clutch hitting right now. No one can tell me that Manny was such an evil omnipresence that he was preventing the other 8 from driving in runs. while the Boston fans today are like “yay! Jason Bay! he was a hero last night!” I looked at it as, we needed THE NEW GUY, from a national league team, who just came in off a plane and has never faced AL pitching, to bat in our only TWO runs in a 12-inning game last night? after a plethora of opportunities to drive one in and end that game? oh yeah, it was all Manny’s fault that they all SUCK at the plate right now. Francona and Magadan have no answers for that right now, and I think that is more troubling. I don’t see the offense magically coming alive because the big bad Manny monster is gone. after asking Varitek how much better he feels now that Manny is gone, I’d like to ask him WHY he continues to strike out in 3 pitches!!!

  8. Sarah – you made the point about the knee injury. what you didn’t mention was that when Manny was asked which knee was hurt, HE FORGOT WHAT HE HAD TOLD THEM EARLIER and went with the other knee. that’s why they MRI’d both of them. big red flag? yes, and a jackass move on his part. I would fine him just for being stupid.

    Manny apologists seem to have forgotten that baseball teams are an actual company, with employers, employees, and hierarchy. Theo and company are Manny’s bosses. you don’t trash the boss in public and then expect to be rewarded for it. you also don’t get physical with other employees and expect your ass won’t get canned. I liken the situation to everyone knowing a guy in their company who is a complete asshole but gets away wtih getting hammered at the x-mas party and saying inappropriate things because he brings in so much money. at some point though, it does affect company morale when there are no consequences, and when it’s a ticking timebomb. I also think all this whining about “the sox org is so unfair!” (from NOMAR now, of all people) is stupid. the Sox have made the same moves and the same decisions that all the other MLB teams make. it’s a business – and Manny, a veteran of the MLB business, knows that of all people. he can’t be stupid. nobody spends their entire career with a team anymore. so his criticism (and Nomar’s, and whatever other bitter players are out there) IS completely childish and immature at the very least.

    that being said, I go back to what I said in my previous post – there is some part of that lineup that actually likes this whole distraction, as it makes a good scapegoat for why the team can’t come thru in the clutch. at some point though the rest of the team has to start providing better answers for why they flat-out suck.

  9. Nick Kapur says:

    Good point Lyndsay – this team is sucking right now, other than Jason Bay.

  10. Sarah Green says:

    I don’t want to be a Manny apologist, but I’m tired of reading different versions of the same story every time I open a paper around here. What’s the point of having an array of media outlets if they all parrot the same line? In his article, Charlie Pierce pointed out that under normal circs, we wouldn’t have even heard about the incident with the traveling secretary. I’m sure there’s plenty of dirt around that clubhouse that never gets out, so when it does, I get suspicious. Take Kevin Youkilis. He’s a huge fan favorite—you never read anything bad about him in the papers—and yet I’ve heard from several different sources who’ve met him that he’s a giant douchebag. If the Boston brass were going to get rid of him, I would readily bet that suddenly, we’d start reading Dan Shaughnessy columns about him, that he’d be on the back page of the Herald, and that the guys on WEEI would start fielding calls. And soon, before you know it, we’d have moved from “What, no, not Youk!!” to “Yeah, Youk had to go. What a jerk. He was in decline anyway.” At least until it escalated, Manny didn’t really do anything that different this year from what he’s done before.

    Manny’s not the Manny of 2002 anymore, but he was still the team’s best hitter this season. I think it’s highly debatable whether Bay is actually better—depending on what stats you look at, and depending on whether anyone else currently on the team can bat behind David Ortiz as well as Manny could. Christina K makes some good points, but it reminds me a little bit of a post I read on Sabernomics about the Teixeira trade, where they basically said it was pointless and demonstrated, through fancy stat-work, that he couldn’t contribute that much more than Kotchman at this point in the season anyway. I mean, come ON. That’s an impact trade no matter when you make it. I don’t want to sound like an ornery old man, but sometimes the stat-massaging goes too far for yours truly.

    Anyway, to sum up, since I’ve gotten a little OT here, I would just say that though Manny is far from guiltless in this situation, there’s been a kitchen-sink quality to the drubbing he’s taken in the press the last couple of weeks that I think is hardly fair or balanced. That’s what bothers me.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    Oh, and yeah, the Sox are sucking. I think it’s a combination of things, but to me, the main ones are that Tek is a black hole in the lineup and Ellsbury can’t get on base to save his life. Really, even with Varitek sucking, I think if you had Ellsbury getting on base and wreaking havoc on the basepaths, this club would look very different. They’re just sleepwalking out there! They need their spark plug! SPARK, Ellsbury! SPARK GODDAMMIT!

    Sounds like it’s time for Lowell and Papi to call a big ol’ team meeting. And then maybe Pedroia can give everyone noogies to break the tension.

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