After last year's World Series win for the Boston Red Sox, the first for the franchise in 86 years, Manny Ramirez was one of many heroes, and the MVP of the Series. And over the last week, as the Sox try to shore up beleaguered pitching and an injured outfield Ramirez has been the center of a maudlin drama worthy of a Soapy.
It all started about 5 or 6 days ago. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated was reporting that Manny was unhappy in Boston, and demanding a trade. Several players denied this, in a Gordon Edes column in the Boston Globe on July 28. Edes pointed out that for Manny a trade request is an annual event. But there were the Sox, talking three-way deal with the Mets and Devil Rays, with Ramirez going to the Mets and the Sox picking up Aubrey Huff and Mike Cameron.
But Manny had sat on Wednesday, taking a scheduled day off, when the team could have used him after an injury to Trot Nixon. Management tepidly backed him. So what was going on with the player with the second largest contract in baseball?
The Inside Track gossip column in the Boston Herald claimed to have an answer as to why. Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa wrote on July 27 that Ramirez was upset about a lack of privacy, and it centered around questions by these two reporters about the possibility of another little Ramirez in the not too distant future.
Was it something we said, Manny?
Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez has again asked to be traded outta Boston. Reportedly because he is unhappy with his lack of privacy off the field.
Now, don't shoot the messengers here, but Manny's latest temper tantrum comes just days after we rang up the Sox to inquire whether Mrs. Manny is preggers. And we know that, historically, Manny's wife's delicate condition is a sore spot with the out-in-left-field left fielder!
The gossip columnists postulated that it was fine to ask since Manny had done a story in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine the previous week, so obviously he had forfeited his right to privacy. Sorry gals, I beg to differ.
Then on Saturday Manny was a late scratch from the lineup, after being booed at Fenway on Friday evening. He sat, the trade talk swirled. New Hall of Famer Peter Gammons could, and probably will, give a lot more inside information and detail than I can provide, but now it was apparent. The Sox were trying to move Manny. Oh, sure, manager Terry Francona denied it, saying it was his decision not to play #24, but we knew better.
Well, a good soap opera has a storybook happy ending. That was today. Manny went to Francona, accompanied by team glue Kevin Millar, and in front of the press insisted he wanted to stay, and to bring another championship to Boston.
Less than an hour after baseball's trading deadline, Manny Ramirez showed why the Boston Red Sox couldn't bear to part with him.
Coming off the bench and out of a two-game exile, the only World Series MVP the franchise has ever known singled in the game-winning run to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-3 on Sunday and thrill the crowd that wondered whether it had seen the last of him.
Forget about the trade. This is the place I want to be," Ramirez said. "They want to win. I want to win, too. I'm back."
Ramirez is a unique player in a lot of ways. There are very few hitters in the majors who can do what he does, and even fewer who do it from the right side of the plate. He's batting about .275 this year, which is down from his careeer average of .313, but he has 28 home runs and has driven in 93, both of which lead the AL. Were he at his career batting average he'd be sixth, and threatening a triple crown. At 33 years of age he has 418 home runs, over 1800 hits and nearly 1400 RBI. He could finish with a .300 career average, over 600 home runs, 3000 hits and 2000 RBI, and only the 3000 hits will be a challenge for him at the rate he's going. Those statistics represent a very exclusive club. Henry Aaron. That's it. Barry Bonds doesn't have 3000 hits yet. Willie Mays didn't drive in 2000.
The same Fenway crowd that booed him Friday night cheered relentlessly just at the thought of Ramirez coming up with a chance to win the game. I listened on the radio, and it was electric. Then he delivered.
Sure, Manny gives you headaches. But where are you ever going to find another player like him?
UPDATE: There's a big roundup of Boston sports commentary with loads of links, many pertaining to this story, over at Boston Sports Media Watch. Check 'em out.