Bob Stern: Red Sox stuck with Manny for time being
It’s time for him to go. Unfortunately, it probably won’t happen for the next couple of months.
Manny Ramirez has finally become that strawberry seed in the tooth that has festered itself into a full-fledged sore. Suddenly, the tooth aches, the gum aches and a root canal needs to be performed.
It’s clear he doesn’t want to be in Boston anymore; it’s equally clear the Red Sox don’t want him here. The problem is that they still need him -- at least until they can replace him with someone other than Brandon Moss or Coco Crisp.
What’s intriguing about Le Affair de Manny the past three days is what hasn’t been said. There’s been no circling of wagons. There’s been no rushing to his defense. There have been no “media has blown it out of proportion” quotes.
My goodness, we haven’t even heard it’s “Manny being Manny.”
The closest we got to that was Francona saying Manny wasn’t going to stay in his doghouse. Heck, Manny’s had enough episodes over the year to have a kennel named after him.
Why just this year, he’s taken a swing at teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout, pushed traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground and pulled himself out of two recent games because of (wink, wink) sore knees.
Truth be told, no one believes him. An MRI on both knees came back clean and the team threatened to discipline him if he asked out of a third game. Funny, Manny played on Saturday afternoon.
And as for the sore knees, did you notice he ran through third-base coach DeMarlo Hale’s stop sign and scored on Mike Lowell’s single on Sunday? You and I should have knees that sore.
Manny has become the petulant infant who has grown into the spoiled child. Instead of being disciplined when discipline would work, the Red Sox have instead catered to his whims, made excuses for him and ignored his insubordinations.
All the managers have done it. Jimy Williams, Joe Kerrigan, Grady Little and Terry Francona -- they’re no different. Faced with the fear of Manny going into a funk or having his bat in the lineup, they’ve always chosen the bat. It’s their job to win games, they reasoned, not to prove a point.
Now, it’s come back to bite them on the butt. Manny wants his $20 million option for next year to be picked up, and the Sox have hesitated. This hasn’t sat well with him. One thing that’s been obvious over the last eight years is that Manny likes money almost as much as he likes hitting.
So given no guarantee for next year, he sulks, he broods, he sits. In Manny’s world of baseball, it’s all about him, not about the Red Sox.
This is to be expected. This is to be accepted.
“Whatever,” said third baseman Mike Lowell of Manny saying he’ll accept a trade from the Red Sox. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Manny says a lot of things. Some of them are entertaining, some of them make you roll your eyes and spin your head. It’s seems like every time he says something, he goes 3-for-4, so maybe we should encourage him to say something like that.”
But let’s get serious. Manny probably isn’t going anywhere with a pennant race still to be run. He’s still a feared hitter, possibly the best right-handed bat in baseball, and the lineup would be weakened without him.
That’s a given; don’t argue it.
Furthermore, in order to move Manny, the Sox probably will have to take 60 or 70 cents on the dollar. The other 29 general managers in the league aren’t in the business of making Theo Epstein’s life easier, and taking the moody slugger off Epstein’s hands isn’t their No. 1 priority. Improving their ballclubs is.
Furthermore, any team that trades for Manny probably will have to pick up the option for next year, and possibly the year after. Manny is a 10-5 player, which means he has the right to refuse any trade. Don’t think his agent, Scott Boras, would move him without a guarantee.
With the trading deadline two days away, Epstein, no doubt, is working the phones. But he’s done that in past years without success, and frankly there’s little reason to think he’ll be more successful now. He’s never been able to get what he considered fair value for Manny; those offers won’t get any better now.
So they’re stuck with him, at least for the next two months. Francona will write Manny’s name in the lineup card, hope he doesn’t lapse into a funk, and pray he won’t have to put out fires the rest of the way.
If that happens, the Sox could win a third ring in the last five years. If that doesn’t happen, they might not even make the playoffs.
But one thing is clear, the Sox are fed up. There’s little chance they’ll pick up Manny’s option for next year and they’ll move on without him.
The Manny era is clearly over. The club just has to wait another two months to make it official.
Bob Stern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.