Joann Fitzpatrick: Divorce, Manny-style
Man-child? Moron? Maniac? Master manipulator? Ah, Manny Ramirez, how many personas are there? Is he a Dominican Sybil? If there aren’t multiple Mannys hiding under the signature dreadlocks, we must credit him with the gift of originality. Every year brings another Manny episode, especially when the mid-summer trade deadline approaches. But the details change, the better to keep the crowd interested.
Who knows what set off Manny this year? Perhaps things were going too smoothly, too quietly. In the final year of an eight-year contract that paid him an average of $20 million per season, Manny came to spring training smiling, happy and more fit than ever and started the season on a tear. He had 10 homers in the first two months and became a member of the 500 club. He’s No. 23 on the all-time home run list as of this week.
All was right in Manny World. How boring.
Then Manny started muttering about the Red Sox not moving to pick up his option for next year, though it is well-known that the Sox rarely talk contract terms during the season.
That was last week, as David Ortiz was pounding the ball in Pawtucket and set for a triumphant return to Fenway after two months on the disabled list.
It was supposed to be a happy week, at a point when Ortiz’s bat was badly needed to stop the surging Yankees and dethrone the first-place Rays. Then Manny became the skunk at the park.
He baited the Red Sox into trading him over the next eight days and then underlined his pique by taking himself out of last Friday night’s series opener with New York.
This Manny moment was different, I agree. I count myself one of his biggest fans – “apologists,” they call us. I’ve always been able to forgive Manny’s nuttiness, had an explanation for all of it. The bottom line: “We pay him to hit the ball and he hits the ball.”
Let’s not forget the 86-year drought. The sports radio yahoos can bash Manny all day long but Sox fans would not be savoring two World Series wins today if Manny had not been in the lineup. So what if Manny complained he didn’t get any privacy. Here’s a tip he could have used: You should have cut the dreads and moved to Braintree or Medfield and your family would have had more privacy, Manny.
The oversized ego? He’s a ballplayer.
Eight years is a long time when a relationship is stormy. At first it was pure romance; He was a lot younger then and, like any smitten woman, we fell hard. It was easy to ignore the early outbursts; the hits made them bearable. After a while, in true enabling form, we decided it was “Manny Being Manny,” a unique syndrome. It meant anything could be forgiven.
But this time was different; it was not funny anymore. In the past, when critics blamed Manny for letting down the team, players were willing to accept it because Manny’s contributions over the course of a season helped the team tremendously.
However, by taking himself out of the lineup against the charging Yankees, without having the courtesy to go to the manager, Ramirez not only slammed Terry Francona, he stomped on his good pal Ortiz.
It was to be Papi’s big night but the Manny controversy stole the spotlight and denied the Sox the 1-2 punch that had been the game’s best power pair. As it turned out, Manny wasn’t available to pinch hit in a one-run game the Yankees won.
No smile, no glib afterthoughts, are charming enough to make up for such disrespect. And this tantrum was preceded by his shoving the team’s 62-year-old road manager. Why? Because he wouldn’t reserve enough tickets at a sold-out road game for the superstar’s friends.
He was tired of us and we were tired of him, Manny says. I can live with that.
Divorce is painful, even in baseball. He gets the rings but we keep the championship flags. Not a bad deal.
JoAnn Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.