There will be joy in Mudville when mighty Manny advances to the bat. It’s sunny, the band is playing, hearts are light, men are laughing, and children are shouting, “Manny is here.”
Yes, Manny-mania has returned to Chavez Ravine.
After an often tense, four-month negotiation process that occasionally included sarcastic and hostile exchanges between the sides, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Ramirez have agreed to a two-year $45 million contract—making Ramirez baseball's second-highest-paid player behind Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.
Ramirez, who turns 37 in May, will make $10 million this year with another $15 million set aside in deferred payments. If he exercises his own player option for 2010, he will get another $10 million that year and then three deferred payment installments of $8.3 million from 2011-13.
Ramirez originally took Dodgertown by storm on July 31, 2008 through a three-team trade involving the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates and served as the spark for the Dodgers' run to the National League Western division title, hitting a combined 37 home runs and driving in 121 runs.
With a frenzy not seen since Fernando-mania in 1981 or Nomo-Mania in 1995, have Dodgers fans been so fervent about a single player, going as far as renaming the left field pavilion, formerly known as East LA, to Mannyville.
Dodgers’ tickets sales are on the rise, Ramirez memorabilia are the hottest items at the park and those funky black wigs that are supposed to resemble Ramirez's dreadlocks are selling wildly.
Not to mention the new Manny Ramirez biography, “Becoming Manny," co-authored by clinical psychologist, Jean Rhodes. This is why the Dodgers need Ramirez. He can put more fans in seats and stir up a fever that hasn't been in Los Angles for over 27-years.
But what happens when the crush wears off? Dodgers’ fans will likely get to see Manny's nauseating egotistical dark side. You know the one that includes not running out ground balls and letting fly balls drop.
Put aside for the moment the issue of how he dogged it in Boston and then turned it on only when it was apparent he would force his way out. The kind term that was used was, it’s just "Manny being Manny", but pure laziness and lack of commitment are more accurate.
Can he sustain his ridiculous .396/.489/.743 line? Probably not. But he'll be his usual mashing self and will make everyone in the lineup around him better. Since there's no other true home-run threat on the Dodgers, he could rake in some serious RBI.
Beware Angelinos, as there is always the threat of the imminent Manny Meltdown which will happen, have no doubt. It's just a question of when and how. But until then enjoy. Not since Kurt Gibson’s limp off home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series has it been such a magical time to be a Dodger fan.