If you're a Dodger fan, which of the following are you thinking when you wake up these sunny Los Angeles' mornings? After you've had your coffee and read the latest Manny Ramirez updates?
1. Oh [expletive], Manny's hurt.
2. Oh [expletive], Manny's already faking an injury to dog it.
3. Oh [expletive], Manny's got an option after 2009 so we have to do this all over.
4. Even if Manny only plays 100 games hard, we're still the favorites to win the National League West (as long as they're the right 100 games).
Admittedly, the fourth option is as legitimate as the others and the one I'd be thinking.
That still doesn't change the fact that 75 percent of the above options are bad. And that's what Manny Ramirez is a guy who gives a you one positive for every two or three negatives.
It's also why he plays for the Bums.
Not that he reflects the organization's general approach to baseball. If that were the case, I'd have no reason to despise the boys in blue. Because they'd be awful. And the Dodgers are many nasty things, but they are pretty good and could be really good if a couple pieces click.
Los Angeles is the only big market team that could afford to give Manny the kind of dollars he wanted (and will want/require), while absorbing the risk it entailed and still hope to emerge with a division flag.
Can you imagine any other team staying in the race while devoting over $20 million per year to a guy who's a good bet to mail in 20 to 30 games? In a good year? I'm not sure there are any.
The Boston Red Sox clearly felt they couldn't do it last year, and 2009 should be a race like none we've ever seen, so it's probably even truer today.
I'd venture to say that means the New York Yankees can't either; whether the Bombers realize it or not will be revealed this winter.
The Tampa Bay Rays definitely can't; they'd have to give Manny part of the stadium gate just to pay his salary while surrounding him by minor leaguers and scabs.
Neither the Philadelphia Phillies nor the New York Mets can either, not with both so closely matched and needing each key piece pulling at the rope with 100 percent. And not with the potential that's loaded up in Atlanta and Florida.
Maybe the Chicago Cubs and possibly the Los Angeles Angels. On the surface, both clubs fit the profile—history of spending premium dollars and weaker divisions.
Upon closer inspection, though, maybe not.
Both the Cubbies and Halos already have pricey and/or rickety pieces—Chicago's nucleus includes guys like Rich Harden, Alfonso Soriano, and Milton Bradley, while the Junior Circuit's LA rep has guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Howie Kendrick, Juan Rivera, Ervin Santana, and Brian Fuentes.
Furthermore, both clubs may face stiffer-than-expected competition from the likes of Cincinnati, St. Louis (although I don't agree with that one), Texas, Oakland, and possibly Seattle.
When you toss in Ramirez' climate preferences, the list dwindles even further.
The clincher is the coach.
Joe Torre is probably the only manager in Major League Baseball with the clubhouse acumen and temperament to handle a live grenade with dreadlocks. He proved it by diving on the sword as quickly and as smoothly as he did.
By taking the blame for Manny's injury, he basically dispels any notion that it's fake and protects the fragile balance from those waves.
I can still include No. 2 on the list because I'm a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, so I can call shenanigans on anything the Dodgers do with impunity. I'm supposed to be blinded by my hatred for all things in Chavez Ravine so it doesn't hurt my credibility.
Do you hear me? It does NOT hurt my credibility.
But no respected member of the media can do so because they're no longer calling shenanigans on just Man-Ram. Now, they're saying Torre's joined in the ruse...or been suckered by it. Frankly, even I'm inclined to believe it's a sincere ding if Torre's stamping his name on it—sleazy book notwithstanding.
Nonetheless, If I were a Dodger fan—thankfully I'm not—I'd be at least a bit concerned by this picture. It doesn't mix well with a cratering economy and that option looming after 2009.
We all expect Manny to tear it up on his way to bigger dollars in 2009 free agency. But what if, along the way, he realizes that only the Dodgers are genuine suitors? What if he realizes that a global financial crisis means that $25 million (or whatever it is/works out to in deferred money) is miles beyond anything even an amoral ass-clown like Scott Boras can squeeze from the market?
What if he realizes this in June?
Even his supporters admit the guy gets his jollies with the green rather than the glory. So what happens when Manny realizes he doesn't need the glory because he's already gotten as much green as he's gonna get?
I say the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans better hope they only need the good Manny Ramirez for 100 games to take the National League West.
There's a pretty good chance that's about all they're gonna get.