Much has been made of Manny Ramirez' location during the National League Championship Series Game Four rally that essentially killed the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2009 season. The Bums' year didn't officially end until Brad Lidge pulled the curtain on Game Five, but—if any baseball game were ever a formality—the clincher qualified in the wake of the devastation wrought on Monday night.
Given all that rode on Jonathan Broxton preserving the win that evaporated with Jimmy Rollins' scalding line drive, one would think Man-Ram could've troubled himself to stick around in the dugout.
Instead, the enigmatic slugger was lathering up in the shower.
I'd love to blow this out of proportion—make a mountain from a molehill, tempest in a teacup, all that good stuff. In truth, however, the episode doesn't really announce any new, profound insight into Ramirez.
After the performance during his last days with the Boston Red Sox, it's tough to argue against the notion that the future Hall-of-Famer takes the diamond with an abnormally selfish focus. Toss in his general indifference to the finer points of fielding as well as base-running (invaluable contributions to overall team success), and the impression of a egotistic prima donna solidifies.
Not even volunteering the information of his bathing habits reveals anything we didn't already know about Manny Ramirez—he's not particularly troubled by his team's eventual fate once his participation has ended.
Nor does the Dreaded One appear worried about his reputation in that regard. I say again, this wasn't a story that had to be sussed out—Manny offered it up of his own accord.
There's honest and there's plain dumb. Pulling this verbal Plaxico Burress lands far closer to the latter's end of the spectrum.
That's about it, though—the shower doesn't mean Ramirez quit on his team.
He'd already been removed so it's difficult for a player to quit when he's already unavailable for duty. Additionally, plenty of players return to the clubhouse rather than stick around to watch the final innings in front of the cameras.
I'm not sure how many do so in the playoffs, but I'm sure some do. The Dodger left fielder can't be the ONLY guy.
Like it or not, the modern professional baseball player seems inured to the idea of the biggest stars operating the biggest egos. Baseball has always been a team game composed of individual performances and Major League Baseball seems to have taken this idea to an extreme. So, if it doesn't bother the players, how big of a deal can the premature attention to hygiene really be?
Nevertheless, if I suffered the indignity of being a Dodger fan, I would have one worrisome little question floating around: does Manny Ramirez even like baseball anymore?
When you do most anything for too long, it becomes mundane and unappealing. I'd like to think there's a category of exceptions that includes "getting paid millions of dollars to play baseball," but perhaps not.
Now reconsider the shower.
The dude had one of the best seats in the house for a decisive postseason game. The Championship Series draw even casual fans of the beautiful game to their television sets. Only the World Series draws a more expansive crowd of newbies.
Furthermore, this specific NLCS rematch had a ton of juice to it and Game Four was the pivotal game. The Bums absolutely NEEDED to win and had bounced back from an immediate deficit only to see a two-run lead start to wobble.
There was a bull in a baseball uniform—6'5" and intimately familiar with 300 pounds—snorting 100-MPH smoke at one of the best lineups in the Show for all the marbles. With the slimmest of margins for error.
What fan of the game would turn down a chance to watch their team from the visitor's dugout? What fan of the game would vacate that seat and ignore the game altogether?
Maybe a really, really nervous or superstitious one—who buys that Manny couldn't withstand the tension or was taking a lucky soap? Not me.
In light of the new contract Ramirez signed this winter/spring, ambivalence in Mannywood could end the increasingly sour honeymoon and turn everything all shades of ugly. The deal included a lucrative option under Manny's control.
Scott Boras clients' are notorious for always triggering options and Man-Ram's never boasted embarrassing reserves of common sense so nothing is set in stone. Yet you have to figure these two can see the bold writing in large relief on the wall.
The economy is starting to scrape itself together, but there's been no miracle rebound. Even worse for the duo's negotiating strength, Manny faceplanted into the steroid muck, limped to the finish line after returning from suspension, and didn't do enough in the postseason to create a resuscitating buzz.
Then there's the shower—one final reminder of Manny Ramirez' indifference before the offseason officially started.
That's gotta mean Manny Ramirez will be a Los Angeles Dodger in 2010, whether or not either side wants to see it.
And those situations rarely end well...