Manny's Return to Boston: Boos Expected, but Not Deserved

Richard WalshContributor IJune 17, 2010

Dodgers @ Red Sox   Friday 7:10 ET

The Celtics and Lakers may be wrapping up, but the drama in the L.A./Boston series will continue through Sunday. Not in basketball but in Manny Ramirez’s first trip back to Fenway since his shameful exit to the Dodgers and “Mannywood” two years ago.

Many New England fans are still sick that their team had to trade one of the best hitter’s in the game in 2008. Ramirez was an arrogant, lazy, egotistical premadonna who cared more about himself than the team and no longer had a place in the Boston clubhouse. While many fans would blame the front office for not being able to control their best player; Boston fans know better and they knew no one was to blame but Manny.

In Manny’s last season in Boston in ‘08, the Red Sox were fed up with Ramirez and could no longer accept “Manny being Manny”. All in a period of two short months, Manny pulled three “stunts” that would seal his fate in Beantown.

After yelling at and pushing down a 64-year-old Red Sox secretary, fighting Kevin Youkilis, and forgetting which knee hurt while faking an injury (against NYY nonetheless), the Red Sox were fed up with the disgruntled Ramirez and sent him out the door to Hollywood.

While many teammates had supported Ramirez throughout his Boston career, it seemed as if the entire locker room believed Manny had to go. Even long-time Manny supporters Mike Lowell and David Ortiz were nowhere to be found when it came to defending Ramirez’s latest actions.

Manny shrugged off the criticism and was able to put all of that behind him after finally getting paid in Los Angeles. Manny may have put it behind him, but Red Sox fans have not.

Why should they?

The simple answer to that question is 1918.

The Red Sox went 86 long, depressing seasons without winning a World Series until they were finally able to pull off the feat against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. Who was the MVP of that first World Series title in 86 years you may ask?

Exactly. The same man who led the entire American League in Home Runs, Slugging %, and OPS that same season. The team’s best player and the main reason for their success.

One would think that in a town like Boston, one World Series title would make a player almost immortal, subject to great praise and never to be scrutinized. Well, winning is addictive and fans have short memories. In this day of free agency and $100 million deals, it is all about “what have you done for me lately?”.

Well, just a year after becoming a folk hero in New England, Manny was on the trading block and New York was the likeliest of destinations. Although it was the Mets, nobody in Boston could have imagined Manny in the Big Apple a year after winning a title in Boston.

The trade rumors were not necessarily rumors as Manny was the one demanding a trade. This was the first incident that made Red Sox fans rethink their position on their star slugger.

While Boston was worried about their $160 million investment and frustrated with Ramirez’s recent demands, winning was still most important.

This proved to be the case in 2007 as Manny was once again beloved by the Boston faithful after helping lead the Sox to another World Series title. During the ‘07 postseason, Ramirez batted .348 with 4 homers and 16 RBI’s as the Sox capped off their title run with another World Series sweep, this time against the Colorado Rockies.

Less than a year later, Manny would be traded to the delight of a high percentage of Red Sox Nation.

Now, for the first time since his bitter departure, Manny returns to Fenway Park and his home for seven and a half seasons. While I hope that he is treated with respect and appreciation for all that he has done for the organization, I fear, and expect, a barrage of boos sent Ramirez’s way.

As I said earlier, we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world. Unfortunately for Manny, the last thing he has done for the Red Sox and their fans is loaf his way into a trade and dismantle a lineup that won two World Series titles.

This is what Red Sox fans will remember. They won’t remember the eight great years that Ramirez gave them and all the good times he brought. They won’t remember his postseason record 23 home runs.They won’t remember his 8 All-Star selections or even his Ruth-like numbers he put up while in Boston (274 HR, 868 RBI, .312 AVG).

Red Sox fans will likely remember only the incidents that brought this great run to an end, and that is a shame.