Someone suggested to me the other day that the Red Sox exaggerated the problems with Manny Ramirez this past season in order to get rid of him. I've finally stopped laughing and am able to jot down the reasons why that is silly—and why one of the greatest hitters in baseball history is still waiting on a contract.
First of all, when you are a Major League Baseball franchise, especially one with lots of dough, you don't have to perform any mental gymnastics to figure out a way to get rid of a player. In the specific case of Ramirez, the Red Sox could simply have not picked up the club option for 2009—strangely enough, this is exactly what Ramirez's goal was.
Boston had been on the verge of trading Manny on several occasions over the years, so I think that was always a viable option, regardless of the atmosphere.
Regardless of the options for getting rid of Ramirez, the truth of the matter is that the Red Sox wanted nothing more than for Manny to stop goofing around and play. David Ortiz was in the midst of a lackluster season. Mike Lowell was gimpy. Josh Beckett was not up to snuff, and Jason Varitek was having his worst offensive season of his life.
So the answer is simply, "no." The Red Sox, if anything, were trying to deal with Manny's behavior because he was needed. At least the true version of Manny Ramirez was needed.
In the end, what necessitated his departure was the effect he had on his teammates. It was the team (or some of them) who had finally had enough of Ramirez sitting on the bench for less than real reasons and his lousy attitude with staff, the press, and yes, even his teammates themselves. They were ones who ultimately made the call, and that speaks volumes.
With the atmosphere in professional sports these days, there is a natural division between the players and the management. If you are enough of an idiot that it prompts your fellow workers to go to the bosses to say, "He's gotta go," you have really accomplished something.
The two largest wallets, Boston and New York, are not interested in Ramirez. Boston for obvious reasons, the Yankees because they don't seem to feel the need for Ramirez after the recent huge signings they put together.
The Angels, another big-market team, were the first to say they were not interested in Ramirez, and they said it right after dropping out of the Teixeira race. At that point, picking up Manny for about half of what Tex went for would have been seen as a salve for the team and their fans after not getting Tex. To immediately say that Ramirez was not even a consideration speaks volumes.
As for the rest of the teams, there seems to be a leeriness to throw a deal at Ramirez, especially one of the caliber that he feels he requires. A four-plus-year commitment in the range of $20 million a year is a tall order for most franchises, especially when you may have a player who stops performing, assaults other staff, and sells you out to the press at some point before the contract is over.
And let's not forget who'll be brokering that deal. The fact that Ramirez has Scott Boras as his agent is a factor in the search for a big deal.
Boras' history gives no one the warm fuzzies, especially his recent history. There were the Teixeira dealings that left bad tastes in the mouths of at least Baltimore and Washington. He was fired by arguably the biggest blip on the radar screen, Alex Rodriguez, after the debacle that ensued when he was renegotiating with the Yankees.
While the idea of signing Manny to a big deal gives most teams a nervous feeling, the idea of dealing with Boras to do it is equal to a round of Ipecac shooters.
So congratulations Manny on whatever your deal ends up being, because there will be one. But those of us on the outside looking in, you know us—the fans you claim to love—well, we're grinning just a bit, because it seems like we're not the only ones who think that you're worth a bit less than you think.