I swear I'm not going to talk about the Red Sox anymore after this. I mean it. If I so much as mention the Red Sox between now and Spring Training, feel free to pelt me with whatever's handy, particularly if it has a Patriots logo on it, since I should be thinking about them more anyway. But I do have to put in my two cents right now about the Manny Ramirez debacle.
They put him on irrevocable waivers yesterday and even the bottomless-pocketed George Steinbrenner wasn't interested in acquiring one of the great hitters in baseball for, essentially, nothing--since he wouldn't have had to trade any players, options or draft picks, and even Manny's sizeable $104 million contract is economical for the likes of Steinbrenner and his cronies. Manny has even said, while wearing a Red Sox uniform, publicly and for the record that he has always wanted to play for the pinstripes. And they still didn't touch him. We can't give him away.
Well, why would we want to? This past season he sported a batting average of .325, an on-base percentage of .427, and a slugging percentage nothing sort of astounding: .587. His overall slugging percentage is .598. Somewhat unsurprisingly, he holds the single-game record for intentional walks. That his last paycheck read "$17,185,177.00" probably shouldn't be surprising either.
But it is--and it's because there's something about Manny Ramirez that's hard to explain and even more difficult to prove, and it's the highly subjective but nonetheless true concept that he is a Class A Asshole.
Just look at his saucy demeanor as he regards the cameras from the dugout. His baggy uniform like he just grabbed whatever size #24 jersey was available and had done with it. When's the last time you saw Manny make a diving catch in the outfield? He might as well have a couch out there. When was the last time you saw Manny hustle for a double instead of settling for a single? He may have a respectable 959 career home runs, but he's amassed just 14 triples and 337 doubles since his rookie debut. Barry Bonds, while older, has 74 triples and 586 doubles in his career.
So Manny shows up at home plate, does his thing and goes home. He may be a great hitter, but he's not a great baseball player. Much worse, he's not a great baseball player not because his abilities outside hitting are so lackluster but because he simply does not care.
It's one thing when David Ortiz ends up needing a pinch runner--the man naturally has the speed of a wounded elephant, and it's nothing against him to acknowledge this fundamental shortcoming and give him a little help rounding the bases. Manny, on the other hand? He'll get to it some other time. Maybe tomorrow. Think about it. Have you ever seen a close throw at a base when Manny is the runner? When's the last time you saw him slide?
This is the first and biggest problem: Manny doesn't give a shit. And with the kind of talent he's been blessed with as well as the ludicrous amount he's being paid, one wonders what further motivation he needs. One also wonders what, given his current performance with his lackadaisical attitude, he'd be capable of if he actually cared.
The second and only slightly smaller problem is that Manny not only doesn't give a shit about his game or his fans, he doesn't give a shit about his team or his teammates. He showed this last season by leaving--more than once--in the middle of a series. By conveniently contracting "pharyngitis" during a late-season series against New York. By telling anyone who'd listen that he'd rather be playing for his team's archrivals. By slumping through games against said archrivals after having been seen carousing around Boston with members of their team late into the night before. Manny clearly has the following priorities: Manny, Manny, Manny, his paycheck, and Manny.
The third problem is that we're paying him $100 million-plus for this headache.
I don't want to see Manny's considerable offensive skills being put to use against the Sox any more than the next person. I especially don't want to see this happen when we're still paying out his contract. I even more especially don't want to see any of that with Manny in a pinstriped uniform.
But apparently neither does George Steinbrenner. And that really says something. Unfortunately, the message may get through to everyone but the man in question, with his considerable attitude.
Buckle up, Boston. If Manny's still here next season, we'll pay dearly--in more ways than one.