All is not well in Red Sox Nation. After missing the final game of the team’s series in Seattle with a “sore knee,” Boston’s enigmatic cleanup hitter Manny Ramirez opted to miss Friday night’s pivotal game (is there any other kind?) against the rival Yankees as well, raising questions as to whether Ramirez is actually injured, or looking to stick it to Sox management for the latest feud involving Manny Being Manny.
But is this really Manny Being Manny, or is this something more? While Manny has publicly stated his desire to remain in Boston – for a change – he has also incited a near-brawl in the dugout with teammate Kevin Youkilis, got in a physical altercation with the team’s 60-year-old traveling secretary, been accused of intentionally striking out against the Yanks’ Mariano Rivera in the teams’ last faceoff, and personally offended the team’s ownership with comments at the All-Star game concerning his contractual status. Sounds to me a lot like Manny Being Angry. Manny Being Vindictive. Manny Being Divisive.
The Red Sox seem to agree. One Boston player privately expressed to the Boston Globe that they found Manny’s latest stunt to be a “disgrace” and would not be surprised if the team tried to move Ramirez before next week’s trade deadline. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Boston improbably unloaded a beloved icon in order to stabilize the clubhouse for a postseason run (see: Nomar, 2004).
Unlikely? Sure, but you’re naive if you don’t think the notion is at least being discussed in Beantown. In fact, according to an unsubstantiated report in the Providence Journal News, the Sox are prepared to discipline, and possibly suspend, Manny should he miss another game with his mysterious knee ailment. Surprise, surprise, Manny is in the Sox lineup this afternoon. Crisis averted, for now. However, is it just me, or do the Red Sox not sound like an organization enamored with their star slugger?
If Ramirez were to be moved, a deal would have to come together quickly, which is perhaps the biggest stumbling block in any proposal for Manny. Another hurdle would be Manny’s contract which contains $20 million options for next season and the season after that. It’s a safe bet that Manny would require that both those option years be guaranteed in order to approve a transaction, and it’s possibly that he and agent Scott Boras might even holdout for a more lucrative contract extension. Needless to say, the prospect of locking in Manny Ramirez for anything longer than the next three seasons would likely scuttle any proposed deal.
But if ever there was a star capable of loosening Mets GM Omar Minaya‘s grip on his stud prospect, Fernando Martinez, Manny Ramirez just might be that star. This wouldn’t be the first time that such a proposal has been discussed in the Mets’ front office. If you recall, in July 2005, the Mets, Sox, and Devil Rays reportedly had a three-way deal in place that would have sent Ramirez and reliever to Danys Baez to New York, Aubrey Huff, Mike Cameron, and Lastings Milledge to Boston, and prospects to Tampa. The deal allegedly fell apart due to Boston’s unwillingness to send Hanley Ramirez and Jon Lester to the Rays, or perhaps, more accurately, due to Tampa’s reluctance to deal in the real world.
Times have changed since then. The then-33-year-old outfielder is now thirty-six and talking about playing until he is at least thirty-nine. Still, sporting a .301 average, 19 homers, and 62 RBI, Manny appears to be one of those players incapable of slowing down. Perhaps it’s all those vacation days he takes during the season. Whatever the reason, Manny remains one of the most dangerous run-producers in baseball. He is the sort of bat that would instantly transform the Met lineup into a murderer’s row unparalleled in the National League, if not the entirety of baseball.
Similar to the returns that the Mets have received from Pedro Martinez during his four-year tenure, this is clearly the sort of maneuver that you hope pays huge dividends in the near-term so that lack of production in the long-term becomes easier to stomach. Manny won’t be worth $20 million/year in three years. He may not even be worth that price tag today. But with the Mets finally having turned their season around and playing good baseball, he’s the type of presence that transforms a team into a World Series contender overnight – and please don’t discount the importance of winning now to a Mets ownership group that has drastically raised ticket prices for 2009 in preparation of moving to CitiField.
Is it the smart move? Who knows. Fernando Martinez excites me as much as he scares me. Is he a Manny-in-the-making? If so, such a trade might turn out to be a bigger blunder than losing Scott Kazmir or dumping Tom Seaver. But I’m not gonna lie, Fernando’s injury struggles do scare me. I, likewise, haven’t forgotten the hype that surrounded Lastings Milledge before his arrival in the majors. Needless to say, the reality never quite lived up to the billing.
If I’m Omar, I pull the trigger. The Mets already missed a golden opportunity in 2006 – how many chances does the team expect to get? The NL East is there for the taking, and even the American League field looks weaker than in years past. With the presumed-washed-up Carlos Delgado suddenly resurgent, the time has never been more ripe to make an aggressive run up the standings. Let’s make a deal, Boston. Our lines are open.
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