Well, yippee. Manny Ramirez ended up with the Los Angeles Dodgers after all. Almost four months of posturing for nothing. Amazing that Manny's stalling didn't give the Dodgers enough time to realize the gravity of their mistake.
No matter what Ramirez did in the season's final two months – and, mercy, was it ever brilliant: a .396 batting average and .743 slugging percentage over 187 at-bats with an even more transcendent postseason – nothing diminishes his fundamental truth. Ramirez could care less about the team for which he plays so long as it dumps the most money into his bank account.
To so blithely reward a mercenary is irresponsible of the Dodgers and sends the wrong message. Namely, success has a two-pronged price: the $45 million the Dodgers agreed Wednesday to pay Ramirez over two years and the knowledge that they ultimately will kowtow if prodded the right way.
Give Ramirez credit. He looked at the Dodgers' first two offers, spat at them in spite of a market for his services bereft like the Dow Jones and still ended up getting a deal that didn't humiliate him, even if it's not to his liking.
Neither the Dodgers nor the Giants proffered anything close to the four-year, $100 million contract Ramirez sought, and so the question becomes whether Ramirez will quit on the Dodgers the same way he did Boston last season. And before Ramirez loyalists quibble over the word "quit" by pointing to his numbers, may we remember: Ramirez could hit .300 blindfolded and slug home runs with a 2x4. The surer sign of Ramirez's effort came when he started mimicking a tortoise on his way to first base, or swinging through three Mariano Rivera pitches like he was late for a dinner date, or claiming his knee was injured, then forgetting at the medical examination which one, exactly, hurt.
Yes, that is the man on whom the Dodgers are staking their season.
The trust Ramirez built up in Los Angeles last season didn't evaporate as winter stretched toward spring training and the Dodgers' left-field slot remained unfilled. Everyone wanted him back not only because he played good citizen, but because he paid his penance by working hard and creating a cottage industry in L.A. of all things Manny.
Looming free agency motivated Ramirez last season, and his new contract does allow him to opt out after the season. Perhaps it's enough to keep him in line again. Perhaps. Ramirez is never beyond shenanigans to get what he wants, and those whims twist and turn with all the predictability of a rattlesnake.
Fact is, Manny looked and looked and looked for love this offseason, and he was unluckier than Flavor Flav. He had organized his whole Operation Shutdown with the Red Sox last season explicitly to escape the two $20 million options they owned on his contract. Once freed from the shackles of $40 million guaranteed – oh, the pity – he would experience the riches commensurate with the kind of player he is.
And what was the price tag on all this, the permanent sullying of a reputation in the city that for so long stood up for Ramirez: $5 million – minus 5 percent to Scott Boras, the agent who figured a huge payday for Ramirez forgone.
Instead, Ramirez enters into a marriage of convenience. The Dodgers overplayed their hand when Bobby Abreu signed with the Los Angeles Angels and Adam Dunn with Washington. Gone were the two other difference-making corner outfielders, and the Dodgers still needed one. So they went to Ramirez, who deluded himself into thinking four years, $100 million was reasonable before realizing that even if these weren't lean economic times, no 36-year-old gets that kind of contract anymore, not even the best right-handed hitter of his generation.
Both sides will be all smiles. Ramirez can say he's glad to be back and never wanted to go anywhere and the Dodgers were in his heart. And the Dodgers can say they needed Manny in the cleanup spot to make the postseason and couldn't manage without him and want him to end his career there. It will all be a bunch of Hollywood-stewed malarkey, Grade A Prime.
In the end, both sides are nothing more than users. The Dodgers want Manny's bat. Manny wants the Dodgers' money. There is nothing more to it, the cosmic connection between the two parties consisting of commerce.
At least we know what Manny being Manny really means.
- the Dodgers