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PHILADELPHIA – The showers at Citizens Bank Park must be nice and hot. You know, the kind with the rotating head that goes from pulse to stream to rainfall. Relaxing and soothing enough to explain how Manny Ramirez(notes) possibly thought it would be OK to spend the ninth inning of the most important game of the Los Angeles Dodgers' season covered by suds.
Ah, to live in Manny's world, where accountability and solidarity take back seats to … personal hygiene? As Jimmy Rollins(notes) turned on a Jonathan Broxton(notes) fastball with two outs in the ninth inning Monday night and drove in two runs for a 5-4 Philadelphia victory, Manny was blissfully unaware that his season was one game from being over. He'd been removed for defensive purposes before the inning began.
Manny Ramirez made a good defensive play in left before heading to the showers later.
(Julie Jacobson/Associated Press)
“When I came out," he told reporters, "they were turning the TVs off and everybody was coming in.”
Instead of being on the bench to celebrate the presumed victory – and, eventually, lament the crushing loss – he was rinsing off and getting ready to towel himself dry. Just another sign that the Manny-as-a-role-model-for-younger-players rubbish the Dodgers tried to sell when they gave him $45 million earlier this year was just another myth, an excuse from an organization that continues to enable his selfish behavior.
The Dodgers are a proud team. They are run by Ned Colletti, a savvy general manager whom they signed Tuesday to a long-term deal, and a cadre of smart executives. Their manager, Joe Torre, has nearly a fistful of World Series rings and earns the respect of players because of his loyalty. To allow Ramirez to so willfully co-opt everything for which they stand with his blatant disregard for the Dodgers' well-being is a sign of misplaced priorities.
Ramirez's benefits no longer outweigh his detriments. He is catnip for drama. He sulked his way out of Boston, signed late with the Dodgers because he wanted more money than he deserved, spent 50 games sidelined because he was caught with a prescription for female fertility drugs used to either get pregnant or cover up steroid use – whichever of those seems more probable.
When he returned, Ramirez wasn't the same lightning bolt in the middle of the lineup he had been – nor the positive and relaxing influence the younger Dodgers said he was toward the end of last season, as Los Angeles won the NL West.
His bat always compensated for his antics – jogging on ground balls, lazing toward others hit into the left-field corner. Not anymore. He's now a dreadlocked distraction, and the example he sets for Andre Ethier(notes) and Matt Kemp(notes) and James Loney(notes) and Russell Martin(notes) – that not watching the game is acceptable under any circumstances – is pitiful.
"It's really nothing different than he's done before," Torre said. "I don't think it's disrespect of anything. He wasn't going anywhere until the game was over, and we can't put him back in the game."
More excuses, more hollow justification. Certainly it would be another distraction if the Dodgers came out and admonished Ramirez, but at least they would seem serious about the different standard to which they hold their highest-paid, biggest-name player. The implication is stark: Manny does what he pleases, and we vouch for it.
Torre reasoned that Ramirez retreated to the clubhouse during the regular season when he got pulled for a defensive replacement. This is not the regular season. It is the NLCS. It is one step from the World Series. The Dodgers were about to steal home-field advantage back from the Phillies. The series would be in their hands. The impending victory was as huge as the disappointment from the loss.
And even if Ramirez was in the clubhouse, at least he could have tuned in. Legend has it that during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Keith Hernandez went back to the clubhouse, lit a cigarette, cracked a beer and watched the ninth inning on TV. Ramirez was so eager to leave – to avoid the media, or to grab dinner, or who knows? – that a shower was more imperative than the game's final out.
"The way it turned out," Torre said, "it probably doesn't look good."
You think? Randy Wolf(notes), the Dodgers' starter, made it back to the bench after getting pulled in the sixth inning. Other Dodgers waited there to join in the celebration. It wasn't too much to ask. Not even close. And yet even the littlest thing with Manny turns into an ordeal. Boston got it right. The Red Sox got sick of Ramirez's selfishness and shipped him off.
The Dodgers are stuck with Ramirez, their $20 million diva. He undoubtedly will not exercise the opt-out clause, leaving the Dodgers on the hook for another year. And you know what it feels like?
A cold shower.