Ramirez is the middle-of-the-order hitter the Dodgers have needed since, oh, the Mike Piazza trade.
And Bay's numbers, at the moment, are similar enough to Ramirez's to satisfy the Red Sox.
And the Pittsburgh Pirates continued along the theme of their summer, meaning they dumped more salary and took on a few more young guys, on this occasion Adam LaRoche's brother Andy along with Bryan Morris from the Dodgers and Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen from the Red Sox.
As we set off on the final two months of the regular season, the Dodgers became much better offensively, assuming they'll essentially bench Andruw Jones, a .167 hitting strikeout machine, for the still-productive Ramirez. And they'll be much worse defensively, for the same reason. The reason they've hung around the .500 mark – and therefore the NL West lead – is because of their capable pitching staff. Any offense at all – and Ramirez, who has never played in the National League, much less a pitchers' park like Dodger Stadium, can provide it – and the Dodgers should run down and then hold off the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"He's one of the best right-handed hitters of this generation if not all-time," Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said. "He's produced in the clutch on the biggest stages. He should help those who hit in front of him as well as behind him.
"Given the stage of his career and his contract, we are going to get the best out of him."
The Dodgers and Ramirez’s camp (he is represented by Scott Boras) agreed to void the option years on Ramirez’s contract – they were worth $20 million each in 2009 and 2010 – which will make Ramirez a free agent after the season. Ramirez, a 10-and-5 player, could have refused the trade, but, at that point, he’d worked too hard to relieve himself of Boston. He’ll also receive another $1 million for being traded.
The clincher in the deal came when Dodgers owner Fran k McCourt got on the phone with Red Sox power-brokers.
In recent weeks, Ramirez embarked on a rigorous campaign to leave Boston, aggravating the Red Sox front office, frustrating Terry Francona, and mystifying some of his most ardent fans, who began to boo his leisurely trips to first base.
In a tumultuous summer, most of it following the occasion of his 500th career home run, Ramirez had scuffled with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the Red Sox dugout, shoved traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the floor in a Houston clubhouse, and refused to play a game against the Yankees, citing a sore knee the team’s medical staff said was sound.
Not so cute to the Red Sox anymore, Ramirez petulantly challenged the club to trade him. He held up a sign for television cameras Wednesday that read, "I’m going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up!" He reportedly told ESPNDeportes, "The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me," contending the organization had mistreated him just as it once had Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez.
The Dodgers only hope Ramirez left the bitterness in Boston.
"It's like anything else in life, you don’t know what someone if going through and what the full story is unless you live through it and see it," Colletti said.
Ramirez's near eight-season history with the Red Sox is of 274 home runs, 868 RBI and five finishes in the top 10 of the AL MVP voting. More important, he batted .412 in the 2004 World Series, pushing the Red Sox to their first title since 1918 and lifting a curse and rampant hardball pessimism in Boston. Three years later, the Red Sox won another World Series, digging out of a three-games-to-one deficit to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, a series in which Ramirez batted .409 and drove in 10 runs.
While Bay doesn’t carry near the resume of Ramirez, he does have two more home runs (22) and just four fewer RBI (64) than Ramirez in 2008. He’s also almost seven years younger than Ramirez and is under contract for another year at $7.5 million.
The Red Sox won't be as dangerous in the middle of their order. But there will be peace in their clubhouse, where Manny had ceased being cute a long time ago, and hustle on their basepaths, which Manny had given up on entirely.
The Pirates get depth and promise, which isn't terribly exciting, but is befitting a team that doesn't draw, hasn't had a winning season since 1992 and is under new management. If nothing else, they get out from under the $7.5 million owed Bay next season. At best, LaRoche, playing across the diamond from his brother, develops into the third baseman and run producer the Dodgers expected for years. Also from the Dodgers, the Pirates receive right-hander Morris, a right-hander with a 3.20 ERA in the Midwest League. From the Red Sox, they get right-hander Hansen and outfielder Moss. They'll all be part of the rebuilding plan, which last week sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees.
In a whirlwind afternoon, the proposed three-way trade that would have scattered players from Boston to Pittsburgh to Florida – with Ramirez moving to the Marlins, Jason Bay to the Red Sox and Jeremy Hermida to the Pirates – stalled out, sending the Red Sox in search of another way to unload their problem left fielder.
As the Red Sox and Pirates grew more satisfied with the proposal, the breakdown appeared to come from the Marlins' end and, not surprisingly, over money. Ramirez has those $20 million options over the next two seasons and a $1 million bonus if he was traded, all complications for a team accustomed to claiming poverty.
The Red Sox turned to the Dodgers, who not only are loaded with young big leaguers and prospects, but desperate for offense and looking rather insignificant next to the Angels, who landed Mark Teixeira two days earlier and just completed a sweep of the Red Sox in Boston.
Despite reports otherwise, the Dodgers never considered parting with Matt Kemp for Ramirez. And they were reluctant to trade Andre Ethier for him. The Red Sox or Pirates certainly wouldn't have taken Andruw Jones, whose career as a productive hitter appears over, or Juan Pierre. Of course, this leaves the Dodgers with all those outfielders – five of them, in all – leaving manager Joe Torre wistful for his days in the American League, and a DH.
"When a player like Manny becomes a available," he told reporters in Los Angeles, "I don’t think there's a manager in baseball who wouldn’t say their interested. It was something that happened very quickly, obviously.
"We didn’t plan in advance how to move things around."
In the day's other pertinent trade, the Cincinnati Reds dealt Ken Griffey Jr. to the Chicago White Sox, who, when necessary, will mix Griffey into center field for Nick Swisher, into right field for Jermaine Dye, and into DH for Jim Thome. Despite his soft year at the plate, Paul Konerko should continue to get the bulk of the at-bats at first base, though Swisher is a ready option there.
The Reds picked up almost all of Griffey's salary for the remainder of the season, so the White Sox's expense was minimal.