The Dodgers are on the verge of a contract agreement to terms familiar to anyone who has followed this saga for four months – two years, $45 million, some of it deferred. The two sides are maybe a few hundred thousand dollars apart, only Dodgers owner Frank McCourt doesn't seem to know it, as busy as he was trying to teach agent Scott Boras a lesson. Apparently, the Dodgers and Ramirez will come to agreement anyway, and McCourt should be especially grateful for such a fortunate conclusion.
It's not particularly common in negotiations, the strategy in which one side creates imaginary deadlines, claims the economy has so dramatically changed over four days that previous progress is no longer recognized, and declares a do-over. But, hey, he's the guy with the money (maybe).
McCourt should remember he chose to climb into this ring with the single-minded Boras, with the enigmatic Ramirez. Once he was in, he was in. He didn't get to change the rules after he'd been hit in the mouth.
The thing is, McCourt's man – general manager Ned Colletti – was/is doing fine. They'd gotten Boras off four years and then three years. They'd even gotten him off a $25-million average annual value, and what Ramirez really, really wants is to be the second highest-paid man in the game, behind Alex Rodriguez. And he really wants to play for the Dodgers again.
They were close. They are close. Then it got personal, the Dodgers became distracted, and time passed they'll never get back. The Ramirez camp still doesn't know for sure if McCourt was serious when he promised he'd start over in negotiations and hinted his next offer would be significantly lower than his last one, though it remains optimistic he wasn't.
So, you're McCourt and you've got a choice.
You dynamite the work you've done in order to perpetuate the I'm-in-charge-here chest puff, and risk losing the hitter who makes you the favorite in the NL West, your most popular position player since Mike Piazza.
Or you finish up the current negotiations, thereby admitting the latter stages of the negotiations had become nothing but a big, unprofessional snit and that future big, unprofessional snits should be seen and treated as such.
This, by the way, was all viewed as very good news in Giants camp, even if their chance at Ramirez seemed to be slipping away by Tuesday night.
One, on general principle, it is a good thing when the Dodgers appear clumsy.
Two, they've stood around for months hoping Ramirez falls to them at less than market value. Clearly unwilling to pay what the Dodgers are close to paying, the Giants need to get lucky. They need McCourt to stomp off in a huff. Or they need Ramirez to stomp off. And they need to be the last team standing, with opening day coming, and $20 million to spend, and Manny eager.
Ramirez makes sense here, too. The Giants should pitch better than the Dodgers. And they are short a bat or three. It's an expansive, breezy left field up at AT&T Park, but, you know, it's only for a season or two, and it's not like it would be the first time the local club opted for offensive production over defensive agility.
It is an extreme longshot for the Giants at this moment, when progress appeared to be made between Ramirez and his former club. As Ramirez told the L.A. Times on Tuesday, “Tell everyone Mannywood is coming,” words that would sting a clubhouse that will need the offense.
But it will come as no surprise that after pitching three sturdy innings against his former Arizona Diamondbacks, Randy Johnson, the newest piece of a rotation that also includes Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, expressed the obvious. The club that gets Ramirez becomes the team to beat in the West. And, yes, it is with more than a little interest these Giants watch those negotiations get a little sideways.
As it stands, Johnson said, he sees parity in the West, just like last season, before Ramirez showed up.
“I think all the teams are maybe one or two players away,” he said. “What he does for that lineup, maybe if we had a hitter like that, that kind of person could do the same for our lineup.
“From a pitcher's perspective, who wouldn't want to have Manny Ramirez in your lineup hitting for you instead of against you?”
Johnson, fresh to the Giants, appreciates what's around him now. He likes catcher Bengie Molina, thinks third baseman Pablo Sandoval could really hit, views left fielder Fred Lewis as an emerging talent.
But, he said, “There's not a lot of Manny Ramirezes. There's only one Manny. He's only going to go to one team. If it's the Dodgers, they're the ones who are going to be a good offensive team.”
So, negotiations for the moment linger. Manny sits. Everybody takes a breath. And the Dodgers get closer, in spite of themselves.