Over the last four years the Red Sox front office has flip flopped so many times even John Kerry must be chuckling.From hesitancy to locking up Trot Nixon long term because of his injury problems, to signing a dull DL-case, J.D. Drew, for five years and $70 million.
From developing young talent like Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez, then dealing them for a guy who ended up surrendering more home runs than Manny hit last year.
From bailing on Edgar Renteria after a rough first season to giving an almost identical contract to the vastly inferior (offensively at least) Julio Lugo.
From dissing Johnny Damon over $12 million and letting him turn up in Gotham, to signing Coco Crisp and extending him after two weeks on the job.
The list goes on for Theo and the Trio. Fortunately, their relationship with Manny has always been consistent. They love his god-given abilities, and hate his innate proclivities. The bond is similar between Red Sox Nation and Manny, with one glaring difference: the Nation loves Manny in spite of his predispositions.
Yes, the Boston Red Sox is a business, and whereas we, as fans, for the most part embrace Manny’s quirks, the execs detest them. But don’t be fooled by rhetoric. They all still have that undying love for what he is able to do for them, which is why over the last four years you’ve probably witnessed one of the most unstable, functional business relationships in the history of sports.
Yes, that can be construed as an oxymoron, but then again, what exactly can Manny be construed as? And the entire Sox front office for that matter? Just a working ensemble of dissonance, that’s what.
While it’s anger and frustration towards Manny’s actions that make Theo shop him every trade deadline and offseason, it is love for his awe-inspiring talent that has prevented him from ever pulling the trigger (with the exception of 2003, when he placed Manny on irrecoverable waivers, but that was more an economic chess move with Brian Cashman than anything else).
While Manny’s relationship with the fans has been frictional as well, there is a mutual dependence that remains the binding force at the end of the day. Together with Boston, Manny has come so far. He began as the Tribe’s silent assassin, tormentor of the Sox. Graduated to the timid slugger who finally complemented the epic ace and gave the Nation hope again. Showed up year two as “Media Manny.” Evolved into “Cottonmouth Manny.” Gave us all eternal solace with “MVP Manny”. And finally found lasting comfort in “Manny being Manny.”
The flip side has been accepting a spotlight that he never needed or desired. Just as Manny’s nature has frustrated the men paying his salary, so too has Boston’s nature upset the delicate balancing act that is the emotional complex of Manny. But once again, there is that connection with the city. Manny may not always feel or articulate such, but he knows how much Boston has shaped him.
He’s been here only six years, but Manny has evolved into what he was always meant to be. Not a champion or Hall of Famer, he would’ve achieved those feats in Cleveland, New York, anywhere. But nowhere else would he ever have been the guy who delayed games because he was inside a wall, or the guy who stuck a water bottle in his pants so he could stay properly hydrated in left field.
Nowhere else would he have been able to utter the words, “It was destination.” Nowhere else would he have been rushed back from gaining his citizenship so a game could be halted and he could take a victory lap, holding the American flag high and proud.
Simply put, Manny would’ve never been Manny anywhere else.
From time to time he may receive outside pressures and demand out. Sometimes those pressures might come from within. But one thing he’ll never forget is that over the last six years he has turned into the baseball player, and more importantly, the personality he was always meant to be.
That’s the stuff that separates greats from legends.