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On Manny

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.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. el-rif #

    piss-poor patriots perform pathetically/ponderously. playoffs?!

    December 10, 2006
  2. chrisarc #

    Good points, Matty.

    Some of the turbulent relationship stuff is overblown, though. The fact that the Sox office falls prey to this pressure to pretend to get a deal done every off-season is just dumb.

    Manny his 30 bombs and drives in 120 runs each year, then asks to be traded. What I don’t understand is why the Red Sox don’t simply say “No.”

    Is it the money? Maybe it was, at one point. But with the deals of Soriano/Matthews Jr./Drew/C. Lee this offseason Manny’s deal is if anything, reasonable. Many would argue that his deal has been reasonable for the duration because of his consistant production year in and year out but tell that to anybody who believes what Gerry Callahan and Gordon Edes fill their Ramirez-columns with.

    The only reasonable thing any of the Manny haters point to is the idea that he “quit” on the team last year. Do they have a case? Well let’s look….

    1.) The Red Sox never really confirmed what the injury was…patella tendinitis? Hamstring problems? Ebola Virus?

    When Coco Crisp broke his thumb, they told us he broke his thumb. They never really explained at any great length what Manny’s “injury” was….so was he even really injured?

    We’ll never really know if he was or not, but we will know that Manny absolutely shit on the Yankees in the 5-game series, (a series in which the Sox got swept and their season was considered by many to be over) having an OBP of .900.

    Were the Sox really out of it after that sweep by the pinstripes? 6.5 in August certainly isn’t insurmountable. I’m sure Bucky Dent and Bobby Thompson would tell you that it’s entirely possible to come back from that sort of defecit and still make the postseason, but let’s also keep in mind that we were getting regular contributions in the rotation from Kason Gabbard, Julien Tavarez, Kyle Snyder, David Pauley, and Kevin Jarvis.

    Let’s not even get started about the bullpen. I might cry.

    Are those reasons to give up on a team? I’d argue that there is never a reason to quit, but if Manny quit, then the front office certainly quit when they flipped David Wells to San Diego for George Papadopalous who’s a second tier catching prospect that probably won’t ever be as good as Josh Bard.

    Does Manny in the lineup mean more to the team than Wells in the rotation? On the surface that seems like an easy question, of course he does, but consider the fact that Mike Lowell+Kevin Youkilis had 2 fewer bombs and 50 more RBI’s than Manny and of course big Papi had his legendary season. Not exactly the most comforting prospect, but definitely third on the depth chart of problems behind the bullpen and the rotation.

    In the rotation, Curt Schilling led the way with an ERA just under 4 even and one fewer win than Josh “Bombs Away” Beckett. His WHIP was up around 1.2 and that was the best on the team by far. Wells wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire with his 4.98 era and 1.5 WHIP but he was given away for a player who probably won’t sniff the big leagues next year unless there are another round of injuries or Sox get mathmatically eliminated early again.

    The bottom line here is that Sox have no obligation to trade Manny, and they really have no right to imply that they resent his “quitting” on the team last year.

    If Manny quit on the team, then there’s really no other way to describe the FO’s trade of David Wells. Manny is signed to a contract, a contract that this offseason is truly not that outrageous, and he’s only the best right handed hitter in the league year in and year out depending on who you ask.

    One person they shouldn’t ask, should a deal get done to send Manny out of town, is David Ortiz. Because after two straight months of not seeing a single pitch in the strike zone with a runner in scoring position and first base open he will probably snap and choke them to death.

    And if the reporter who asks happens to be Gerry Callahan, he will have done us all a favor. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the only good thing that could come from trading Manny.

    December 12, 2006
  3. that cat #

    tom’s team trounce/trample terrible texans

    December 19, 2006

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