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See Ya Manny, So Long Dynasty

I received a text from a friend the night before the trade deadline when it looked like Manny Ramirez was headed to South Florida to join the Marlins. The text read: “Worried yet?”

My response: “They won’t do it. Not with a dynasty on the line.”

(One of the great sports debates is what constitutes a dynasty. It’s clearly a subjective interpretation of greatness. In this scribe’s opinion a team must win back-to-back titles plus another one within a few years, which is to say any franchise that wins three out of five championships is worthy of some manifestation of the term “dynasty”. A banner in 2008 would mean three out of five for the Sox.)

So my rationale was the Red Sox brass would not threaten what is at least arguably a potential dynasty in the making, particularly given that David Ortiz spent a significant period of time on the shelf and the team didn’t fade.

Given that Josh Beckett is fixing to turn it up, that Dice-K has been far from the liability most believed he would be this year and Jon Lester is the second-best lefty in the American League.

Given that Jonathan Papelbon is still the surest thing this side of Mariano Rivera when it comes to closing games in October.

Given that the most prolific offensive tandem since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig was intact again for the first time since it co-slugged its way to a second World Series in four years.

Given that cumulatively this team was unequivocally gearing up for another title run.

I didn’t think it would happen because I’ve come to understand the whims of this ownership. John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino have personalized the experience of being a Red Sox fan because they themselves are Red Sox fans — ones who happen to be ridiculously wealthy businessmen who assumed control of the enterprise.

Too often in sports business and figures detract from what is ultimately best for a team. With Manny’s eight-year, $160 million deal, it was at times a wise business move for the ownership to remove all those dollars from its weighty payroll. Hence irrevocable waivers in 2003, a busted trade for Alex Rodriguez in 2004, and annual deadline talks with the Mets’ Omar Minaya about a Manny move to Flushing.

In all instances, getting rid of Manny was the smart business move, the best for the bottom line. But Theo Epstein — acting on behalf of the trio — abstained from ever pulling the string because of one prevailing reason: The guy was too damned good and too vital to the most important end of winning. Winning superseded personal relationships. Winning supplanted smart business.

To this ownership, winning mattered most. And in pennant races and pursuits of October glory, Ramirez behind Ortiz gave the Red Sox a decisive inside track to victory.

I’ll be frank: Manny has always been a pain in the rear (to put it gently) through the eyes of ownership and his colleagues. It was just always kept more or less under wraps, in that Manny for the most part squawked privately and off the record, which meant only bits and pieces were divulged.

I’m sorry, but it’s no coincidence that the historically publicly soft-spoken Manny signed with Scott Boras before (essentially) a contract year — the Red Sox held two $20 million club options for 2009 and 2010 on Ramirez — then proceeded to start voicing all the displeasures he’s traditionally voiced behind the scenes directly to the media.

Boras, who’s likely still peeved at the Red Sox for holding him hostage two summers ago over the Dice-K contract, saw the perfect opportunity to turn the tables on the only contingent to have gotten the better of him at the negotiating table.

He knew that unleashing the Manny circus on the public would force the hand of the club, force them to 1) pay monetarily to get rid of Manny (which they have, $7 million), 2) dispose of him for seventy cents on the dollar (which they did, for Jason Bay), and 3) line Manny up to get shown the money come this offseason (which if I were a betting man…).

Done and done. And just like that the Manny Ramirez era came to a prompt conclusion in Boston.

What truly perplexes me is the fact that lots of fans and writers are on board with the move. Proponents of the trade would point to the fact that Manny’s bullheadedness was tearing the team apart from the inside, that his antics have been far worse this year than in the past.

Not true.

Manny has always been Manny. To the fans and outside world he was frequently endearing, quirky and warm, while behind closed doors he was consistently self-centered, obstinate and vexing. Bottom line is he has forever lived in Manny World, in spite of everyone around him — be it media, teammates or bosses.

(If you’re not convinced, pick up Seth Mnookin’s Feeding the Monster. It is the single most illuminating piece of writing about Manny and the organization.)

Due to that longstanding discord it was obvious that Manny and Boston would part ways after this season. After finishing what unofficially kicked off in 2003, the most prosperous era in Red Sox history. Like it or not, like him or not, the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez were most sufficiently primed to defend a World Series crown for the first time in nearly a century.

Debating team chemistry, managing motives and money is moot. Through everything that has gone down in the last week, only two facts have emerged: 1) The Red Sox are a decidedly worse team today than they were on the morning of July 31, 2008, and 2) If they should get there, the Red Sox will be a far less intimidating force in October than they were in ’04 or ’07.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask any Angels or Yankees fan.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. “What truly perplexes me is the fact that lots of fans and writers are on board with the move. Proponents of the trade would point to the fact that Manny’s bullheadedness was tearing the team apart from the inside, that his antics have been far worse this year than in the past.

    Not true.”

    Come on man, you’re not in the clubhouse. This year was different, by the way, when Mnookin wrote his book Manny hadn’t punched Youks in the dugout or shoved an old man to the ground because he didn’t give him 20 tickets to a sold out game. Another thing you’re neglecting to mention is that Manny’s production has been slowly declining and Jason Bay is having what could arguably be considered an equal if not better year, albeit at the bottom of the NL.

    I’m not saying I don’t miss Manny, I miss him terribly, but Schilling on Dennis and Callahan said that the entire team was tired of Manny and even Big Papi was resigned to the fact that this team just couldn’t go on with him. That stuff didn’t just come out of nowhere, and neither did him assaulting two fellow Red Sox employees this season. In my opinion, Manny knew this was his last season to get an extension, becoming the “200 million dollar man” was a big deal back in 2000 but now that the options are looming Manny is getting cold feet. Manny doesn’t want the Sox two exercise options on him, and he hasn’t wanted that for several years now. He wants to get extended so that his future is secure and he doesn’t have to worry about the front office deciding he’s not worth the extra year or two at the price he signed for. The Sox did this with Pedro, but everyone knew they weren’t going to do so with Manny.

    I’m gonna miss Manny a lot, but this had to happen, and I’m pretty siked about getting Jason Bay in his prime, that’s a pretty good return for Manny’s declining years. I’m just glad we didn’t let him go for a prospect, but I’m confident that if that was the entire return (like Matt Kemp, say, from LA) than Theo and co. would not have pulled the trigger.

    Anyways, Adios Senor Manuel Aristides Ramirez. I’ll miss watching you hit, point, high-five fans while making running catches, and pee inside left field walls. Enjoy that LA chronic.

    Manny reads this right?

    August 6, 2008
  2. Matt #

    Good counterpoints per usual C. Look I know Manny was even more of a dbag than he’s been in the past this year. And obviously I’m not in the clubhouse, but I do know that the guys who don’t like Manny have never liked Manny. And vice versa. This clubhouse, while not the “25 guys, 25 cabs” deal, was always full of varying degrees of rifts. But they were all united in cause, and the results have spoken for themselves. That said, I told Eddy that the one aspect of this thing I couldn’t refute was choice players going to Tito and Theo and saying Manny had to go. That’s truly unfortunate, but it doesn’t change the fact that they could have swallowed their differences (again), thrown Manny under the bus amongst themselves and to the writers, and gone out and won another world series.

    If they really became that fed up with him that it blinded them towards their ultimate goal, that just sucks. It should have never gotten to that. But if one more person lines up Jason Bay’s stats with Manny’s this year and uses that as justification for him replacing Manny’s bat in our lineup I’m going to start pulling my fingernails out. Manny only hit 20 bombs with 88 last year but there was no tougher out in the playoffs (again, ask an Angels fan.) Perception is reality dude, and the perception around the league is that come October, Manny and Ortiz are “bad men” (remember that?). Even if anyone does think that Bay is going to be — like Manny — at his best in the playoffs, you think opposing managers are going to risk getting beat by Papi? Lowell, Youk, Bay — it’s of no consequence who’s behind Manny in the playoffs. Ortiz will be livin life like Pujols and Bonds in October. Which means we’ll go into the postseason with zero percent of Manny and an Ortiz that managers can consistently avoid in order to take their chances with [not Manny].

    August 6, 2008
  3. el rif #

    while it’s true that theo and the crew had been fervently trying to dump manny and his kooky antics for the last few years now, manny had been just as active in his attempts to get out of boston. manny didn’t want to be in boston anymore, and thats also unfortunate.

    August 6, 2008
  4. hmm. interesting..

    April 13, 2009

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