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Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez: ‘Carefree,’ ‘Despicable’ or ‘Manipulated’?

October 13, 2008 08:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
As Manny Ramirez leads the Dodgers in the NLCS, writers and commentators are still debating his behavior with the Red Sox.

Manny Being Manny

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Ramirez has sparked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ late season success after being traded from the Boston Red Sox in July, leading them to the National League Championship Series and a possible World Series match-up with his former team. In a glowing piece in this week’s Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci calls Ramirez “their clubhouse talisman, whose carefree joy became contagious.”

However, Ramirez was criticized this week by Fox commentator Tim McCarver, who objects to his behavior with the Red Sox. In Boston, he frequently complained of a knee injury and pulled himself out of games in what most think was an attempt to force a trade.

“It's extraordinary—the dichotomy between what he was in Boston and what he is in Los Angeles,” McCarver told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I mean, talk about wearing out your welcome in a town, and it was a long welcome with the Red Sox. But some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable—like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on. And now it's washed, it's gone.”

ESPN writer Bill Simmons, an unapologetically biased Red Sox fan, believes that Ramirez does not deserve the criticism. In an article for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, he says Ramirez was manipulated by agent Scott Boras, who wanted Ramirez released from his current contract so he could negotiate a new one.

“Manny's heel turn (to borrow a wrestling term) never could have happened without an evil 'manager' prodding him and poking him,” writes Simmons. “For the life of me, I can't imagine how anyone could write a column, speak on television or give a radio interview within 72 hours of that trade without blaming Boras, as if the greediest sports agent of our lifetimes happened to be standing there idly while Manny's career in Boston imploded.”

Ramirez has long been a lightning rod for controversy for his lackadaisical attitude on and off the field. Though he has been playing hard with the Dodgers, many wonder if he is only doing it to guarantee a large free agent contract this off-season.

“But don't be a sucker. This is no feel-good story,” writes Joel Sherman in the New York Post. “He is a con man in dreadlocks, the kind who can say—as he did yesterday—‘I can play for anybody. When you play hard, you can play for anybody.’ Yes, Manny Ramirez, Charlie Hustler.”

Background: Manny in Boston

Ramirez joined the Red Sox in 2001, signing an eight-year, $160 million contract with $20 million team options for the following two years. He was one of the most productive hitters in the game and won the World Series MVP in 2004.

He also became known for his bizarre behavior and apparent nonchalance on the field, summed up by the fans as “Manny being Manny.” Though his strange behavior was mostly laughed off, there were times that it became a distraction to the team. Ramirez would often be lazy in the field, sulk in the clubhouse, and pull himself out of games with mysterious injuries. Three times—in 2003, 2005 and 2006—the Red Sox almost traded him. Each time, Ramirez began behaving better after the trade deadline passed.

“Even his funks were reliable,” describes Simmons. “They always happened during the dog days of July and August, when the oppressive New England heat suddenly turned him into a dreadlocked Corey Haim. A defining play or anecdote would get things rolling: Maybe he'd duck a game against a top pitcher, miss a team meeting, dog a flyball or whatever. The media would descend like wolverines because that's what they do in Boston. A few rumored deals would collapse, everything would settle down, and we would start cheering for Manny again.”

This year, Ramirez’s behavior was more erratic and disruptive than in years past. On June 5, Ramirez slapped teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout and, later in the month, he shoved the team’s elderly traveling secretary. The final straw for the team occurred on June 25, when he skipped an important game against the Yankees, claiming to have a knee injury.

The media thought he was faking the injury and sharply criticized him. “Manny shut it down in 2006 and he's toying with the Red Sox again,” wrote Shaughnessy. “In the middle of a pennant race. It is despicable. And the front office and his teammates are burning.”

On July 30, Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com, “Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don't deserve me. I'm not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don't have peace here.” A day later, on baseball’s trading deadline, the Red Sox traded Ramirez to Los Angeles. The Dodgers agreed not to pick up his option next year, allowing him to become a free agent—exactly what Boras and Ramirez had been hoping for.

Reference: Baseball guide and Manny’s career

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