Manny Ramirez is many things. For starters, he's one of the most prolific hitters that baseball has ever seen. He's also got the personality and demeanor of a little kid. All of which is to say that Manny is an engima.
For those of you who didn't know, he's also playing in the last year of an 8-year, $160M contract he signed in the fall of 2000. During that time, he's helped the Red Sox win two World Championships. Their first two in over 80 years I'll add. The Red Sox hold two options which they can use to extend the contract by 1 or 2 years at $20M per season.
At the All-Star break, Manny was asked questions about his contract and said that, after the season, he'd like a chance to sit down and talk with the team's management, face to face, about their plans for him. Given the nature of his comments, it drew a sharp response from the team's management. All I can say is "shame on them for dealing with their player through the media".
Anyway, last week, Manny missed a game in Seattle with a sore knee. When the Red Sox arrived back in Boston, he missed the first game of the team's big series against the rival Yankees citing the same injury. The Boston media had a field day with this, going as far to say that Manny was faking the injury because he was unhappy. Now, Manny may be many things, but he doesn't fake injuries. He just isn't willing to play through them when he's unhappy.
To make matters worse, Manny made some comments that put him back in the media spotlight. For those of you who might have missed it, before Sunday's game, Manny was asked a question by a reporter from ESPNdeportes.com and his response was "If the Red Sox are a better team without Manny Ramirez, they should trade me; I will not object". Note that he didn't say "please trade me" nor did he say "I want out". He said that, if the team felt it were in the best interests of the team to trade him, then do so. He also said that he didn't think that they would trade him. Now, not surprisingly, people are blowing this thing out or proportion too. And the comments are all coming around to Manny claiming that he wants out, which isn't true.
The thing that bothers me is that the only reason this is getting the kind of bandwidth that it is, is because the Sox are struggling. If the Sox were in 1st place by 5 games (which they were a month and a half ago), this wouldn't be an issue. But with the Sox caught up in a three team race with the Yankees and Rays, it is.
Given all these things, I'd like to turn the calendar back a year and point something out. Last year, Manny suffered an oblique injury and missed about 5 weeks. He came back for the last week of the regular season and everyone wondered if he'd be ready for the playoffs. Heh.
Here are Manny's stats for the 14 playoff games from last year:
Plate Appearances: 63
Times on Base: 32
Total Bases: 30
Put simply, those are monster numbers and show that Manny did everything in his power to help his team win.
But maybe more important than those numbers would be this, after the Red Sox lost game 4 of the ALCS last year, Manny was quoted in the locker room as saying "Hey, what's the worst that can happen? If we lose, we go home. It's not the end of the world or anything." Those words were a lightning rod for criticism as the Boston media jumped on Manny for his "devil may care" attitude. What was lost in the heat of the moment was that his words helped take the scrutiny off of every other person in the Red Sox clubhouse and allowed the team to play with abandon. Which they did, outscoring the Indians 30-5 over the last 3 games.
Given that the Red Sox, as a team, have batted below .250 since the All-Star game, maybe Manny's words will finally light a fire under the ass of a team which has been struggling for the last 6 weeks.