Anybody out there want my World Series tickets? For free?
I've got two of them for Game 4, should the Dodgers make it through the playoffs, which begin with today's opener against the St. Louis Cardinals. I'm talking about some pretty good seats too. Field level, third base side. Close enough to hear the pop of the catcher's mitt.
Dodgers versus Yankees? It could happen. Dodgers versus Angels? A Southern California showdown would be sweet. And these tickets wouldn't cost you a single samolean. All you have to do to be considered is write an essay of 50 words or less. I'll explain in a minute.
So why the early Christmas?
I'll tell you why. I've had a 10-game portion of a season ticket plan for several years, and I love going to the ballpark. I like most of the Dodgers too. But I've got problems with the Dodgers' biggest star, who was suspended for much of the season for having a little something extra in his Cheerios, and I can't bring myself to pay good money for the privilege of watching a fraud.
Yeah, I'm talking about Manny Ramirez.
I still can't get over the number of fans who gave him a pass this year. They'd wear their Manny dreadlocks, looking ridiculous, by the way. They'd sit out there in Mannywood so they could be close enough to call his name.
Wake up, folks, and take a look at yourselves.
Do you really think Ramirez gives a fig about his fans? Ask that question in Boston, where Ramirez got run out of town after dogging it and letting his team down.
So here I am with World Series tickets in my hand and a wave of hysteria sweeping the city. I'm sorry for being the cockroach in the punch bowl, but I can't bring myself to join the party. The only thing that could get me to the ballpark in the post-season would be if Manager Joe Torre were to staple Manny's dreadlocks to the dugout wall and play Juan Pierre in his place. I'd rather lose with a scrappy singles hitter like Pierre than win with a loafing slugger like Ramirez.
The scandal was bad enough, with Major League Baseball revealing early in the season that Ramirez had tested positive for a female fertility drug that has been used by athletes to juice their testosterone production after steroid use.
But you'd think a guy who held out for $45 million over two seasons, and then got suspended for 50 games just when this looked like a magical season, would bend over backward to earn the mercy and respect of teammates and fans.
He served up a halfhearted apology and no real explanation as to what happened -- "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me."
Blaming it on the doctor was as hollow as Ramirez's bat has been since he came back. Maybe he's just not the same player without his "fertility medication."
But it gets worse. Ramirez actually said he expected the forgiveness of fans. And what did he do to earn it?
He played like he didn't care.
Offense? Average. For the year he's had a meager 63 runs batted in and 19 homers. Defense? A Harris Ranch cow could do as well out there.
On Aug. 23, with the Cubs in town, Ramirez outdid himself. A ball skidded past him and he barely moved to go get it.
He might as well have thumbed his nose at all the plumbers and teachers and gardeners who paid hard-earned money to get into the park. For once, the adoring fans booed, a rare show of disapproval, while the Cubs rallied and won the game.
That did it for me. I still went to a couple of games after that, but the fun had gone out of it, even though I still like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and a lot of the other players.
Major League Baseball did virtually nothing for years about players who were obviously juiced, and the reason was greed. Now here I was paying good money to see a rich player loaf, and I felt as if I was part of the corruption for being there in the stands.
My World Series tickets cost $500 for the pair. I signed the check, then felt like a fool.
Ramirez was supposed to earn $25 million this year. The suspension cost him $7.7 million of that, but he's still hauling in $17.3 million for roughly two-thirds of a season. Shouldn't someone making roughly $170,000 a game be grateful enough to go all-out on every play?
"I can't control that," Ramirez said of the booing during that Cubs game.
Years ago, when I was a Little Leaguer, my dad used to take me to see the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's. I got to watch some of the greatest stars who ever played, including Willie Mays and Reggie Jackson.
The A's Rickey Henderson was a great player too, but he slipped into funks and lollygagged now and then. One night, he pulled one of those stunts while my dad and I were in the park, and my old man looked like he wanted to run onto the field and throttle Henderson.
My dad was a working guy who didn't ask much of a player except a little class and a lot of hustle.
It was a simple matter of fairness, honesty and respect, and there was some kind of social and moral decay at work if a player could act like a spoiled child and still be marketed and idolized.
Maybe I'll be in a more forgiving mood next year and return to the ballpark, I just don't know. But I'm giving my World Series tickets this year to the person who writes my favorite 50-word sermon to Ramirez.
Go ahead, let him have it. I'm ticked off that I might have to miss the World Series because of him.
I'll give you the tickets and they're yours to use. But if you can't find anyone to go with you, I might just. . . .
I mean, shouldn't at least one person be there to boo when Manny comes to bat?
For Steve to consider your essay, it must be no more than 50 words and submitted to him by noon Pacific time on Friday, Oct. 9, 2009, at