Advertisement

Garciaparra can relate to being run out of Boston

He’s got to be a bad guy, doesn’t he?

The Boston Red Sox disrupt a heated playoff run by trading their cleanup hitter, paying the Dodgers to take one of the premier hitters of our generation off their hands, so you figure Manny Ramirez must be quite the disgruntled employee.

“The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me,” Ramirez told ESPN the other day. “During my years here, I’ve seen how they have mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them, to try to turn the fans against them.

“The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy.”

Advertisement

This could be Manny being Manny. Or this could be the Red Sox being the Red Sox.

“There’s a lot of truth to what he said,” Garciaparra said at his Dodger Stadium locker Thursday, two hours after the Dodgers acquired Ramirez. “I can definitely understand and relate. Maybe he’ll be next to me [in an adjacent locker], and we can chat and laugh about it.”

The Red Sox rid themselves of a contract dispute by trading Garciaparra at the deadline four years ago, and they rid themselves of another one Thursday.

“Manny said he didn’t want to leave there,” Garciaparra said. “I didn’t want to leave there. . . . Were we the only ones that have gone through it? There’s a track record. I played with Mo [Vaughn]. I played with Roger [Clemens].”

Advertisement

The Red Sox have not cornered the market on bitter divorces with hometown heroes. Mike Piazza, anyone? Steve Garvey?

Piazza and Garvey prospered after the Dodgers abandoned them, and Ramirez could thrive in L.A. We love our entertainers, after all, and now the Dodgers have a left fielder whose Wikipedia entry includes a lengthy section entitled “Manny Moments.”

There was the time he chatted on a cellphone during a pitching change. There was the time he took the field waving an American flag, on the day after he became a U.S. citizen.

On Wednesday, amid a flurry of trade rumors, he held up a sign reading, “I’m going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up!”

Advertisement

“He’ll fit right in in L.A.,” outfielder Matt Kemp said, “because L.A. loves things like that.”

We love our stars too. Ramirez is a 12-time All-Star, with two World Series championship rings and 24 home runs in 95 postseason games.

He is here to hit, not to love us back. Charles Steinberg, who joined the Dodgers this season as chief marketing officer after six seasons in Boston, said he did not ask Ramirez to participate in Red Sox community programs, heeding the advice of two of his former teammates.

“He’s kind and he’s friendly, but leave him alone and let him play ball,” Steinberg said he was told. “It’s what he was put on this Earth to do. Don’t interrupt his world.”

Advertisement

He might be happiest alone, in the batting cage, with no one else around. No one questions his work ethic. Garciaparra said Ramirez would watch video for hours on end, would hit in the cage at 7 a.m. before a night game and at 7 p.m. after a day game.

“He’s as gifted a hitter as you’ve ever seen,” said another former teammate, Tony Clark of the Arizona Diamondbacks. “What gets lost is how hard he works to excel at his craft. His success is not an accident.”

The Red Sox management looked the other way so long as Ramirez kept hitting home runs, and everyone smiled during two championship parades, but this year the Sox finally had enough.

Ramirez fought with teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout, shoved the team’s traveling secretary to the ground and accused management of lying to him, an allegation owner John Henry told the Boston Herald was “personally offensive.”

Advertisement

According to pitcher Curt Schilling, Ramirez expressed his unhappiness by not playing hard, and not only this week.

“You’re taking the field with a guy who doesn’t want to play with you, doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t want to . . . obviously effort-wise is just not there and that’s disheartening and disappointing,” Schilling told radio station WEEI.

Added Schilling: “I’ve always wondered how we came to be OK with, ‘He’s just not gonna play hard today,’ and that was OK.”

He ought to play hard here, for his own good. He’ll be a free agent this fall, and he’s playing for the last big contract of his life. That should be motivation enough.

Advertisement

He could reinvent himself in Hollywood too. If he carries the Dodgers into the World Series, he’s got to be a good guy, doesn’t he?

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com


Advertisement