They're crying foul over apologist for Manny Ramirez

It sounds as if Phil Jackson doesn't want to spend any more time with the Lakers than necessary, and I certainly can relate.

Ask Manny Ramirez about the Lakers, because what else is there to ask him about these days, he says, "I'm not into basketball," and folks wonder why I like the guy so much.

Now I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the Dodgers parade.

"Your idolatry of Manny is ludicrous," is the way Shirin Patel put it in an e-mail, rewriting an earlier headline in The Times, but hey, if Manny needs me to be his mule so he can keep going like he did a year ago, I'm here for him.

"Let me understand your warped logic," writes Dan Howard. "It's OK to be a cheating drug user if you are charismatic, talented and interesting like Manny."

It also helps to hit home runs.

"Now I get it," e-mails Jack Tracy. "Persecute Gary Matthews, but kiss Manny's [behind]."

It's such a satisfying feeling when people finally get it.

I like someone, I'm far more forgiving. I don't, and I'm going to treat them like Kobe.

I know what Dodgers games were like before Manny arrived, and I wouldn't wish that on any paying customer or someone obligated by employment to attend.

The Dodgers are not only relevant again, but a show worth watching. Of course, Times beat reporter Dylan Hernandez thinks "SpongeBob" is a show worth watching, sitting in the Isotopes press box before the game, hanging on Bob's every word.

So granted, one man's entertainment might not be another's, but Manny still gets credit for one of my all-time favorite perspective quotes in sports.

"We're just going to go, play the game and move on," he said after the Red Sox trailed the Indians three games to one in the playoffs two years ago. "If it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like the end of the world."

The Red Sox then won the next three, outscoring the Indians, 30-5.

"OK, I will tell you, you have it all wrong," writes David Cook. "Manny is a drug user, a cheat, and a liar. He is laughing in the faces of all Dodger fans. Manny should be traded, or better yet, fired from the Dodgers. . . . Manny's replacement, Juan Pierre, has done an outstanding job, and all he has to show for it is a 'thanks, but now it's back to the bench so we can bring the drug cheat back.' "

Would you rather watch Juan every night, satisfying your moral outrage, or Manny?

It's the start of Game 2 here, and just as they do in Dodger Stadium, a bunch of kids run on the field to stand beside each player for the national anthem.

The kids assigned to the second baseman and third baseman, shortstop, and right fielder change course, and run to left field to join Ramirez. Just following their parents' instructions, I'd imagine.

When they play the anthem, Ramirez is surrounded by 13 admiring youngsters. Two appear taller than Pierre. I'm guessing 12 have better arms.

Manny plays four innings while scheduled to play five, Dodgers PR guy Josh Rawitch saying Manny left "because the grass is wet and he'd have to play six innings to bat again."

That seems to suggest Manny doesn't believe the Isotopes hitters are capable of earning him another at-bat in the fifth.

"We're being no-hit," exclaims Rawitch, who sounds as if he has found a home in Albuquerque.

When the game began, it was raining, Manny leading off and everyone cheering for a second straight night. He walks on four straight pitches, everyone booing, deprived of entertainment.

"The fans who cheered for Manny are morons," writes Jim Swigart. "They're like the fools in S.F. who cheered Bonds. It'll be even worse when many of my fellow men will cheer the steroid and old-man abuser when he returns to L.A."

Here's the dilemma, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn later on it led to the split of Jon & Kate: Do you continue to grill, grind and grouse about Manny's reluctance to come clean, or do you revel in the added entertainment he brings to every game?

Manny has made a mistake in not appearing more repentant, in not being more forthright, and in not throwing himself on the mercy of Dodgers fans who embraced him unconditionally. But it's not going to happen, so does the grudge become more pressing than the entertainment escape his play provides?

Matthews brings no entertainment to the game, pouting and brooding because he has become the Angels' No. 5 outfielder, and for all we know it's a side effect of someone ordering HGH online.

His dour demeanor invites teasing, and then there's Manny, shouting to reporters Wednesday, "I don't care [why you're here]. I control this [bleep]."

The next question is obvious: By any chance did he get his hands on Matthews' stash? The answer: Just say, "no."

It's an act, all right, the bluster filling the Isotopes' hallways again a few minutes later before Manny stops to chat. Same routine Wednesday as Tuesday.

"I'm having fun," he says, adding that he lost 11 pounds while sick recently and needs work. "I'm getting my legs ready."

He's asked about Manager Joe Torre's suggestion he was depressed early on, saying, "I'm good. I'm enjoying my life."

Then he tells reporters with a grin to "write that quote down and give it to [ESPN's Colleen] Dominguez," a playful jab for someone assigned to shadow him, who is missing when Manny talks -- a good guess SpongeBob is on somewhere knowing Dominguez is a graduate of South Pasadena High like Hernandez.

"Just having fun," Ramirez explains later, something missing more and more from sports these days.

Just ask Matthews. Or, I will.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com

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