Dodgers express no regret in parting with Manny Ramirez
The Manny Era came to an official end Monday, when the Dodgers let him go to the Chicago White Sox on a waiver claim without receiving anything more than salary relief.
“It’s kind of sad to see this time come and go,” Andre Ethier said in a silent clubhouse where Latin music could no longer be heard from the far end.
The party ended long ago, probably around the time Ramirez was suspended last year for violating baseball’s drug policy.
The final days were particularly heavy-hearted ones for Ramirez, sources describing him as being upset that he was benched Friday and Saturday in Colorado. He was informed by Manager Joe Torre on Sunday morning that if he stayed with the Dodgers, he would play only three or four times a week. Later, Ramirez was asked whether he wanted to play that day. He said no, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.
Ramirez made a pinch-hit appearance, took one pitch, argued the call and was ejected. He was on his way out of town, saying he would rather play every day as a designated hitter for the White Sox than be a part-time player on the Dodgers. He told the Dodgers on Sunday he would waive the no-trade provision in his contract.
The Dodgers saved themselves $3.8 million, as the White Sox became responsible for the final month of Ramirez’s two-year, $45-million contract. He was on his way to Cleveland on Monday, scheduled to be on the White Sox’s active roster the next day.
“It was probably time for both of us,” General Manager Ned Colletti said.
Similar to how it was the right time for the Dodgers and Ramirez to come together 25 months ago.
The Dodgers couldn’t hit and were a faceless franchise in July 2008. Ramirez was looking for a new home, no longer wanting to play in Boston.
And there was one specific aspect that made Ramirez particularly enticing to the Dodgers when they acquired him at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline: The Red Sox were paying the remainder of his salary.
But free is never free, and Ramirez turned out to be about as free as the promotional fleece blankets the Dodgers will give away next month.
“We knew that if Manny performed at the level that we thought he could perform, he would be a long-term investment for us,” Dodgers President Dennis Mannion said.
Ramirez captivated the city of Los Angeles over the final two months of the 2008 season, smiling and laughing as he led the Dodgers to their first National League Championship Series in two decades. The next off-season, the Dodgers had no choice but to re-sign him.
“He was really critical to the psyche of the team and really critical to the psyche of our fan base too,” Mannion said. “He was our Pete Rose for that window of time. I think it would have been a really unwise decision to take a pass.”
But then everything turned upside down. Negotiations for a new deal extended into the next spring. A month into the 2009 season, Ramirez was hit with a 50-game ban for violating baseball’s drug policy. When he returned from his suspension, he couldn’t hit as he had before. He reported to camp this year with a significantly less playful demeanor, refusing to speak to reporters after the first few days. Once the regular season started, his 38-year-old body betrayed him, sending him to the disabled list three times.
By late last week, it was clear the Dodgers had no use for him. Torre said he had decided by Sunday to go with the speed of Scott Podsednik in left field over the bat of Ramirez, who he and Colletti said might not be able to handle an everyday outfield role.
“It was a choice,” Torre said.
Colletti said the Dodgers offered to pay as much as $1.5 million of Ramirez’s remaining salary if the White Sox sent them a prospect in return but were rebuffed. No matter. They settled for a straight salary dump.
“I guess that’s one way to look at it,” Colletti said.
But Mannion, asked on Monday if the entirety of Ramirez’s tenure with the Dodgers had been worth the cost and trouble, responded, “Oh my gosh, absolutely. He was a plus for the club on the field and on the ticket-sales front.”
“He helped the franchise get back to the playoffs and helped us win a couple of series, in ’08 and ’09,” Colletti said. “He accomplished a lot here. He showed a lot of our younger players how to win and how to play.”