Ramirez a quitter? Get out of town
I’d love to tell Manny Ramirez not to let the door hit him on the way out.
But he was gone long before that door ever swung open. He waived himself long before the Dodgers did. He was lost long before the Chicago White Sox claimed him.
I would love to write a farewell column for the discarded Ramirez, who left the Dodgers on Monday to engage another populace in phony smiles and contract swings.
But, with the exception of an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat, he departed the Dodgers the moment he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat.
How do you say goodbye to someone who has been gone for 16 months?
“Man ain’t the same since he’s been off his medicine,” one of the Dodgers told me late last season.
Man lost faith in his drug-free swing. Man lost the swag in his clubhouse swagger. Man wasn’t Manny again, really, until last weekend.
That was when he officially quit.
Three years ago, he bailed on the Boston Red Sox in his final plate appearance there by refusing to lift the bat off his shoulder on a three-pitch strikeout. On Sunday, he topped that bit of despicable behavior by being ejected from his final Dodgers game for arguing the first pitch of a pinch-hit appearance. Really, Manny? The first pitch? Couldn’t you have given the Dodgers at least two more?
Of course not. Giving a final ounce of effort was never in his game. Putting his team’s fading wild-card push ahead of his personal agenda was never part of his plan.
Ramirez was angry about being benched the previous three games for legitimate reasons. Ramirez was looking forward to joining the White Sox, something he had told Torre a couple of days earlier. Ramirez wanted out, so he purposely gestured just enough that umpire Gary Cederstrom made it happen.
“I’m sorry it was just one pitch,” General Manager Ned Colletti said Monday afternoon.
When asked whether he thought Ramirez was trying to get ejected, Colletti sighed.
“I’d rather him answer that,” he said.
Folks will rip Colletti for allowing Ramirez to be claimed off waivers by the White Sox without acquiring anything in return, but don’t you see? As in everything he does, the petulant slugger gave the Dodgers no choice.
His brilliant two months at the end of the 2008 season gave them no choice but to give him a two-year, $45-million contract. And now, his message that he would spend the rest of the season pouting gave them no choice but to kick him out.
Yes, of course it was about money, the Dodgers saving nearly $4 million on the remainder of a contract that will now be paid by the White Sox. But it was also about the priceless curing of a clubhouse infection.
“Manny’s absence is what made this possible,” Manager Joe Torre said.
He was speaking about the 58 games Ramirez missed this season, but he could have been talking about the nearly season’s worth of games Ramirez missed in parts of three years here.
For all the wigs and wackiness and Mannywood mania, you know what Ramirez actually gave the Dodgers?
Ten weeks. Ten good weeks.
The Dodgers would not have advanced to the 2008 National League Championship Series without him. But after that, he was mostly Badly Being Badly.
You say he led the Dodgers back to the NLCS the following year? I say, and the Dodgers agreed, that they would have reached it without him. Weren’t they in first place when he came back from his 50-game suspension?
You say he taught the young Dodgers how to reach their potential? I say, which ones? Matt Kemp? Jonathan Broxton? Russell Martin? They were a .500 team when he played his first game here. They were three games above .500 after he played his final game here. Who learned what exactly?
You say he changed the vibe at Dodger Stadium, turning it into something not seen there since Fernandomania? You’re right. But, like every other fad out here, it lasted about two heartbeats, this one disappearing into the silence of a stripped Mannywood, a disillusioned clubhouse and an argued first strike.
And, now, on to Chicago, where, trying to extend his money grab, he undoubtedly will show up with fresh legs and a fancy smile and a big spray of perfume on the notebook of whatever sports columnist he thinks will be intoxicated by his attention.
It will work for a couple of months. It could even last into October. But then, well, buyer beware. Once one of baseball’s most conniving players gets what he wants, he stops giving back.
It is hard to say the Dodgers were suckered when they won eight postseason games in two seasons with Ramirez after winning one postseason game in the previous 20 years. Yet somehow it feels that way.
I would love to cheer Ramirez from life’s dugout as he fights off collapse in the final inning of his storied career. But I’m taking a shower.