As a counterpoint to the screed below, here’s an excerpt from Tim Marchman‘s thoughts on the Boston/LA/Pittsburgh 3-way day, in which the NY Sun’s excellent baseball columnist declares that Manny Ramirez had “become an embarrassment, and you can’t blame Boston for wanting to see the last of him.”
Strictly as a baseball proposition, Boston, which started the day three games behind Tampa Bay in the division race and one ahead of the Yankees in the wild card race, isn’t going to miss Ramirez anywhere near as much as you might think. Ramirez, 34, is hitting .299/.398/.529 this year; Jason Bay, 29, is hitting .282/.375/.519, a level he’s hit at for years. Given their defense ” Ramirez is an atrocity in the field, while Bay is a decent outfielder ” this is at best a wash, and may even favor Bay. He isn’t a demigod of clutch hitting, but the runs Ramirez gives up with his glove are just as real as the ones he drives in at the plate.
Given the talent gap between the two leagues right now, there might be some question about whether Bay’s offense will translate to the brutal American League East, but he’s thrashed some great pitchers, hitting .359 with five home runs against Carlos Zambrano, .355 against Roy Oswalt, .400 against Ben Sheets, and .421 against Andy Pettitte, all in 20 or more at bats. He should be fine. Since he’s under contract for next year at just $7.5 million, he even spares Boston the headache of having to pick between exercising Ramirez’s $20 million option this fall and finding a left fielder capable of replacing him.
Of course this wasn’t a straight baseball trade. Ramirez had recently said the team didn’t deserve him, announced he’d accept a trade to Iraq, and called team owner John Henry a liar, among other tomfoolery. More seriously, he missed six games against top starters for vague, suspicious reasons and ostentatiously loafed on the field.
Ramirez behaved disgracefully, doing his bit to earn a reputation tending more toward Dick Allen than Dizzy Dean territory. It’s hard to think of any recent examples of a star of this caliber more or less openly tanking it on this scale in the middle of a hot pennant race, something far more damaging to the game than anyone’s drug use. Ramirez is going to pay for it both in the way he’s remembered and, I expect, in the contract offers he gets this fall. There will always be a team ready to sign anyone who can hit the way he still can, but there aren’t going to be very many looking to sign a designated hitter for more than the $20 million a year he would have had from Boston if he’d just kept his head down and played ball.