The morning after Mike Scioscia put the “suicide” in suicide squeeze, I think I can be excused (sorry, Rays, Phillies) for looking ahead to the great Autumn Soap Opera Clusterfuck of 2008 that would surely be Manny Ramirez’ return to Fenway for Game One of the World Series.  Newsday’s Wallace Matthews, however, is looking even further ahead, anticipating Ramirez’ free agency windfall and warning the New York Mets, ” he’s a great player to rent, but you wouldn’t want to own him…not at this point in his career, pushing 37 years old, looking for A-Rod’s money and Jim Thome’s job, the one in which you get off your butt only four times a game to hit.”

Manny’s been great for the Dodgers, a morale-booster, a sparkplug and a ticket-seller. But you suspect he’s been on his best behavior, this being a walk year and all, and that once he gets that fat new contract, he will go back to being what he always was.

A head case, a sometime malcontent, an all-day flake. You know, everything’s going along fine, then one day he decides to strangle the traveling secretary. Just Manny being Manny.

Do you think adding Manny’s 17 homers and 53 RBIs, not to mention a .396 average, in the last 53 games would have made a one-game difference? Do you think that might have taken some of the pressure off the overworked and undertalented bullpen? Do you think there might have been fewer empty seats and a little more life in the ballpark down the stretch if Manny had been in the lineup? Do you think he might have been able to carry this team over the last month of the season and deposit them safely into late October?

Of course, of course, of course and of course.

And if the Mets try to sign him on the free-agent market this winter, they’re nuts.