I have a friend named Tom. He is one of the most natural people at picking up video games I have ever seen. When we were chaps in high school, we often used to break out the Playstation or the good old Nintendo 64. With merely a skim through the instruction booklet, Tom could lay waste to anyone in his path. I like to think I could keep up with him in Goldeneye, but Tom did things that other could not, and he did it effortlessly. As we grew older we began playing online games together as we did not live in the same part of the country anymore. Again, Tom mastered the competition and created a following from those that knew him in the games. All this being said Tom is very much his own person. He comes and goes as he pleases and is under no obligation to let you know when you will hear from him again. He goes on vacation without a word and returns weeks later without skipping a beat. I will always remember one night we were going to hang out in high school and Tom merely told us over the phone that he had to buy a gas grill. When pressed about the subject on that night and on nights following he would merely say he just needed a gas grill. That’s Tom. Even when he was diagnosed with cancer, he merely saw it as an obstacle that had to be dealt with accordingly, and he did. Tom is very much his own person and in the video game sense of things, he is someone everyone wants on their team, but recognizes that he will do what he does in the manner he sees fit. Its Tom being Tom. I believe Manny is the same way when it comes to his baseball, but he crossed that thin line he always walked in recent weeks.
A day after the Manny deal that sent the Red Sox leftfielder to L.A., two prospects in Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates, and Jason Bay to Boston, many people are buzzing on who got the bad end of the deal. Many say it is a win for all three. Others say the Red Sox were the losers. Regardless of whom people think came out worse, the BoSox had to pull the trigger.
Manny is a hall-of-famer no doubt, and before he hangs up the cleats he will be one of the most prolific hitters of all time. His antics have been well chronicled and often celebrated for their light-heartedness. He was seen going into the monster for a bathroom break or a phone call, wearing an mp3 player on his sun glasses in leftfield, the high five after making a running outfield grab and then sending it in for a double play(my favorite) and the pose with jazz hands after he clobbered a home run. But there was also a less mirthful side of Manny being Manny. Actions that made you shake your head with a grimace, not a smile, on your face. The cut-off of Johnny Damon’s throw years back (although I have to admit that makes me laugh), the many instances of lack of effort on the basepaths, and the shoving to the ground of a Red Sox official who was letting Manny know he could not secure a hoard of tickets right before a game. These were the bad things that Manny brought to the table, not to mention his constant talks of being traded or released from the Red Sox.
The World Series rings allayed concerns over his antics. Manager Terry Francona, whom I do not envy for having to manage said Manny, went from being seen as Ramirez’s enabler to a master at containing the wild spirit. It was clear that Manny had a mind of his own and despite the questions about his desire, the Red Sox won and he pounded out the hits. Behind the love affair between Boston and Manny something continued to fester. As Red Sox nation became more powerful they became more tolerant of Manny’s idiosyncrasies. Manny always had the constitution to do what he wanted, but now he felt nothing could prevent him from free dominion over the Red Sox and how they ran the ballclub. Events were certainly headed for a collision course. Manny began to complain of a knee injury and took himself out of the lineup, he failed to put in even a medium amount of effort in his baserunning as pointed out by Baseball Tonight, and the final straw in my opinion was his conversation with the media. He had said trade me before, but now he was adding onto it. The line “they don’t deserve me” was the one that rings in my head.
Theo Epstein has never been afraid to deal his players if he feels the need. He shipped Nomar out in 2004 which had many up in arms until the Red Sox swept the Cardinals. Once Manny made those comments Epstein, if he had not already, decided it was time to act. The Red Sox are worse by the numbers with Bay. Jason Bay is no Manny Ramirez but it’s the best they could have hoped for and although the Boston clubhouse may be missing some flare, it should have less of a shadow hanging over it and fewer unanswerable questions about its superstar to answer. That’s Joe Torre’s responsibility now. By the way I would never part ways with Tom, he’s just too damn good at video games.