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Manny being Manny

Conventional wisdom and prevailing opinion among hardcore Boston Red Sox fans is that LA Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez finally sulked his way out of a Boston Red Sox uniform by basically phoning it in and causing trouble for his team for a couple of months earlier in the season, which phoning and trouble resulted in a trade of Ramirez to LA for very little in return. Two rebuttals have surfaced recently that seem more plausible to me. The first is Facts About Manny Ramirez by Joe Sheehan. Sheehan uses some of those pesky facts to illustrate that on the field, Manny played as well or better during the supposed phoning-it-in period than he has in the past.

When he played, Ramirez killed the league. He hit .347/.473/.587 in July. His OBP led the team, and his SLG led all Red Sox with at least 25 AB. The Sox, somewhat famously, went 11-13 in July. Lots of people want you to believe that was because Manny Ramirez is a bad guy. I’ll throw out the wildly implausible idea that the Sox went 11-13 because Ortiz played in six games and because veterans Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek has sub-600 OPSs for the month.

Four days before he was traded, Manny Ramirez just about single-handedly saved the Red Sox from getting swept by the Yankees, with doubles in the first and third innings that helped the Sox get out to a 5-0 lead in a game they had to win to stay ahead of the Yankees in the wild-card race.

In Manny Being Manipulated, Bill Simmons attempts to answer the question, Ok, so why did Manny suddenly want to be traded and, more importantly, why did the Red Sox actually oblige? Simmons’ answer: Scott Boras, Ramirez’s agent and “one of the worst human beings in America who hasn’t actually committed a crime”. According to Simmons, it all boiled down to mismatched incentives and following the money.

Manny’s contract was set to expire after the 2008 season, with Boston holding $20 million options for 2009 and 2010. Boras couldn’t earn a commission on the option years because those fees belonged to Manny’s previous agents. He could only get paid when he negotiated Manny’s next contract. And Scott Boras always gets paid.

Boras could only get paid for representing Ramirez if Manny signed a new contract. Which he will next year because as part of the trade, the Dodgers agreed to waive his 2009 option and allow him to become a free agent. And the Red Sox went along because they decided they’d rather have a good relationship with Scott Boras going forward instead of a weird relationship with Ramirez. As for Manny, he gets paid either way, rarely appreciated the weird pressure/adulation put on him and every other Red Sox player by Boston fans, and, I get the feeling, likes swinging a bat, no matter what team he plays for.