Manny continues to be Manny this off-season, but this time it may end up hurting his wallet more than it hurts his team. Ramirez and his agent Scott Boras (aka the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, etc.) turned down the LA Dodgers’ latest offer of one year/$25 million with a $20 million player option for 2010. The $25 million salary would have made Manny the second highest paid player in baseball behind A-Rod who is not surprisingly, also a Boras client. Additionally, the contract would have allowed Ramirez to opt out at the end of the year and seek a new contract if the economy improves over the course of the season (magic eight ball prognosis—unlikely). Boras warned the Dodgers “not to play chicken” with him and has turned down each offer as if they are somehow insulting. It’s easy to see why. As is, he only stands to make about $2.5 million with the deal – tough life.
This was the Dodgers fourth offer to Ramirez during the off-season; they offered him arbitration which was declined, a 2 year/$45 million deal which they took off the table after Boras said that his client was only looking at serious offers, and a straight up one year/$20 million deal. Apparently, over $20 million a year in a major economic slump for a 36-year-old who plays defense about as well as Stephen Hawking plays Wii Tennis is not a “serious” offer. The Dodgers have bent over backwards to accommodate Ramirez, who seems to have more demands than most poodles (looks like someone will only eat Fancy Feast), yet Boras isn’t willing to budge an inch. One can see why fans have become frustrated with the greed in major sports; ticket prices continue to soar as millions are fired across the country, but here is Ramirez and his agent asking for a king’s ransom.
Boras claims that there are a number of teams in pursuit of Ramirez, but is that really the case? Most teams have been unwilling to spend large chunks of money this off-season, the Yankees being the obvious exception, and many talented players like Orlando Hudson, that would have been quickly snatched up in years past are still looking for work. The Giants claim that they are interested–if the price is right–but are they going to up the Dodger’s ante? Boston has the money but are clearly out of the equation (hell hath no fury like a Sox fan scorned) and the Yankees don’t have a spot for Ramirez in the field after their free agent splurge. The Mets are rumored to be looking at Manny, which is denied by GM Omar Minaya and after signing Oliver Perez and being hit by Madoff’s ponzi scheme, don’t really have any more money to throw around (at least not like Howie Mandell).
The Dodgers are a completely different team with Ramirez in the lineup as he finished last season with a stat line of .332 BA-37 HRs-121 RBIs, including hitting a ridiculous .520 in the postseason. Manny is one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time (think Jimmie Foxx with dreads) and is a lock for the Hall of Fame, but he does come with his baggage. Often chided for his lackadaisical play, Ramirez seemingly forced his way out of Boston with a laundry list of “injuries”, decreased production at the plate, and utter bewilderment in leftfield (we’re talking Paris Hilton in a library confused). A beloved player who had led the Red Sox to two World Series in four years had worn out his welcome in the summer of 2008, leaving Boston GM Theo Epstein little choice but to ship Manny across the country to L.A. Once the precocious Ramirez felt once again that he was the center of the universe, he magically rediscovered how to hit, and the fresh L.A. air reignited his passion for the game. Playing for the Dodgers, he dove for fly balls and sprinted down the first base line like his life depended on it. The only time Manny ran in Boston is when a new Dunkin’ Donuts opened up.
The Dodgers have no one else in their lineup who can come close to that kind of production (and no, the signing of Mark Loretta is not the answer), but why should the Dodgers let Boras manipulate them into bidding against themselves? Ramirez wants a multi-year deal but his track record suggests keeping him on a short leash is the best way to get him to produce. If this continues to drag out, the Dodgers may simply decide he’s not worth the trouble and walk away, leaving Ramirez out of options and Boras a long overdue date with the Karma Police.