The Post-Manny Era begins now. Should I feel sad? Because actualy I feel relieved.
I didn’t think I would feel this way. Manny Ramirez is in some respects the Ted Williams of our time — a legendary hitter whose battles with the press, however unfair, helped to tarnish his legacy, at least in the short term. Over time, Williams appropriately became a New England sports god, even if he never answered the fans letters until 1999. Ramirez is not destined for the same pedestal, but he’ll be on one sooner or later.
I feel like I should feel sad about this. Intellectually, I mourn the passing of an era. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez from 2003-2006 formed the greatest two-man combo we will probably ever see. Ramirez is forever tied to the 2004 World Series by winning its MVP award; he’s forever tied to the 2007 champions with his career-defining home run off K-Rod in the ALDS. When Manny arrived, not surprisingly, he became an icon, and we forgave his foibles because ultimately he made the frustrations worth coping with. He didn’t play the game the right way, and no matter what definition you use, that seems incontrovertible. He didn’t hustle on ground balls, and that cost him hits. He often stared at his deep drives — even when they didn’t leave the park. They were frustrating, but they were a small price for The Greatest Right-Handed Hitter of His Generation.
My wife, a casual baseball fan inducted into the Nation by marrying me, said last night she kept track of the innings by when Manny Ramirez came to bat. Not Big Papi. Manny. Because as large a presence as the Large Father is, no one loomed larger in that lineup than Manuel Aristides Ramirez.
Now he’s gone. And I’m relieved.
Let’s not get into the reasons again. We know what’s happened — the slap, the shove, the knee, the comments. It’s not a separation, it’s a divorce. A messy divorce. In the end, Ramirez got what he has apparently wanted ever since he arrived in 2001. In the end, the Red Sox got what they have apparently wanted ever since the new ownership arrived in 2002. The fans, caught in the middle, are left with a mix of emotions and questions, not least of which is, "What now?"
The easy answer to that question is, "Jason Bay." Jason Bay is not Manny Ramirez. He’s not The Greatest Right-Handed Hitter of His Generation. He might be that in Pittsburgh, but this isn’t Pittsburgh. But he is an All-Star, a better-than-solid bat six years younger than Ramirez who comes much more cheaply and is locked in for another year — maybe longer if he adjusts well to Boston. His numbers this season are comparable to Manny’s, he’s a better fielder and a better runner, and he comes without the drama, both good and bad.
We shouldn’t underestimate the predicament the Red Sox faced. If not Ramirez’s words, certainly the club’s own actions showed they felt they had to move him at almost any cost. Reports indicate Manny had lost Francona, lost the players; his presence, they felt, was costing the team, and they clearly believed his continued presence would destroy the rest of the season. Other teams knew this. Boston was not dealing from a position of strength this trade deadline.
Given those factors, receiving a hitter like Jason Bay in return may be one of Theo Epstein’s greater accomplishments as general manager. Results may prove otherwise, but based solely on current levels of talent, the Red Sox upgraded their left field position by trading Manny Ramirez. Not long ago, this was thought to be impossible. That the Sox received such a good return is indeed a relief.
So farewell, Manny. Thank you for everything. No hard feelings, but it’s best that you’ve gone.