Deadline makes strange bedfellows
Once opponents, swap unifies Manny, Torre in Dodger blue
You never know what is going to happen in the sometimes-crazy world of Major League Baseball.
That's why Joe Torre, famed for his days with the New York Yankees, is now the manager of a team in Los Angeles that includes Manny Ramirez -- he of Boston Red Sox fame.
Well, it was a season ago, and a great deal can change in a short time, particularly when the Trade Deadline is reaching the countdown to the final bell.
There were a couple of things that seemed reasonably clear as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approached. First of all, the Boston Red Sox were going to make every effort to move an unhappy Ramirez from their roster.
You also could have made a safe bet that if the Pittsburgh Pirates were involved in a trade, they were going to get young, inexpensive and, hopefully, talented players in return.
As it turned out, the Red Sox and Pirates accomplished their objectives on Thursday in an earth-shaking three-way trade. Ramirez was shown the door in Boston, and the Pirates welcomed four young players to their organization.
The surprising and somewhat-puzzling part in all of this was that the show titled "Manny Being Manny" moved from Boston to Los Angeles -- coast-to-coast, as they say.
This isn't to fault the Dodgers. They needed a power hitter in the middle of their lineup and they went for it with gusto.
The key part in all of this is that while the Red Sox and Pirates followed their game plans (Boston getting rid of Ramirez and the Pittsburgh picking up young players), the Dodgers took somewhat of a leap of faith with Ramirez.
Ramirez has been known to lose concentration and he seemed to be distracted by his contract situation in Boston, as the club held options for 2009 and '10 at $20 million per season. That part of the puzzle went out the window on Thursday when the Dodgers and agent Scott Boras agreed to void the option years, rendering Ramirez a free agent at season's end.
It would seem that Ramirez will give his full attention as he approaches free agency and will want to be productive and in the lineup every day. That figures to be good news for the Dodgers, as they add one of the top power hitters of all-time to their lineup.
The Dodgers now have five outfielders looking to play every day -- the young and talented duo of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier; the always-pesky Juan Pierre; a highly paid and struggling Andruw Jones; and now Ramirez.
It's quite a puzzle for Torre.
"You wish you had the DH," said the veteran manager. "We didn't plan in advance how to move things around."
It remains to be seen how all of this will work out. The Red Sox ended up with Bay, who was hitting .282 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs for the Pirates. That's not too far removed from Ramirez's production of .299 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs. Furthermore, Bay, at 29, is seven years younger than Ramirez and presumably a lot less trouble.
The Pirates did well in the deal by acquiring four young players with promise -- third baseman Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris from the Dodgers, and outfielder Brandon Moss and pitcher Craig Hansen from the Red Sox.
Even though the Dodgers may not have planned for the addition of Ramirez, they have assured themselves of an interesting stretch run as they strive for postseason play.
If the Dodgers find success, what a picture it would be -- Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez hugging in a Dodgers celebration.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice-president and general manager. His book -- Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue -- was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.