07/31/08 8:08 PM ET
Trade was logical end to Manny's act
Red Sox can move forward without walking on eggshells
But sometimes you've got to laugh to dull the hurt, and Ramirez's escape/banishment from Boston is the gaping wound at the end of a 7 1/2-year sore.Since being signed by the previous Red Sox ownership prior to the 2001 season, Ramirez had brought joy and inspired awe in the batter's box. Everywhere else, he made people roll their eyes and shake their heads and gnash their teeth. At every turn, Ramirez lived the signature line of comic Steven Wright (a diehard Red Sox fan, by the way), "I live in my own world -- and they like me there." Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel, the Cleveland skipper during Ramirez's Indians phase, had an interesting comment the other day when the Phillies were still on the periphery of the market for him: "My time with Manny was very special because he was a very special hitter and he was a kid. He's grown up a lot. He's gotten older." Manuel was half-right. Ramirez has gotten older. In baseball years, Ramirez is a mature sage. He has driven in 102-plus runs 11 times, is a career .312 hitter and clocked his 500th homer two months ago. In human years ... who knows? But within the past two weeks, he has done everything to get out of Boston but hold his breath. Many divorces are pled on "irreconcilable differences," and this one was a textbook example. Ramirez's daily snits made his continued presence in the Boston clubhouse impossible, even if they had not come on top of years of flagrant misbehavior. During his last two months in a Red Sox uniform, (a) Ramirez tussled with teammate Kevin Youkilis, (b) manhandled a 61-year-old traveling secretary, (c) essentially called team owner John Henry dishonest, (d) removed himself from lineups for mysterious knee injuries that MRIs couldn't find, (e) said the Red Sox weren't deserving of him and (f) loafed. Whew, quite a run. I can't wait for Ramirez's likely Hall of Fame induction, which realistically should come under a Boston cap because he was instrumental in the city's only two World Series titles in 90 years, to hear the spin put on his Red Sox Nation citizenship. But of this you can be certain: It will be spun, much like most of Ramirez's Boston tenure. If there is one criticism to be leveled at Boston management, it is Terry Francona and Theo Epstein's historical willingness to overlook Manny's transgressions until ... well, he's coming up on those $20 million options we're not going to exercise anyway. Was anything pulled by Ramirez recently worse than refusing Grady Little's request to pinch-hit, leaving a game against the Yankees in protest of an official scorer's decision, or pouting because he didn't get a promised day off -- as if he was a java-jerk at Starbucks? In fact, so familiar had been the tensions and sideways glances of the past few days, Boston players were ready to move beyond them. Still with Manny. Again. Speaking for them, team captain Jason Varitek had noted hours before the Trade Deadline, "Every year it's like this. This is so out of our hands. Even this year, it's out of our hands. I just think that this team needs to take a step past that and focus on playing baseball." It had became increasingly evident that had grown impossible, that Boston's 1-5 record -- and regression to three games behind American League East-leading Tampa Bay -- in the wake of Ramirez's latest snit was hardly a coincidence. On Friday, he scratched himself from the lineup for a game Boston would lose to the Yankees, 1-0. On Tuesday, he hit a grounder over third base fielded by Chone Figgins deep behind the bag and in foul territory and loafed into the out that preserved John Lackey's no-hitter for five more outs, until Dustin Pedroia broke it up with one down in the ninth. On Wednesday, the Red Sox dropped a four-error eyesore to the Angels as Ramirez's status hovered over Fenway Park; even the towering iconic neon sign beyond the Green Monster seemed to glow, "JUSTGO." If fan-friendly general manager Epstein needed endorsement to deal Ramirez -- not to say he did; four years ago, he sent off immensely popular Nomar Garciaparra -- he got it from the boos showered on the outfielder by nightly sellouts. Epstein may also have been aware of the Boston Herald poll in which 61 percent of thousands of respondents said "Take the Bay deal" vs. 27 percent who voted to "Hold onto Ramirez." By nightfall, Epstein and Boston had to deal with an exit poll. The Red Sox were off Thursday. When they file into their Fenway Park locker room on Friday night for a series opener against Oakland, Ramirez won't be there for the first time since Sept. 24, 2000. Varitek and pitcher Tim Wakefield are the only remaining Red Sox who go back as far. We're avidly looking forward to the reactions of the players to Ramirez's empty locker. But whatever they say, they'll look more comfortable. It isn't easy walking on eggshells for weeks. Now that their feet are firmly back on the ground, they have the traction to run down some renegade Rays.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.