Hey, we couldn't be happier for those Los Angeles Dodgers, who are selling about 30,000 tickets a day now that they've moved their home games to Planet Manny. But we'd like to ask one little question of all those people in L.A. who are showering their man Manny Ramirez with so much love:
What the heck are you cheering for?
For a man who decided his personal net worth was more important than an entire franchise and all the people who played with him, covered for him, depended on him?
Sheez. How sad is that?
The simple answer to Stark's first question is, "we're cheering for a team that suddenly has life, is fun to watch, and that also is winning a few games."
But I'm sure, based on the fact that the column continues for a while, that Stark was asking the question rhetorically. That simple answer has to mean something, though, right? It's hard to tell the fans to stop cheering here, because it's been a while since it's been this exciting to watch the team play. And Manny's energy brought that here. We're the ones paying his salary (the collective "we," of course, since the Dodgers aren't paying a penny of it this year), so shouldn't we get to decide whether to cheer or not?
Stark seems to be worried that the level of excitement over Manny's arrival in Los Angeles overshadows the behavior that caused him to be traded in the first place. And Stark is very much against that behavior, and wants us all to turn our backs to home plate when Manny bats, just so he'll know that we won't tolerate his antics out here on the left coast. Or something.
Honeslty, after everything that went down when Manny left Boston, you can certainly see Stark's point. If the stories are all true, Boston certainly felt like they needed to get rid of Ramirez as quickly as possible, and they were willing to take whatever they could to do it.
Stark thinks of Manny as the worst kind of athlete: the kind who will only play when it's going to mean more money from him; the kind who will get the big contract and then not be bothered to play hard until it's time for the next contract. I don't know everything that happened, but on the face, Manny certainly fits the description. The Red Sox weren't willing to give Manny the answer he wanted on his 2009 option until after the season, and Manny seemed ready to push the right buttons to change that stance.
He knocked the traveling secretary to the ground, he clearly didn't hustle or try very hard in games leading up to the trading deadline. The question might be why this was the case, and the media is all too ready to blame Manny entirely. Maybe it is his fault. Maybe the Red Sox treated him badly in an effort to make him do exactly what he did. Maybe it was a combination of both.
The Dodgers, of course, haven't experienced any of those problems -- yet. Oh, they had a chuckle-filled Manny Moment the other night, when the ninth inning almost started without their left fielder joining in on the festivities. But other than that, the Dodgers' visit to Planet Manny has been one big happy carnival of line drives, tough at-bats and cha-chinging cash registers.
It's a wonderful little portrait of how much fun it can be to have this guy around when he feels like going with the program. He can be lovable. He can be a good teammate. He's one of the half-dozen greatest right-handed hitters who ever lived. He can even run to first base on days when the constellations line up correctly.
But after what went on in Boston last month, what should we make of it when this Manny shows up in Southern California? Is this the real Manny? Or is this just part of his new hit-the-lottery marketing campaign?
Stark is correct in the sense that this does not set a good precedent for Major League Baseball. More importantly to me--though I am loathe to use the "what about the kids?" argument--is what kind of image this portrays to the children who look up to these athletes. Don't get your way? No problem. Whine about it and someone will give you something even better.
I don't know, though. I'm pretty selfish. I like Manny playing for the Dodgers. And it's not like it's any big news that these men are incredibly self-absorbed prima donnas. Manny just happens to be a little more outspoken about it. But we continue to show up for games, and spend money on concessions and t-shirts. It's hard to tell a man like Frank McCourt that he'd be setting a bad precedent by resigning Manny, since McCourt has been lining his pockets with cash since July 31 (remember--this is the man who has raised parking prices 100% since he bought the team in 2004). For the record, though, I can't see McCourt giving Manny a long-term deal here. I don't expect to see Manny in Dodger Blue next season.
Salaries have been getting progressively higher and more ridiculous for years now. Did Manny really do anything so new and crazy that it will change the game as we know it? After all, he is a pretty rare find. Other guys can try the same thing, but is anyone going to pay as much attention when the player isn't a certain first ballot of Hall of Famer?
This is all over the place, since the column was just posted and my feelings are rather new. What do you think?