Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jayson Stark Does Not Like Manny Ramirez

From Stark's column, posted on today:

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?


Orel said...

The traveling secretary incident is the hardest thing for me to reconcile about Manny. Otherwise, Dodger fans are going by what they see: The first superstar they've been able to cheer for in years.

Jack Cobra said...

You know, I bet my girlfriend was pretty mean to her ex-bf at times but she loves me like heck and treats me really well......I think that's the same reason why the Dodgers fans root for Manny since he hasn't done anything wrong to them.

Erin said...

Orel: yeah, the traveling secretary thing is a little unsettling. The story was sort of secretive and weird, but Manny apologized, so I guess he did something wrong. I don't know.

Cobra: I think the larger point that Jayson Stark was making (about Manny setting a bad precedent for baseball as a whole) is understandably ignored--or not believed--by Dodger fans, for exactly that reason. Those fans are paying money and showing up at games for their team, and the new guy is just making it more fun.

For the record, the media is acting like the Dodgers had Marlins-like attendance before Manny's arrival, when in reality they have consistently brought in fans like crazy over the years.

Orel said...

Manny shoved an old man to the ground. That's pretty wrong. What's especially strange is that it's angry behavior—something Manny is seemingly incapable of.

And yes, the Dodgers routinely draw at least three million annually, win or lose. But it's about more than fun now. Russell Martin is one of the most fun Dodgers to watch, but he hasn't generated Manny-level excitement. It's about the Dodgers having a Kobe-caliber superstar, making them relevant again.

Erin said...

Of course it was wrong. No question. It was just such a strange story, and so unexpected, as was the little scuffle with Youkilis in the dugout.

And I've been to the stadium twice now since Manny arrived. It's definitely more fun overall. Part of me laments that, because I was always excited to watch the Dodgers play, and I wanted everyone else to be, too. But Manny is making every game feel like a playoff game, which is pretty cool.

And the Dodgers are definitely getting more coverage from the national outlets, which is also nice. Before, it was like we were a small market team in the biggest market in the country.

Andrew said...

Erin- Word is here in Boston that the spat between Manny and Youk is that it was over Youk's propensity to throw equipment (and generally whine and swear) after a poor AB. Of course since that happened it has been spun here to be all Mannys fault, but I can easily see how Manny was more than likely speaking for the team when he did what he did.

Erin said...

Yeah, I knew that about the Youk spat. I wasn't really angry at Manny for that one. Youk probably needed to be reined in a bit.