Manny being Manny was always predictable

Manny-Ramirez So, are we supposed to be surprised by Manny Ramirez at this point? After all, that whole Manny being Manny bit was passé at least two teams ago.

Indeed, if Manny being Manny, he’s predictable.

Yawn!

Really, how could anyone be surprised with the way in which Manny finally met his demise, and for those who believe it came on Friday with his sudden retirement and an apparent second drug-test violation. The truth is Manny was exposed not by his first failed drug test, but by his stat ledger. When he returned from his 50-game ban in 2009, it turned out that Ramirez was just a good hitter.

He wasn’t anything more than that—good, not great.

“Might have been running out of bullets,” said Ramirez’s former batting coach, Charlie Manuel. “Father Time was catching up to him.”

Yeah, Father Time can be a real pain in the ass. He’s one of those miserable old dudes that needs punched in the face daily just to be kept in line. But even then Father Time doesn’t take the hint and eventually has his way. Even Jamie Moyer, the one ballplayer who seemed to organically fight back for the most extraordinarily, finally caught the haymaker that put him down. Though Moyer says he’s going to rehab from Tommy John surgery and try and catch on somewhere in 2012, it’s safe to say that he will be the first 49-year old in sports history to make a comeback after reconstructive surgery.

Chances are Moyer might gain a few ticks on the ol’ fastball after the surgery.

Not Manny, though. He won’t be coming back ever again without first serving the time of his suspension as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. Actually, based on some of the reporting from the first time Ramirez drew a suspension for PEDs, the info seemed to suggest that he was a serial abuser. Here’s what we wrote the first time Manny went down in May of 2009:

A new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

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Missing the Big Piece could cause big problems

Ryan_howard So far the Phillies have done OK without slugger Ryan Howard. Of course it’s been just one game, but Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz popped homers and piled up seven hits on Tuesday night in Miami. That’s good because if the Phillies are going to survive the spate of injuries plaguing the team, guys like Ruiz, Francisco and new cleanup hitter, Jayson Werth, are going to have to deliver.

Because teams with injury problems like the Phillies don’t win otherwise.

Yeah, there have been a few teams in recent history that lost its top slugger during the regular season and were able to keep it together to get to the World Series. For instance, the Yankees played the first 28 games of 2009 without Alex Rodriguez, which would have been a crippling loss, if the team didn’t have guys like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira ready to pick up the slack.

In 2007, Manny Ramirez missed 24 games in September for the Red Sox and hit his final homer of the regular season on Aug. 28. But when the playoffs started, Ramirez was back in the lineup and batted .400 with four homers through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

It also didn’t hurt that the Red Sox had David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and American League rookie of the year, Dustin Pedroia. The Sox were so stacked that they traded Ramirez to the Dodgers midway through the 2008 season.

There’s always a fallback slugger, like in 1990 when Eric Davis missed 23 games in May and the last week of the regular season, but was ready to go in the playoffs when Reds’ teammates Paul O’Neil, Chris Sabo and Mariano Duncan stepped up. Davis was the best player on the Reds in 1990, but registered a 2.6 Wins over replacement (WAR) because guys like Billy Hatcher and Glenn Braggs kept the machine running.

Ah yes, running. That’s one way to combat a power deficiency. That’s how the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals made up for losing Jack Clark for 34 games in September and October. Considering that Clark banged out 22 homers in 122 games, which was exactly two more than the combined total of the six players on the team that played 100 games that year, his loss was significant.

Nevertheless, the Cardinals won 101 games and made it to the seventh game of the World Series (they actually won it in six games, but Don Denkinger… you know) partially because they swiped 314 bases—110 from Vince Coleman—and had a .335 on-base percentage as a team. Tommy Herr led the team with 110 RBIs even though he hit just eight homers. Willie McGee drove in 82 runs with just 10 homers and 18 triples to capture the NL MVP Award.

The strangest stat from the 1987 Cardinals is that they won 101 games with two pitchers that won 21 games with five players getting at least 30 stolen bases. Herr and Ozzie Smith swiped 31 bags in ’85, which would have led the Phillies in 2009 and been the fourth-best in the National League.

Yes, the game has changed.

But speed, as they say, kills, and it’s a weapon the Phillies used to their advantage to get to the World Series the past two seasons by swiping bags at a better than 80 percent clip. However, the running game for the Phillies has been grounded a bit, too. Shane Victorino leads the club with 20 steals, but he’s out for another few weeks with an abdominal injury. Jimmy Rollins hasn’t been caught stealing all season and has the second-most steals in franchise history in the modern era. But between the calf injury that led to a pair of DL stints and a sore foot that ballooned after getting smashed by a foul ball, Rollins has simply trying to hold it together.

So the Phillies are missing their speed and power as we head into the throes of August. And if that isn’t enough, Chase Utley is still days away from simply gripping a bat after he ripped the ligament on his right thumb. Over 162 games, Howard and Utley average nearly 80 homers per season, which is seven fewer than what the 1985 Cardinals hit all season.

What can the Phillies do if they can’t bash and run past the opposition? Werth, the darling of the SABR set, is streaky at best and followed a two-doubles effort in Washington with four strikeouts against the Marlins. There’s Rollins and Placido Polanco, but those guys are still recovering from stints on the disabled list. Raul Ibanez is starting to swing the bat, and catcher Carlos Ruiz is putting together his best season offensively. Also, Dom Brown is holding down a spot in the heart of the lineup, but is it fair to ask a rookie to keep the team together until the big guns start to trickle back?

So what do they do without Howard, a player that has dominated Septembers past?

How about pitching and defense?

Good thing the Phillies have the Roys and Cole, huh? Now if they can just close out some games they’ll be OK… maybe.

The NLCS: Just Manny being useless

Easily one of the smartest reactions to the ending of the classic Game 4 came from our boy Meech over at The Fightins. Here, take a look:

I’m upset that I didn’t come up with it first. It pains my heart.

Along those lines, it’s being reported that the city of Philadelphia is greasing up the utility poles in case the Phillies win tonight in Game 5. This makes sense because when I was a kid and my team won the big game, the first thing I did was shimmy up a utility pole.

Needless to say, I was a crazy sumbitch on the ropes in gym class.

Speaking of crazy, I had a chance to talk to the great T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times and laud the man for his work. And yes, I’m being serious. The guy can flat write and the way he does it, he is literally walking on a tight rope. If he misses, it’s going to be ugly. Unfortunately for a lot of his targets, he doesn’t miss all that much.

Here’s what I like about T.J. the most (aside from the fact that he can write and he has cojones the size of watermelons) — he gets it. Sports are supposed to be fun. When we watch a game it’s not like we’re watching a scientist in the lab splitting an atom or attempting to mix compounds to find that elusive cure for cancer. No, it’s fun and T.J. has fun. He’s a writer making wise cracks… what’s not to like about that?

Better yet, he can take it. He knows that when he dishes it out, he’s ready for what comes back. Plus, he has to be doing something right in order to get people to react the way they do. I’m not saying it’s the lowest common dominator routine placating to fans and insulting their intelligence. That’s what other mediums in the sports realm do. That’s not fun—it’s mean.

Here’s the thing about T.J. that left me in awe and made me ask others, “No he didn’t… did he? Seriously, he did that?

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com Following the Phillies victory in Game 3 where the fans at CBP serenaded Manny Ramirez with chants of, “You did steroids!” T.J. marched over to the Dodgers’ clubhouse and asked the Dodgers’ slugger about the fans’ little sing-song tribute.

“Where did they get this crazy idea you took steroids?” T.J. asked Ramirez.

Needless to say, Manny was not amused. Then again, his teammates shouldn’t be amused by Manny’s most recent behavior as well as his play since he returned from his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Before his suspension, Ramirez was killing the ball. He had six homers and 20 RBIs in 27 games to go with a .348 batting average and an OPS into the stratosphere.

But after his suspension he hasn’t been as good. He had just 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 77 games with a .269 average. Considering that Ramirez never hit below .292 when he played a full season, .269 is quite a drop off. More notable, though, he really faltered down the stretch. In September and October, Ramirez hit just .218 with 14 RBIs in 25 games.

During the postseason Ramirez is hitting the quietest .276 ever. Sure, he homered in the fifth inning of Game 1 against Cole Hamels to bring the Dodgers into the game, but since then he’s managed just three singles in 13 at-bats with four strikeouts.

Manny has been marginalized.

That’s when he’s not taking a shower in the middle of the ninth inning of a one-run game in which his team could have tied the series at 2 and forced a trip back to Los Angeles. Conversely, starting pitcher Randy Wolf did not leave the dugout after he was removed from the game with one out in the sixth inning. Why would he? He wanted to help cheer on his teammates.

But not Ramirez. He needed to get clean, which is apt when one considers that he was termed “a pig” by a baseball executive. Nope, Manny is for Manny and since there are no pay checks handed out during the playoffs, why should he care?

Last month I trotted out the story about Manny being alerted to the arrival of Jim Thome to the Dodgers and responding that he never heard of anyone by that name.

To wit:

This comes from a guy we know who works in the Dodgers organization. He wrote us an e-mail because he thought the story would please us. He was right.

Hey fellas,
Hope all is well. Had a story for you that you might find kind of funny and that might go well on your site. Just leave my name out of it. So here goes: Alright so we all know that Jim Thome was traded to the Dodgers at the end of August, reuniting him with Ramirez after all those years in Cleveland. That’s all fine and dandy and all, but get this….. hours before the trade is made official news to the media one of the clubhouse coaches goes over to Manny and says “hey we’re bringing Jim Thome back here to play with you”. Ramirez looks at him, stares off into the distance for a few minutes. Our coach starts to realize that either Manny isn’t happy or he’s got no [bleeping] clue what is going on. Our coach couldn’t believe it was that though, since they played together for almost 10 years in Cleveland. Finally our coach says “Manny aren’t you happy about Jim coming to LA?”Ramirez looks him dead in the eye and says “I’ve never played with anyone named Jim.” Gets up, and walks away. No [bleep]. Our coach left it at that.

So why wouldn’t Manny be in the shower as his teammates were suffering through the worst defeat of the season or maybe even some of their careers. Heck, just add this to the absent-minded legend that is Manny Ramirez. You know, the guy who came back from a drug suspension only to post ordinary hitting statistics.

Just Manny being Rickey

image from fingerfood.typepad.com WASHINGTON – I have Brad Lidge fatigue. No, I’m not tired of Brad Lidge. In fact, he’s a great dude. He’s nice, polite, personable, Thoughtful, funny and smart. Generally, those aren’t the best qualities for a closer, but it seemed to work out pretty well last year.

Hey, Lidge might be the only ballplayer in history to pursue an advanced degree in biblical archaeology. Think he and Brett Myers are sitting around discussing that?

Anyway, I have Lidge fatigue because I’m tired of writing about closers, the ninth inning and saves. Lately, it seems like that’s all we do. Charlie Manuel is tired of being asked about it, too, but frankly it’s the news. In the news business, one tends to focus on those types of things.

And apropos of that, I asked Charlie if he’d consider allowing a pitcher to go more than one inning to nail down a save because he labeled himself a “throwback guy.” The answer, of course, was no because with a bullpen thinned out by injuries and Lidge’s struggles. Remember the stretch run in September of 2007 when Manuel rode J.C. Romero, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers? If it seemed as if those guys pitched every game in the rush to take the NL East from the Mets it was because they did… practically.

Myers pitched 16 games that September, Gordon pitched 18, and Romero got into 20 games.

Fortunately for Manuel, he has a better starting staff this year so he won’t have to reprise that tact with Myers, Ryan Madson and perhaps Chan Ho Park until Lidge gets it together.

Regardless, the closer/Lidge issues are just filling the time until we start diving the fight for home-field advantage in the NLDS. As it stands now, the Phillies would go to Los Angeles for the first two games of the opening playoffs series while St. Louis would host Colorado. If the Phillies survive that scenario, they would host Colorado but travel to St. Louis for the NLCS opener.

Of course there are still 24 games to go and the Dodgers’ starting pitchers are struggling. Undoubtedly the Phillies would not want to trade their Lidge problems for ones with a starter.

Anyway, to put the Lidge (and playoff seeding) chatter on hold for a bit, I picked up a funny little blog post sent from a friend about the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.

Apparently, according to the post, Manny has no idea who Jim Thome is. Never mind the fact that Thome and Manny were teammates for 10 years in Cleveland.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Conjuring the famous and debunked story about Rickey Henderson and John Olerud in which Rickey was said to explain to Olerud when both players were on the Mariners that he once was teammates with a guy who wore a helmet in the field with the Mets.

“Yeah, that was me, Rickey,” Olerud said in the myth.

So now we have Manny, who according to the author of Diamond Hoggers, just couldn’t figure out who the hell some guy named Jim Thome was.

To wit:

This comes from a guy we know who works in the Dodgers organization. He wrote us an e-mail because he thought the story would please us. He was right.

Hey fellas,Hope all is well. Had a story for you that you might find kind of funny and that might go well on your site. Just leave my name out of it. So here goes:Alright so we all know that Jim Thome was traded to the Dodgers at the end of August, reuniting him with Ramirez after all those years in Cleveland. That’s all fine and dandy and all, but get this….. hours before the trade is made official news to the media one of the clubhouse coaches goes over to Manny and says “hey we’re bringing Jim Thome back here to play with you”. Ramirez looks at him, stares off into the distance for a few minutes. Our coach starts to realize that either Manny isn’t happy or he’s got no fucking clue what is going on. Our coach couldn’t believe it was that though, since they played together for almost 10 years in Cleveland. Finally our coach says “Manny aren’t you happy about Jim coming to LA?”Ramirez looks him dead in the eye and says “I’ve never played with anyone named Jim.” Gets up, and walks away. No [bleep]. Our coach left it at that.


Wonder if that coach is a certain ex-Phillies manager?

Nevertheless, add this to the absent-minded legend that is Manny Ramirez. Or add it to the pile of Manny stories that Manuel likes to tell from their days in the Indians’ organization. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for Manny to show up at the ballpark with no money to pay for a taxi, no suitcase for a road trip or equipment.

Call him Manny Gump – the baseball hitting savant.

Or just call this episode a case of Manny being Rickey.

Reliving deadlines past

image from fingerfood.typepad.com A year ago we were in Washington wondering what was going to happen. The Phillies were supposedly involved in the bargaining for Manny Ramirez as well as a handful of relief pitchers as the trading deadline approached. Ultimately, nothing happened, but that didn’t make the day any less fun.

Shane Victorino, a player who was rumored to be the chip in some of those supposed deals, put on a show by pretending to sweat out the final minutes to the deadline. The reality, as we learned, was that the talk was just a lot of hot air. However, in looking back at quotes from then-GM Pat Gillick, the Phillies nearly made some deals.

One of those was, indeed, Manny Ramirez.

“I think at some point we had a good feeling about it,” Gillick said after the deadline had passed a year ago.

Good? How good?

“We were talking,” Gillick said then. “We were involved. We just couldn't get where they wanted to be, and we couldn't get where we wanted to be. So it was just one of those things.”

“Good” and “talking” are such ambiguous terms. The truth is some people talk about doing things that make them feel good all the time, but instead end up following the same old patterns day in and day out. Plus, everyone’s interpretation of “talk” isn’t always the same. For instance, it would be interesting to hear if Boston GM Theo Epstein had the same “good feeling” about sending Ramirez to the Phillies, but in the end it turned out to be “just one of those things.”

In retrospect, the Phillies were better off without Ramirez. They have three All-Stars in the outfield and the worst thing that happened to any of them was an extended trip to the disabled list for Raul Ibanez.

Otherwise, smooth sailing.

In looking back, the Phillies nearly pulled off a deal for a starter, too. It was going to be a three-way deal according to Gillick and one insider with the club portrayed the starter as, “decent.”

At the last minute one of the teams backed out.

“It was a three-way deal and we got agreement form one club and they were trying to get agreement on players from another club,” Gillick revealed of the unknown starter last year.

Think about this for a second… what if the deals had gone through? Would they have changed the season in any way, shape or form? Could it be the best deal the Phillies made last year was not making a deal at all?

It’s difficult to speculate because the Phillies got so hot in mid September and tore through every team all the way to the end. Guys like Jayson Werth, a player who emerged during that hot streak and carried into his All-Star year, like to point out how strong the Phillies always play in September and beyond.

It’s difficult to argue with the results.

But now that Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco are with the team, it’s interesting to wonder “what if.” Would Lee even be here if the Phillies had gotten that “decent” starter in the three-way deal? We’ll never know, but in the meantime Lee will make his debut with the Phillies on Friday night… hours after Pedro Martinez wraps up a rehab start in Triple-A.

That’s decent.

*
image from fingerfood.typepad.com Last year at this time the Phillies were in Washington where a dude like me got to visit The Amsterdam Falafel House. It was such a good time that I thought I’d re-post an excerpt of it here:

Now I have never been to Amsterdam or Holland, but folks who know better say the Adams-Morgan Amsterdam Falafel Shop is as authentic as it gets. In fact, one giveaway to the authenticity of the TAMF (not sure people call it this, but you know, I’ll put it out there) is that they serve brownies and make it a point to inform the consumer that they are not “enhanced.”


Enhanced is my word. On the menu they were called “virgin” brownies.


Yeah.


Anyway, the menu is very basic at The Amsterdam Falafel Shop in Adams-Morgan, located just a half block from the famous Madam’s Organ – the place Playboy magazine named the best bar in the United States. In fact, they serve just falafel (two sizes), Dutch baked fries (two sizes) and un-enhanced brownies (square shaped).

Each sandwich is made to order and each diner can add any of the 18 different sauces and toppings from the garnish bar.


It’s definitely a treat, man. Plus, they usually stay open late (but not past midnight on a Sunday as I learned last month) so if you find yourself in the area and get a hankering for authentic Dutch falafel, by all means, drop in.


After lunch, I drove to the ballpark via Capitol Hill where it looked as if there was a lot of governing going on… a lot of gentrification, too. It seems to me that The District has at least one Starbucks for every household. Interestingly, neighborhoods that were once talked about in hushed, scared tones are now filled with people walking around in madras shorts and business suits with a chai latte in hand.

Good times… good times.

How much does it cost?

image from fingerfood.typepad.com The Dodgers are in town for three games starting tonight and of course that brings the inevitable talk about Manny Ramirez. Forget that Larry Bowa and Randy Wolf are back in Philly or that the Phillies and Dodgers will square off in a rematch of last season’s NLCS, the big issue is about who will not be playing.

Yep, that’s Manny just being whatever.

Here’s the thing about PEDs that no one really can quantify with any accuracy, and that is how much do they help (or hurt) a team? How many more home runs did Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez or anyone else hit because they used whatever it was that they used? How many more innings could a pitcher pile on because he was taking something illegal?

Along those lines, how many games will the Dodgers lose because Juan Pierre is playing instead of Manny Ramirez for the next 50 games?

Or, how many games have the Phillies lost this season with J.C. Romero serving his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance? Hey, manager Charlie Manuel said he would have used Romero to face the Braves in the seventh in the seventh inning of Sunday’s loss to the Braves. Instead the manager turned to Jack Taschner, who coughed up a pair of two-out runs on some chintzy hits.

So how many games has Romero’s suspension cost the Phillies this season?

It’s difficult to say because who knows what day-to-day issues the pitcher would have. Maybe he would have pitched in consecutive days and needed a day off? Or maybe he’d be used in the eighth instead of the seventh? Who knows? But for the sake of argument, let’s just say Romero would be 100 percent every game. In that case maybe last Sunday’s game against the Braves could have been saved by Romero.

Perhaps he would have pitched in the three-run eighth inning instead of Ryan Madson on April 17 in the 8-7 loss to the Padres. That’s doubtful, though. So for the sake of that argument, we’ll call it one game – one in 29 for a 15-14 club.

As for quantifying Ramirez absence, that’s a taller task. However, Ramirez is much more valuable to the Dodgers than Romero is to the Phillies.

*
Interestingly, there is a new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

The report indicates that Ramirez’s representatives argue against the synthetic testosterone, instead saying the player used DHEA. In baseball DHEA is not banned, however, it is in other sports. For instance, last month well-known cyclist Tyler Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression.

Hamilton copped to knowingly using DHEA and instead of fighting the positive test, he retired.

Meanwhile, experts have questioned whether the HCG Ramirez said he took for a “health issue” could cause such a large spike in the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio.

According to the story:

The synthetic testosterone in Ramirez's body could not have come from the hCG, according to doping experts, and so suddenly Ramirez had two drugs to answer for. Worse still for the ballplayer, MLB now had a document showing he had been prescribed a banned substance. This was iron-clad evidence that could secure a 50-game suspension.

So yes, it appears as if Ramirez has been caught red-handed. Now the question is, how long has he being using whatever it is he was using?

And what is the cost to the Dodgers? How about something pretty big, like credibility.

Just Manny being Barry?

image from fingerfood.typepad.com NEW YORK – I had planned a whole thing on the brand-new Citi Field and the Phillies’ first visit to the new digs in Queens, but Manny Ramirez kind of ruined that. Besides, at this point when new ballparks are popping up every season, including two of them in New York City, the shine is off the penny a bit.

So think about this – would there have been more fawning over places like Citi Field or the new Yankee Stadium if they were built 5-to-10 years ago? It’s been nearly 20 years since Camden Yards kicked off the whole retro-ballpark craze and now it appears as if every city that wants one has either built it or is set to begin construction.

Heck, even the Marlins are getting a new park for their six fans.

Here are a couple more things to ponder… are we going to be back replacing all these new ballparks in another 30 years like we were with the multi-purpose parks of the late 1960s and early ‘70s?

And if we keep shelling out the cash to build all these stadiums, are city skylines only going to hold the light fixtures and facades of ballparks? It seems like the only public funding put to the vote are to build stadiums… you know, screw bridges and roads.

Anyway, the Phillies and manager Charlie Manuel – a former mentor to Ramirez – were about as excited to talk about the latest drug suspension as they were the new ballpark. The most interesting part was while expressing sadness over the situation and fear over the harm the drug issues could cause to the sport, players generally indicate that players tied to performance-enhancing drug use <em>have not</em> had their accomplishments diminished.

They also don’t believe the game has suffered despite saying they want it cleaned up.

Meanwhile, baseball’s revenues and attendance has never been higher (excluding New York City, of course, where sellouts only occurred at the old ballparks), which seems to say that the fans don’t really give a damn about baseball’s issues.

Anyway, we’re not going to add to the pile of reflexive commentating regarding Ramirez and his positive test/50-game suspension since the finger waging appears to be taking care of itself. However, it is worth noting that the three top hitters of this era have all been tied/admitted/suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. In fact, one of the three has been indicted for perjury for his grand jury testimony about his alleged drug use.

Barry, Manny and A-Rod is hardly this era’s Willie, Mickey, and The Duke, huh?

Since baseball is a numbers game, let’s look at a few. For instance, nine of the top 20 home run hitters of all-time have played this decade, and six of those nine have been tied to PED use. The three who have not are Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr.

What do you think of that trio’s careers now?

How about this set of numbers – 22 players who have been on teams managed by Joe Torre have been associated with PEDs. Joe’s 22 are:

Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Mike Stanton, Dan Naulty, Darren Holmes, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, Glenallen Hill, Matt Lawton, Denny Neagle, David Bell, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Randy Velarde, Ron Villone, Ricky Bones, Rondell White and David Justice.

Can't wait to dive into Tony LaRussa's list…

Manny of the people

mannyGood for Manny Ramirez. Good for him for standing up to the power structure in Major League Baseball and telling them, “You think you can buy me with $25 million? Ha!”

“Ha!” he says.

So yes, kudos to Manny Ramirez for not allowing the Los Angeles Dodgers to reduce him to a dollar sign. There’s more to Manny than the money, like… well… he’s good at hitting a baseball and he has a unique hair style. Yeah. Not everyone can hit a baseball or grow interesting hair, so Manny has that going for him.

Which is nice.

So why is the fearsome right-handed hitter trivialized with dollar signs? Why do they insist on turning the great game of baseball like it’s some sort of business?

Manny is an artist and he’s above such trite things like contacts and millions and millions of dollars. He just wants to play the game and show off his skills. He wants to entertain and dazzle us with his pure swing.

Twenty-five million dollars? Who has time to be bothered by such trivial non-sense?

Manny’s agent Scott Boras knows this. It’s a good thing the hitter has someone like Boras on his side looking out for his best interests, too. After all, could Manny fend off those jackals in those sharp suits and sensible shoes working for the Dodgers who want to give him $25 million to play baseball in 2009? Probably not. The way those guys throw around money and push and bully hardworking folks like Manny around, it’s a wonder he doesn’t wake up next to a horse head.

So when the Dodgers came calling with the contract and a Brinks truck, Boras just laughed. Maybe he chuckled. He definitely guffawed. Later, he smirked just thinking about the nerve of those suit-wearing folks in the executive offices in Chavez Ravine. C’mon, $25 million? If Boras was getting a 10 percent cut of his client’s cash, that left a mere $2.5 million.

Really…the nerve!

But let’s try this one out for size – maybe Manny is a revolutionary. Maybe he is looking out for the proletariat. You know, the hard-working, lunch-pail middle American. And so to show solidarity with the backbone of America, Manny, a son of immigrants who grew up in Manhattan’s hard-scrabble Washington Heights section, proves he can’t be bought.

Twenty-five million dollars? Go fly a kite.

Boras, in a conversation with the LA Times, called the $25 million offer a, “Suggestion.” In fact, it was an even bigger slap in the face than the two-year, $45 million offer the Dodgers sent to Manny in November.

It’s as if the Dodgers and the rest of the franchises in Major League Baseball are trying to tell Manny something. At least that’s what his pal Albert Pujols said during a press conference last week.

“I speak with Manny every three days and he tells me, ‘Man, no one wants to sign me,’ Pujols said. “I’m not an agent or general manager, but I can’t understand how Manny has not signed.”

Boras says he expects to have a deal in place by the time spring training camps open on Feb. 14, which will further stoke the speculation. Will the Mets wade into the fray despite the fact that the team’s brass say publically that they aren’t interested? Hey, why not? Manny is from New York so it could be a sweet little homecoming for him. Better yet, Newsday’s Wallace Matthews suggested that the Mets could take the cash from CitiBank earmarked for the new stadium-naming rights and just hand it over to Manny. Since CitiBank is suckling at the ample bosom of the federal government for a fat, $300 billion bailout from you, me and every other taxpayer, it’s nice that we can help a fella down on his luck find a job.

Hey, times are hard. The U.S. lost 522,000 more private-sector jobs in January, which is down slightly from the 659,000 jobs that were lost during December of 2008. Oddly enough, some of the numbers figured into the December total come from, coincidentally enough, Major League Baseball. You see, MLB decided to start a new television network on Jan. 1, 2009 so had to trim a little fat. As such, 30 or so folks who were working on the MLB web site were sent packing because, according to one report, they were making too much money.

You know, like $50,000 to $60,000 per year.

So in order to launch the network and to sign big-name stars like Bob Costas to wax philosophic, a dude writing stories for the web had to go. MLB gets its talking heads and Costas and whacks Ken Mandel.

Talk about a steal.

But wait, here’s the good part… not only did MLB have to make those jobs cuts to restore order to its bottom line, it also had to make sure commissioner Bud Selig got his. Like we said before, times are hard. MLB only had $6.5 billion in revenues last year and not a dime came from taxpayer bailouts. Plus, Selig was paid $18.5 million in salary last year and not one single person ever went to the ballpark to see him.

Not one person ever.

So let’s call Manny a Robin Hood in reverse. If the Mets swoop in to sign him with CitiBank bailout cash, it would be like stealing from the poor to give to the rich. You know, Reaganomics.

But Selig and MLB are bracing for the tough times and the rocky economic road ahead. With soaring ticket prices in places like the new stadium in New York coupled with the new network and a potential big check to be cut for Manny, Selig’s company might slump to an even $6 billion in 2009.

“We’re living in unprecedented economic times,” Selig said at last month’s owners’ meetings. “We’re trying to understand what it means.”

To be fair, it won’t take John Maynard Keynes to figure out this economic riddle. For as long as possible the pigs will feed whenever they want, for as long as they want.

So yeah, why shouldn’t Manny turn up his nose at $25 million even in a time when jobs are being shed like hair on Telly Savalas’ head? If Selig is stealing getting $18.5 million, maybe it’s right that the economy should collapse.

Manny and the deadline

WASHINGTON – Charlie Manuel says he can handle it. If presented with a chance to manage a player who might be a bit of a discipline problem, Charlie doesn’t see it as an issue.

“I like talent,” Charlie said.

Of course the subject of the talent was potentially ex-Red Sox superstar Manny Ramirez, a player Charlie managed in the minors and coached in the big leagues with the Indians. In the past, Ramirez said he wouldn’t mind being reunited with his old hitting guru.

Manuel says he doesn’t think the Phillies need to add a hitter, but if they did he has one guy in mind.

“Manny Ramirez would be the hitter,” he said. “My time with Manny was very special,” Manuel said. “He was a kid then. He’s grown up a lot. Well, he’s gotten older. I feel like I know him to a certain degree.”

But that would mean Ramirez is heading to Philadelphia, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

According to the banter making the rounds in the press box at Exxon (Nationals) Park, the Red Sox, Pirates and Marlins were ironing out a deal that would send Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston and Manny from Boston to the Marlins. In fact, newspapers in Florida are reporting that a tentative deal has been struck.

That means no Manny for Charlie. But could it tip the balance in the NL East to the upstart Marlins who stand just 1½ games behind the Phillies?

Maybe.

“One player can make a lot of difference,” Manuel said, “if you get the right player.”

If a deal does occur and the Marlins get Ramirez, or if the Mets pull off a deal before the deadline, what does that mean for the Phillies? Will they try to keep pace?

“You don’t like to react to someone else,” general manager Pat Gillick said. “I’ve always said you like to do what you think is proper for your club. If the Mets or Marlins improve their club, they improve their club. We’ll hopefully try to improve our club, but we’re not reacting.”

The GM might not be reacting, but the Phillies fans definitely will.

On another note, how did the relationship between the Red Sox and Ramirez get so bad? Why is Manny saying things like, “the Red Sox don’t deserve me…” They are paying him $20 million! How is that disrespectful.

Maybe they want him to run the bases?

Who’s next?

Before the hype machine could get to work or anyone could get too excited, Lance Berkman got some “protection” while it appears as if Ryan Howard is stuck with Pat Burrell.

Certainly there are worse fates than having a left fielder who was the top pick of the amateur draft that averages 31 homers and 105 RBIs per 162 games over his seven Major League seasons. But the fact is Carlos Lee probably would have been better.

But Lee is gone to Houston, all signed up for the next six seasons where he’ll get $100 million to take aim at the shallow left-field perch at Minute Maid Park, or whatever corporation paid to put its name on the stadium. Lee, as steady performer during his career despite the concerns over his fitness and attitude, would have fit in nicely in Philadelphia.

But for six years and $100?

Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, GM Pat Gillick and the Phillies brass must have breathed a sigh of relief that Lee signed such an obnoxious deal with the Astros. While publicly downplaying the market, Gillick has a few built-in excuses and the luxury of being sane (and right) for not shelling out the mega years and bucks for Alfonso Soriano and Lee. After all, Burrell already has one of those crazy deals.

So now Gillick can do two things. One is to focus on building the Phillies’ pitching staff because the bullpen needs bolstered and the rotation needs one or two more arms. The other thing – a desperate or last-ditch maneuver, perhaps – would be to go after Manny Ramirez again.

The chances of that are slightly less than slim and none since there are so many crazy variables involved with the trades and contracts and money. Plus, earlier this month Gillick stated that Ramirez was kind of a pain in the rear. Oh sure, manager Charlie Manuel says he has a good rapport with the flaky slugger, but who knows how long that will last with a goofball like Ramirez.

Besides, we already had Terrell Owens in town. Do we really need another circus, albeit a saner, goofier circus?