Not to be overly dramatic, but it’s possible that Manny Ramírez’s career with the Red Sox will end a few hours from now. The Providence Journal’s Sean McAdam reports that if Ramírez refuses to play in today’s game against the Yankees, “disciplinary action — which could include a suspension — will be taken.”
McAdam’s bombshell is unsourced, but it looks to me like he wouldn’t have made such a strong declaration unless it came directly from Terry Francona. Further evidence that Tito’s had enough comes in Dan Shaughnessy’s column in the Boston Globe. “Manny shut it down in 2006 and he’s toying with the Red Sox again,” Shaughnessy writes. “In the middle of a pennant race. It is despicable. And the front office and his teammates are burning. Off the record, of course.”
I’m not going to endorse Shaughnessy’s contention that Ramírez quit on the team in 2006; it seemed at the time that there was a better-than-even chance he had a legitimate injury. I quote Shaughnessy only to point out that he claims both management and players have had enough of Manny’s act, even if they’re not willing to be quoted. (Is Francona afraid he’ll be overruled if he tries to suspend Ramírez?)
At the Boston Herald, blogger Rob Bradford lends support to McAdam’s story, saying there are “strong indications” Manny will be disciplined, and possibly suspended, if he won’t play today. And columnist Steve Buckley says Ramírez ought to be escorted from the premises right now.
A few observations.
1. I was listening to “The Big Show” on WEEI (AM 850) yesterday when McAdam came on to report that Ramírez had just taken himself out of the lineup. Seconds earlier, the consensus had been that the Red Sox should stick with Manny, and possibly renew his option for next year, because for the first time they control his destiny — no performance, no money. Post-McAdam? Flabbergasted incoherence. I can’t say I blame them.
2. Whether Ramírez’s injury is legitimate or not (an MRI reportedly showed nothing, but who knows?), he has conducted himself in an unprofessional manner. You can’t blame the Sox for believing that Manny is faking it and pouting over the fallout from his pushing incident with traveling secretary Jack McCormick and the recent public roasting he received from principal owner John Henry.
3. Ramírez has been acting strangely for years, but this year is especially odd. On the one hand, he’s been much more open. On the other, the incidents with McCormick and Kevin Youkilis are out of character. One possible explanation: He’s desperately hoping to get his option picked up, and he senses that age is catching up with him and his skills are deteriorating. Even after a winter when he reportedly worked harder than ever to get ready for the season.
4. The 2008 Red Sox are a good team, but, with all the injuries and bullpen woes, they don’t look like they’re built to go all the way. If Manny’s teammates are as frustrated with him as we’ve been led to believe, it might have a salutary effect to dump him right now. If Brandon Moss comes through, it might be the spark they need to make it into the post-season. But even if they’re destined to finish second or third, management will have made a statement that could pay off down the line.
The Red Sox won two World Series in part because of Francona’s ability to keep Ramírez happy and productive most of the time. It might be his single most important accomplishment as manager. Now it looks like it’s over.