After much speculation, and an offseason that included a trade demand and various trade proposals, Manny Ramirez finally reported to spring training in Fort Meyers. Whew. Glad that's over.
This offseason Manny continued being Manny, resulting in more of the strangeness and mystery that has become commonplace over the past five seasons. Of Manny's tenure in Boston, the best way to describe it would be, 'what a long, strange trip it's been.' Say what you will, but the man sure makes things interesting.
Truth be told, the Red Sox are better off with Manny in camp and in a Red Sox uniform. He is strange, odd, unpredictable - and a host of other adjectives would apply - but he is not a troublemaker or a clubhouse cancer. He is not a malcontent who puts himself above his team, and every time he takes the field he offers the Red Sox a better chance at winning.
So let's all be grateful that he's back, and hope that this latest episode is over. The issue of a trade may rasie it's ugly head yet again between now and the end of the 2008 season when his contract expires, but until then let's just hope that the marriage of Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox is one of mutual benefit and understanding - if the latter is ever possible.
After telling friends and teammates that he found the environment in Boston suffocating, Manny now says "I ain't got no problems with Boston. I like the atmosphere. I know I'm one of the top guys in the game and there's a lot of people on my shoulders."
In a complete turnaround that testifies to his capriciousness and unpredictability, Manny told reporters yesterday, "I especially like the attention."
After revealing that he was in the best shape of his life due to his offseason conditioning program, he added: "I got a beautiful career going on and I'm not going to let little things like this mess [up] all the things that I accomplished because I think when I finish my career I'm going to be a special player."
Despite his penchant for not making sense, truer words could not be said. Manny is on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, and with just a couple more typical seasons, he'll be donning a Red Sox cap in Cooperstown about a decade from now.
Shortly after the new year, Manny let it be known that he'd apparently had a change of heart regarding his trade request. With some time to reflect during the offseason, somehow his perspective had changed.
"There will be no trade, I'm staying in Boston, where I'm familiar with the system and where I have a lot of friends, especially David Ortiz," Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com while in Miami on personal business.
"I'm going to take things easy and focus on my career," he said.
Though he said the Sox may still try to trade him, he said he hopes that doesn't happen. "I also want to play for a contender, and I think with Boston I'm assured of that."
Of course what Manny says says and what Manny means may not be the same thing. It's hard to say if Manny even knows what he means, or what he wants. After all, as he noted, he's in a pretty good situation in Boston. Making $20 million a year, as a beloved figure on one of baseball's most consistently competitive teams, would be a dream come true for most big leaguers.
For Manny, who knows? Maybe he's matured somehow this offseason. Maybe we're in for more surprises. But for now we should just give him the benefit of the doubt and let him go out and play. That's what he does best.
Reporters look to athletes for great quotes, as if they were great writers, comics, philosophers or wisemen. That is expecting too much. Most of the time we get the same old stale, trite quotes. On those rare occasions when he actually talks to the media, Manny can occasionally say something hilarious, whether it makes sense or not. So let's just try to enjoy the amusement, not to mention the homers and the RBI.
Perhaps Curt Schilling put it best when being interviewed by Bill Simmons.
Simmons said, "My favorite "Manny being Manny" moment happened in the final game of the regular season -- he had just crushed a home run, the cameras caught you guys sitting next to one another in the dugout, he was talking excitedly about what pitch he had hit, and somewhere along the way, you just started staring at him in disbelief, as though he had just said something like, "I knew it was going to be a slider because I started craving a pork sandwich, and that always means a slider's coming!" And you just kept staring at him, and then he walked away to another part of the dugout, and you started shaking your head in shock like, "Wow, I will never, ever, ever figure that guy out." How many of those Manny encounters happen per season?
To which Schilling replied, "Three to four per day."
That, my friends, says it all.
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