July 2008

The Calm After The Storm

No more Yankees, no more Manny Ramirez two-minute speeches. Just a calm Monday after a wild weekend.

Oh, and by the way, the best team in baseball record-wise — the Angels — are in town for a three-game series.

I put the chances of Manny being traded before Thursday at 10 percent. I just don’t see the fit, where they can make a deal and improve their chances of winning the World Series.Also, do not rule out the possibility of Manny changing his mind about the 10-5 thing and vetoing a trade.

I think the Red Sox’s best hope is to just put up with Manny for the rest of the year, and hope he is engaged, as he should be, with so much money on the line.

For perspective, remember how disenchanted Manny and the Red Sox were with each other around the trade deadline in 2005? After not getting traded, Manny put up monster numbers the final two months of that season. That August, Manny hit .341 with five homers and 22 RBIs. In September, he hit .309 with 12 homers and 29 RBIs. When the Red Sox were swept by the White Sox in that year’s playoffs, Manny came up big, hitting .375 with two homers and four RBIs. The point is that Manny can put up big numbers when he’s not thrilled with his lot in life. I think the Red Sox, in their hearts, know that Manny isn’t going to quit on them when his next contract is on the line.

But the next 72 hours figure to be fascinating, that’s for sure. Will someone come up with an offer that intrigues Theo Epstein?

By the way, Peter Gammons absolutely hit a home run with his ESPN.com column on Manny today.

In other news, David Ortiz doesn’t appear to be restricted in any way by his wrist. In just his third game back, he turned on a pitch for a two-run homer Sunday night.

Ortiz had this to say earlier this afternoon: “It’s not there yet.”

When your humble blogger told him that it looked like it was there Sunday night, Ortiz offered this: “When you look at my numbers in August and September,
watch. Watch.”

I’d say the man is feeling good about himself.

"I'm tired of them, they're tired of me"

Sounds like Manny Ramirez is fully prepared for a divorce with the Red Sox at the end of 2008 that now seems inevitable. The star slugger ended his weekend-long silence by gracing reporters for one minute and 48 seconds today. This, after his wildly entertaining phone interview with ESPN Deportes writer Enrique Rojas, during which Manny stated he would even play “in Iraq if need be. My job is to play baseball.”

Of course, much of the furor started because Manny didn’t want to play baseball for the Red Sox on Wednesday in Seattle or Friday against the Yankees because of right knee soreness. The club didn’t seem to be buying what Manny was selling on the injury, but who knows. Here was what Ramirez had to say to a mixture of Boston and New York press earlier this evening.

Manny, on telling Rojas he’d waive his 10-5 rights and approve a trade: “What I said was, if the Red Sox, if
they think they could find a trade, you know, that’s going to make their team
better and both sides are going to be happy, I’m going to agree. But if they can not find that trade, it’s something
simple. It’s no big deal. At the end of the season, all they’ve got to do is
call my agent and tell him, hey, we’re not going to pick up Manny’s option for
’09, he’s going to become a free agent and that’s it. I’ll go my way, and you
guys go your way. it’s something simple.”

Manny feel like they want to go separate ways? “I don’t
know. That’s my idea. It’s something simple. I don’t want to talk to them about
contract right now, so what. I know they’ve got me, but hey, enough is enough.
I’m tired of them, they’re tired of me. After 2008, just send me a letter or
whatever, you don’t even have to call  my
agent or  whatever,  thank you for everything, you’re going to
become a free agent, we’re not going to pick up your option in  ’09.”

Expect that will happen? “They’re not stupid.”

Will he be traded? “Boston
is not stupid. They’re not going to do it. They can say whatever they want. But
when it comes to make a deal, they’re not going to pull the trigger because
they know what they’ve got here. ”

Happy here? “I’m happy. But enough is enough, you know.”

Enough is enough? What does that mean? “That’s it. You’ve got to ask Theo and John Henry. They know.

“I have to go hit, guys.”

And that was all.

Manny's back — Is he back big?

One of the most anticipated lineups in recent Red Sox memory was posted a little while ago, and Manny Ramirez was in it — this time for good.

Playing left field and batting fourth, the latest Ramirez controversy appears to be over. Although you never know.

The Red Sox still have very little to report on what the “injury” was, which still makes you wonder if there was anything wrong with Ramirez other than the normal aches and pains every starting Major Leaguer goes through over the course of the season.

What will the reaction be when he digs in today? Cheers, boos, a mixture?

And how many of you get the headline of this blog?

Papi in the House; Manny being Manny?

When David Ortiz stepped into the batter’s box for the first time since May 31, Fenway Park was nothing short of electric. A great hand, and well-deserved. This guy has given his heart and soul to this team since arriving in 2003.

What about Manny Ramirez? Has he given his heart and soul to this team since arriving in 2001? That question can not be answered because so much that involves Ramirez is a mystery. We do know he’s been a machine at the plate. But we also know that his injury history is very checkered. It’s hard to get a straight story.

Unlike most players, Ramirez won’t hold court in the middle of the clubhouse and describe the nature of his injury. How did this ailment occur? Nobody has said. Is Manny’s knee sore? Probably. Is it too sore to play a key game against the Yankees in late July? Only Manny can say for sure, and he hasn’t said a word the last few days, other than a very tongue in cheek, “Dont’ worry about it” or “day to day”.

I find it odd that manager Terry Francona posted the lineup with Ramirez in it, and only pulled him after Manny told bench coach Brad Mills he was a no go. In typical cases when a player is injured, that player will call or text message Francona in the morning and say whether he thinks he’ll be able to play or not. In this case, it was relatively clear that Francona and Ramirez had little to no communication during the entire course of the day.

One of the reasons Francona gets to the park early for every game is so he can confer with the training staff on who is available or who isn’t. A lot of times, players will come in early and get treatment from the training staff in an effort to play. We’ve received no word on whether that was the case with Manny today. Sean McAdam from the Providence Journal just reported that Manny left Fenway before the game to get an MRI. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

You wonder just how much of a disconnect there has been between Ramirez and the organization since the whole Jack McCormick saga unfolded.

Put it this way. Earlier in the year, and many times last year, Francona raved about how well Manny had been communicating with him in regard to injuries and other matters. I’ve heard Tito say nothing like that in recent weeks. Reading between the lines, there doesn’t seem to be that great communication we had a couple of months back.

It all makes the club option all the more fascinating. At this stage, I could see them not picking it up. But what if Manny goes on a tear the rest of the season and carries the team to another World Series and starts communicating again? We’ve seen this go both ways so many times that it’s hard to know where it’s going to go next.

No Manny

Walked into the clubhouse a little while ago and Manny Ramirez was sitting peacefully with his right knee all taped up. He won’t be in the lineup today. Sean Casey will DH. Details are still sketchy on exactly what is wrong with the knee because this happened last minute this morning.

No word on whether Manny will play Friday night against the Yankees. David Ortiz will almost certainly be in there that  night against the heat of Joba Chamberlain.

Jed Lowrie is in the lineup for the fifth straight day. Obviously they are impressed with the way he’s handling himself. Needless to say, Julio Lugo could be getting Wally Pipp’d here.

Walking a fine line in Seattle

This road trip needed a little levity. We got some when Geoff Baker, the respected baseball writer for the Seattle Times, reported in his blog today that Manny Ramirez was involved in another one of those great Manny being Manny moments. Last night, after the game, Ramirez was rushing out of the park just moments after the game.

As veteran Manny watchers know, he is, without failure, almost always the first Red Sox player to leave the clubhouse after a game, be it at home or on the road. In this case, I will leave the writing for Geoff. Here is exactly what he wrote on his blog:

“Seems that Boston slugger Manny Ramirez was leaving the ballpark,
with headphones on trying to look inconspicuous and quickly get away
from the crowds still leaving the stadium. He started to cross South
Royal Brougham Way, against the signals of a traffic cop who was
directing pedestrians. The police officer demanded that Ramirez open
his wallet and show identification. He warned him that he could face a
$500 fine and possible arrest for disobeying a police officer.”

“It became clear to those watching that the policeman had no idea who
Ramirez was. He didn’t ask for an autograph or anything, but did ask
Ramirez if he’d attended the game. After the brief lecture, and no
argument from Ramirez, the police officer let him go with no further

“Ah, maybe baseball needs a higher profile in this town? Or, maybe
Ramirez has to sit around and talk to the media like everyone else on
his team, so he doesn’t get caught up in post-game foot traffic? I
don’t know, I just thought it was a funny story.”

Hilarious, no? Anyway, unfortunately, Manny didn’t feel like regaling us with his fine tale today. Instead, he said very good-naturedly, “Don’t worry about it, it’s none of your business.”

Perhaps not, but manager Terry Francona was hardly surprised that Manny got pinched by some of Seattle’s finest.

In fact, Terry, without knowing what happened with Manny, was asked if he was ever caught J-walking?

“Here. This is the worst place in the world [to j-walk]. I offended
twice today and didn’t get caught. I’ve been pulled over here. You can’t do
that here. They are serious.”

Tito then elabroated:

“I got pulled over a couple of years ago. You don’t live here,
you don’t know. Me and Donny [Kalkstein] walked here today, I said, Donny you can’t go
across that light. They’ll yell at you. I know they’re serious.”

“They’re really serious, I know that. I was going over to
Nordstroms. If you don’t walk in Boston,
they’ll start screaming at you. I don’t get it.”

The good news is that Manny is in fine form at the plate. In case you haven’t noticed, he has obliterated the baseball in his last 10 games, producing 18 hits in his last 36 at-bats.

Guess Who's Back?

The friendly face of Justin Masterson was back in the clubhouse this morning. David Aardsma was placed on the disabled list with a groin injury this morning. Here comes Masterson, ready to start his fourth stint of the season with the Sox, this one as a reliever. This should be real interesting.

Terry Francona talked about not wanting to give too much too soon to Masterson. In other words, he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on him. But we’ll see what kind of role Masterson works his way into. This kid seems pretty unflappable.

I think his role in this bullpen could be enormous.

That was some catch by Coco Crisp yesterday. “He does things with his body I can only dream of,” said Sox ace Josh Beckett.

I have to give Coco credit for being a good teammate this season and not whining about his situation, even though he obviously wants to play every day. Will he be on this team past the July 31 deadline? I am starting to think so. You knew Theo was planting the seed for keeping Coco when he said back in Spring Training that trading Jay Payton was one of the worst moves he ever made. In other words, don’t trade a player just because he wants to be traded when your team is better with that player.

Another dreadful day weather-wise in Southern Cal. 80 and sunny yet again. Clouds anywhere? Anywhere? Anywhere? I can’t find one.

Kicking it in the OC

Yes, the return of Brownie Points. Sorry, I’ve been in shutdown mode the last few days just trying to regain my bearings after the All-Star Game that never ended, or did it?

Anyway, it’s been quiet out here in Anaheim in terms of news. The most eventful thing that has happened thus far is the positively outrageous defensive play involving our very own Manny Ramirez. What in the world was he doing? Terrible jump. So he overcompensates by making a ridiculously bad dive and having the ball go several feet behind him. Then he starts running backwards like a dump truck in reverse and falls on the ball and it gets stuck under, yes, his butt. Manny couldn’t help but smile. This morning, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that what makes the people on Baseball Tonight laugh doesn’t necessarily make him laugh. Point taken.

As for Ramirez openly laughing on the field while letting a run score? Francona chalked it up as your typical Manny being Manny situation, saying that he the player was by no means being “malicious” by laughing.

In other news, Jed Lowrie gets the start at short today and the Red Sox are very excited about seeing what he can do. Francona tossed out an interesting comparision this morning: Bill Mueller.

The only bright spot of last night’s game? Craig Hansen was absolutely lights out, albeit in a non-pressure situation.

All-Star Tuesday at Yankee Stadium

What can I say? I am extremely fortunate to be here. This is history
tonight. I remember what it was like in 1999 at Fenway, and this is
every bit as special.

The introductions are taking place as we speak and you can feel the
anticipation. Actually, you can hear the boos. Each time a Red Sox
player is announced. And they are very loud. I guess the Yankees fans
have no aspirations of getting to the World Series because if they did,
they’d be hoping the Red Sox players would help them get home-field by
winning this game tonight.

Terry Francona’s best experience of the day?

“I’ll tell you the other thing that was cool, and it
actually almost overwhelmed me and was great. When we went to go to the parade.
There was a staging area and you get on the bus to go to the stadium and you
walk off the bus and you run into Harmon Kilebrew, Tony Perez, Brooks Robinson,
who was my dad’s first roommate, Ryne Sandberg, who I hung around with. There was
about three other guys. Rod Carew, Steve Carlton.
It was like boom, boom, boom.  It was really neat. Oh, also, Hank Aaron and Bob Gibson.”

And now, they are having this overpowering celebration on the field
just moments before game-time with Hall ofFfamers standing at their
respective positions and the American League and National League
reserve squads lined up on the grass just taking it all in. This is
something else.

The starters are now taking their positions, about to be joined by Hall of Famers at their positions. Great idea, i must say.

The pitchers on hand who are standing on the
Yankee Stadium mound: Steve Carlton, Dennis Eckersley, Bob Feller,
Rollie Fingers, Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro,
Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Robin Roberts, Bruce Sutter, Don Sutton,
Gossage (huge ovation) and Whitey Ford (another huge ovation).
Ben Sheets just ran out to the mound to meet those giants of the game.
And here comes Cliff Lee from The Indians, who will start for the AL.

Now, on to first base: Orlando Cepeda,Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Murray,
Tony Perez and Willie McCovey
Lance Berkman (the NL  first baseman)
and Kevin Youkilis — from you know who — just ran out to stand next
to them.

On to second base: Rod Carew, the hitting machine. Bill Mazeroski (you
might remember a walkoff home run he hit). And Ryne Sandberg. Chase
, the next great second baseman, and Dustin Pedroia got to stand
with their second base predecessors.

The hot corner: Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, George Brett (my
favorite player when I was a kid) and Wade Boggs. Here come NL third
baseman Chipper Jones and A-Rod to stand with them. Yes, A-Rod got a
monster hand.

Now, Joe Buck is announcing the shortstops and mentioned the late,
Great Phil Rizzuto in tribute. Those actually here are Luis Aparicio, Ozzie Smith,
Robin Yount
and Ernie Banks. Oh, and Cal Ripken who just got the
loudest non-Yankee hand of the night. Hanley Ramirez and a guy named
Derek Jeter (biggest hand of the night so far) have come out to stand
with the former great shortstop. Cheers of “Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter,
Derek Jeter” are absolutely thundering out of this place.

Paul Molitor is representing the DH’s. Here comes Albert Pujols. And
MIlton Bradley. Big Papi
would have been there to get more boos if he
was playing but instead he will stay in the dugout.

On to the outfield: Lou Brock, Billy Williams, Ralph Kiner in left;
Starting left fielders, Ryan Braun of the Brewers and Manny being Manny
. Let’s move it over to center field: One of the true giants of
baseball, says Joe Buck. He must be talking about Willie Mays. It’s
been a while since Willie stood out there. And this year’s starting
center fielders: Fukodome from the Cubs and the story of the season —
Josh Hamilton.

Right field: Tony Gwynn, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield and
Hank Aaron
. Of course they save Yankee Stadium favorite Reggie Jackson
for last. Here come the current right fielders. Matt Holliday from the
Rockies and Ichiro from the Mariners.

How about managers? Earl Weaver, Tommy Lasorda and Dick Williams, Hall of Famers all of them. And
here come Tito and Clint Hurdle to meet the great managers. In a
shocker, Tito got booed.

Now, the catchers: Geovani Soto and Joe Mauer are the starters in this
years’ game. They are joined by a couple of Hall of Famers, including
the Kid, Gary Carter, and Yogi Berra. He played for the Yankees in case
you didn’t know. It ain’t over until it’s over.

I must say, that whole thing was pretty awesome and well orchestrated.

Can the game live up to this?

George Brett
spoke to the American League squad before the game and as
part of his message, said: “Don’t try to be a hero. Try to be a winner.” Willie Mays challenged the NL to regain their swagger.

By the way, Sheryl Crow’s anthem was nothing special. Can’t win em all, I guess.

All-Star festivities

As the Red Sox wrap up their first half at Fenway against the Orioles — perhaps even moving back into first place in the process — I am here at Yankee Stadium covering the Futures Game. Call it a little warmup act for all the festivities of tomorrow, where all seven Red Sox All-Stars hold media availability at a Manhattan hotel. In the morning, Terry Francona will announce his starting lineup and his starting pitcher. Cliff Lee would seem like the favorite, but you could make a very compelling argument for Roy Halladay.

Tino Martinez — who made himself more than a few memories in this here ballpark –managed the World squad. The Red Sox have just one prospect in the game this year — outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin. Not to put unfair expectations on the kid, but he has a game similar to Jacoby Ellsbury‘s without the patient hitting approach. Lin is lightning-fast and a terrific outfielder. He’s playing center field for the Greenville Drive and will leave in about a month to represent Taiwan in the Olympics.

Offensively, he is a work in progress. But he’s actually a rare Red Sox prospect who is a little under the radar. Oh, and by the way, he wound up belting a two-run homer in his first at-bat today.

Last year at this time, the Sox had Ellsbury and Buchholz in the Futures Game. The future, in that case, was about a month away. Lin will take a little more time, but he seems like a composed kid. And judging by today, the stage does not bother him.

More later,