Thursday, April 2, 2009

Manny Ramirez in La La Land—One Step Closer to the Abyss

Whenever I'm feeling particularly agitated, I turn to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Why you ask? Because, as a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, I can spew venom all over the Bums and do so haphazardly with little or no repercussions.

That's the beauty of being in a blood-rivalry.

As long as I stay away from really crossing the line in a personal manner, especially with regards to Dodger fans, I feel confident that all will be forgiven if I'm wrong.

Maybe not forgiven as much as turned against me with a commensurate lack of mercy or care and that's the way it should be. All in good fun.

The players in these wars are always fair game. Obviously within reason—if ever some Dodger has, say, a handicapped kid or relative and I were to incorporate that in an attack born of baseball hatred, I should be taken behind the woodshed.

Same if I were to sincerely and recklessly imply something like infidelity, fraud, parental neglect, or some equally serious accusation.

There's no reason to take swings in real-life like that. Baseball is a game and there is plenty of ammunition provided for criticism between the foul lines. But when it comes to that performance on the diamond?

Game on and gloves off.

Enter Manuel Aristides Ramirez with his latest public pronouncement that he needs more work before being primed for the regular season.

Manny says Manny needs more flyballs in games because the speed just isn't the same for Manny in practice. Manny says Manny needs more at-bats before Manny will feel comfortable and hit like Manny. And he's right.

Ramirez made an error in the field on one of the few chances he got in Arizona and even the best hitters need a minimum number of looks at pro pitching before they can find their swing.

Of course, as is typical of Manny, it's always "I need this, I want that, I, I, I, me, me, me." And it's always something with him. Furthermore, the bitching and moaning is frequently in public.

More importantly, Ramirez rarely (I originally wrote 'never') takes personal responsibility for his role in creating the sources of his complaints. Clearly, in this latest episode, the fault for the rust on his game lies at the feet of Manny Ramirez.

Exclusively and without question.

He petulantly and greedily sat at home (or wherever) while his super-dog agent haggled for the "perfect" contract to protect both massive egos. When Manny finally did arrive, it was well into Spring Training and he went down with a hamstring issue almost immediately—whether it was genuine or not is essentially irrelevant since his availability was limited in either case.

It comes as no shock to anyone except possibly Man-Ram that he's still behind in his development for Opening Day. So why is he making a point about the need for additional reps?

Who knows? And that's the most important problem with Manny Ramirez—he has an ugly recent history that allows for hacks like me to speculate wildly about his latest grievances.

Is this a subtle jab at Joe Torre for using the prized slugger too soon in the field, resulting in the aforementioned ding? The thought crossed my mind and I'm sure I'm not alone because that's what Manny being Manny has meant to me lately—copping out and hiding from responsibility.

Is it setting up an excuse for a slow start Manny's planning because he's decided playing a full season at full tilt is unnecessary, both to win the division and to maximize his 2010 contract? Again, it seems reasonable to this Dodger-hater and, again, I'm sure I'm not alone.

Or is it just a pro ballplayer innocuously responding to a question put forth by a reporter? Yeah, that's probably what it is. I'd love to say this is the least likely scenario, but, in truth, it is blatantly the most probable one.

Unfortunately, with Manny Ramirez, that ceases to matter with time.

It's only April 2nd—Manny's already generated more headlines for off-field issues before the season's even started than most good players will make all year. And this is before he's really gotten completely emerced in the celebrity glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.

The more nonsense he generates, the less slack he gets.

How long before the Los Angeles press turns on him? How many of these public little gripes will the city's most opinionated pens tolerate his incessant squabbling? Even when they're in response to questions put forth by their own ranks.

Even when Manny's right and the comment is harmless.

Some journalists love a good story regardless of whether it means clawing at a local superstar—it happened here in San Francisco with Barry Bonds and he was no less sympathetic a figure in the City than Manny is in LA. Remember, almost every Giants fan LOVED BLB at the height of his chemically enhanced powers and many of us still do (the player, not the man).

With Manny lacking an adequate filter between his brain and mouth combined with his love of an open microphone, there will be no shortage of material even in the best of times.

In the worst of times, Manny's mouth is a gushing hydrant of gasoline on an open flame.

Good Manny means an exciting season spent at the front edge of contention for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bad Manny means their season disappears into the abyss.

And each sound byte from Manny that can be misconstrued is one step closer to it. That's bad news for the Bums.

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