A few weeks back the Sox played the Yanks and Manny decided last minute that his knee was too sore to play. The look on Francona's face said everything: the proverbial straw had finally broke the organization's back. When the ESPN clocked ticked down to zero today without announcement of a trade, I was surprised. Very surprised. Manny was disgruntled, management was fed up. But a deal was made last minute. A new era of Red Sox baseball began, and the era of the idiots drew to a close.
Manny epitomized the spirit of that spirited '04 championship team- as charismatic as they were talented. Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, Doug Mirabelli, Trot Nixon, Pedro Martinez, and, of course, Man-Ram. Francona was as much a ring leader as a manager. Sure they had their straightmen- Jason Varitek comes to mind. But that was a "colorful" bunch.
As Bull Durham taught us, you have to be good to be colorful. Otherwise you are a slob- or in this case, a slacker. Ramirez has given up on the Red Sox before-- and I admit I was worried he might do it again. In L.A., he'll have new surroundings, a more relaxed Californian media, and gentle Joe. Plus the motivation of playing for a contract.
As a 2008 Red Sox fan, I recognize that this is a good move. Manny is not the dominant (the best right-handed hitter in history) force he once was. Yes, his career numbers are significantly better than Bay (Manny: .312 / .409 / .590; Bay: .281 / .375 / .515), but Bay will be playing in a meaningful pennant race for the first time in his career. In other words, there's no chance of this kid giving up. Also, he'll benefit from being surrounded by more talent than he's ever seen in Pittsburgh. There is the possibility that he'll wither under the bright, obsessive lights of the Boston media- I'm thinking of Jeff Suppan a few years ago- and that he'll see less "here's one down the middle because we're ahead by eight and just want to get on the plane" fastballs. Still, the 2008 me is pleased with this as a baseball move.
The rest of me is sad- already tinged with an uncanny nostalgia. The first Red Sox world series meant so much to so many- its sad to see that team go. Varitek is struggling, Schilling is all but gone, and now Manny will wear Dodger blue. At least its not pinstripes.