The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline seemed to have passed at 4 pm yesterday without any blockbuster deals, but then all of a sudden, reports started coming in that Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez had been traded to the Dodgers in a six-player deal. So much for no blockbuster deals. While Manny goes to Los Angeles, the Dodgers shipped out prospects Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris and the Sox sent Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to Pittsburgh. In return for all that, the Red Sox got left fielder Jason Bay from Pittsburgh. So that’s the trade, but what does it all mean?
It means the Dodgers just became the favorite in the NL West. It means the Red Sox finally unloaded Ramirez, though it took two prospects and $7 million dollars for any trade to work. It means the Pirates got four valuable prospects and shed salary at the same time. It means everyone wins, though some more than others. Let’s begin with the Sox, who just traded one of the best players in baseball. How can this deal possibly make them better?
Well, Manny had become a daily distraction in Boston. The Red Sox relationship with Ramirez had deteriorated to the point that neither could stand each other and led Manny to say that “the Red Sox don’t deserve me”. It was a rollarcoaster ride for Manny and Boston. Fans have always had Manny’s back as he brought them two World Championships during his eight years in Boston, but over the last couple days, the fans finally began to turn. When Ramirez didn’t hustle out a tough ground ball that could have broken up John Lackey’s potential no-hitter, the fans booed. For the first time I can remember, Manny was booed in Fenway Park. Then after the game, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said of Manny’s lack-of-hustle, “he’ll do that a lot”. That is also the first time I can remember that Francona did not have Manny’s back. At that point, it was clear that Manny had to go. He had become a cancer in the clubhouse and it was clear to Red Sox fans, management, and players that the Sox weren’t going to win a World Series this year with Manny. The Sox season is following apart around them as they just lost five of six at home and Manny is mouthing off to ESPN Deportes. He’s done a lot of selfish things over the years, but this latest meltdown was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Nearly every team in the country knew that the Sox were desperate to trade Manny, but only a couple of teams had the real properties to make a trade. The Marlins tried, but couldn’t quite come up with enough to make the trade work. The Mets were interested, but they weren’t willing to part with young talent. Then late Thursday afternoon, the Dodgers stepped in and grabbed the superstar. They shipped out two excellent prospects, but got Manny Ramirez. They needed hitting badly and were able to pick up one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. I’d say they did a pretty good job. Boston was able to get rid of Manny, which is a feat in and of itself. However, they had to eat the rest of his 2008 salary ($7 million) and trade two major-league ready prospects (Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen). I’ve seen both Moss and Hansen over the last couple of seasons and though I have liked them at points, I don’t see any real future for either in the majors. They have some talent, but not enough to ever make it in MLB.
The Sox lost a left-fielder, but picked up an excellent player in Jason Bay. Few American League fans have heard of Bay, who has led Pittsburgh in nearly every offensive statistic over the last few seasons, but doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He has 22 homers and 64 RBI so far this year in a line-up that offers no protection for him. Compare that to Manny’s 20 homers and 68 RBI in the Red Sox line-up, then Bay could even be an upgrade on Ramirez. Well there’s now way Bay will ever be able to replace Manny. As great as Manny is, he may still be underrated, especially by Sox fans. Jason Bay brings a different thing to the Sox however. He brings a sense of duty and loyalty to the team. He is a professional and will act like one. No more visiting the Green Monster during pitching changes or throwing down old men. Bay’s batting average, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage are all lower than Manny’s respective stats, but those will hopefully increase as Bay finally gets to hit in a strong lineup. He should fit in well with the Sox and I really like the acquisition. That’s not to mention he is signed for $7.5 million dollars for next season. Thus, I honestly believe the Red Sox are winners at this year’s trade deadline, even if they actually got worse in terms of talent. Hard to believe, huh?
And yet, there is an empty feeling inside of me as if the Red Sox lost part of their “likability” when they traded Manny. That’s because Manny brought an energy and sense of uncertainty to the Sox. You never knew what was going to happen next. Maybe he’d make a running catch and give a fan in the bleachers a high five. Or maybe he’d dive for a ball, miss it, and somehow end up sitting on it as runners scored. Or maybe he’d even cut off a throw from center field. It was like watching a cartoon character. Every at-bat had an anticipation to them, even if that anticipation was only wondering whether Manny would run out a ground-ball. So when Manny returns to Fenway, whether it be in the World Series with the Dodgers, next year with the Yankees, or with any other team, I hope the Fenway Faithful give him the standing ovation he so rightfully deserves. Between him and David Ortiz, the Red Sox had a free, fun atmosphere about the team. It is the atmosphere every kid imagines the Major Leagues would be like and it is the atmosphere that exists in every Little League team across the country. It is the idea that baseball isn’t a business, but a game.