Hey, if you haven't heard, Manny Ramirez got traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and nothing was ever the same on the team or in the city. Manny was expected to do exactly what he has done. He loosened up a tense clubhouse, taught the young players how to prepare for a game, trimmed his long dreadlocks just enough to keep manager Joe Torre at bay while he hit .400 for most of the two months left in the season. He was the most potent weapon against opposing teams on and off the field, and an unofficial assistant to the Dodgers coaches by getting through to some players who couldn't grasp the instructions of the staff. He also was a money making machine at the team stores. Fans filled the stadium each night while they gobbled up tee shirts, jerseys and caps with dreadlocks attached to them.
Torre, an old school sort of guy, had mandated a quiet Yankees clubhouse without the cacophony of hip hop or rock music. He also liked the clean cut look and when he arrived at the Dodgers spring training camp, had two rules, among others: no music before the game and hair had to be clipped so that necks were visible. All had complied but along came Manny with specific pre-game music that got him ready to take the field and hair he'd grown for a few years into wild, scrambled-looking locks. When you hand your team over to a guy like that, you understand that idiosyncrasies come with the territory. It's a delicate balance between having rules apply to everyone and cutting slack to the super star that holds the key to getting the team to the playoffs or the World Series.
The Dodgers got into the playoffs after they vanquished their closest competitor. Players who batted in front of Ramirez in the Dodgers lineup saw their batting averages soar to stratospheric heights. On top of that, Manny was hustling in the field and even attempting to steal bases. He hadn't done that in Boston for a while and the reason he was available at all was that in addition to his lack of hustle on the field, he had seemingly manufactured injuries in order not to play a game here and there after he found out that the Red Sox would not extend his current contract at season's end.
Manny's rebirth in LA hit a nerve in Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's body which propelled him to go on a talk radio rant about Ramirez. He confirmed publicly what many had whispered: his teammates voted to trade him to the Dodgers. But this is LA. We like star power and personalities that make us feel special enough to deal with the awful traffic on the way to and from the ball park. Manny was perfect for this town. We had lived through the travail of Shaq, Phil and Kobe. We know drama and that's the way we like it. We have a long history of understand that celebrities have temperaments that defy the social rules most of us live by and Manny is one of them. Clubhouse rifts are nothing new to us but not playing hard and calling in sick to prove a point is a bit much, even for Los Angelinos. Thus we have our Manny Dilemma.
He and his agent are looking for up to $100 million for a four-year deal. Manny is now 36 but it's not so much his age that concerns us. We want to know if he'll fall out of love with us the way he did in Boston and make this a loveless marriage after a year or two. Do we agree to keep the good times rolling or let him go; understanding that he was a shooting star in our sky that we appreciated while we saw it but knew was visible for mere moments? Will he take less to stay here? He claims he loves LA. It's doubtful he would agree to that when there might be other teams that will bite the bullet and hope for the best. We like Manny being this Manny and the question is what Manny we will get if this torrid love affair turns into a marriage.
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