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Wildfires, Earthquakes and Manny

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As if Southern California did not have enough trauma, Manny Ramirez is now in town. The wildfires have been dreadful, with property damage in the multi-millions. Last week's tremor reminded the folks of the Golden State that they live on the edge of a cliff. But nothing will compare with Manny-being-Manny's arrival in Chavez Ravine.

As a Manny watcher for his almost eight full seasons in Boston, I have come to enjoy the lighter side of baseball. Our seats on the left field line put us in perfect position for a Manny "happening." His joyous approach to life was always evident as he waived to the crowd with his patented two-finger point. The Boston faithful responded in kind with cheers. Through the worst of times, he was a fan favorite, and rightfully so.

Watching a sure bet Hall of Famer perform at bat was a treat. Nestled behind David Ortiz, Manny's shots over the Great Wall of Fenway were monumental. (Remember this is China Olympics time, so all references to Chinese artifacts are appropriate.) We can say with confidence that the Red Sox would not have won two World Series in the last four years without Manuel Aristides Onelcida Ramirez,

And so why should Los Angelenos be on guard? There may be a carcinogenetic core inside that lovable exterior. He poisoned the Red Sox clubhouse. His periodic tantrums caused his teammates to vote for his banishment 24-1. (Reportedly, David Ortiz was the only dissenting vote, totally understandable considering that life without Manny will mean many walks for Big Papi.)

The Red Sox have tried this "addition by subtraction" tactic before, most recently in 2004 with the trade of Nomar Garciaparra, a long-time fan favorite, also to the Dodgers. We know that that season ended in a World Championship, the first in 86 years. But before the Boston faithful start planning their parade, they should remember that Manny was on that 2004 team, not off it.

Some have criticized the Red Sox for trading a sure Hall of Famer, but the practice has a long history in the National Game. The Sox sale of Babe Ruth must head the list, but it remains a touchy subject even after two championships. The Major League record is held by Connie Mack. He periodically dismantled the Philadelphia Athletics after they won the World Series and specialized in selling Hall of Fame players. In 1914, he sold Eddie Collins to the White Sox for $50,000; in 1916, he sold Frank "Home Run" Baker to the Yankees for $35,000; in 1932, he sold Al Simmons to the White Sox for $150,000; in 1933 he sold Lefty Grove to the Red Sox for $125,000 and Mickey Cochrane to the Tigers for $100,000; and in 1935, he sold Jimmy Foxx to the Red Sox for $150,000. Mack was not the only merchant of money. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith sold his manager and star shortstop Joe Cronin to the Red Sox for $225,000, and Cronin was his son-in-law!

All of these trades turned out fine for the purchasers, and the Dodgers acquisition of Mr. Ramirez will likely turn out just fine as well. He certainly will provide a diversion for a State that has been the special target of Mother Nature this season. I will miss Manny walking into (yes, into) the scoreboard in the Green Monster when the Sox changed pitchers. We saw him once earlier this season through the windows in the wall making a cell phone call. Maybe he was calling his agent, Scott Boras, to get him geared up for post-season negotiations? Manny scooted out of the door just in time to make it to his place in the outfield as the Sox relief pitcher threw his first pitch.

Manny was fun to have around, until it stopped being fun. It will take some time to evaluate the three-team trade - someone is going to have "buyer's regret" -- but for now it is enough to express gratitude for Manny visiting with us in Boston on his way to Cooperstown.