OCTOBER 31, 2003
Manny Unhappy Returns?
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

On October 29, 2003, the Boston Red Sox placed outfielder Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers.

Therefore, for a 48-hour period (set to expire at 1:00 PM EST on October 31, 2003), Manny Ramirez is available to any big league team – under the condition that the team claiming him assumes the remaining five years and $101.5 million (on the $160 million, eight-year contract) owed to Ramirez.

This move by the Red Sox may appear extreme at first.  However, after the initial shock dissipates, and one thinks about why someone or some team would do this, it is a move based in simple everyday logic.

Forget that it is a ball club and a player.  Imagine instead that it is an individual and a fully loaded Chrysler Prowler (owned by said individual).  Assume the individual had purchased the Prowler for $60,000 (of which $38,000 was still due to Prowler dealership) and he has owned the car now for three years.

If you were told that the individual, upon further examination of the condition of his home, decided to himself - - “You know, there is a ton of work that needs to be done here.  It makes more sense to get a reasonably priced car, get rid of the Prowler, and put the money saved towards several home needs – as opposed to having it tied into one possession, even if it is one stupendous possession.” - - - you would probably not be shocked.

Further, if you were told that the individual offered the car to all his friends and family, for no money down, with the only condition for sale being that they pick up the payments for the remaining $38,000, you again would probably not be shocked.

How are the individual and the Prowler any different than the Red Sox and Manny?  If you agree that the two are not different, then why would you be shocked by the move made by Boston?  It makes sense, no?

Of course, there is one difference here.  The car is an inanimate object and Manny Ramirez is a sentient being (despite what the Boston media may claim).  The Prowler is not going to care if it is being peddled whereas Ramirez may be offended by being parked at the end of the driveway with “FOR SALE” written across his forehead in soap.

Peter Gammons of ESPN.com reported on October 30, 2003 that Manny Ramirez may have prompted the Red Sox move by expressing to Boston club officials that he would be interested in perhaps moving to another team.

If this is true, then there probably should be no concern about Manny’s reaction to being placed on waivers.  However, if this is not true, then there should be concern as to Manny’s reaction to the move. Before that risk is discussed, there are facts about salary and market that warrant review.

Manny Ramirez is scheduled to earn $20.5 million in 2004.  The only players within $5 million of that figure are Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado, Mo Vaughn, Sammy Sosa, Kevin Brown, Shawn Green, Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson.  These players represent the “Top 1%” of players in terms of compensation.  Compared to 99% of major league players, $20.5 million is a huge salary for a team to take on to its payroll.  (And do not forget about the other $81 million due Manny after 2004.)

There are only a few teams in major league baseball who can currently afford a $20 million player.  And, as the aforementioned “Top 1%” stand testament, most of these teams already have large sums of money tied into individual players.

Also, notwithstanding Ramirez being one of the most dangerous and feared hitters in baseball today, Manny has a significant prior history of bizarre behavior and inconsistent work habits.

Factoring all this together (albeit unscientifically), it is reasonable to estimate that the chance of Manny Ramirez not being claimed by another team is around 90%.

Connecting the dots of reality and safe assumption brings us back to the potential risk. 

The Red Sox place Ramirez on waivers and he does not get claimed.  Again, if Manny initiated the move via a season end expression, there is most likely no harm done.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  

However, if Manny (either in part or total) was not aiming towards being placed on irrevocable waivers, and he is currently not happy about it, and then he does not get claimed, what have the Red Sox accomplished by this move and what is the associated risk therein?

There may be two serendipitous "accomplishments":

In the end, the only thing that Boston may have effectively accomplished with the placing of Ramirez on waivers is further damage to the relationship between the player and the front office, the player and the media, and the player with the fans.  At this junction, the likelihood of this result is robust.  The risk factor is considerable.  Manny’s life in Beantown next season may be more nightmarish than it was in some respects during 2003.

And to think, it was just three years ago that the Red Sox were wooing Manny Ramirez to come to Boston.  But, for the times they are a-changin', and the Red Sox Nation is under new management.  It will be interesting to watch how this management decision plays out for the Sox and Ramirez over the next day and year that follows.

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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