October 31, 2003

Countdown. Jeff Moorad (Manny's agent) said he and Ramirez were caught somewhat by surprise by the irrevocable waivers decision, although Moorad did say he's been "holding steady talks with the Red Sox front office for several months." There have also been reports (Gammons and Shaughnessy) that Manny asked the Red Sox to explore a trade (ideally to the Yankees) or putting him on waivers. Perhaps it was the "irrevocable" part that surprised them. Moorad: "He'll be just fine if he's back in Boston next season. He always expressed a desire to play for the Yankees, and in a strange twist of fate, the Red Sox certainly gave him an opportunity to make that happen, although it seems unlikely to me it will. You certainly can't fault the Red Sox for creating a mechanism for that opportunity to come about."

Gordon Edes runs through the few teams that would claim Manny -- Yankees, Orioles, Mets, Dodgers, Atlanta, Phillies, White Sox, Cubs, Angels -- and rules them all out. ... Three Sox players talk. Millar: "Manny is a great player, but if he doesn't want to pull on the same rope as the rest of his teammates, then, you know what, he can go somewhere where he can be happy. We continually hear he's not happy in Boston." ... Burkett: "The guy is one of the greatest hitters in the game. The only problem is, it seems the days of the $20 million contract could be gone for a while. I still find it odd they're willing to give him up for nothing." ... Ortiz: "He always came out and said, 'I want to be traded.' I never asked him what his reasons were. But one thing I'll never understand as long as I'm in Boston is why people criticize the players so much."

There is some disagreement about Manny and his feelings about Boston. Bob Hohler says Ramirez takes media and fan criticism personally (contrary to the oft-peddled image of Space Cadet Manny) and "high-ranking team sources have said he privately complains far more than they would have imagined." Yet Steve Mandl, his high school baseball coach, said: "You'd think that if he ends up back in Boston next season, a thing like this would bother him, but he's not like the rest of us. He doesn't get hurt feelings because he doesn't care that much. If he has a place to go and a game to play in, that's all that matters to Manny." Moorad agrees, and has previously dismissed reports of any unhappiness, yet Ortiz, Ramirez's closest friend on the team, says Manny "always" wanted to be traded.

The New York Post claims "Boston sources" are saying the Red Sox would like to swing a three-way trade that would bring Alex Rodriguez to Fenway and send Nomar Garciaparra to an unidentified (West Coast?) third team. The Rangers would acquire Casey Fossum and other players from the team that gets Nomar. The Post adds: "The Red Sox are fed up with both Garciaparra and Ramirez." ... The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also reports that the Rangers and Red Sox have spoken about a possible deal. One source said any talk of Texas trading Rodriguez was "very premature" and another source estimated the possibility of a trade at about "20 percent." One possible deal would be Garciaparra and prospects for Rodriguez. ... One Rangers official commented privately that he expects Rodriguez to be playing for another team next season.

New York coverage of Manny: Times, Daily News (and here), Post (and here) and Newsday (and here). ... Also, the Los Angeles Times.

Michael Gee writes in the Herald: "The Red Sox' decision to put Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers is an idea that tests the boundaries of weird. It strongly suggests the Boston franchise has cast planning to the wind and blindly is flailing about in the aftermath of a difficult defeat." ... Gee is either disingenious or he's trying to fuel resentment against the Red Sox front office, because if he bothered to read any other coverage, including his own paper, he would understand exactly what's going on. Tim Daloisio elaborates: "I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox front office does not have detailed decision trees mapped out on the walls of their offices in Fenway Park with every possible scenario and outcome mapped out. Given that the most likely scenario after having placed Manny on waivers was that he would clear them, one can only hope that this is exactly what the Red Sox wanted to happen, setting off a chain of events that they have mapped out on the ideal branch of their decision tree."

Throughout this whole discussion, the issue of "payroll flexibility" has been paramount. Henry/Lucchino/Epstein believe that not having to pay Ramirez approximately $20 million a season for the next five years would free up money to get players who would presumably add more overall production to the team. Bill Reynolds writes that Manny's contract "hurts the club's ability to go out in the free-agent market and make the team better. ... robbing management of flexibility, negatively impacting their ability to be creative." Clearly, having that money would give Boston more wiggle room, but that only makes sense if H/L/E is set on not increasing the current payroll, now at about $100 million.

With increased revenues from the park, why wouldn't the team be willing to increase its payroll to $120-125 million? If H/L/E are not comfortable paying Ramirez for the rest of his contract (2004-08), then they have to move him now before his skills decline, because when his batting production drops, he's going to be no good to anyone. And various comments in the past week or so bear this out. Lucchino told a Boston radio station "One of the biggest mistakes you can make in management is to fall in love with your veterans" and Theo has mentioned how huge contracts can hamstring a franchise.

Putting Ramirez on waivers shows that they are willing to lose the slugger if it means ridding themselves of 100% of the contract, but because that's not likely to happen, if H/L/E try to trade Ramirez, they'll have to eat a decent portion of his salary. There may be teams that would like Ramirez at $12 million and they are waiting until the deadline passes and then they can approach Boston about a deal. The Red Sox won't know how much they'll have to absorb until the upper-tier free agents have been signed this winter, though the waiver move has established that free-agent salaries will not approach $20 million. Of course, if Boston waits until January and if (for example) they signed Guerrero, they'd likely be at a bigger disadvantage than they are now.

Other stuff: David Heuschkel on Byung-Hyun Kim: "Given that Epstein had his eyes on Kim for a long time, it's doubtful the Red Sox would give up on him ... A team official described the results of a recent MRI on Kim's shoulder as clean. His ego healed the day Grady Little was fired. Kim, who wasn't happy in the bullpen and was in the manager's doghouse, might be the only player on the team who wasn't disappointed to see Little go." I fully expect Kim (who is still only 24) in the starting rotation next season. ... Jim Baker of ESPN notes that Davey Johnson would be "a good candidate for the Red Sox [because] he is one of the first managers to embrace statistical analysis as a helpful tool in running a ballclub. (One of the more amusing things in baseball in the mid-'80s was reading old school writers expressing their outrage at the presence of computers and computer printouts in the dugout. Of course, Earl Weaver had been carrying his famous three-by-five cards with player stats and tendencies on them for years and the only difference between them and a computer printout was the means by which they were generated.)

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