July 31, 2008


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LONGSHOTS: Manny being Manny – the sequel Part XXXII
by Dave Long

Well, we’ve survived the latest “Manny being Manny” episode — although with the trading deadline coming between my deadline and when this hits the street, “survived” might not be the right word, at least for Manny, who once again lived up to his reputation for being nuttier than a fruitcake and for placing capital letters into the term “high-maintenance.”

And of course everyone had an opinion on it, which is what makes it all so funny. I understand why people are tired of this soap opera. In fact if it were anyone else I’d probably be up in arms, if a guy wouldn’t play hurt in a big game as many suspect was the case with Manny. I don’t cut J. D. Drew much slack over all the games he’s missed and he causes a lot less commotion. So why look at it differently with Manny? If it affects the team negatively I would, but it doesn’t seem to. So it’s part of the deal, like a bad arm was for Johnny Damon.

But when he wasn’t in the line-up vs. the Yankees on Friday, I knew it would hit the fan. And since they’re even more predictable than Manny doing something crazy two or three times a year, there it was in the papers, where both the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy and the Herald’s Steve Buckley called him a faker. This is nothing new for Shaughnessy, who’s been beating this same drum for eight loooooong years. Since I don’t read the Herald that much, I can’t say how often Buck writes about Manny, but his column was reactionary lunacy. Their reaction, however earned, made me think of how little accountability writers like those two and myself have.

Players, managers and general managers have zillions of stats that let everyone know exactly how they’re doing. But unless you have a memory like mine, how do we know if a writer is having an MVP season (like I had last year) or is hitting below the Mendozza line? There are no sportswriter standings, so many think even the bottom dwellers are experts. But knowing a lot of facts, or being able to write, doesn’t mean their judgment is good — which was certainly the case in Buck’s idiotic response.

He wanted to dump Manny NOW. In the middle of the pennant race with no replacement in sight. Shaughnessy seems willing to wait until natural events take their course at the end of the season. I don’t have any problem with people wanting Manny out of the equation because they are tired of the headaches. It happened with Nomar and his behind-closed-doors surliness and they got better in the middle of the pennant race. But he was traded, not dumped. So that can happen with Manny too. But I also know this: if Theo doesn’t come up with an adequate plan in doing what they are shouting he should do, they’ll be blaming him for not prying an Albert Pujols loose — without any mention it was their idea to dump Manny’s 35 and 110.

Trust me, it is easy to blast away with no standings in the paper every day pointing out things like when Buckley called for Paul Pierce to be IMMEDIATELY dumped after an incident a few years back. If it was still in the paper today, would people feel differently, as he espouses the same solution for Manny? Or, if he still feels that way, maybe he could write a column saying Pierce should be still gone and he’ll live without the title. Truth is, Pierce did something stupid. He learned from it, got better and look how it turned out.

Of course that was one incident and Manny has two or three a year, so it’s a bit different. But so is the dilemma faced by John Henry, who inherited $120 million in contractual obligations when he bought the team. Think you can just put someone out on their “arse” as Buckley demanded with no contractual relief? It ain’t football, where even Tom Brady can be dumped with only a veteran severance package of less than a million to worry about. They tried to release him in 2003 — no takers. They tried to trade him for Mr. Clutch in 2004, but the Players Association it shot down. But, if it did happen, can’t you see Shaughnessy now writing about how they lost because A-Rod can’t hit in the clutch, while Manny usually does? Theo tried to trade him at the 2005 for Aubry Huff and prospect Lasting Milledge — who the Mets have already given up on. Most were outraged then — though ironically Huff’s numbers in ’08 are nearly identical to Manny’s — so maybe. But does he strike fear like Manny does?

Secondly: do you think this is the first time a star player has gotten different treatment? Guess again. Jimmy Foxx — who Shaughnessy often compares Manny to — drove in 100 runs an astonishing 12 straight years despite being the model for fictional Jimmy Duggan in A League Of Their Own, who the team owner played by Gary Marshall asked, “Jimmy, are you still a falling-down drunk?” And then there was Babe Ruth, the most incorrigible of them all, who legend has it once held his diminutive manager Miller Huggins by his ankles off the back end of a moving train after a disagreement. The Yankees put up with him for 13 years. Why? Because, with all due respect to Ted Williams, he was the greatest hitter who ever lived. At least until 1934, when he hit just 22 homers and drove in 84 runs; then it was adios, when his request to manage the Yanks was met with this line from Colonel Ruppert: “If you can’t manage yourself, how are you going to manage an entire team?”

In the end this is about money, as it was when Tris Speaker forced his trade to Cleveland after ownership tried to cut his salary for only hitting .322 after leading the Sox to the 1915 title. The truth is they’ve been stuck with Manny and have skillfully gotten a great deal from his talent, despite the headaches. If you don’t want baggage in return for the production they bring along, fine by me, but here are two questions:

What’s YOUR plan for getting a new clean-up hitter? Second, knowing what you know now, would you pass on the titles to avoid the headaches of the last eight years? Because since he was MVP in 2004 and a monster in the 2007 playoffs without him, the curse would be 90 years strong. Which makes me wonder who the writers in question would be blaming for that winless streak now. My guess is the goofball dumb enough to send Manny out of town.

Which is easy to do when there are no standings to show just how many times you’ve been right and wrong through the years on big stories like this one.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions

7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat