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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.