LOS ANGELES -- In the end, Manny Ramirez couldn't even pass the smell test here, either. Which is really hard to do, in a laid-back city whose motto is, "Whatever." When even Vin Scully's golden-throated voice can't completely coat the odor, you know it's time to move on.
|Despite Dodger fans' initial love affair, Manny's farewell musters little emotion. (AP)|
"Everything has its time," general manager Ned Colletti said. "It was time for us. It was time for him.
"He did a lot of great stuff for us."
Manny pushed the Dodgers closer to the World Series than they've been since Kirk Gibson. Two consecutive NLCS appearances against Philadelphia, the first coming in 2008 with the momentum and thrill-a-minute ride that was Manny when he was fresh and new.
But at 38, and with those female fertility drugs having long ago cleared his system, he wasn't strong enough to push the Dodgers into contention this year. The returns have been diminishing since his 50-game suspension last summer. So has his interest.
Able to play in only 66 of the Dodgers' 131 games this season because of three trips to the disabled list -- two via a strained right calf -- Ramirez became more and more detached as the summer deepened. Rehabbing the calf injury in July, he routinely left Dodger Stadium by the fifth or sixth innings of games during the homestand against San Francisco and the Mets. Dodger Stadium security guards were plainly visible summoning his wife and kids.
Once it became common knowledge that the White Sox won a waiver claim on Ramirez last Friday, it was clear he had identified his Get Out of Jail Free card.
Since Friday, manager Joe Torre said, he had "several" conversations with Ramirez.
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"I sat and talked with him about a plan," Torre said. "We were dealing with some leg issues, and he felt it was better to go to the other league and DH and have a chance to play every day.
"I couldn't disagree with him."
Then, the clincher in Manny punching his ticket out of town: Torre, who already was giving more playing time to veteran Scott Podsednik -- saying he liked the "energy" Podsednik provided -- did not start Ramirez in any of his final four games with the Dodgers, using him only as a pinch-hitter twice.
On Sunday in Colorado, the Dodgers had decided to play Manny. But two club sources said Ramirez declined his spot in the starting lineup.
Tellingly, that was the only thing Torre refused to discuss before Monday's homestand opener against Philadelphia.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Torre said flatly.
Going beyond even Sunday, the sources said, Ramirez at the same time informed the Dodgers that he wouldn't be playing the next day -- Monday -- either.
According to waiver rules, the Dodgers had until Tuesday afternoon to complete the deal with the White Sox. In Colorado over the weekend, as Colletti was negotiating with Chicago, he had already decided to pull the trigger on Monday regardless.
Odd thing is, while all of this was going on in private, the one very public show that made it look like Ramirez quit on the Dodgers was the one thing that maybe wasn't quite as it appeared.
Torre and third baseman Casey Blake staunchly defended Ramirez's ejection Sunday after one pitch during a pinch-hitting appearance, insisting that it was not a premeditated "Screw you" directed at the Dodgers in a last-ditch effort to force their hand to cut him loose.
"I don't know how his calf felt, so it's hard for me to sit here and make judgments about him," Blake said when asked whether Manny had quit on his teammates. "I don't think the incident [Sunday] was premeditated. He just got fired up about a bad call.
"It just didn't look good, is all."
One thing should be made clear here: His crash-landing in L.A. is nowhere near as ugly or despicable as the mess he left behind in Boston in '08. Though he either was completely disinterested in or quit on the Dodgers at the end (pick one), at least there was no violence. He did not shove a 64-year-old man to the ground, as he did Boston's traveling secretary when the man didn't produce a large, last-minute ticket order when Manny snapped his fingers.
But when Podsednik is deemed the better option, and when the Dodgers simply dumped Ramirez and the roughly $4.3 million he's owed for the rest of 2010 into the laps of the White Sox without even receiving a player in return ... well, that's one hell of a long way from the chants of "Manny! Manny! Manny!" that thundered throughout the Dodger Stadium concourses all game on the evening of his L.A. debut, Aug. 1, 2008.
Initially, according to sources with knowledge of the conversations, the Dodgers offered the White Sox $1.5 million in Manny salary relief in exchange for a prospect. When the White Sox balked, the Dodgers offered $1 million toward Manny's salary in exchange for another prospect a bit lower on the food chain.
When the White Sox scotched that, too, the Dodgers made the same offer of $1 million for a different prospect, then went down to $500,000 for a lower-tier prospect. The White Sox weren't interested, then came back offering the Dodgers a choice of low-level prospects from their own list for the $500,000 and, at that point, the Dodgers said forget it. Take him.
In a corner of their clubhouse Monday, his conspicuously empty locker stood directly underneath a quote from Branch Rickey that is included in an All-Star array of Dodger-related quotes painted on the clubhouse walls.
The Rickey quote above Manny's vacated locker, ironically, reads, "It's not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind."
While Ramirez's indifference was deafening at the end, the Dodgers valiantly attempted to stuff his blink-and-you'd-miss-it stay with meaning.
"I think he taught this club a lot about playing and preparing," Torre said. "I think they fed off of it, especially in '08."
"He taught a lot of our guys how to win," Colletti said.
Yet Matt Kemp has regressed this year. So, too, has closer Jonathan Broxton. Catcher Russell Martin was still maddeningly inconsistent before a hip injury ended his season. Overall, the Dodgers have been a colossal disappointment in 2010. So much for, cough, cough, any heritage Manny left behind.
No, he parachuted in, raked in his $45 million (that's $110,000 in salary per day this year, by the way), created a stir and then bailed. And now, with the McCourts' divorce trial having begun Monday as Manny was headed to LAX, the Dodgers' financial situation looking bleaker than ever, it'll probably be a long while before they approach anything close to a Kirk Gibson moment again.
Manny? Now he'll look for the same fresh start and soft landing with the White Sox that the Dodgers provided in '08. He gained 5½ games in the standings, moving from the 10-out Dodgers to a Chicago team that trailed Minnesota by 4½ games in the AL Central upon acquiring him.
He will be able to concentrate on what he loves -- hitting -- and pack away his outfield glove. And he will be able to do this in a park that is a home-run haven: U.S. Cellular Field statistically ranks as the game's second-friendliest home-run park this season, behind only Yankee Stadium.
Good thing, too. Since returning from his 50-game suspension last summer, Ramirez has 20 homers in 543 plate appearances -- a ratio of one long ball per 27 plate appearances.
Maybe he can re-bottle the magic for five weeks, the way he did over the final two months of '08 for the Dodgers.
Whatever. Now he's off to the Land of Oprah, which is a pretty good place for a has-been slugger with a closet full of skeletons and a locker full of emptiness and broken promises.
That electrifying Dodger Stadium debut two years ago? I re-read my column from that night on Monday, and this was among the pearls I found:
In discussing his long hair, Ramirez promised, "I'm going to cut it. I'm going to be looking like a baby, man."
"They've got rules. I don't want them treating me different than everybody else. It'll grow back soon. Don't worry."
Ah, Manny in L.A.
At least there was no violence.