Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Trade is Dead

Just when it seemed disenchanted Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was on the verge of being dealt to the Florida Marlins, early afternoon reports on and surfaced just hours before today's 4 p.m. ET Trade deadline that the proposed three-way deal which also involved the Pittsburgh Pirates was nearly dead.

A fixture in the middle of the Red Sox's batting order since 2001 and a core member of two World Series championship teams, Ramirez was the centerpiece of a proposed, three-way deal between Boston, Pittsburgh and Florida that was discussed at length by the clubs on Wednesday before continuing into today, when stumbling blocks got in the way.

Reported disagreements over how much money the Marlins would receive from the Red Sox and which prospects would switch hands were said to have put a major dent into making the blockbuster transaction a reality.

The major portions of the deal would have Ramirez going to the Marlins, Jason Bay moving from Pittsburgh to Boston and 24-year-old outfielder Jeremy Hermida going to the Pirates.

Even if that deal didn't resuscitate as the deadline closed in, there was still the possibility the Red Sox could try to find another taker for Ramirez, who has become increasingly disenchanted in recent weeks. Similarly, the Pirates are reportedly still working with other teams on a possible deal for Bay, including one with the Tampa Bay Rays and perhaps the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Boston Herald, citing a baseball source on Thursday morning, said that the deal did pick up momentum overnight, but the chances of it being consummated were still "less than 50-50." The newspaper added that there were still some members of Red Sox's upper management who weren't convinced that trading Ramirez was the best move for the team.

Ramirez, as a 10-5 man (10 years in the Major Leagues, five with the same team), has the right to veto any trade. A few days ago, Ramirez told reporters he would approve any trade that would benefit both himself and the Red Sox.

According to, Ramirez did approve a trade to the Marlins, but that was before the teams had actually agreed on a trade.

If the deal for Bay indeed has fallen through, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox would be able to find a better bat to replace Ramirez.

Bay is hitting .282 with 22 homers, 64 RBIs and a .519 slugging percentage. Ramirez, who is having what is basically a par year by his standards, is hitting .299 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs.

The Red Sox, who have lost five of their last six games amid controversy over Ramirez, are eager to see the matter reach a resolution one way or the other.

Boston next takes the field on Friday night against Oakland, by which time Ramirez's fate for the rest of 2008 will finally be settled.

"If he's out there Friday, then Friday on, this is who we're going to be," said Red Sox shortstop Alex Cora. "If he's not, we'll see. We don't decide that. If he's here, we're going to pull for him the same way he pulls for us."

Despite the tense situation, there have been some light-hearted moments. Shortly before Wednesday's loss to the Angels, Ramirez was spotted on NESN holding a sign that said, "I'm going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up."

Ramirez is in the final season of an eight-year, $160 million contract. The Red Sox hold $20 million options on Ramirez for 2009 and 2010.

In some ways, going to the Marlins would have been the easiest short-term move for Ramirez. For several years, Ramirez has owned a home in South Florida.

"Oh yeah, Marlins. Tax-free. Stay at home," Ramirez playfully said in the clubhouse before Wednesday's game.

The only reporter to talk in depth with Ramirez over the last couple of days has been Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.

"Nobody has called me from Boston, and neither has my agent [Scott Boras]," Ramírez told Rojas by phone on Thursday. "The only thing I know of a possible trade is what I've seen in ESPN."

All along, Boston's players were skeptical that Ramirez would actually get traded.

"Every year it's like this," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "This is so out of our hands. Even this year, it's out of our hands. I just think that this team needs to take a step past that and focus on playing baseball."

While all was well between Ramirez and the Red Sox for the first couple of months of 2008, things have taken a sour turn in recent weeks.

As for the most recent rift between Ramirez and the Red Sox, it seemed to start on June 28 in Houston. That was the day Ramirez pushed traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the floor following a spat over tickets. Though the Red Sox never went public with their discipline, it's believed that Ramirez was issued a fine that went to charity.

At the All-Star Game, Ramirez, in an interview with the Boston Herald, criticized the Red Sox's ownership and front office, saying they haven't been straightforward with him regarding their future plans with his option. Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry said the next day that Ramirez's remarks were "personally offensive."

Another controversy started when Ramirez told the Red Sox he couldn't play against the Mariners on July 23, and again against the Yankees two days later, because of right knee soreness.

Before sending Ramirez out for an MRI on both knees -- which came back negative -- members of ownership and the front office, as well as manager Terry Francona, held a closed-door meeting with the seemingly disgruntled slugger.

Reportedly, the Red Sox were pondering disciplinary action if Ramirez again made himself unavailable in the second game of the series against the Yankees, but he returned to the lineup that day.

A few days later, Ramirez told NESN analyst and former Red Sox player Jerry Remy that he still hoped to be traded so that he could have some "peace."

What the Red Sox want more than peace is closure, and they will get by the time today's deadline expires.

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