Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 22 News List

No takers for Boston's Manny Ramirez

AP , BOSTON

Manny Ramirez was not claimed on waivers before Friday's deadline, leaving the moody outfielder and his US$101.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and owner John Henry declined to comment on Ramirez, citing a baseball rule against discussing whether players were put on waivers.

The only comment available from the team was that there was no announcement to make, spokesman Kevin Shea said after the 1pm deadline passed.

A major league team executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Ramirez was put on waivers for anyone to claim, but there were no takers.

If Ramirez had been claimed, that news could have been released immediately.

"We're looking forward to Manny having another productive year for the Red Sox in 2004," Shea said.

There is still the chance that the Red Sox could trade Ramirez, if they are willing to absorb some of his salary.

There is no doubt that Ramirez is one of the best hitters in baseball, but his salary -- the second highest in baseball -- scared away any potential takers when he was placed on irrevocable waivers on Wednesday.

He led the AL with a .427 on-base percentage and 28 intentional walks this year -- outstanding numbers for a team that emphasizes a player's ability to get on base. He also had 37 homers and 104 RBIs.

But with five years and US$101.5 million remaining on a US$160 million, eight-year contract -- he gets an extra US$1 million if he switches teams -- he is too costly for all but a few teams.

Even the New York Yankees, whose payroll of US$164 million -- not including postseason and award bonuses -- is the highest in the major leagues, wouldn't bite on the contract former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette gave Ramirez in the winter of 2000, before the new collective bargaining agreement helped slow the market.

Clubs often place many of their players on waivers to gauge other teams' interest and to lay the groundwork for trades, but most are not claimed and the moves rarely become public knowledge. Ramirez was placed on irrevocable waivers, meaning they could withdraw him if he was claimed.

The next waiver period begins Nov, 11 and runs through Feb. 16.

Saddled with Ramirez's contract, the Red Sox will struggle to keep some of the players scheduled to become free agents after next season: pitchers Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, catcher Jason Varitek and right fielder Trot Nixon.

Other changes are likely for the Red Sox as they try to improve the fielding and pitching on a team that set a major-league record with a .491 slugging percentage.

Boston's season ended five outs short of the World Series when it squandered a 5-2 lead with one out in the bottom of the eighth of the seventh game of the AL championship series against the Yankees. New York tied it in that inning and won 6-5 in the 11th.

While Ramirez is an outstanding hitter, he is no better than an average fielder who lacks hustle on the bases. Amiable off the field, he sometimes upsets team officials with his behavior.

He was benched by Little late in the 2003 season after he missed a crucial series against the Yankees with a sore throat and fever, yet got together with New York infielder Enrique Wilson to reminisce about their days in Cleveland.

Ramirez spent seven seasons with Cleveland then hit .306, .349 and .325 over the next three years with Boston. He led the AL in batting in 2002 and was second to teammate Bill Mueller's .326 in 2003. He has 111 homers and 336 RBIs with the Red Sox since former general manager Dan Duquette signed him.

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