Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Manny Ramirez tires of being in Boston as Mets consider trade

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

First, before we explore the possibility that the Red Sox might trade Manny Ramirez in the next few days, perhaps to the Mets, let's pause for a moment and feel sorry for Manny. He makes US$20 million a year -- that's the No. 20 with six zeroes attached -- for playing baseball in Boston, and he's tired and uncomfortable.

He was so tired he declined to play Wednesday afternoon against Tampa Bay despite a shortage of players because of injuries. He's so uncomfortable in Boston because fans love him so much he has lost his privacy, so he has begun his annual exercise of asking the Red Sox to trade him.

Last October I wrote a column questioning his refusal to donate a few thousand dollars to the baseball team at his high school, George Washington in Upper Manhattan, and some readers excoriated me for suggesting he was wrong for not helping the players on the team that was so integral to his career and wealth.

Those readers had a right to their opinion, but I wonder how they or other Red Sox fans feel now that Ramirez has demonstrated disrespect for his teammates by refusing to play when they needed him, and worse, has asked out in the middle of a division race that could determine the team's ability to get back to the World Series to defend its championship. How should one characterize Ramirez for deserting a ship whose sails are full of wind?

Four and a half years ago, Ramirez signed with the Red Sox as a free agent for eight years and US$160 million. Yet, Larry Lucchino, the team's chief executive, told a Boston radio station Thursday that Ramirez requested a trade only a year later, a week before the new ownership group assumed control of the team in 2002, and that he has requested a trade every year since. Manny has made it an annual rite.

All of that being said, the Mets should waste no time taking the malcontent off the Red Sox hands. Omar Minaya, the Mets' general manager, flirted last winter with the idea of trying to wrest Ramirez from the Red Sox, and if he wasn't on the telephone on Thursday with the Red Sox general manager, Theo Epstein, he wasn't doing his job. Minaya did not return a call to be asked if he was doing his job.

As presently constructed, the Mets are not a legitimate contender for a playoff spot. They have a combustible bullpen, their defense leaks at times and they often can't score enough runs. Witness their inability to score more than three runs in the first two games of a three-game series at run-friendly Coors Field in Colorado this week.

Ramirez leads the major leagues in runs batted in with 92, and he is tied for the American League lead in home runs with 28. That's the kind of hitter that would look good in the Mets' lineup. Fred Wilpon, the Mets' owner, might not think Ramirez's salary would look good on his payroll, but he let Minaya commit US$172 million for Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez last winter, and why bother to spend that money if he's not ready to spend a little more to enhance the Mets' chances of making the playoffs?

The acquisition of Ramirez would fit, too, with the new Latin face of the Mets. Minaya, the first Latino general manager in baseball, didn't sign Beltran and Martinez because they are Latinos. He signed them because they were the best hitter and the best pitcher in the free-agent market. But infusing a Latin flavor into a team in New York City isn't the worst marketing strategy the Mets could adopt. Ramirez would add a very attractive name to the cast. Lucchino, reached on his cell phone Thursday afternoon, said he was in a meeting and couldn't talk. He suggested talking to Epstein or Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox executive vice president for public affairs.

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