Our colleague Peter Gammons has reported that Manny Ramirez told his former teammates in Boston that he will be looking for a four-year, $100 million contract this offseason. I'd say there's an excellent chance of that happening if his agent, Scott Boras, can pull off some kind of Vulcan mind-control trick on a helpless owner.
But if the Spock ears don't grow in for Boras … well, Ramirez will be lucky if he gets half of what he's looking for.
Here's what Manny has going for him: He's a great hitter who is destined to gain entrance into the Hall of Fame, a lofty standing he apparently intends to reinforce during the final two months of the 2008 season; Ramirez is 4-for-8 so far with the Dodgers, and hit his first home run for L.A. on Saturday.
But there's a whole lot working against Manny:
1. He'll be 37 years old in May, and some executives have grown increasingly leery of aging ballplayers in a way that they were not 10 years ago, or even two years ago, before the sport's testing for performance-enhancing drugs was toughened, and before the federal crackdown on human growth hormone vendors. Players, it seemed, had discovered a fountain of youth and remained very productive into their late 30s and early 40s. But this year, in particular, officials are noticing that 35-year-old ballplayers suddenly look 35 again. This concern alone probably ensures that a player of Ramirez's age would never get more than a three-year deal.
2. He's a poor defensive outfielder and will worsen in the years ahead, so more than likely, most of his suitors in the offseason will be from the American League.
3. And here's the biggie: He has cemented a reputation as someone who has zero professional integrity and who does not care about winning.
He forced his way out of Boston by making those he worked for believe that he was intent on sabotaging its season -- and keep in mind that his former employers are not some incompetent bumpkins with an onerous management style. The Red Sox have a chance to win their third World Series in five seasons, their front office is highly respected and they are managed by Terry Francona, someone whose own personal reputation in the game is pristine. Their tacit evaluation of Ramirez as a quitter will be regarded with deference.
The business of baseball relies heavily on word of mouth. At some point this winter, some club executive will look wistfully at Ramirez's stats and wonder if maybe he would be a good fit for the executive's lineup, and that executive will pick up the phone and call an old friend who now works for the Red Sox. And that old friend will walk him through Manny's transgressions that we already know about and probably some that we haven't heard yet. And the semi-interested executive will hang up the phone and think: Not a chance in hell …
Every player has days that are worse than other days, and some that are better; the same could be said for almost any member of the world's working force. But there is a simple honor that is supposed to be contained within the equation: No matter what you do, you are expected to exert a base level of effort. You show up on time, you complete the tasks assigned to you.
If you bake bagels and you don't do this, you are fired. If you operate a dairy farm and you don't milk the cows twice a day, the farm collapses. If you're a lawyer and you miss filing deadlines, your firm will find another lawyer.
Because of his extraordinary skill to hit a baseball, Ramirez is guaranteed to make $20 million this season, regardless of whether he plays well or not. But he seems to have crossed an ethical line that few others have, and this winter, it will cost him financially. Oh, sure, he's not about to starve. Somebody will probably dangle a $12-13 million annual salary for two years, maybe three.
But he probably won't make any more money than he would have if he simply honored his contract and played with integrity and prompted the Red Sox to pick up $40 million in options for 2009 and 2010.
And through his gambit, he has sacrificed a lot that has nothing to do with money. It is unclear whether Ramirez cares about that.