Off Base
Manny Being a Dodger - the Case for and Against

October 28, 2008, 9:26 p.m. Mostly against. But before you get all hot and bothered, please don't misunderstand.

I'm not saying "whatever you do, Dodgers, don't sign Manny Ramirez." But like I said last week, the club does not have to sign Manny. They're not required to. We'll all live either way.

It's a matter of what's best for the franchise, "what's best" very much including but not limited to winning, both quickly and long-term. Obviously Manny was god-like for every minute of his time in Los Angeles, and in every way imaginable. Yes, he's the most prolific right-handed hitter since Mays and Aaron, and yes, he's won as many championships as the two of them combined.

And yes, he's probably got another MVP-like season left in him, and it very well may be the 2009.

But is Ramirez the best signing for the Dodgers? More importantly, is he really even signable? And is he even the best player out there?

I'm sorry, but if Manny, or more accurately, if Scott Boras holds out for four-plus years, you have to pass. You have to pass. There's only been one player in the history of the game who's gotten better after Manny's age of 36 (37 in May), and we all know what happened there.

Ramirez' skills will begin to deteriorate soon enough. It's anyone's guess as to how fast and how far his productivity will fall. But if you don't think Manny has a much, much, much better chance of continuing his current level of play as a designated hitter in the American League, you're simply not being objective. You know it, the sport knows it, everyone knows it.

That's not to say that the Dodgers shouldn't go three years at an unheard sum of, and I can't believe I'm even saying this, $75 million or so. It's not a perfect analogy, but the Dodgers paid Kirk Gibson for three years to win them one championship. Gibson wasn't much use to them in 1989 and 1990, but there's no grand argument that it wasn't worth every blue cent of the $4.5 million the Dodgers paid him.

The difference is, Gibson injured himself in the line of duty, while playing for the Dodgers. Manny's been worn down simply from playing 2100 games over 16 seasons.

It was because of Gibby's style of play, and the way he carried himself for every minute of 1988, that lead both to his injuries and to a Dodgers World Series victory. Gibson's idiosyncrasies, his baggage, his Kirk being Kirk, if you will, was exactly what the Dodgers needed at the time. See Jesse Orosco.

Ramirez, as was predicted pretty much everywhere, was on his best behavior beginning July 31. If you're counting on a Ripkenesque streak of model citizenry, you're bound to be disappointed. And if the Dodgers don't spring for Manny's next tab, the burning of bridges will come swiftly and with gale-force winds.

There's no reasonable rebuttal to Frank McCourt's qualification that "it takes two to tango," that a player has to want to be a Dodger. He's completely right about that. Rafael Furcal wants to be a Dodger. Both sides should endeavor to make it happen, and I'm guessing they will. If the Dodgers were to balk on that one, they'd lose the player-has-to-want-to-be-here line as a talking point.

The Dodgers have not done well in recent years negotiating for big-ticket free agents, and in particular, Scott Boras big-ticket free agents. Do the names Andruw Jones, J.D. Drew, Eric Gagne, Adrian Beltre, Luc Hochevar and Kevin Brown mean anything to you? Ramirez, Derek Lowe and CC Sabathia are all currently Boras guys, as is Greg Maddux, so like it or not, Messrs. Colletti and McCourt are going to have their fill of Boras this winter. Oh joy.

Guess who else is a Boras client. Matt Holliday. Though Holliday isn't eligible for free agency until after 2009, in my book he's the best guy out there right now. Because he's just reaching his prime, because of defense and all-around play, and because of his complete lack of weirdness, Holliday is a better man for the Dodgers than Manny Ramirez. By plenty. It won't be easy getting him from Colorado, but the Rockies are preparing to move their left fielder this winter, and the Dodgers ought to give it a shot before committing to Manny.

Forget about a contract extension for Holliday, which Boras won't go for anyway. Let Holliday play for his mega-deal in Los Angeles, and reap the benefits for an entire season, rather than just the two months the Dodgers got with Ramirez. The conventional wisdom that trading for a guy with one year left on his contract is a bad thing, because you'd prefer a player "who's going to be around for awhile" needs to re-considered. It's a good thing, actually. It just means the trading partners have to factor in the possibility of a one-and-done when composing deals.

Again, I'm not suggesting the Dodgers say adios to Manny necessarily. But they do have to be smart about it. Ned's been a bit like a kid in a candy store, hasn't he? Come to think of it, he's been like a fat kid in a candy store, with a mouthful of cavities to show for it. A little hygiene'll do ya, OK? Just a little dab…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Rhetorical Question of the Day: Can someone please explain why Jackie Autry is presenting trophies for MLB these days? More importantly, is it just me, or is Mrs. Autry a dead-ringer look-alike for Randy Jones?

Media Savvy: Interesting "what if" article by Rob Neyer and Mark Simon of ESPN.com. That's what if, as in "what if Gibson had been unable to hit?" And a bunch of other what ifs from baseball lore.

Plus this, from the DYN file. "The Man Behind the MLB Logo," by David Davis, of the Wall Street Journal.

And leave it to veteran columnist Bob Keisser to come up with this clever piece in the Long Beach Press-Telegram, and in particular, for this line: "The same owner just announced that he will retain the general manager, Ned Colletti, who assembled a sub-.500 team before Manny was gift-wrapped and sent to L.A., and handed out more bad contracts than Countrywide did mortgages. Colletti is to the Dodgers as Richard Fuld is to Lehman Brothers."

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