Off Base
Manny Being an American Leaguer

November 9, 2008, 10:41 a.m. Manny Ramirez is going to the AL. It makes by far the most sense, so you might as well get used it right now. Not that anything in baseball has to make sense to occur, but it's the most likely scenario. Probably.

The Dodgers made a nice opening offer of something in the neighborhood of $45 million for two years, including an option for a third. They might be prepared to go up a bit in salary, or perhaps guarantee the third year, but it's academic anyway because Scott Boras is going to hold out for at least a full four-year deal. He might just get it, but not in Los Angeles.

The talk about the Dodgers making an offer that they assumed would be turned down has already started, and will no doubt fester publicly. Boras and company will make sure of that. But as far as I'm concerned, L.A. is off the hook. The club put a bleep-load of cash on a plate for a 37-year old player with a ton of baggage, and if the man wants bigger portions, along with seconds and thirds, let him try the competition to see what they're serving. He's not going to say thank you one way or the other.

Manny has one or two years of fulltime play left in him. As a designated hitter, he's got a chance to hit 700 home runs. It's not that complicated. Baltimore or the Yankees are much better fits for Ramirez than are the Dodgers, so why not assume that'll happen and move forward. Or at least, prepare yourself.

The object of the game is to win championships, not contracts. There have been 103 World Series won by Ramirez-less teams. OK? 103. Championships have been won without a single contribution from CC Sabathia too, for that matter. That's happened 105 times.

More often than not in baseball, it's the team that forks out for the monster contracts that gets screwed. The Dodgers have had more than their fair share. At some point you have to figure a way to win without succumbing to those types of deals. The Phillies just did it, and the Rays almost did.

Two years and $45 or 50 million is enough for Manny Ramirez, and certainly as a start. It's generous. The Dodgers shouldn't budge an inch at this point. They're handling it right. The offer has been made. They should continue to plan for 2009, and if that includes a search for a left fielder, so be it. If Boras decides to negotiate in some reasonable fashion, that's fine too.

But enough with the talk about how much better the Dodgers were with Manny. They were 54-54 before Manny, and 34-28 with him, including the playoffs. BFD. An average team with average results either way.

The 2009 club might win 100 games and a World Series with Juan Rivera in left field, and they might win 84 while finishing third in the division with Mr. Ramirez. In baseball you simply have no idea. Every team, and every set of circumstances is different, every single year, always.

Boras' talk about Manny being "iconic" is as silly as the notion of a six-year contract, but this idea of his being a player "who pays for himself" actually does hold some water. The Barry Bonds example is a flawed one, but just for the sake of argument, let's do the math.
San Francisco used to get, what, 10,000 or 11,000 fans per game in the early-1990s, at pre-Barry Candlestick. Attendance increased during Bonds' first few years, but it wasn't until the club moved into what was then Pac Bell Park in 2000 that the Giants starting drawing 40,000-plus fans per game.

So while it wasn't immediate, yeah, that's a 300% increase in attendance. Plus of course, fans bought hot dogs, peanuts, beer, garlic fries, and Listerine to wash it all down. Any way you calculate it, that's a monumental, franchise-changing influx of cash, a business model that bodes well for much of the sport.

The thing is, the Dodgers already draw 45,000 a game, win or lose, without fail. You can only go so far with the attendance, and only if you win. You have to win. But if Manny can bring in 5000 per game, and if the club gets the figure going around, of 50 bucks per turnstile count, times 81 games, that's $20 million right there.

Those are some rather big "ifs," but it's something to consider. I hate to hand it to Boras, because I see him as an evil-genius Bond-like figure (Dr. No and Goldfinger come to mind), but in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, he "might just got something there."

But Manny has to produce, he has to stay healthy, he has to curb the weirdness, and he has to hit the crap out of the ball like no other non-performance enhancing drugged-up player of his age ever has before. And he has to win. Otherwise, the argument falls apart and the Dodgers are stuck with yet another overwhelmingly bad contract.

The thing that boggles my mind most about Boras is that his approach to sales works even in the slightest. He puts together notebooks full of comparative statistics, with all kinds of numbers that are supposed to make a difference to the clubs. It's unfathomable to me that even a single general manager would be swayed by any of it.

I mean, it's not like a baseball player displays his talent in secret or something. There is literally nothing that a player can do or might do that can't be determined better and analyzed to death by the clubs. Nothing. So why does Boras have such pull over the sport? Why does he have any pull over the sport? If anyone has a clue about this, I'd really like to hear it.

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Poli-Sigh: Much has been made by both sides over the years about the trading of Sammy Sosa in 1989 by George W. Bush. I say now and I've said all along that it was a good trade for the Rangers. Your trivia question? Who did Texas get for Sammy?

More Dodgers Doings: The decision regarding Manny Ramirez is difficult, but Rafael Furcal presents a different case altogether. And the Dodger really have no choice. It's good that Raffy played his hand and said he wanted to stay, but the club must be careful not to let that get in the way of making a deal quickly.

But if they do lose Furcal, and it very well might happen, they have to get a deal with Orlando Cabrera done pretty much the next day. There isn't another free agent shortstop out there that's even remotely worth having.

Props to Ned Colletti for declining Brad Penny's option. Good. Excellent. Let's hope this puts a damper on the common wisdom about not letting a guy go to a division rival. Arizona or the Padres or San Francisco can have Brad Penny. And Colorado would be hysterical. Knock yourselves out, NL West. Go for it. Great if it works out that way. If there's a chance Juan Pierre or Andruw Jones stays in the division too, that's absolutely awesome. The Dodgers should try to arrange it.

In addition to Ramirez and Furcal, discussed earlier, here are the free agents for the Dodgers to consider, in order of importance: Cabrera, Rivera, Juan Cruz, Joe Biemel, Ryan Dempster, Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez and/or Mark Loretta and/or Mark Kotsay and/or Nomar Garciaparra as pinch hitters slash utility players, and Randy Johnson.

Not Kerry Wood, not Francisco Rodriguez, not A.J. Burnett, not Adam Dunn, not Brian Fuentes, not Pat Burrell, and not Ben Sheets.

As for Jake Peavy, it would be wonderful not to lose those four or five games to him each season, but the Dodgers need to pass. Obviously they'd have to trade way too much to get him, but if you thought Chad Billingsley was disappointing in losing twice to Philadelphia last month, Peavy's been about as bad a big-game pitcher as it's possible to be. God-awful.

The San Diego ace has lost of both of his career playoff starts, getting hammered for an ERA of 12.10, taking his team right out of the series each time. Then you have the play-in game with Colorado for the division in 2007, in which Peavy gave up six runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3. Forget Jake Peavy…

Trivia Answer: Harold Baines, from the Chicago White Sox...

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….







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