I’m tempted to wait until he’s actually in the lineup on April 6th before I post this after yesterday’s false alarm, but all indications are that Manny Ramirez has finally agreed to a two year, $45 million offer, with an opt-out after 2009 and deferred money for both years. AKA, “what was basically offered four months ago”. So let’s take one last post to look at the winners & losers, and then we can finally get on to getting back to baseball – and it’s not as though there aren’t important issues. Can Blake DeWitt stick as a backup infielder? Should we be worried about Orlando Hudson’s sore wrist? What can we expect from James Loney? Who’s going to be the fifth starter? Will Juan Pierre be moved, and if not will he cause a stink? And so on, and so on.
The Dodger Offense. What’s more imposing in left field, Manny Ramirez getting his first shot to spend a full season destroying the National League, or Juan Pierre continuing his five-year decline? I don’t even think I need to break out any stats for this, fancy or not. You’re dropping one of the worst hitters in the game and sliding in one of the ten best right handed hitters who ever lived. I’d say that’s a slight “win” for the team – and that’s not even considering what it does for the other hitters, because despite what Jeff Kent thinks, Manny’s presence completely changes the pitches the hitters around him see.
Manny. He gets to come back to what was clearly the best fit for him, to a fanbase that already dearly loves him, judging by the amount of fake dreadlocks you saw in the stands last year. Not only that, he’s a first-ballot inner-circle Hall of Famer despite spending most of his time in the tough AL East. Now he gets to come and rock the National League for an entire season? Dear god.
Scott Boras. Let’s face it, Boras could have gotten Manny a minimum wage job working the drive-thru at a Burger King and he’d still find a way to call this a “win”, but it still is. No, it’s not the four, five, or six-year deal for $100m+ he was originally looking for, but he still somehow took a late 30s player who some saw as damaged goods, in the worst national economy in decades, despite no competition from other teams, and was able to get him $25 million, with an opt-out clause. Say what you want about his tactics or morals, but the man is good at his job.
Frank McCourt. Well done, Frank. You held fast in the face of Boras’ ludicrous demands, and for that patience you’ve now markedly improved your team – and perhaps more important to you, you’ll be able to sell tons of #99 jerseys and dreadlocks. It’s not an easy thing to say, “I beat Scott Boras”, but you did – you got him to agree to basically the same deal he’d dismissed in November as not being serious. Well done.
Ned Colletti. I think most of us agree that Ned’s seat is at least somewhat warm if the Dodgers don’t do well this year after the disastrous Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, and Jason Schmidt deals, so I’d say he’s probably pretty pleased to see this huge improvement to the 2009 club. Not only that, fans would have strung him up if he’d let Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu pass by on very reasonable deals, only to not get Manny. In the end, his (and McCourt’s) patience looks good.
Fans. I suppose this goes along with the sentiment listed above in the ’offense’ section, but it’s true: as a fan, would you rather be seeing Manny or Pierre all year? I can’t reiterate that enough.
Jason Repko. You’d think that signing another outfielder would doom his already-slim hopes of making the squad, right? Well, maybe it does. But I just can’t shake the feeling that late-inning outfield defense is going to be a problem. While Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are both adequate, Manny’s clearly no Gold Glover, no matter what he says. Yet while most teams have a plus defender as a backup, the Dodgers have Pierre, whose weak arm is well-known, and likely Delwyn Young, who’s got tons of hitting potential but isn’t much of a fielder himself. When it’s a tight game in the late innings, do we really want to see runners tagging up to score vital runs on flies to Manny, Pierre, or Delwyn in left? And what of the games that Ethier or Kemp sit? Repko’s got his own flaws, but he’s got a good arm and can play all three positions. We might just need that.
Juan Pierre. Without Manny, he at least had a shot of playing fulltime. Now? He’s either riding the bench behind three guys who really need to be playing every day, or cut loose only to find that there’s not much market for weak-armed outfielders with no power and poor on-base skills. I can’t feel too bad for a man who’s going to pocket over $50 million just for playing baseball, but his already-stalled career just took a big hit.
Danny Ardoin. No, I don’t have any inside info, but the 40-man roster is full. Who carries five catchers on their 40-man? Clearly, Russell Martin and Brad Ausmus’ roles are secure. I doubt they’d cut Lucas May or A.J. Ellis free for nothing. I liked Ardoin, but finding a quad-A backstop isn’t that hard to do. I’m predicting this costs him a job.
Dodger fans. Sure, it’s all worth adding a hitter like Manny to the lineup, and when he’s pummeling homers in May we won’t care. But there’s only one thing worse than watching millionaires argue with millionaires in the face of a terrible economy… and that’s watching them do it for four months only to end up with nearly the exact same terms that were on the table in November. This whole process was completely brutal for all of us.
Frank McCourt. For months, public opinion was firmly on the side of Dodger management. They didn’t back down to Boras when he was calling their 2/$45 offer in November “not serious”, they didn’t bid against themselves when it was clear that no other teams were seriously in this running, and they didn’t panic when spring training started without Manny. Yet when, in the last week, Boras agreed to drop down to almost your terms, you started saying things like “I refuse to consider this offer” and raised questions about your financial stability with this increased demand for deferred money. You still won, Mr. McCourt, but your reputation took a big hit in this last week as well.
Scott Boras. Though he’ll never admit it, he did miscalculate on this. In November, the Dodgers offered 2/$45. He wanted 5 or 6 years at $100m+. Not only did he not even get them to meet in the middle, he ended up settling for… 2/$45m. While getting that much annual salary in this economy is still a feat, it’s still far less than he’d originally demanded. Plus - and I didn’t think this was possible - baseball fans might actually hate him even more now.
The rest of the NL West. Did I mention that the Dodgers just replaced Juan Pierre with Manny Ramirez? Sure, there’s still questions about the starting rotation. But you tell me – how’s a lineup that looks to have either James Loney, Casey Blake, or Orlando Hudson hitting 8th look to you?