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CLEVELAND -- Manny Ramirez added to the legend of his curious behavior Tuesday, perhaps providing his most delicious “Manny being Manny” moment in at least a year.
Speaking to the media in a formal interview session for the first time since the first day of spring training with the Dodgers, Ramirez pulled a fast one. Moments before he was to sit in front of an assembled mass, the fluent English speaker informed the White Sox that he would need a translator.
A shocked Joey Cora was summoned and other than one short answer in English, Ramirez conducted his first interview in a White Sox uniform speaking his native Spanish and having Cora do what ended up being a selective translation.
Just how good was Cora at cleaning up some of Ramirez’s combative answers? At the end of the 13-minute news conference, Ramirez said -- in Spanish, of course -- that he would talk to the Chicago media as much as they want, provided that Cora does his translation. (Cora did not translate that part. Instead he dropped his microphone to the table and he and Ramirez walked off laughing.)
The best Cora bait and switch came when Ramirez was asked about cutting his dreadlocks to conform with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s appearance guidelines.
Ramirez’s actual answer: "That's a stupid question. I'm here to play baseball and that has nothing to do with playing baseball."
Cora’s translation: “I’m just worried about playing baseball. I’m not worried about hair or nothing.”
The beautiful part of the entire scene was that Ramirez’s English is as good, if not better, than Cora’s.
It was Ramirez making a statement without doing it in words. The scenery might have changed, but he’s still going to do things his way. He might to be more accessible than he was in Los Angeles earlier this year, but on his terms only.
Anybody with young kids knows there is one simple truth about raising them. They will try to get away with whatever they can until somebody stops them. Even then they will probably try it again. Ramirez looks to be following the little tyke playbook, only perfecting it at age 38.
Look, conforming has never been Ramirez's strong suit, so let’s not act all self righteous and aghast that he isn’t doing it now. Nobody just trying to blend in grows and maintains dreadlocks that reach the middle of your back.
As for those dreadlocks, Ramirez doesn’t look as if he plans to do a thing about them, Reinsdorf appearance rules be damned. It can’t make a happy camper out of A.J. Pierzynski, who was told in 2006 that his shaggy post-World Series look would have to be cleaned up. He obliged.
Don’t look for manager Ozzie Guillen to do anything about it, saying for the second consecutive day that long hair is Reinsdorf’s problem.
“As the manager I would appreciate if [Manny] do that,” Guillen said. “If Manny tells me he doesn’t want to do that, the only power I have in my hands is to bench him. Well, we bring Manny here to play. Manny goes by two rules. It’s not my rules, it’s the players’ rules: To be there for the national anthem and to stretch with the ballclub.”
The conclusion seems clear. If you want to take a chance to see what Ramirez can give you, be prepared to sell your soul a little bit, or compromise your own values. This ultimately might be more about deciding how important your own rules and values are than it is about Ramirez being stubborn. But one does feed into the other.
The guy has been a great hitter. He might be just as good of a button pusher.
It now seems that the White Sox, and even Ramirez himself, have approached a fork in the road. One way is success on the field and a division title. The other way is an awful final month that sinks their chances.
If the White Sox win, Ramirez’s behavior is just “Manny being Manny.” If they lose, then Tuesday was the writing on the wall that the waters were being polluted. Haven’t we watched this play out before?
Is it fair to pin all that on one guy? Certainly not.
But when you come to a new place wearing sunglasses with attached MP3 earbuds to your first news conference, openly flaunt the fact that you are ignoring team rules, and label seemingly relevant questions as “stupid,” then you’ve probably brought all that scrutiny on yourself.