Thursday, October 18, 2007 Updated: October 21, 12:07 AM ET
An attraction unlike any other
By Jim Caple ESPN.com
Welcome to Manny World. Stay together at all times, no running and always remember, this is Manny's world and we're just visitors.
Manny normally restricts access to his closest friends, teammates and relatives, but he recently pulled back the velvet rope to allow outsiders a peek inside Club Manny. During Wednesday's off-day workout, Manny attempted to explain why he didn't feel any pressure despite his team trailing 3-1 in the series. He said the Red Sox would try to win but "If we don't do it, we'll come back next year and try again If it doesn't happen, who cares? There's always next year. It's not the end of the world.''
This was perhaps the wisest thing an athlete has ever said. It also may explain why Manny remains nice and relaxed in the postseason unlike, say Alex Rodriguez, who has trouble swinging the bat while also balancing the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Which does not mean Manny's comment went over so well in Boston, where -- oddly enough -- some people do care quite a bit whether the Red Sox win or lose. Then again, they're probably in a forgiving mood after Manny had two more hits and drove in what proved to be the winning run in a 7-1 Game 5 victory that sent the series back to Fenway. His teammates certainly had no problem with him.
"He can do whatever he wants as long as he keeps hitting,'' third baseman Mike Lowell said. "He can stand on his head and talk to you guys for all I care. I don't have a problem with what he said.
"I think when you put it in baseball sense, that 'It's not the end of the world,' everyone is up in arms because it sounds like he doesn't care about the game. But when you see the way he plays, you know that he cares about the game. I think he was trying to convey that there are other things that are maybe more important than a baseball game. And you can't fault him for that.''
I just want him to run when he hits the ball 380 feet, and he can get to second base, so that my bloop single to right field can score a run.
Or as catcher Jason Varitek pointed out, the Red Sox have a player who battled cancer so they know where Manny was coming from. "We understand Manny and what his heart means,'' Varitek said. "He did not mean it that he did not care.''
Of course, it would be nice if he ran hard all the time.
And what did the man himself, the very Mayor of Manny World, have to say about his earlier comment? "I've got a lot of confidence in my teammates,'' Manny said while wearing a bright purple tie ("I'm trying to take this to Colorado'') and relaxing on a couch amid a crush of reporters after Thursday's game. "We play hard and we leave everything on the field. Whatever happens, happens.''
Whatever happens, happens. It's hard to argue with the logic.
"OK, that's it,'' David Ortiz suddenly said, designating himself as Manny World's official bouncer and attempting to drag Manny away. "We don't need any more of your bull----.''
Manny ignored his friend and continued to hold court, which is his right as ruler of Manny World. When you hit more postseason home runs than anyone else, you can dictate your own terms. Manny has hit 24 postseason home runs and nearly hit his 25th in the third inning when he hit a towering fly to center field. The ball, however, struck near the yellow border atop the fence and bounced back onto the field (replays were inconclusive as to whether it went out or not).
Ortiz, not exactly the first guy you would pick to anchor a relay team even when his knee is healthy, managed to score from first base, but Manny was held to a single because, as usual, he had chosen to admire his majestic fly rather than run all the way.
"I just want him to run when he hits the ball 380 feet, and he can get to second base,'' Lowell said, "so that my bloop single to right field can score a run.''
Manny Ramirez's third-inning hit was recorded as a 380-foot single, not his 25th career postseason home run.
Not an unreasonable request, but then again, on Planet Manny you take the good with the bad. Case in point the first inning when Manny doubled but could not score when he should have, costing Lowell yet another RBI. While Manny World is dedicated 24/7 to Manny Being Manny, occasionally a glitch occurs and Manny becomes someone else. For instance, in that first inning we were treated to Manny Being Jeremy Giambi.
Manny, if you'll recall, was on second base with two out. Lowell singled to right field and Manny should have scored when Cleveland right fielder Franklin Gutierrez double-clutched and threw high. But Manny did not score because Manny decided it was far more important to remove his batting helmet than to put his head down and run hard. Manny also decided not to slide under the high throw, but to instead simply run into the tag for the final out of the inning.
"I was screaming like a bloody maniac for him to get down,'' said Boston right fielder Bobby Kielty, who had been in the on-deck circle at the time. Kielty started chuckling as he recalled the moment and said of Manny World: "I love every minute of it.''
Asked to explain what happened on the play, Manny only smiled, said nothing and then got up and walked away. It was time to get on the bus for the airport and the flight back to Boston for the rest of the series.
Manny World was closed for the night. Moose out front should have told you.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.