Thursday, October 16, 2008
Manny gathers belongings, leaves stadium without revealing plans
LOS ANGELES -- In the wake of an incredible 2½ months with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Ramirez hit the road Thursday without revealing his future plans.
"I'm not talking, guys," the 36-year-old slugger said as he entered an elevator at Dodger Stadium after packing up his belongings. "I said all I had to say yesterday. I'll send you guys a Christmas card."
What Ramirez said Wednesday night, after the Dodgers lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-1 in Game 5 in the NL championship series to end their most successful postseason in 20 years, was simple enough.
"I want to thank the fans for their great support. I think it was a great trade," he said regarding the July 31 deal that got him out of Boston. "I just want to go home and spend some time with my family. I want to see who is the highest bidder. Gas is up and so am I."
Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star who ranks 17th on baseball's all-time list with 527 homers and has hit a record 28 postseason homers, becomes a free agent after the World Series. Agent Scott Boras is expected to ask for a multiyear contract worth at least $20 million per year.
There's no question what the dreadlock-wearing Dodgers fans want.
"Man-ny stay, Man-ny stay," they chanted in the late stages of Wednesday night's finale of the NL championship series.
"Manny had a great run with this club," Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. "I certainly hope he's back, but it takes two to tango. He had a great impact on these fans."
And, McCourt might have added, a great impact on the team's coffers as well, what with a significant rise in attendance after Ramirez arrived, not to mention all those No. 99 jerseys and the fake dreadlocks that were sold.
"These things are much more up to the player," McCourt said. "It depends on where he wants to be. If he wants to be here, he'll be here."
Ramirez hit .396 with 17 homers, 53 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 74 hits and 35 walks in 53 regular-season games, leading the Dodgers to the NL West title.
He was even more potent in the postseason, hitting .520 with four homers, 10 RBIs, nine runs scored and 11 walks in eight playoff games.
"Unbelievable. Superman," fellow outfielder Andre Ethier said with a smile in a nearly-empty clubhouse Thursday. "I hope we make a good try to get him to come back. He's been a positive influence, he certainly helped me. I'm excited to see where he ends up, I hope he's here."
Ramirez is just one of several Dodgers veterans who will become free agents after the World Series, perhaps making for a madeover Dodgers team next season to surround a nucleus of young players that includes Ethier, fellow outfielder Matt Kemp, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and pitchers Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald.
The Dodgers have a major league-leading 14 potential free agents led by Ramirez, infielders Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra, starting pitchers Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux, and relievers Joe Beimel and Chan Ho Park. In addition, they have a club option on starter Brad Penny, with a $2 million buyout.
It's likely most of those players won't be back.
Making life a little more difficult is the status of outfielder Andruw Jones and pitcher Jason Schmidt, who are both under contract for one more year. Jones, who hit .158 with three homers and 14 RBIs this season, signed a two-year, $36.2 million contract last winter. Schmidt, who didn't play this year after undergoing shoulder surgery 16 months ago, signed a three-year, $47 million contract before the 2007 season.
"On every club I've been on, there have been a number of key people that have moved on," first-year Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Thursday. "I still think that pitching is something that should be front and center as having to be addressed."
Regarding Ramirez, Torre said: "I don't think it's a one-way street. Manny certainly has to do what's best for him and his family. [The contract] is going to take a lot of length, from what I hear. He was certainly an A-No. 1 citizen here."
Since winning the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers had gone 1-12 in four postseason appearances before sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the first round and losing to the Phillies in the second.
"It was a bumpy road for a while," said Torre, whose team had a 65-70 record in late August before winning 19 of their final 27 games to finish 84-78. "I know I was satisfied with the effort. We all want to go further than we did. We beat a very good Cubs team. I don't think you can look at this club and just say we won a very weak division.
"Considering we were three games from going to the World Series, you've got to be proud of that. There's more work to do. I thought we eliminated a lot of the hills and valleys, for the most part."
A lot of that came after the addition of Ramirez, who not only performed at an amazing level, he loosened things up in the clubhouse as well.
"This game, it's all about emotion to me," Torre said. "It's a man's game. There's still room for growth, no question. We've got some talent in some very key spots."
I just want to go home and spend some time with my family. I want to see who is the highest bidder. Gas is up and so am I.
-- Manny Ramirez, on his future plans following Wednesday night's loss to Philadelphia