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There is nothing more unappealing in sports than seeing someone cheat the process.
|Los Angeles was just another whistle-stop for Manny Ramirez's me-first train.|
We're seeing it again with Brett Favre, whose annual retirement limbo looks like a built-in excuse to avoid training camp. We've seen it with Albert Haynesworth, who engaged in an immature tug-of-war with coach Mike Shanahan despite his $100 million contract.
And now we're seeing it with Manny Ramirez, who is setting a new standard for being rewarded for unprofessional behavior.
On Tuesday, Ramirez joined the White Sox, and the way he quit on the Red Sox and left the Dodgers will be muted by what often gives sports fans and cities selective blind spots about troubled players: talent, ability and production.
All White Sox fans care about is that Ramirez is batting .311 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 66 games this season, and that he could be what the Sox need to close the 4½-game gap that separates them from the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.
Call me a hater, jealous or just anti-White Sox, but I'm of the opinion that Ramirez in Chicago is an experiment that must fail, for the good of the White Sox and the good of sports in general.
Give Manny Ramirez his due, though. The man knows how to leave a team.
Ramirez's final at-bat as a Los Angeles Dodger was the perfect punctuation for a stay that paid dividends for only about three of the 25 months he was in town.
It used to be a guaranteed feel-good moment with Manny at the plate and the bases loaded, as they were in the sixth inning on Sunday; but for many Dodgers fans, that last at-bat was Ramirez's final betrayal. With L.A. trailing 8-2, Manny took an obvious strike, argued the call and was ejected.
Let's just say he probably put more effort into maintaining his dreadlocks than he did to helping the Dodgers win that game.
The sickening thing about watching Ramirez is that no matter how low he stoops, he never seems to bottom out.
I respect Ramirez's accomplishments and consider him a future Hall of Famer, but during an era in which athletes see the "ME" in team, Ramirez shows no shame in quitting on teams at his own convenience.
I used to be in the camp that considers Ramirez's antics playful, but harmless. I laughed when, during his infamous standoff with the Red Sox, he held up a sign that read, "I'm going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up!"
But laughing at Manny only enables him, and employing him only empowers him.
You could argue things will be different in Chicago. Hey, if they're already insinuating Manny might be forced to cut his hair to adhere to a team policy, then that shows they won't let him be bigger than the team, right? And since he's coming to Chicago under many of the same circumstances in which he came to L.A., it should work, correct?
Wrong. On paper, Manny looks like a steal, but it won't look that way for long.
The White Sox are paying $3.8 million to have him for the stretch run, which makes some sense. Chicago has had little production from the designated hitter spot, and Ramirez comes to town as one of three active players who have blasted more than 400 homers and played for at least four different teams.
|Even Roger Clemens apparently had enough of Manny's shenanigans at a June game this summer.|
The White Sox are understandably desperate. Ahead of Tuesday night's game against Cleveland -- Manny's first with Chicago -- they've lost 13 of their last 20. And Manny has shown that when a big payday is at stake, he can be superb.
Since Ramirez will be a free agent at the end of this season, his time in Chicago marks another opportunity for him to cash in on another financial windfall.
When Los Angeles got Manny in a three-way trade involving Boston and Pittsburgh in 2008, he was outstanding. He played himself into a two-year, $45 million deal that the Dodgers gave him the next offseason.
But since serving a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test, he's made a home on the disabled list (at 38 years old, he has played in only 126 of the last 164 games) and isn't the intimidating hitter he used to be despite some solid numbers.
The odds that Ramirez will do for the Sox what he did for the Dodgers in '08 -- he hit .396 and cranked 17 home runs in 53 games and helped L.A. win the division -- are low. It says a lot that the Dodgers were willing to let him go as long as someone paid his remaining salary -- none of it good.
It's time to end our codependent relationship with Ramirez. If Manny succeeds in Chicago and helps carry the White Sox to a division title, they will be pressured to keep him around. If they pass, another team will be waiting, even though we already know how things will end.
Jemele Hill can be reached at email@example.com.
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