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BILL PLASCHKE

It's time for Manny Ramirez to face the cold truth

The Dodgers are the only team that can help him save face.

February 08, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

Manny speaks.

Just in time for me to admit I'm sick of hearing about him.

The Times' relentless Dodgers writer Dylan Hernandez was granted access to Manny Ramirez on Saturday, meeting the fascinating, forsaken slugger in his Pensacola Beach, Fla., winter workout center.

Just in time for me to admit that I barely even care.

Training in the Florida panhandle, negotiating like a Los Angeles panhandler, it's ridiculous, and it has to end.

Ramirez doesn't want a one-year contract that would make him baseball's second-highest paid player next season?

Fine, let him freeze his braids off in San Francisco.

Ramirez wouldn't take an increased Dodgers offer of two years at $45 million, giving him an identical annual salary of this winter's hottest free-agent slugger, Mark Teixeira?

Fine, let him lose 100 games in Washington. Oh, wait, the Nationals recently joined a list of teams who openly acknowledged that they don't want him.

List, being another way of saying, dang near everybody.

"We're in the seventh inning and I'm waiting for my pitch," Ramirez told The Times.

Um, dude, no, there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and there is only one pitch, and it is being grooved down the middle by a Dodgers team that will allow you to make a lot of money, save a lot of face, prove a lot of people wrong, and have a lot of options next winter.

Swing at that pitch, or get used to long johns and garlic fries.

Swing at that pitch, or admit that you never should have quit on Boston in the first place.

Signing with the Dodgers allows Ramirez to keep his dignity, his clubhouse and his fans.

Going elsewhere, to a team that clearly has not made him a priority, a fallen star that nobody really wanted, will only exacerbate the bad reputation that he is trying to live down.

The truth may have sounded crazy four months ago, but it's never been more real.

Manny Ramirez needs the Dodgers more than the Dodgers need him.

"It's in God's hands," Ramirez said.

Is that what he's calling Scott Boras these days?

The agent was his usual brilliant self this fall, rounding up his media mouthpieces and persuading them to attempt to bully the Dodgers into giving Ramirez a long-term deal worth zillions.

But for once, the Dodgers were smarter. For once, they were patient and secure enough to listen for the market.

The market has spoken, and, as expected, it sounds very much like a bark.

Yes, his dog behavior in Boston mattered. No, folks don't trust him with a long-term deal anymore.

The Dodgers' first offer to Ramirez -- two years, $45 million -- was immediately rejected by Boras, who said he wanted to consider "serious" offers.

Turns out, Boras was right, it wasn't a serious offer. It was foolishly high, stupidly generous, and he'd be very lucky if the Dodgers offered that much again.

Since then, Boras' client has only been demeaned as teams have lined up to turn him down, and it's getting tiresome.

Would all of this make Ramirez mad enough to dog it again?

The Times' Hernandez basically asked the question.

"That won't happen," Ramirez said. "Understand me, I have goals, I know if I play six more years, I could get to my 3,000th hit and, who knows, maybe my 700th homer."

He's certainly earned the right to publicly play for career milestones. But when talking about goals, wouldn't you have liked for him to say something about wanting to win another championship?

Nothing else should matter to any Dodger. They were closer last year than anybody seems to remember. They can get back there this year easier than anyone suspects.

With a healthy Rafael Furcal, with a full season from Casey Blake, with another year of experience for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney, the offense needs just one more bat.

Ramirez could make them one of the league favorites. But available sluggers Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu would at least make them the divisional favorites.

Remember, for all of Ramirez's greatness, the Dodgers were just 29-23 with him last year. They would miss him terribly. But they would not spend the summer in tears.

What was notable about Saturday's interview with Hernandez was what Ramirez didn't say.

Even with seemingly nobody willing to match the Los Angeles offer, even, not once did he say he wanted to play for the Dodgers.

He should. He should want to play for the Dodgers so badly he would call them himself, see if that one-year deal is still available, then ask for a pen.

"It's great to hear from him," Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said upon learning of The Times' interview. "I hope he knows how much we respect him and how much we want him back."

For the last time, I hope he's listening.

In Mannywood, as in Hollywood, you're only as good as your buzz.

Less than a week before spring training, those cheers are becoming crickets.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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