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Why ruin a perfect day with Manny-Dodgers talk?

March 01, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM TEMPE, ARIZ. — I'm probably supposed to write something here about Manny, how the Dodgers are doing this, and agent Scott Boras is doing that, the world seemingly coming to an end.

But I'm sitting in Diablo Stadium, the scene-stealing buttes just a Juan Pierre toss over the left-field wall, the sound, smells and intimacy of baseball here so close to the way most folks probably remember the game as youngsters.

And so why ruin it with much ado about nothing, millionaires haggling over millions, Manny eventually signing, hitting a ton and everyone happy?

So some people are mad, fed up and won't take it anymore. Holy Gary Sheffield, like that's going to happen.

Sheffield didn't want to play for the Dodgers, had a multimillion-dollar contract and yet there was talk of him not putting out. Opening day, 53,000 people booing him, he hits a home run in the sixth inning and 53,000 people are cheering so loudly he comes out of the dugout to take a bow.

There's stress everywhere today, some sportswriters getting turned in circles, never wanting Manny to sign but now begging the Dodgers' owner and the player's agent to make nice so Manny can report to work as soon as possible.

Everyone needs to just chill, the sun shining right now in this Angels sanctuary, and with no reason whatsoever for anyone to pay attention to the Angels' No. 5 outfielder, even the perpetual pout on the face of Mr. HGH, a.k.a. Gary Matthews Jr., can't ruin a wonderful day.

The most expensive ticket is $27.50, a seat down the left-field line $10, a plot of grass beyond the outfield fence $6. They are selling baseball caps for seven bucks, kids' T-shirts for $7.99, adult T-shirts for an additional two bucks, and Arte Moreno, sitting just off the Angels' dugout with the fans, is saying something so simple and yet so profound.

"I don't want a man to go into our store and be embarrassed in front of his family because he can't find anything he can afford for his kids," he says.

Back home his lieutenants suggested raising parking prices at Angel Stadium from $8 to $9 or maybe $10, but they weren't able to get Moreno's approval.

The concession prices here, as well as back in Anaheim, also remain the same, Moreno saying, "someone should be able to buy four beers for their friends and still have two bucks left to maybe leave a tip. We've got to remember the fans."

The Angels have 67 players in their major league camp, 53 rising from within their own system, and although they won't have Mark Teixeira, it's unlikely the team will be kept out of the playoffs.

All is well here, whether it be Torii Hunter or all the Angels veterans chipping in $3,500 so a group of rookies could buy toys and deliver them to an Arizona shelter to make sure every kid has a present come their birthday this year.

Hunter, maybe as good a community ambassador as we have ever had in our backyard, will award 100 scholarships this May to college-bound kids. Four years from now, he will do it again.

I'd tell you more, but when you start describing the perfect baseball day, the calm water that is Angels baseball and the really good guy who plays the game for them, it's just not as interesting or compelling as the Manny furor.

A lot of fans are angry, at least those who bought the Dodgers' news release suggesting Manny couldn't be happy in these dark times with $45 million while omitting some facts -- a release written by a former Red Sox official to embarrass Manny, and the folks in Boston have to just love that.

Interesting that the Dodgers would take a player who has helped them more than anyone has in the last 20 years, a player they didn't even have to pay last season, and then muddy his reputation by suggesting he's greedy.

You want to hit someone hard, just let the poor folks know the rich athlete isn't satisfied with a $45 million payday. It works, because folks out of work don't care to hear the details.

But there are also some folks unhappy with the Dodgers, once it became known the owner would defer money owed to Manny, essentially borrowing $25 million from Ramirez for the next five years while paying no interest.

Interesting where people get this crazy notion the owner of the Dodgers is cash-poor.

Interesting also the Dodgers are insisting on making deferred payments, when like most teams they always want their money upfront, whether it's for season tickets or playoff opportunities that might or might not result.

"Please ask Frank McCourt if he is willing to renegotiate with the fans, too," wrote Mark Lambert in an e-mail. "With a family of 5 and the current economy, I cannot afford to go to Dodger games and pay $35 per ticket, $15 for parking, not to mention the outrageous costs of heat-lamp hot dogs and ice-filled sodas.

"In the spirit of McCourt's offer to Manny, I would like to pay $10 per ticket, $5 to park and $6 for a hot dog and soda. I will defer the balance with no interest over the next three years."

I'd like to finish my Philly cheesesteak down the right-field line here at Diablo Stadium and have my stomach settle before listening to the Dodgers' owner and Manny's agent explain to everyone in a few days how they struck a deal in the end that benefits everyone.

Mike Scioscia saying Saturday, "Sean Rodriguez is a baseball player," sounds almost enlightening compared with what we're going to get when this is settled and there are hugs all around.

And it is over. Once Boras said he'd accept a $45-million contract, it was done, save the haggling over the fine print and the give and take on deferred money.

Everything else right now is wasted angst, Manny's first big hit or home run whipping Dodgers fans into a frenzy, and no one remembering any of this until Manny exercises his option a la J.D. Drew at season's end.

Then it starts all over again.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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