On the day Manny left Boston, the [Boston] Globe posted a chart with his career numbers . . .: .312 average, .409 OBP, and 510 homers. Next to it was the headline: "Manny Deal Was Necessary."
On many levels, Manny's song never played well in the Boston market. Exasperation surfaced with every trade request, lack of hustle, injury, or gaffe. Red Sox teammate [Kevin] Millar once summed him up [to] the Globe: "He's got a good heart, a heart of gold. But there's also a gap there and he does things that [tick] people off. I don't know why he does it."
He does it, perhaps, because he lives in the moment, neither suffering regret nor calculating the consequences of his next move. Although his production rarely wavered in Boston, his comfort level did. The team morphed to reflect upper management's preference for low-maintenance professionals. Outliers -- [Johnny] Damon, [Pedro] Martinez, [Derek] Lowe, Millar, [Julian] Tavarez -- were weeded out. In their absence, Manny felt isolated. He remained close to [David] Ortiz and [Julio] Lugo, but never felt the same. At least that's how his mentor, [high school coach Carlos] Macaco [Ferreira], sees it. "Pedro, David, and Manny were like three legs of a stool," he says. "When Pedro left, things grew unstable."
Martinez agrees. "He was comfortable in Boston for a time. I was his closest friend. But once I left the team, things didn't seem to be the same. It wasn't the same group of guys, the same feeling, and that influenced Manny a lot."
None of which excuses Manny's meltdown in 2008.
Still, he had reasons for his frustration. He had never come to grips with the intensity of the Red Sox fans. "I've got people waiting for me at 3:00 a.m. in my hallway," he complains. Trade discussions had arisen in four of the previous six years, but Manny and the Red Sox owners had never come to loggerheads. In anticipation of contract negotiations, Manny replaced [his agents] with the notoriously tough [Scott] Boras. The Red Sox, buoyed by two championships, felt able to get him off the payroll without fan backlash . . .
Aware that his time with the team -- and his teammates -- was coming to an end, Manny was hard pressed to give his best to a team he knew was eager to cast him aside. He took 5.7 seconds to reach first on a hit in a game against the Angels and opted out of a Mariners game. In the coup de grace, he took himself out of the posted lineup against the Yankees.
Still, he seemed surprised by the backlash. On the Sunday before the trade, with his mother cooking in the kitchen and Macaco beside him, he sulked in his Boston penthouse apartment, gently tossing a soft baseball to Manny Jr. He had done his best to ignore the headlines, despite his mother's insistence on laying out the Boston papers each morning.
Glancing away, he explained: "I'm private and I don't let nobody penetrate my space. I go play the game, go home, that's it. I don't read about what people are writing about me, that's not my style." He expressed feelings of betrayal by teammates who, in recent days, had distanced themselves from him. "When you've got a job in baseball, everybody's trying to cover their [backside], you know. You're working for them. They're the ones that are sending out the checks. You're not going to put your hands in the fire for me. So you got to be careful who you trust. That's why I don't trust nobody. I go, play the game, and move on."
Is it possible that Boras's view influenced Manny into feeling mistreated by his teammates, unappreciated by management, and nervous about his financial future? No one but Manny knows.
But [Boston third baseman Mike] Lowell has his hunches. "You know," he reflects, "guys go through a lot of things in a season and not all of it is on the field. A lot of times you can correlate bad patches with someone being sick or some family issue. And some of that gets lost in, you know, SportsCenter. I think the contract situation was something that was weighing heavy on his mind. I can't say how justified it is -- for me, if his contract says they have the option, then they have the option -- but it was weighing on him." Lowell and others have suggested that Boras's attitude may have sparked and then fanned the flames of Manny's anxiety.