OK, I've read through hundreds of 50-word essays by readers who had some words of wisdom for Dodger star Manny Ramirez, and I've decided who gets my two World Series tickets.
But first, let me tell you what a rough week I've had.
For starters, I was attacked by fellow muckraker T.J. Simers. He didn't like the column I wrote last week, taking a couple of whacks at the dread-locked Dodger star who was run out of Boston for dogging it but embraced like a hero in L.A.
Simers, the Page 2 sports guy, has been blowing air kisses at Ramirez all season despite the left fielder's 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy, his lack of hustle, and his less-than-splendid performance, and all I can say is we're lucky Simers doesn't cover the mayor.
But then my wife called me a moron too, and something's out of alignment if my wife is agreeing with Simers. Nobody I've ever met ever agrees with him about anything.
To be fair, my wife is not a Ramirez apologist. She just wanted to go to the World Series, and thinks I was a fool for offering my tickets to the person whose Manny put-down I liked best.
Hey, how was I supposed to know the Dodgers would crush the Cardinals three straight? Now if they beat the Phillies they'll be in the series, and I'll be sitting at home, two miles from the stadium, while someone else enjoys my seats. And Ramirez, who seems to have snapped out of his slump, could well be the guy who leads them to victory.
So maybe I am a moron, but at least I'm a principled moron. And I don't see a conflict in rooting for the rest of the Dodgers, but not wanting to be surrounded by cheering knuckleheads in fake dreadlocks.
Yeah, pardon me for not worshiping a guy who missed a third of the season for possessing a prescription for a female fertility drug that is sometimes used to counteract the side effects of steroid use. When he finally returned, his play was mediocre, but he still made nearly $18 million. That's $170,000 per game, if you were wondering.
But not everyone saw it my way.
"Mr. Lopez, I firmly believe you're nuts," wrote Kelly Mark Ritchie.
"Hey Lopez, cough up the tickets and then roll over and die," wrote Bill G.
"Steve, don't let one spoiled brat ruin your enjoyment," wrote Abe Rosenberg. "Sure, Manny's tough to stomach, but staying home because of him is like boycotting The Times because of one article."
Excellent point. Although I could see boycotting The Times because of Simers.
Lots of the Manny put-downs were pretty clever, and several were to be sung to the tune of Barry Manilow's "Mandy." Like this one from Joel Janecek:
You came and you slugged and we loved you
But you threw it all away, Oh Manny
You lagged and you sagged and you whiffed it
But still a fat payday . . . Oh Manny
A Dodger fan named Jesus J. Reyes may never forgive Ramirez.
"$240 for 4 section 53 seats to see you play on my birthday, Sept 3rd; $50 for 2 tickets to see you play on Sept. 19. I even ruined a new towel to spray-paint '#99 El Rey' on it and you didn't look over once -- Bandido!"
And even though Ramirez rebounded in the playoff series against the Cardinals, his late-season slump was not lost on Judith Henderson.
"There once was a player in Mannywood," she wrote, who "continues to play like my granny would."
Julia Hanagan pointed out that the $25 million Ramirez was supposed to be paid this season is an amount that would cover 231 full four-year scholarships to UCLA or pay for enough equipment to keep thousands of Little Leaguers happy.
By Judith Gualtiere's math, Ramirez's two-year salary could cover the salaries of 100 cops, 100 firefighters and 250 teachers for a year. I got out a calculator, and she's right.
"My son is a captain in the USMC and recently returned from his 4th combat tour of Iraq. If you asked him he would probably give up all he has just to play in 1 big league game," wrote Frank Canarelli, who said his son ran out every ground ball as a little leaguer.
Ernesto Torres, meanwhile, went deep.
No more will the morrow speak of triumph from the plate
No more will the senses feel true greatness on the field
Probity, silenced by cancerous needles
is but a whisper, a nostalgic recollection
of an era replete with righteous records
now fraught with the advent of guilty pleasure
You understand any of that, Simers?
In the end, though, I had no doubt who should attend game four of the World Series with my tickets, should the Dodgers make it that far.
"Dear Manny," wrote Richard MacPhee, "I am a firefighter for the USFS, I make $16 an hour. It's hot, dirty, dangerous, with long hours. My body hurts all the time. It takes four years to make $170,000. My bonus, somebody telling me 'Thanks for the hard work.' You should try it some time."
MacPhee, who works in Los Padres National Forest, told me he was on a break from fighting the San Bernardino County Sheep fire last week when he read about the Manny challenge.
MacPhee, 31, is an Arizona native who played baseball as a kid and moved to California four years ago. This would be his first trip to Dodger Stadium. Although he has a girlfriend, he said he'd probably take his father to the game.
"I don't think he's ever been to a World Series, and he took me to all kinds of sporting events when I was a kid. This'll be a little payback for him."
MacPhee was quite grateful, calling back to say the news had "just sunk in."
Hey, don't thank me.