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RAMIREZ, OF COURSE, is the same savant who in the clubhouse before Game 2 happily munched on chicken wings while wearing a light-blue T-shirt that said I LOVE MANNY BEING MANNY and later, in the dugout just prior to the first pitch, kept blurting out to his teammates, "Let's have a happy flight!"—a battle cry he repeated before Game 3 in Los Angeles last Saturday, though the Dodgers were going nowhere after that game.
"I think Manny is excited to be here, and he shows it," Blake says. "He's just like a kid playing baseball in the backyard. And he knows he's the best kid on the block. Absolutely nothing fazes him."
All the sonnets and love songs composed in honor of Ramirez the Dodger don't play well in Boston, where the final days of Ramirez the Red Sock degenerated into irreconcilable differences. Ramirez, under the play-calling of his agent, Scott Boras, essentially wrote his own ticket out of Boston with such a lack of hustle and interest that his teammates convinced general manager Theo Epstein that he had to go. Ramirez had two option years and $40 million remaining on his contract with Boston, with the Red Sox controlling the options. What Ramirez wanted was free agency after this season to provide the leverage to strike a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
By July 30, the eve of the trade deadline, Epstein was committed to moving Ramirez. He engaged in discussions with the Florida Marlins, for instance, as part of a three-way deal in which he also needed to satisfy the Pittsburgh Pirates in order to get Jason Bay to replace Ramirez as Boston's leftfielder. Late on the night of July 30, Epstein sent an e-mail to Colletti asking, "Would you trade Andy LaRoche for Craig Hansen?" Colletti replied that he wasn't interested in trading LaRoche, an L.A. third base prospect, for Hansen, a Boston pitching prospect. It also occurred to Colletti that Epstein had no use for a young third baseman like LaRoche—the Red Sox already had Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis—so he knew something was up. It meant Epstein was serious about moving Ramirez.
At eight o'clock the next morning, five hours before the trade deadline on the West Coast, Colletti called Torre and told him, "Hang loose. We may have a shot at Manny." Then Epstein called Colletti and told him that it appeared Ramirez might consider a trade to the Dodgers.
Colletti, who had discussed a Ramirez trade with Epstein two Novembers ago at the general managers' meetings, only to have those talks go nowhere, detected some urgency in Epstein's voice. Epstein sounded like a man ready to deal. Colletti then called Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. "Let's try to get it done," McCourt said.
Colletti had no time to start the usual vetting that goes on when it comes to possible acquisitions. Truth is, it had been done already. Two years ago, Colletti was standing with one of his assistants, Bill Mueller, at an Instructional League game in Peoria, Ariz., when he asked Mueller, "If you could do one thing to move this franchise forward, what would it be?" Replied Mueller without hesitation, "Get Manny." Mueller had played with Ramirez for three seasons in Boston.
Meanwhile, because Ramirez had veto power over any trade, Boras was convincing Ramirez that Los Angeles was the perfect landing spot for him. "I told him, 'Manny, do you realize there are 11 million Spanish-speaking people in the area?'" Boras says. "I knew he could get set up in Pasadena and just be left alone in Los Angeles, which is all he wanted. It was perfect."
There was one more kicker added by Boras, a Dodgers season-ticket holder. "Manny, these young pitchers in the NL West are going to want to challenge you," Boras told him. "This won't be the AL East anymore. They'll want to see what they can do against you, and you will love it."
Ramirez signed off on the deal that sent LaRoche and Hansen to Pittsburgh and Bay to Boston (page 53)—with the proviso that L.A. would excise the option years from his contract and allow him to be a free agent at the end of the season. The Red Sox agreed to pick up the $7 million owed Ramirez for the remainder of this season, meaning the 54--54 Dodgers had a motivated Ramirez for free for two months, longer if they somehow made the playoffs. ( Colletti was able to obtain Ramirez, Maddux, Blake and backup infielder Angel Berroa over the summer for less than $1 million in combined salaries.) The last piece of business to the trade was what to do about Ramirez's long dreadlocks, which he had grown past shoulder length.