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Tale of tape? Cut him slack

Page 2 of 2 -- In the ninth, Bill Mueller walked, and out came Ramirez. He saw some fastballs from Francisco Cordero, one pitch whizzing by at 99 miles per hour. But Cordero, who now has 27 saves, got Ramirez to pop to short right field.

Ramirez dressed quickly after the game and headed to the All-Star Game in Houston after a magnificent first half in which he hit 26 homers, had 77 RBIs, and a whopping .344 batting average. He was batting .411 with 7 homers, 8 doubles, and 27 RBIs over the 14 games before yesterday's. He's missed only two games, three starts. When a player walks into the manager's office and says he needs to rest his hamstrings, what should the skipper do? Francona had to honor the request.

Manny's story has been well-chronicled, starting with the team placing him on waivers, and no other team claiming the best all-around hitter in baseball. Then he was subjected to A-Rod trade speculation, and was close to wearing the uniform of the Rangers. Yet he cast aside events that would have hurt many players and has been a good (US) citizen, playing hard and often. Even in left field Ramirez has given 100 percent.

By now Ramirez must know how important he is to the team. None of us ever will be able to tell how sore those hamstrings were. Ramirez has a history of tight hamstrings. In his final season with the Indians he missed 39 games with a hamstring tear. If he had started and had to run, he might have ripped one of them and would have been lost for the long term. The Red Sox would be hard-pressed without Ramirez for a large portion of the second half.

But there's also history about Ramirez skipping final games before the break, raising eyebrows over his request yesterday to sit it out. He hasn't started the final game before the break the last three years. Last season he phoned Grady Little at 5:45 a.m. to inform Little his mother was sick and he couldn't play. In '02 Little gave Ramirez a day off after he'd come back from a broken finger, although Ramirez pinch hit in that game as well.

Whether Schilling was telling Ramirez he needed to play, or whether they were discussing a sleepover, Schilling has made it clear to his teammates he will butt into their business, because he feels what affects the team is his business.

"I've always opened my mouth on things," Schilling said. "I have my opinions. I know some of those opinions are going to get me in trouble sometimes. I'm not malicious about them. It's important for me to be involved when I'm not playing. It affects me. If I see something, I'm going to say something."

But Schilling still was not going to divulge what he said to Ramirez.

The clip was shown over and over on NESN. It was on the newscasts at night. Schilling was waving his finger, but we'll never know what was being said unless we hire a lip-reader.

What is known is that Ramirez might have been a factor at some juncture in yesterday's game. In the fourth inning, when the Sox scored twice, perhaps he would have meant more. Then there was the sixth, when Garciaparra, hitting in Ramirez's No. 4 hole, knocked into a double play to take the Sox out of an inning.

No one can take away the fact that Ramirez had one of the most devastating halves in Red Sox history. He should be given a mulligan on this one. He's played a lot more this season than anyone would have predicted.

Yesterday, the Sox fell one run short. Maybe it was, as Schilling said, merely the calls at the end of the game (Pokey Reese getting picked off in the ninth and a called third strike on an outside pitch on 3-2 to Mark Bellhorn to end the game).

But maybe it was one run Ramirez might have provided. 

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