His focus is on the here and now
Manny Ramirez came to Red Sox camp yesterday looking more fit than last year. (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- These are the facts about Manny Ramírez, as best as we could gather upon his arrival yesterday, which was six days later than the Red Sox' first full workout but still six years before the predicted end of the world by former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, which makes Manny early by some calculations.
Anything else uttered by or about Manny, interpret at your own risk, which of course means it's business as usual in Mannyland. And maybe even Manny himself is weary of playing the guessing game of whether he is happy or not happy, wants to go or has decided to stay, because when he was asked point-blank if he was happy to be back with Boston, he reduced his answer to the existentialist's minimum.
''I'm here," he said. ''I'm here."
Has anything else ever mattered, in the end, in his first five seasons in Boston?
There would be no discussion yesterday from Ramírez about his purported trade demands, and either the Sox' inability to fulfill them, or their willful disregard of his desires.
''Let me get this straight," he said in a meet-and-greet session with the media that lasted roughly seven minutes, one that he needed to be coaxed into according to someone behind the scenes, but once in front of the cameras he abandoned the clownish mask he often hides behind to offer a rare glimpse at the serious Manny.
''I don't want no questions about trade rumors, about the winter this and that . . . I'm here. I don't live in the past. I live in the present and that's it. This is a new year, I'm here. People want me to come back, people want me here, so we're just going to move on. I'm just going to come and do my job. I get paid to play baseball. That's why I'm here. That's it. What else can I say?"
But does it end here? Doubtful, according to Genske, who finds it especially annoying that the onus for all the trade discussions has been placed on his client, as if it has been conveniently forgotten that the Red Sox have perpetually explored moving his contract. That Manny was the instigator of the latest round of trade talks is almost irrelevant, Genske said. A debatable point, to be sure, but jettisoning Ramírez has popped up on Theo Epstein's to-do list on more than one occasion.
''I don't think the dialogue has ever ended," Genske said yesterday. ''The media like to report, 'Trade demand, trade discussions over,' 'Trade demand, trade discussion over.' That hasn't happened. The truth of the matter is there has been dialogue since they put him on waivers [after the 2003 season] and it has never ended since then. There is still an existing dialogue of whether there will be separation."
He said Ramírez could still be traded this spring, or during the season, especially if the club drops out of contention. But likely? Based on the events of this winter, hardly. Genske acknowledges the Sox did not come close to a deal, and even if they had with the Orioles or the Mets, Ramírez would have had no interest in going. Since he has veto power over a trade, the Sox would have just been spinning their wheels.
Ramírez's preferred destination is Anaheim, but the Sox always asked for too much in return and the Angels offered too little, even when John W. Henry placed talks on the owner-to-owner level when he called Angels boss Arte Moreno to propose a swap.
Ramírez met a couple of times this winter with Henry, his handlers said, visiting the Boca Raton, Fla., mansion in which Henry once tried to lure Alex Rodriguez to Boston in a proposed megadeal for Ramírez. Genske described the visits as ''very amicable. It was always about the trade thing, status meetings."
Ramírez has met with Henry on numerous occasions over the year, Mato said. ''John Henry is a very nice man," he said. ''He wants Manny to be happy."
In the end, maybe this is all that matters. Asked if Ramírez was satisfied with the Sox' efforts to trade him, Genske said he didn't really know. ''But I do believe he thinks that the Red Sox want him. Maybe that's a good thing."
When Ramírez walked out for his media session, there was a cheer from the crowd. ''I guess people want me back," he said.
And maybe he's finally figured out there's too much at stake to blow it all now.
''You know, I got a beautiful career going and I'm not going to let little things like this mess up all the things I've accomplished," he said. ''I think when I finish my career I'm going to be a special player and I'm not going to let anybody stop that. That's me. I've got a goal for myself and I'm going to accomplish that."