|Manny Ramírezs expression after a chat with second base umpire Mike Reilly could also be indicative of his feelings for the Sox. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
With Manny Ramírez issuing yet another screed outlining his unhappiness with the Red Sox, the team's owners and top baseball executives met yesterday to debate whether to trade the combustible left fielder, and engaged in a serious exercise with the Florida Marlins to see whether the teams might match up in a deal.
A major league source with direct knowledge of the talks said that contrary to a report last night in the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, a tentative agreement had not been reached on a three-way deal among the Sox, Marlins, and Pittsburgh Pirates, one in which Ramírez would go to the Marlins, the Sox would acquire outfielder Jason Bay and lefthanded reliever John Grabow from the Pirates, and outfielder Jeremy Hermida and a package of prospects would go to the Pirates. The Sox would pick up the balance of Ramírez's contract in this deal.
The sides continued to talk past midnight last night, and another industry source described the talks as "brewing."
The person most strongly opposed to trading Ramírez has been owner John W. Henry, who takes the position that the Sox cannot get sufficient value in return for him, and that Ramírez gives the team its best chance of winning. The team has been through these melodramas before with Ramírez - that's Henry's position - and in the end Ramírez's bat has had the last word.
But Bay, a 29-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year (2004), may have satisfied Henry's desire for another righthanded hitter who can step into the middle of the Sox' lineup. Bay is batting .282 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs, with an on-base percentage of .375 and a slugging percentage of .519. Those numbers roughly equate to Ramírez's 20 home runs, 68 RBIs, .398 OBP, and .529 slugging percentage. Bay does not have a Hall of Famer's pedigree, but he is more than six years younger (he turns 30 in September) than Ramírez, and, under contract in 2009 for $7.5 million, is considerably cheaper. The Sox hold a $20 million option on Ramírez for next season, but he made it clear he wants to be traded.
Grabow is 5-3 with a 3.19 ERA, and was 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA in July.
The Marlins emerged as the most motivated partner, according to multiple sources. Earlier in the day, the Sox were skeptical that a deal could be completed, and the Marlins, while lured by the Sox' willingness to pick up Ramírez's contract, also had doubts that a deal could be consummated by today's 4 p.m. deadline.
Ramírez has veto control over any trade. Yesterday, however, that didn't sound like it would be a problem. Ramírez gave another interview to ESPNDeportes reporter Enrique Rojas in which he made it clear he'd like to go elsewhere, the same message he delivered to Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy in a clubhouse conversation Tuesday, telling Remy he was seeking some "peace."
"They haven't asked me for anything," Ramírez was quoted by Rojas as saying in response to whether the Sox had asked his permission to trade him.
"The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me," Ramírez was quoted as saying. "During my years here I've seen how they have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them, to try to turn the fans against them.
"The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martínez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don't deserve me. I'm not talking about money.
"Mental peace has no price and I don't have peace here."
Ramírez also held up a sign in the dugout before the game, shown by NESN cameras, that read: "I'm going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up."
Tuesday night, Ramírez was booed when he ran at less than full speed to first base on a potential infield hit while Angels pitcher John Lackey was flirting with a no-hitter. He went hitless in three at-bats last night, hitting two balls to the warning track, and drew an intentional walk. He also made a nice running catch in the sixth inning, when teammates were drawing the boos for making three errors that helped the Angels to a five-run outburst.
Manager Terry Francona last Saturday held meetings with players behind closed doors to discuss the Ramírez situation, amid a sense that Ramírez's teammates are increasingly intolerant of his behavior.
Captain Jason Varitek was asked if Ramírez's comments were the kind he wanted to hear from a key player in the lineup. "Hearing about it for the first time right now doesn't give me a fair opportunity to respond," Varitek said. "I think regardless of how I would feel or the organization feels or his teammates feel, for this team to be good we need to handle that in here. And I'm a believer in that, and I'm a believer that our focus needs to be getting this team to playing well."
The worst-case scenario, suggested by Ramírez's refusal to play in two games last week because of what he called a sore knee, was the possibility that Ramírez, unhappy that the Sox won't pick up his $20 million option or trade him, will quit on the team, the way some club officials and teammates felt he did in 2006, when he claimed he could not play because of patellar tendinitis.
Ramírez's conduct has placed Francona in the awkward position of appearing to defend him at the expense of possibly losing the rest of the clubhouse. And with the team playing perhaps its worst game of the season last night, the situation clearly appears to be having a ripple effect.
But that may all end by this afternoon.