This season, the situation has been calmed somewhat by the hypnotically wise presence of manager Joe Torre.
But on Thursday, a bomb was tossed between the warring factions. Its name is Manny Ramirez.
It only took the Dodgers a couple of days to return serve from the Angels, their rivals in Disneyland who acquired slugger Mark Teixeira in a trade that rocked baseball on Tuesday. The Dodgers completed a three-way deal with the Pirates and Red Sox on Thursday that brought Boston’s most notorious incorrigible since Whitey Bulger to Chavez Ravine.
In some ways, having Manny is better than not having him. His numbers have never been in question. For all his mental meanderings, he can smack homers and drive in runs, and he can do those things under pressure. The Red Sox would not have won their two World Series titles without him.
But he has a huge downside: He’s a toxic presence if he’s unhappy – which is obviously why the Red Sox washed their hands of him – and it’s doubtful he’ll be happy in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers feel as if the risk is worth taking, and they could be right. They’re going nowhere anyway. Without Manny, they’re liable to take the division title, but then get swept in the first round of the playoffs. With Manny, maybe they’ll win a playoff game.
Sometimes a head case can be handled, at least in the short term. The Houston Rockets no doubt feel that way after having acquired Ron Artest. The Dodgers believe Manny could provide the stick and the excitement to give this chronically mediocre team a needed lift.
But then again, people don’t change their habits overnight. For all his lunacy, Artest hustles and plays hard. He might be a problem at times, but his desire to compete has never been an issue.
No, he isn’t just whimsical Manny, goofy Manny, silly Manny, enigmatic Manny. He’s cancer Manny. He’s a guy who just doesn’t get it, and it’s highly unlikely that a trade to the Dodgers will suddenly make him see the light.
True, he will be in revenge mode. He will want to show the Red Sox that they made a mistake by discarding him so abruptly and so disrespectfully. That will last a week or two. Then Manny will settle in to being Manny again, and judging by recent history that is not a good thing.
What the Dodgers needed was Teixeira. Instead of a freak show with talent, they needed a rock. Somebody like Teixeira would have bridged any remaining gap between the youngsters and the veteran, and because everybody in baseball recognizes that he is a solid citizen and a no-nonsense competitor, there would truly be a pillar around which to rally.
Instead, the Dodgers got a train wreck with legs. I can’t wait until the first time that Manny does something that Jeff Kent thinks is unprofessional. You won’t be able to cut the tension in that clubhouse with a laser cannon.
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