LOS ANGELES - Manny Ramirez clambered up the stairs to a rooftop patio jammed with reporters, team employees and television cameras.
“Why such a big deal?” he said with a grin. “I played here before.”
One day after agreeing to a $45 million, two-year deal, baseball’s slugging clown prince arrived at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training headquarters on Thursday morning. With the Dodgers’ new Camelback Ranch ballpark providing a backdrop, Ramirez declared that he was looking forward to his first full season in Los Angeles.
“I’m baaaaack!” Ramirez said.
Asked when he might make his first spring training appearance, Ramirez replied, “I’m going to take it slow. ... I’ve got to get my Gold Glove ready, I’m pretty sure, you know that. I’ve got save my cannon for the season.”
The Dodgers got their Manny, and all it took after weeks of wrangling was an early morning get-together at owner Frank McCourt’s house.
“It’s better late than never,” said Ramirez, who can void the second year of the deal and again become a free agent. “It was a bad economy. I got a great contract.”
The stalemate ended during a 6 a.m. meeting Wednesday at McCourt’s Malibu home. The session came after weeks of protracted negotiations that included starts, stops, offers and subsequent rejections.
At times, McCourt’s frustration with Scott Boras surfaced, with the owner describing Ramirez’s agent as “challenging to work with.”
But all that was forgotten when the parties met face-to-face, with general manager Ned Colletti and manager Joe Torre calling the gathering “comfortable.”
Ramirez gets $10 million this year, and $15 million in deferred money with no interest. A plan the sides discussed would have it payable in $5 million installments each from 2010 through 2012. If it winds up as a two-year deal, the plan called for $10 million each season, with three payments of $8,333,333 each from 2011-13.
Ramirez has until November to decide whether to void the second season.
“Throughout his free agency, Manny directed me to pursue a deal with the Dodgers, and in the final moments it was clear both sides wanted to complete the process,” Boras said.
Los Angeles’ original offer was for $45 million in guaranteed money, including a $4 million buyout of a 2011 option, and gave the Dodgers the ability to maintain control of Ramirez over three years. It also did not include the no-trade provision.
Ramirez will make a $1 million commitment to the Dodgers Dream Foundation as part of the deal.
“Manny can bring joy and happiness to lots of people in LA,” McCourt said. “And I’m going to tell you, he makes me happy. He brings a smile to my face. We had a lot of laughs in the last few days.”
The left fielder was believed to be seeking a four- or five-year deal that would take him through the end of his career. He turns 37 in May.
But Ramirez found it tough going in a recession-plagued free agent market, with the Dodgers the only team to acknowledge pursuing the 12-time All-Star. Boras said aggressiveness by teams “was certainly accompanied by a focus on the economy.”
“Sometimes, it’s better off to have a two-year deal in a place you’re going to be happy than an eight-year deal in a place you’re going to suffer,” Ramirez said.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
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