Ramirez will remain with Dodgers

In the end, gas was down and so was Manny. There’s no other way to look at it, though surely Scott Boras will spin it for all he’s got. And, really, considering thousands of job seekers lined up in desperation at Dodger Stadium last week for a shot at minimum-wage jobs, Manny Ramirez should be happy with what he could get. But super agent Boras set himself up for a fall, and fall he must. He told the Dodgers he would wait for serious offers last December when they first proposed paying the slugger $45 million over two years. Try coming back with four years in the $100 million range, Boras suggested. And don’t forget the player option for a fifth year. They were nice, round numbers, except for one thing: Nobody else was bidding. Not the Yankees. Not the Giants. Certainly not the Red Sox. The best right-handed slugger of his time was on the auction block, and nobody seemed to care. Too much baggage and not nearly enough reward for the risk as times had changed since Ramirez had said ‘gas is up and so am I.’ Then the Dodgers still wanted him and, rubes that they are, surely would end up bidding against themselves in a mad frenzy to get his bat into the lineup when spring training started in earnest. But Boras had burned Dodger owner Frank McCourt one time too many. McCourt is the one who will spend the next six years paying off the $36.2 million contract the agent conned them into with Andruw Jones, and the thought of spending all that money for just three home runs had to irritate McCourt every time he picked up the phone to find Boras on the other end. When negotiations reached another impasse a few days ago, McCourt could barely conceal his contempt toward Boras as he declared that the talks would now begin from square one. Go ahead, he dared the agent, take that so-called offer from the Giants that so-called sources had passed along as fact. ‘When his agent finds those ‘serious offers’ from other clubs, we’ll be happy to restart the negotiations,’ McCourt said. Cooler heads finally prevailed, and Ramirez ended up with essentially the same contract the Dodgers first offered him, complete with deferred money that could be worth even less if inflation picks up. It makes him the second-highest paid player in baseball for one year and gives him an incentive to play well by allowing him an out after this season. But Ramirez had to put on a public relations blitz of sorts to even get that. He needed it, with McCourt still leery and 55 percent of those voting in an unscientific online poll in the Los Angeles Times saying the Dodgers should just forget about Ramirez and move on. He called the Times on Tuesday to assure the newspaper and the Dodgers that he would play hard no matter how much money he got. Then he flew to Los Angeles and went to McCourt’s home in Malibu to tell him the same thing. Instead of being pursued, now he was doing the pursuing. The $45 million that Boras dismissed as not even worthy of a starting offer just three months ago suddenly looked mighty good. Now the question becomes, how much will the Dodgers get in return for their short-term investment? Will this be the same Manny who hit .396 with 17 homers in 53 games with the Dodgers, leading them to a pennant and sparking a run on dreadlocked wigs? Can Ramirez, at the age of 37 and now better known by National League pitchers, carry the Dodger offense through a long season? Or will he begin dogging it when the dog days of summer hit, the fragile Dodger pitching staff implodes, and people begin talking about what he did last season in Boston. ‘It’s still Boston. It’s always, he’s this and he’s that,’ Ramirez told the Times. ‘Move on. I left Boston. Did I quit while winning two World Series in Boston? You think you can hit 500 home runs quitting?’ Maybe not, but there was a time we also thought Alex Rodriguez could hit 500 home runs without the help of steroids. The bottom line is, nothing is certain in baseball, and McCourt looks a lot smarter giving Ramirez just two years while the Yankees still have nine years left on the A-Rod fiasco. The Dodgers ended up winning this one, and they’ll likely be winners because of it. Ramirez gives them the big bat they needed to win the weak National League West, and brings excitement that should help fill seats at Dodger Stadium during troubled times. Better yet, he’ll now know his place in case he ever gets an inclination to act up again. The Dodgers showed him that in uncertain times, at least, no one player is bigger than the team or the game of baseball. As for Ramirez and Boras? They’ll just have to be content with the consolation prize of $45 million.