Red Sox headlines I’d love to see:
Manny finds God, Sox lose minds
Let me see if I have this straight: Manny Ramirez hit like Jimmie Foxx for 7½ seasons in Boston, but it turned out he was cheating with PEDs the whole time. His name appeared on the list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003, and later he was twice suspended for failing drug tests. He’s the only big league star who got caught three times.
Ramirez also regularly ignored the kids from the Jimmy Fund and the soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. He was arrested for hitting his wife. In his final year with the Red Sox, 2008, he assaulted a 65-year-old Sox employee over a ticket request, then quit on the team in midsummer, forcing a trade after staging a sit-down strike.
After quitting on the Sox, he went to Los Angeles and hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in the final 53 games of the season. Without Ramirez, the Sox went on to lose the seventh game of the 2008 AL Championship Series to the Tampa Bay Rays.
So what happens? On the night the Sox chose to honor the most important team in their 114-year history, they made Manny the featured character. After legitimate Sox gods Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling were asked to step aside — Bloody Sock Schill was making his first public appearance while in the throes of a serious battle with cancer — Manny came out from the Green Monster and had the honor of throwing the ceremonial first pitch.
Manny received the loudest ovation. And for the remainder of the night, he needed extra security as he paraded around the ballpark. I was sitting in the EMC level midgame when Manny came through, and it was as if the Beatles had been reunited. Then Manny went on NESN and told Don Orsillo and Steve Lyons that it was all about “respecting the game.’’
Wow. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. We wish Manny the best as he goes forward in his new life. It’s sweet that Manny has found God and nice that he admitted he behaved badly in Boston. Fans just love the goofy guy.
But management knows better. Must the Sox brass always appeal to the lowest common denominator? (Seen NESN lately?) Pushing aside Pedro, Big Papi, and brave/heroic Schilling while Manny was made the centerpiece of the 2004 team was an outrage and an embarrassment.
Appearing on WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” Thursday morning, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said, “There are so many people that could have thrown out the first pitch . . . Jason Varitek, the captain; Curt Schilling, who’s going through some extraordinary times these days; Pedro is always enormously popular and charismatic.
“But the simple fact is that we were honoring the World Series championship of 2004 and the MVP in the World Series was Manny Ramirez . . . A choice had to be made among several candidates that were fitting and appropriate and I believe the decision turned on the World Series MVP.
“That seemed to be a rational decision. We would never please everyone.’’
Rays back in Boston, still hate Red Sox
Joe Maddon and the Rays are in Fenway for three more games this weekend, and there’s always a possibility that sparks will fly. The Sox and Rays have considerable history. It goes back to the days of Lou Merloni defending Pedro Martinez in a 2000 brawl that featured eight ejections. Six years ago, Jonny Gomes — then with the Rays — pummeled Coco Crisp in a brawl that featured “Big Game” James Shields. And we all saw what Gomes did last weekend at the Trop.
Maddon seems to like tweaking the Red Sox. When he was a first base coach with the Angels in 2003, he was on a short list of Boston managerial candidates and came to Fenway after the season, but the Sox opted to go with Terry Francona.
Maddon and his players were annoyed with the Sox last month when Boston insisted that Tampa play a day-night doubleheader after a Fenway rainout. The Rays objected to the demand, believing the Sox were trying to take advantage of Tampa’s depleted pitching staff.
There was also an inference that the Sox needed to play two because they had to distribute 40,000 Dustin Pedroia bobbleheads that were taking up space at Fenway. After the angry Rays responded by sweeping the Red Sox, Ben Zobrist quipped, “I hope everyone enjoyed their bobbleheads.’’
Fast-forward to last weekend when the Sox embarrassed themselves with their objections to knucklehead Yunel Escobar taking third base in the seventh inning of an 8-3 game. Sox manager John Farrell called it a “gray area” and Sox coach Torey Lovullo said, “We would never do that.’’
Maddon was quick to remind everybody that Jacoby Ellsbury stole a base with the Sox leading, 8-2, in the bottom of the eighth of the first game of last year’s ALDS.
After the Rays completed a sweep of the Sox in St. Pete Sunday, the Trop loudspeakers played “Sweet Caroline.’’
Sox invent injury, Buchholz goes on DL
Nothing wrong with this. Everybody does it. But it was amusing the way Clay Buchholz’s “injury” evolved after his latest stinkbomb in Atlanta Monday.
After the game, Buchholz said he was totally healthy. Then we started to hear about a hyperextended knee. Early in the narrative, it was implied that he did it running the bases, which would have been hilarious since Buchholz almost never runs the bases, is supposed to be a world-class athlete, and went on the DL after pulling a hamstring running the bases in San Francisco in 2010.
By Wednesday, the Sox had decided that Buchholz hurt his knee on the mound after running the bases earlier in the game.
Pedro book due in March; look out, Joe Kerrigan
It’s always a joy to bump into Martinez, and Wednesday at Fenway was no exception. Pedro brings the party wherever he goes, and I was eager to ask him how his book is coming along.
Pedro and the Herald’s Mike Silverman are working on a Pedro memoir due out next spring, and I asked Pedro if he plans on ripping any of his favorite Boston columnists. He acknowledged there are some darts coming my way.
Pedro didn’t mention any of his former managers or pitching coaches by name, but I got the distinct impression that the Nutty Professor might not fare well.
“You know me,’’ said Pedro. “I tell the truth.’’
For most of us, Pedro in 1999 was the greatest pitcher we’ve ever seen.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.