The past, present, and future collided at Fenway Park on Monday night when Manny Ramirez showed up to collect his Red Sox Hall of Fame plaque.
In classic ‘Manny Being Manny’ fashion, he missed the actual ceremony and showed up on a random Monday night, instead.
As someone who’d spontaneously purchased tickets to the game that day, it was a delightful, quintessentially Manny surprise. Like many millennials who grew up in the last decade of cursed Sox and the glory that’s followed, seeing the heroes of my youth reappear in their old stomping grounds is a deeply emotional and nostalgic experience. In this particular instance, Manny threw out the first pitch to David Ortiz, and both of them looked like they could still be in the lineup. The only difference between Monday night and any summer night of my childhood was that instead of sitting in the dugout, they sat next to it, with Ortiz’s adult son.
Manny was the first athlete autograph I ever got, an unexpected souvenir from one of my parents’ vacations. Waiting at their gate at the airport, they recognized the Red Sox slugger, and my mom mustered up the courage to go over and get his signature on a scrap of paper. Later that day, he ran out of the dugout waving an American flag; it was his first MLB game as a U.S. citizen.
A few months later, they reversed The Curse.
Red Sox: Manny Ramirez has bad advice for current stars
All this to say, I’ve been a big Manny fan for a long time. So, when the game ended — sadly without a pinch-hit appearance by him or Papi — and I took the trolley home, I was disappointed to read that the former was advising Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts to consider taking a hometown discount in the contract negotiations (or lack thereof) that have consumed the region.
The example he gave to The Athletic (subscription required) was Albert Pujols, who was at Fenway over the weekend with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“All you’ve got to think: How much money do you really need to be happy? Where do you want to be? I bet you (Albert) Pujols, when St. Louis offered him less than Anaheim, I bet you if he would have known what was going to happen, he would have stayed and taken less money in St. Louis than going to Anaheim.”
With all due respect to Manny, no. I understand the point he’s making, as it’s been incredible to see Pujols back on the Cardinals, especially with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, but I still disagree.
As much as it would break Sox fans’ hearts — which do not need to be broken yet again — to see them leave, Bogaerts and Devers should not take less than they deserve just to stay in Boston.
Why should two of baseball’s brightest stars take less money than they deserve from an organization that knows their worth, yet looks them in the eye and offers them less? The outrageous hubris of this organization, one of the richest in all of professional sports, to think that their negotiating behavior is acceptable.
The Red Sox have replicated the same appalling pattern for years. They’ll develop a stellar talent (Jon Lester, Mookie Betts), lowball them in negotiations, trade them, and then turn around and throw boatloads of money at some free agent (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval) who won’t perform nearly as well. Lather, rinse, repeat.
No one knows that better than the man who caught Manny’s first pitch on Monday. The Sox famously lowballed Ortiz until he told them of his intention to retire. Only then did they tell him they’d pay him whatever it took for him to retire in a Red Sox uniform.
Manny is right about one thing: no human being needs as much money as the biggest contracts in baseball today. Still, that doesn’t mean that Bogaerts and Devers don’t deserve to be paid in line with the market. More importantly, Bogaerts and Devers, like Manny and Papi before them, proved their worth. They’re only asking for what they’ve earned.
It’s also hypocritical of Manny to give this advice when he famously turned down a contract offer from Cleveland in 2000 that would have made him the highest-paid player in baseball, to sign an even bigger deal with Boston. He got as much money as he could, why shouldn’t they?
Manny, drawing his deferred salary until 2026, was still getting paid by the Red Sox when he took the field on Monday night for the first time in years.
Hopefully, the Sox will come to their senses and pay Bogaerts and Devers, too.