Holy cow. It’s already been 10 years. For Dodgers fans, it’s one moment they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. July 31, 2008. I was 12 years old, and I was seeing The Dark Knight in theaters for the second time. Before the movie started, my dad leaned over to me and said the Dodgers just got Manny Ramirez. At first, I didn’t believe him. No way. There’s absolutely no way the Dodgers just got Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox.
This came at a time before smartphones. I couldn’t whip out my phone to look at Twitter and see the latest news. As I sat there and watched The Dark Knight, I couldn’t focus. I was too eager to race back home, turn on the TV to ESPN, and see if this dream was a reality. A few hours later I did, and it was.
How it happened
At least for Dodgers fans, this trade came absolutely out of left field. See what I did there? Usually, before players are traded at the deadline, there are rumors that begin to circulate about where a player might end up. That wasn’t the case with Manny Ramirez. Sure, a lot of people believed he would be dealt, but to the Dodgers? Here’s what former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti had to say about the situation, per MLB.com.
As we’re getting through the month of July, talking to Theo Epstein [Red Sox GM] every so often, he keeps asking me about [third baseman and No. 2 prospect] Andy LaRoche. I’m thinking, “He’s got Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell, so he must have another deal he’s trying to use LaRoche in.”
On the 30th of July, early evening, Theo calls and is asking me about Andy again. I look up at the TV, and the scroll [on ESPN] says there’s a deal in the works to send Manny to Florida, with Florida sending prospects to Boston and Boston sending prospects to Pittsburgh for Jason Bay. I’m watching that as I’m talking to Theo, and I say, “Oh, I see you’ve got this deal going on, good for you.” I could tell by his tone that it was a premature report.
I went downstairs to talk to [manager] Joe [Torre] and mentioned to him, “Any interest in Manny?” He says, “Manny? Are you kidding me?” I said, “I don’t know if I’m going to get a call back or not, but I know Theo wants to move him.” I got home at 1 or 2 in the morning, then ended up waking up early, coming back to the office, and I had a message from Theo to call him.
I told Theo, “You’re going to have to pick up the entire salary.” There’s silence on the other end of the phone. He said, “All of it?” I said, “If I had that money, I’d have CC Sabathia here right now!”
By this time, it was about 3:30 p.m. ET, 30 minutes to the deadline. Epstein told Colletti he was going to bring in the Pirates to do a three-team deal. The 4 p.m. deadline passed, and Manny Ramirez was a Los Angeles Dodger.
Why did it happen?
There was no question that things weren’t well in Boston. For years, Ramirez was on the trade block. His relationship with the ball club was diminishing, and it appeared his time as a member of the Red Sox was slowly coming to an end. The tipping point may have come earlier in the week when Manny voiced his frustration with the team on an interview with ESPNDeportes.com
The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me. During my years here, I’ve seen how they have mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them to try to turn the fans against them.The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don’t deserve me. I’m not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don’t have peace here.
After hearing that, it makes sense Boston would want to part ways with him, and fast. How badly did the Red Sox want to get rid of him, though?
Well, for one, they agreed to pay the remainder of his remaining $7 million on his contract. To put things simply, they desperately wanted Manny out of Boston. They got their wish. And hey, they did get Jason Bay out of it, who at the time was an All-Star and made the All-Star team the following year, so it wasn’t a total failure.
Ned Colletti on making the trade
We figured we had to do it. There was obviously a point in time that you have to make a major decision. We did and we were glad we did it. Hopefully it pays dividends. We’re confident we’ve got one of the best hitters in baseball coming in here — one of the best hitters of his generation from the right side. He’s a champion, he’s a winner, and we really couldn’t be happier with trying to make the club better at this point in time than to do this. We wanted this player at least for the next two months, and hopefully longer. So we’re willing to take the chance and go with this guy.
August 1, 2008
I don’t remember how it happened, but I somehow had tickets to this game. It was a Friday night matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who held a two-game lead over the Dodgers in the standings. Not only was it the first game of a crucial series, it was also the debut of Manny Ramirez. LA was a game under .500, sitting at 54-55. I remember spending the day cutting long strings of black yarn and gluing them to a headband. As an excited 12-year-old kid, I was going to welcome Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles with dreadlocks of my own. Turned out, I wasn’t the only one who had that idea.
As I got to Dodger Stadium, the vibe was already electric. This was at a time, during the Frank McCourt era, where Dodgers games weren’t as full. They didn’t lead the MLB in attendance like they do now, and fan support wasn’t all that great. You would have never guessed. The buzz was as crazy as if it were a playoff game. Fans were lined outside before the gates had opened up. Custom Ramirez shirts and jerseys already being worn. There was a magic in the air, and Dodgers fans felt something they hadn’t in a while. Excitement.
Over 55,000 people piled in, to see the debut of the newest Dodger. At the time, it was the second biggest crowd of the season. On a stage so big, and expectations so high, there was no way Manny could come even close to meeting them, right? Boy, were we wrong. This is Hollywood, and slowly, it turned into Mannywood.
In his debut, Ramirez would go 2-for-4, and that commenced the beginning of a two-month stretch we may never see again.
The following game, Manny went 2-for-4 again. This time, he clubbed his first home run with the Dodgers.
The following game? Four hits, and another home run. The only thing hotter than the warm Southern California sun was Manny’s bat. In his first six games with LA, he recorded 13 hits. In the month of August, Ramirez had a slash line you would see in video games. For the month, he hit .415/.508/.736. He had nine homers to go along with 25 RBI. It truly was the opening scene of a classic Hollywood movie.
Though the bat was hot, the Dodgers were slowly slipping. After managing to get four games above .500, an eight-game losing streak would have them sitting at 65-70. It appeared as if Manny Ramirez would be spending his October on the couch, as opposed to playing in the postseason.
As August turned into September, the Dodgers got hot. They answered their eight-game losing streak with an eight-game winning streak of their own, getting their record to 73-70. During the winning streak, Manny had 10 hits, as well as four home runs. Manny continued to hit, and the Dodgers continued to win. Dodger Stadium was averaging over 50,000 fans a game. For the first time since 2004, it looked as if LA was going to win a division title.
From Sept. 9 through Sept. 20, the Dodgers would go 8-3. During the crucial stretch, Manny would have 19 hits, as well as five homers and 15 RBI. LA was a season-high seven games over .500, and the division title was in their reach. On Sept. 25, the Dodgers clinched the western division, their first since 2004. In his 53 games with LA, Manny hit an astonishing .396. He was getting on base nearly half the time, having an on-base percentage of .489. With 17 home runs and 53 RBI to go along with it, Manny finished fourth in the national league MVP voting. Truly unbelievable for a player who was in the division for one-third of the season.
When the postseason rolled around, Dodgers fans didn’t know what to expect. This was their first time since 2004 they got to see their boys in blue play in October. After a historic two-month stretch, the Dodgers were unsure if Manny would be able to sustain his red-hot hitting. Then again, this was Manny Ramirez we were talking about. One of the better postseason hitters of our time.
In the divisional series, the Dodgers faced off against the Cubs, who were celebrating the 100th anniversary of their last World Series. Cubs fans were eager, hoping this was the year. Manny Ramirez had other plans.
In game one of the series, Manny went 2-for-4, including a home run in the seventh inning.
At the time, the game was still close, with the Dodgers clinging to a two-run lead. This homer extended their lead to three, and the Dodgers ultimately won the game 7-2.
Game two was no different. Ramirez went 2-for-4 with yet another homer, as the Dodgers won 10-3, giving them a 2-0 series lead.
In game three, Manny would go 1-for-2 with two walks. It was enough, as the Dodgers won 3-1, sweeping the Cubs and advancing to the national league championship series. In the NLCS, Manny was even better. Though the Dodgers lost in five games, Philadelphia simply had no answer for him. In the five games, Manny was 8-for-15, with two homers and seven RBI. In his eight playoff games, Ramirez hit .520/.667/1.080.
On July 31, before the Dodgers made the trade, they were under .500. Nobody expected them to make the playoffs, let alone be three wins away from their first World Series in 20 years. The spark Manny Ramirez provided was one we hadn’t ever seen, and one we may never see again. The 53-game stretch he had was truly remarkable, and us Dodgers fans were lucky to witness it. In 2009, Manny provided us with many more memories we’ll cherish for the remainder of our lives. Who can forget his pinch-hit grand slam on his bobblehead night? It was truly a Hollywood script.
In 2010, Manny was suspended for using PED’s, and his reputation with Dodgers fans and baseball was forever tarnished. Though he left with a sour taste in our mouths, we’ll never forget what he did for us during that two-and-a-half month stretch. We all got to experience greatness and excitement. It helped give the Dodgers and their fans a taste of the postseason, something they hadn’t been experiencing too frequently.
That was a special year for the Dodgers. It was a special year for myself. It helped draw a 12-year-old me closer to his team, and the game. 10 years have gone by, and a lot has changed. Players have come and gone. Teams have seen their highs and lows. A new generation of baseball fans have been introduced to this wonderful game. And man, do I wish they could have experienced what we all got to experience, exactly 10 years ago.
Thank you, Manny.
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