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He's Gone ... He Stays ... The World of Manny and the Red Sox

Los Angeles Times

BOSTON ' Even at the New Zoo, from where they release their beloved idiots for three hours a day, Sunday would be viewed with unusual admiration.

The standards for absurdity had risen to become all but unattainable, and yet in the final tense hours before the non-waiver trading deadline, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar and Terry Francona united for a signature Boston Red Sox, season-aftermoment.

Apparently out from under a proposed trade that would have sent him to the New York Mets, halfway through his manager-appointed weekend off, amid stories of rancor between him and his teammates and him and his manager, Ramirez barged into Francona's office, crowded with reporters, to say he was ... happy.

At his side was the clowning Millar, who translated Ramirez's English into something like Spanglish, including such gems as, I'm staying. I'm here to play and win. I'm a gangster.

To which Francona replied, You bet your ... you are.

— Ramirez had not addressed reporters here for more than two months. He had asked to be traded. He had grown gloomy, Saturday not even bothering to take batting practice with teammates left to protect what remained of his reputation.

Then, into a room that seats six including the manager, where perhaps five times that many had gathered before breakfast to pick through the previous evening's developments, came Manny.

I'm back! he cried.

I'm translating! Millar cried.

I'm hallucinating, I thought.

Francona explained that Ramirez had asked to address reporters during the manager's routine pregame press briefing.

Francona thought it a good idea, saying, So people don't think we're going to kill each other.

Even in an organization that over nine months had fought back from a three-game deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, ended an 86-year World Series championship famine and endured the usual rigors of repeat expectations, the final days before the trading deadline had become unusually stressful, in particular as applied to Ramirez.

Oh, Francona said, this place is not boring.

Torn by his trade request, its leak to the public and the public's reaction, Ramirez had gone Full Manny Jacket on the Red Sox. Then, as suddenly, he had come out of it, laughing, holding Millar, dismissing all this crazy talk about rifts and privacy invasions and flight visions.

Ramirez: I want to stay here. I want to help this team win.

Millar: Manny being Manny. Manny being Manny. There he goes again.

So it went, before Ramirez got another head-clearing day off, before the Red Sox would finish their series against the Minnesota Twins, before the deadline would pass.

Hey, I'm still here, Ramirez said. I'm going to help this team win through 2005.

So, there it was, theater of the Manny, all's well except for someone else playing left field and someone else batting cleanup on a day he was physically healthy.

I don't have a problem with Manny, Francona said. Is every relationship perfect? It can't be.

I would imagine hopefully for about the next three or four years we deal with it once or twice a year. That's basically the way it's been. A couple fiascos and then he drives in 140.

People forget. They forgive. the seventh inning at Fenway Park, those who'd booed Ramirez on Friday were begging for him Sunday, chanting, We want Man-nee!

And in the bottom of the eighth, to a standing ovation and wild cheers, Ramirez pinch-hit with runners at first and second, two out with the score tied. The scoreboard operator had just slid a 7 beside the LAA in left field, the Yankees were losing again (for the moment), and Ramirez grounded a run-scoring single into center field. He lifted his helmet to the crowd, gestured to his teammates with his trademark, two-handed point, then touched fists with them when the inning ' and the trading ' was done.

Just Manny being Manny, man, Manny said on television afterward. It's great. ... Man, this is the best spot in the world. They want to win and I want to win too. I'm back!

It is why, of course, his mid-summer availability had become such a curiosity; he was the biggest name, carrying the most baggage, potentially going to the largest market. As deals died all over baseball, and small trades replaced blockbusters, there was the small issue of the defending World Series champion shopping its best player.

From here on, to be traded, players must pass through waivers, which Ramirez did two winters ago. And so on a day Ramirez stayed, as did Alfonso Soriano in Texas, A.J. Burnett in Florida, Adam Dunn in Cincinnati, Kevin Millwood in Cleveland and Mike Sweeney in Kansas City, there were no major moves, though a few contenders reached August having addressed potential defects.

The Atlanta Braves acquired reliever Kyle Farnsworth from the Detroit Tigers, who already had lost closer Troy Percival to injury. With John Smoltz in the starting rotation and Danny Kolb demoted weeks ago, the Braves have used Chris Reitsma as their closer. They were unable to land a starter, though the Seattle Mariners' Jamie Moyer reportedly turned down a trade to the Braves, as he did another to the Houston Astros.

Hedging against third baseman Joe Crede's iffy health, the Chicago White Sox traded a minor-league pitcher for San Diego's Geoff Blum. The San Francisco Giants did not trade Jason Schmidt, but added center fielder Randy Winn from the Mariners, setting up their outfield, one day, as Barry Bonds, Winn and Moises Alou, left to right.

The Yankees, however, were unable to acquire the starting pitching they wanted beyond Shawn Chacon and Al Leiter, and were going to the final two months hoping for the healthy returns of Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and, perhaps, Kevin Brown.

Leading to Sunday, the Red Sox added depth with outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. and infielder Tony Graffanino, and the Padres were the busiest organization in baseball. They pulled starter Chan Ho Park from the Texas Rangers, third baseman Joe Randa from the Cincinnati Reds and catcher Miguel Olivo from the Seattle Mariners, and traded Blum and Phil Nevin.

The Chicago Cubs acquired outfielder Matt Lawton from the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Jody Gerut, who was traded last week from Cleveland to Chicago.

Leaving the day about the guys who weren't traded, about Manny.

The guy is just hilarious, really, Millar said. He's just hilarious.