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With each day that goes by and each similar offer that is rehashed and rejected, this whole Manny Ramirez saga is beginning to play out like a bad rerun you know you've seen before but are compelled to watch because there isn't anything better on.
National and local sports outlets in Los Angeles breathlessly broke into regular programming Wednesday night to announce that Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti were meeting with Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, and his associate, Mike Fiore, at Dodger Stadium to present them with a new offer for two years at $45 million.
If this sounds familiar, it's because the Dodgers offered Ramirez a two-year $45 million deal in November that also included a $15 million third-year option.
But wait, this deal is apparently different because the first year is for $25 million and then Ramirez could opt out of the second year, which seems likely if he has the kind of year the Dodgers expect him to have. The thing is the Dodgers already offered him a one-year deal for $25 million ... so really what's changed?
Apparently, this deal is better for Manny because if he has a bad year and looks like he's finished, which doesn't seem likely the way he finished last season, he still can collect another $20 million from the Dodgers. The one thing this long, played out negotiation has proved is how ridiculous Ramirez and Boras' initial demand of a four-year, $100 million deal was and what an amazing negotiator Boras is.
There isn't another team in Major League Baseball besides the Dodgers with even a lukewarm interest in Ramirez and Boras is still playing hardball as if he has some kind of leverage in this negotiation. The Dodgers have been prepared to make Ramirez the second-highest paid player in baseball this season for a while now, and yet Boras has laughed each proposal off as an insult.
Now if we were in a normal economic climate and Ramirez was a normal client that wasn't about to turn 37 and hadn't burned a few bridges along the way, Boras likely would have been able to get Manny his ridiculous $100 million deal. He's pulled off crazier deals (Barry Zito's seven-year, $126 million deal with the Giants comes to mind). As it is, he'll have to settle for a $20 million player option that he'll only exercise if Ramirez has a down year and won't be able to fetch a better deal on the open market next year.
Once Ramirez is done avoiding spring training drills and Boras is done counter-negotiating with imaginary teams, Ramirez will finally return to the Dodgers with a deal that will place him only behind Alex Rodriguez on baseball's pay scale. It's appropriate because that's about the position they occupy in the attention they garner off the field, and in some weird way baseball needs Ramirez more than ever right now. They need Manny to be Manny again. They need fans to focus on what Ramirez will do or say next as opposed to waiting for more details to come out about A-Rod's steroid use or the names of other players that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs to leak out.
That's certainly not what the Dodgers are paying him for, but in the eyes of Major League Baseball at least, if he can do that, he'll be worth every penny he makes this season.