In end, Dodgers didn't see Manny as fit in NL
Injuries, age catch up to slugger, who asked to go to AL
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers said it wasn't a case of Manny being Manny, or the argument with umpire Gary Cederstrom on Sunday, or that their star had quit on the team. They let Manny Ramirez go because they believed his legs could no longer carry him in the National League.
"It's been somewhat of a distraction, but you know what, everything has its time," general manager Ned Colletti said. "I think it was time for us and it was time for him. He did a lot of great stuff while he was here. When he got on here on Aug. 1 or July 31 of '08, for those two-plus months, it was historic in nature what he accomplished here."
Ramirez, 38, officially left the Dodgers on Monday for the White Sox, who claimed him off waivers. Ramirez had made three trips to the disabled list this season, each time because of strains in his right leg, and it appeared to the team a full nine innings in left field was a thing of the past.
It wasn't something out of the blue. Ramirez had been telling teammates since last year that his legs were so sore he couldn't play the outfield, and he showed last week that playing more than six innings and running the bases were difficult.
"This league was probably not the right place for him to be," manager Joe Torre said.
Ramirez, too, wanted to play in the American League, and he told Torre as much on Friday, when Torre told him he wouldn't be playing that night. That gave the Dodgers leverage when Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, brought up the possibility of an extension: The Dodgers told Boras that Ramirez already had asked to go to the AL.
What the Dodgers ended up with in return for Ramirez from the White Sox was salary relief -- about $4 million off the books. No talent came back, although that wasn't for lack of trying.
"We had offered them a million and a half for not their best prospect, but certainly somebody who we thought was a good prospect," Colletti said. "They didn't want to do that, so we lowered our sights on the prospect to a million, went that direction. And then they didn't want to do that. So finally, we offered them $500,000 for one of three lower-level guys, and they didn't want to do that."
The Dodgers' top target was Tyler Flowers, a catcher, and the only reason Ramirez didn't leave sooner than Monday was because the Dodgers were trying to strike a deal. The Dodgers' future behind the plate is unknown with the possibility that the injured Russell Martin could be non-tendered this offseason.
The Dodgers had until Tuesday to work out a deal or simply elect to let Ramirez go after the White Sox made their claim Friday.
Colletti said it was possible things could have been different, that the team might have held on to Ramirez if it was the equivalent situation and the team was in first place instead of fourth, 6 1/2 games out of the NL Wild Card race.
But letting go of Ramirez, Colletti said, wasn't tantamount to raising the white flag. With 13 at-bats since July, the Dodgers said they had already adjusted to life without Ramirez. How well that adjustment has gone is debatable: They've scored the eighth fewest runs in the Majors since July 1 and hit the fifth fewest home runs.
The team did, however, go out and acquire an everyday outfielder, Scott Podsednik. Torre said that his decision to play Ramirez so scarcely in the days before his departure was because the team was better served by what Podsednik brought than what Manny could bring.
"If we had the DH, that's what he'd be doing," Torre said.
Torre gave no comment when asked if Ramirez could have started on Sunday, his last day as a Dodger. With Ramirez's departure imminent, it would have been logical to hold him out to avoid injury. As for the first three games of four straight Ramirez didn't play?
"That was my decision," Torre said. "I just felt we had won a couple of games with just creating stuff at the top of the order."
Still head-scratching is the thought that Dodgers improved themselves on the field by trading Ramirez, who hit .322 with 44 home runs and 156 RBIs in 223 games for Los Angeles. The team rolled the dice on a player in a situation somewhat similar to Ramirez's last season: Jim Thome. Thome had limited experience as a pinch-hitter, and they banked he could adjust. The Dodgers didn't take that chance here.
Colletti said he wasn't doing Ramirez a favor by trading him. Yet, if unspoken, there is a clout hitters of Ramirez's caliber carry.
"Look, when you're a great player, a middle-of-the-lineup guy, unless something is unusual, you put the guy in the lineup, then he comes to the ballpark and tells you that he can't play," Boras said.
For the Dodgers, the improvement can only be seen in dollars: To have paid $4 million or so for a bench player, when the playoffs are no certainty, is a steep price.
"That's part of the deal," Colletti said. "It doesn't hurt certainly and we'll be able to use it on the baseball side both now and in the future, which is also good ... If something comes available in September that can help us in 2011 and beyond, that's somebody we'd consider. And the offseason."
The legacy Ramirez leaves behind centers around 2008, when the Dodgers acquired him just before the July 31 Trade Deadline and he unleashed the greatest two months of offense in franchise history, batting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games. The Dodgers went to the National League Championship Series for the first of two straight seasons.
The frustration started in 2009 and carried into this season, when he was paid a total of about $32 million of a $45 million deal but missed significant time, last year with a 50-game suspension (which cost him about $8 million) for violating the MLB drug policy, this year because of injuries. Ramirez's final act as a Dodger was an ejection by Cederstrom, one pitch into in a pinch-hit appearance on Sunday in a 10-5 loss to the Rockies.
"I don't think that incident yesterday was premeditated," Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. "He got fired up over a bad call and got tossed. I don't think he meant to do it. Just didn't look good, that's all. I don't feel like he quit on us."
"Manny taught us a lot," center fielder Matt Kemp said. "He taught me a lot of things about hitting and I've learned a lot from one of the best right-handed hitters in the game ... hopefully, one day, I'll be in the same position as him."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.