Daily Jolt: Papelbon's Shots at Manny Not Without Merit

The Daily Jolt is a dose of baseball reality every weekday morning.

Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox? Haven't we hashed and rehashed and re-rehashed this already? Ramirez has been a Dodger for what seems like ages now. It's really only been two months and change, what with the protracted contract negotiations between the mercurial slugger and his new team this winter, but when he grins, hugs Joe Torre and tells the camera "I'm baaaaaaack," well, it looks like he's completely content in his new home.

The Red Sox are doing just fine without Ramirez too. They are still the model franchise in baseball, still a financial juggernaut, still stocked with talent at every level of the organization.

So why are we still talking about this? Why couldn't we just let this bitter divorce fade?

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You can thank outspoken Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, who slammed Ramirez in an interview with Esquire.

"It's like cancer. That's what he was. Cancer. He had to go. It sucked, but that was the only scenario that was going to work," he told the magazine of the turbulent end to Ramirez's time at Fenway Park.

Beloved in Red Sox Nation, Papelbon seems to grate on fans everywhere else. His antics on the mound are outrageous at times, and he displayed a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth last year when he said he wanted the ball in the ninth inning of the All-Star Game -- a game played in the final season at Yankee Stadium, with Mariano Rivera the clear sentimental choice for that honor.

So in that sense, it's easy to write off Papelbon's comments. More hot air from a guy who talks too much, just like Curt Schilling (the only other Red Sox teammate to publicly rip Ramirez).

And maybe that's just what is. Or maybe Papelbon is all those things, and he's right about Ramirez too.

It might seem like he's picking at old wounds to those of us immersed in the 24-hour news cycle, dredging up a storyline that has long since died and forcing his teammates to answer more Manny questions eight months after all the drama went down. Perhaps Papelbon should have followed the advice he claims to get from team captain Jason Varitek in the same article and "just shut up."

But last season wasn't that long ago, especially for a guy like Papelbon, who probably spent most of the winter relaxing at his home in Mississippi far away from the daily Manny-Dodgers drama that consumed the baseball world during Hot Stove season. We moved on with Ramirez as he went on a two-month tear that propelled the Dodgers all the way to the NLCS, and moved on even further as we were inundated with near-constant will-he-won't-he updates on his contract status.

Papelbon? Well, he probably started to move on too. The Red Sox replaced Ramirez with Jason Bay, who tore the cover off the ball down the stretch as well, and fell one win short of another World Series. Falling one win short just begs the question, though. How far could Boston have gone with Ramirez?

As great as Bay was last year, Ramirez is a future Hall of Famer -- a menacing threat in the middle of the order like few others in the game. And because he got greedy, or couldn't take the scrutiny of Boston anymore, or simply didn't like the way the wind was blowing that day, he engineered his exit by quitting on his team.

He shoved an elderly team official because he coudn't fulfill a last-minute ticket request. He asked out of the lineup in the opener of a key series with the Yankees because of a balky knee, only when the team pressed him on it, he couldn't remember which knee it was that was supposed to be hurting. He flamed ownership in the press. He dogged it to first base repeatedly -- most shamefully in the middle of a no-hitter by John Lackey. (It was subsequently broken up.)

The numbers don't bear this out -- he had an OPS of 1.060 in July -- but this is one of the rare cases where they simply don't have to. If you watched a Red Sox game last July, you likely saw Ramirez quitting on his team in one way or another.

Jonathan Papelbon has every right to be furious about it, even now. If you played on a team with someone who behaved the same way, you'd be angry. Heck, if you've ever worked with someone who coasted by, leaving you to pick up the slack, you can understand where he's coming from. Those wounds don't heal quickly.

Maybe he shouldn't have dressed Ramirez down so publicly or compared him to a life-threatening disease, but then Papelbon isn't in the major leagues because he's eloquent.

Daily Jolt: Papelbon's Shots at Manny Not Without Merit originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Fri, 13 Mar 2009 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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