It’s no secret that Manny Ramirez thinks and acts on a different wavelength than the average professional athlete. In a game last July at Fenway Park against the Twins, he climbed into the Green Monster and was seen chatting on his cellphone during a pitching change. A few months later he held up a handwritten sign in a game against the Angels that read: “I’m going to Green Bay for Brett Favre straight up.”
Such odd behaviour is somewhat endearing, if not good for the game. But after turning down a $25 million, one-year offer from the Dodgers yesterday—which would have made him the second-highest paid player in MLB behind Alex Rodriguez—Manny is coming off as a little bit of a spoiled brat. Perhaps nobody told him that at age 36 he’s not exactly a spring chicken anymore, and that turning down such an offer at a time when millions of people around the world are losing there jobs is, well, a little selfish.
But in this situation, Manny’s greed is only half the problem. The other half is his agent, Scott Boras. Boras has played an integral role in the past decade of increasing salaries to the point of absurdity. Using tough, if not downright intimidating, negotiation tactics he’s secured mammoth deals, like Alex Rodriguez’s $250 million, 10- year contract with the Texas Rangers in 2000, Barry Zito’s seven-year, $126-million deal with the San Fransisco Giants in 2006, and of course just a few months ago made CC Sabathia $160 million richer.
Such deals no doubt garner a tremendous amount of attention for MLB, but in doing so they’ve created a level of disparity in the game that has made it virtually impossible for more than half of the teams in the league to compete. I know that critics will point to Tampa’s amazing run last year as an example of a low-budget team making it big, but such a breakthrough came from collecting a slew of excellent draft picks through years of squalor and combining it with sound baseball development and a lot of luck. And when those players go looking for a raise in a couple of years after their current contracts expire, thanks to Boras the only way the Rays will be able to keep them is if they go door-to-door around the Sunshine State asking seniors for donations. Maybe they’ll find Manny’s house and he’ll give them a few bucks, or he just might shrug as he’s doing above and continue chatting on his cellphone.