I usually like this guy, especially his stuff on ESPN, but he obviously think the Red Sox are really, really stupid. I'd rather a loafing, but productive Ramirez than a broken-down Giambi.
Klap: Ramirez for Giambi?
Friday, October 31, 2003
By BOB KLAPISCH
If the Red Sox are really serious about dumping Manny Ramirez and his bloated $20 million salary, they first need a get-real course of action. No one, not even the Yankees, will claim Ramirez off waivers. The Sox need a Plan B.
We have it: Trade him to the Yankees for Jason Giambi.
It's a perfect marriage for two teams dealing with similar dilemmas. Ramirez is as aloof and seemingly unmotivated as he is talented. And Giambi, who came to the Bronx as the younger, glossier - not to mention more expensive - version of Tino Martinez, proved last month that he would have been happier if he'd stayed in Oakland.
Not that Boston is any haven for underachievers. But in the last month, while he swung through one letter-high fastball after another, shrinking steadily through each round of the postseason, Giambi made it clear he's no Reggie Jackson. He's not even Paul O'Neill.
The day Giambi allowed himself to be removed from Game 5 of the World Series, but still managed to hit a ninth-inning pinch-hit home run, the Yankee front office glimpsed directly into Giambi's competitive soul. He's a nice guy with a beautiful swing, but he'll never be the Bombers' franchise player.
This isn't even factoring the steroids-investigation subpoena that's hanging over Giambi's head, or his down-the-road problems with his knees - which actually aren't that far off. One major league executive nailed it perfectly the other day when he said, "Jason is the oldest 32-year-old I know. Just watch him run."
Just watch him. Giambi's leg speed is quickly deteriorating, which is why he'll soon undergo surgery. Successful or not, Giambi's days as a first baseman are over, which means the Yankees have no choice but to keep Nick Johnson around.
So given all this baggage, why would the Red Sox want Giambi? Because their relationship with Ramirez is officially over. By placing him on waivers, the Sox announced to the world, and to the outfielder himself, that he's no longer wanted at Fenway.
Apparently, Boston's ownership is beyond thinking anyone can reach Manny, who helped himself to a four-day sabbatical this summer because of a sore throat. Somehow, though, Manny found the time and energy to hang out with Enrique Wilson when the Yankees were in town.
To many Sox' elders, that was the final insult. Grady Little made a professional living out of catering to his superstars, especially Ramirez and Pedro Martinez. But Manny wouldn't hustle even for a nice guy like Little, which makes you wonder what would happen if the Sox hired, say, Bobby Valentine in 2004.
It's not impossible. Valentine is on the short list of candidates to rescue the Red Sox. But if management is smart, it won't let Valentine - or any new manager - deal with Ramirez's loafing or his selfishness. Anyone who needed a glimpse into his machinery should've had their questions answered in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, when Roger Clemens threw a high fastball that somehow made Ramirez believe World War III had just started.
Manny huffed and puffed, and, with his bat in hand, marched toward the mound, threatening Clemens. The Rocket didn't back down. He took a step toward Ramirez and shouted an obscenity, and was just as eager to fight as Ramirez.
So why, exactly, would the Yankees want this troublemaker? First, because Ramirez is a better hitter than Giambi, with a 15-point advantage in career average, and a slugging percentage that's nearly 50 points higher. Second, Ramirez has strong ties to family and friends in Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood. The Yankees would likely count on simple pride to keep Ramirez hustling.
And finally, Ramirez is a perfect fit because 2004 will be GM Brian Cashman's final year in the Bronx, and very possibly Joe Torre's, too. Neither man will be thinking about the long-term ramifications of Ramirez's contract, which has five years to go.
Put it this way: If Torre was willing to try to lure Albert Belle to the Bronx as he did in 1998, why would he resist Ramirez, who's twice the hitter and less volatile? Manny is immature, but not dangerous. And, if nothing else, Ramirez would give the Yankees the boost in offense they so obviously need.
The Yankees are considering anyone and everyone to play right field next year, Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Sheffield at the top of the list. But adding either slugger would still leave the Bombers with an unsolved mystery: What should they do with a $17-million-a-year DH who's breaking down, and isn't quite ready for October's prime time?
Ramirez takes care of both loose ends - RBI and Giambi's fragile psyche. If the Red Sox and Yankees are bold enough, they'll make this deal faster than Manny can jog to first base.
I'm back. Sorta.
Do not boo Johnny.