Latino baseball player taught lesson in leverage

Manny Ramirez's lesson in leverage
Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times March 4, 2009

The Dodgers got their man, and the man got their message.

In what can best be described as a win-warn situation, the Dodgers have signed Manny Ramirez to a contract long on money and short on leash.

Four months after rejecting a similar offer because he thought he was worth more, Ramirez agreed to a deal today that should make him not only richer but wiser.

He wanted as many as five years -- he agreed to less than half of that.

He wanted as much as $100 million -- he agreed to less than half of that.

The Dodgers wanted a slugger who will stay hungry -- they got exactly that.

Two years, $45 million for a player capable of both greatness and insolence?

That second year is an option year for the player so he can leave town if he's not happy?

That deal is smart being smart, with Ramirez receiving not only the money but also the reminder that if you quit on baseball, baseball will quit on you.

His bat, after he carried the Dodgers to the playoffs last fall, was worth bigger money.

His attitude, after he walked out on the Boston Red Sox, was clearly not.

Who knew baseball would take such a moral high ground, and that the Dodgers would be savvy enough to mine it?

I wrote last September that the Dodgers should sign Ramirez to nothing longer than a two-year deal, but at the time I thought that was impossible, and bid him goodbye.

Hello, tough love. Hello, Ned Colletti.

The Dodgers beleaguered general manager is the big winner here, correctly reading the market and holding firm despite a winter's worth of criticism.

Scott Boras, Ramirez' agent, misread that market, and marred Ramirez' reputation by dangling him out there all winter while virtually every other team in baseball announced that they had no interest in him.

If Ramirez had just signed last November when the Dodgers made a similar offer, nobody would have known just how badly his image had been damaged, and how little he was trusted.

Everyone knows it now, particularly Ramirez, so maybe it's a good thing after all, a humbling winter perhaps leading to an triumphant summer.

The question now, of course, is about the summer.

With Ramirez back in the middle of a fast and powerful lineup now as formidable as any in the National League, the Dodgers should be World Series bound and . . . not so fast.

Last season, in two months with the Dodgers, Ramirez crushed the ball at a full-season pace of 51 homers and 162 RBIs.

During that time, their record was 30-24.

Last October, in eight playoff games, he was virtually unstoppable, hitting .520 with four homers and 10 RBIs.

Yet they finished three wins short of the Series.

While Ramirez can bring them to the precipice of a title, it's going to take pitching to carry them there, and both the Dodger rotation and bullpen are suspect enough that they probably will have to make at least one more big move there during the season.

But for now, let the folks at Chavez Ravine enjoy this one, answering their winter's biggest question with a exclamation point, one bold enough make their marquee slugger realize that while it's OK for Manny to be Manny, it's time for Manny be a Dodger.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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