Manny will be missed, but Sox move on
Day after, players laud former teammate, but understand deal
BOSTON -- To pretty much all of his teammates, Manny Ramirez was an endearing figure, particularly when he was belting the baseball.
It wasn't that the Red Sox didn't like Ramirez as a person. It's just that some of his Manny-being-Manny antics became a distraction. Never was this more evident than over the course of Ramirez's final week in a Boston uniform, when things began to get utterly chaotic.
Ramirez was dealt to the Dodgers on Thursday as part of a three-team swap that brought left fielder Jason Bay to Boston.
"To me, Manny is not a bad guy," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "He's a different guy. But he's definitely not a bad guy. I think there was definitely a different sense that was going on in the clubhouse over the last week. I think it was kind of uncomfortable. Not so much for the players, because we're kind of used to things going on. I think the relationship with maybe upper management and what direction [things were going]. He can be a huge part of your offense and all that. And when things don't seem like they're going all in the same direction, it was just different. It was kind of a weird feeling in here."
Ramirez will now take his act to Hollywood, which will leave a void in the lineup, but also the absence of some unwanted drama.
"He's done a lot of great things here," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "I think that it's good for this team, this organization right now that we can go on with direction with this team right now. I think things escalated to degrees to where something had to be done either way. We lose a Hall of Famer. We lose the best right-handed hitter I've ever played with. We gain a very good outfielder and a very good hitter. It's time that this team starts playing better."
Lowell didn't think it was fair to pin the team's recent slump on Ramirez.
"I think we should celebrate the fact that he was such a great player for us," Lowell said. "But I think people tend to blame or might want to blame him for everything that's gone wrong on this team so far this year. I don't think that's right either. We still have a lot of games left. We have a very good player in Jason Bay."
The player that was linked most with Ramirez during his years in Boston? David Ortiz. They lockered next to each other, took batting practice together and mashed opponents together.
For the first time since his years with the Minnesota Twins, Ortiz will go back to life without Ramirez. Will the Red Sox be able to be a better team without No. 24 batting cleanup?
"I'll let you know after the season," Ortiz said.
Ortiz wasn't overly retrospective when asked what he will remember most about Ramirez.
"Everybody knows," Ortiz said. "Ain't no cleanup hitter like that, you know what I'm saying? Good player, did what he was supposed to do while he was here. That's about it."
A menacing presence at the plate, Ramirez left indelible memories with his teammates.
"To me, he's the greatest hitter I've ever seen, being able to play with him," said Lowell. "I know there's other great hitters in the league, I just haven't been able to be their teammates. His swing is unbelievable. He really worked hard at trying to perfect it, which seems almost ridiculous, when you have such a perfect swing and you're trying to make it better. But I think that's why his numbers are what they are. For me, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and when he gives his speech, he'll probably give it via satellite because he's in Brazil. That will be perfect. He'll be wearing a Brazilian national team hat when he does it and watching a soccer game."
What the Red Sox want -- with or without Ramirez -- is to get back to playing winning baseball.
"I think we needed to do something to make our ballclub better," said Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "If this was the general manager's way of doing it and our front office guys' way of doing it and making our ballclub better, than so be it. We'll find out if it makes our ballclub better in the next two months."
At the moment when general manager Theo Epstein pulled off the trade during Thursday's off-day, Lowell happened to be sleeping.
"I really didn't think anything was going to happen, so I took a nap," Lowell said. "And at 5 o'clock, I wake up and my phone has 87,000 messages that Manny got traded. So I had to get online and check."
The reality of life after Manny was there for all the world to see on Friday at Fenway, as Bay batted fifth and played left field.
"It's just one of those things, where now you know what the future is," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "Before you didn't know what it was going to hold. Now we know what our team looks like from this day forward. We're happy that Jason Bay is here, because he's a great guy. I've talked to a couple of teammates in Pittsburgh, and they say he's a really good teammate and a really good guy. If you're going to replace Manny Ramirez, you're not going to replace his stats. If you're going to replace him, you're hoping to get a good teammate, and that's what we got."
Now as far gone as some of the home runs he hit, it was impossible for the Red Sox not to recognize Ramirez's accomplishments.
"He had a remarkable run here," said Epstein. "His whole career has been remarkable. He's one of the best right-handed hitters in history and his numbers speak for themselves. He was a key part of two World Series teams. No one can ever take that away from him. We're not going to. We don't want to. We wish him well going forward and realize as we sit here today on Aug. 1 that's now in our past and we're moving forward as a team."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.