Colletti gets chance he can't refuse
LA GM makes most of right place, right time by landing Manny
LOS ANGELES -- Several weeks ago, when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told Red Sox counterpart Theo Epstein he was still looking for a right-handed power bat, Epstein said one of his might become available, but Manny Ramirez's name wasn't mentioned then or in several other conversations that followed.
In the frantic four hours leading to the 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline, the Dodgers found themselves in the right place at the right time, and Colletti was presented with an opportunity he couldn't refuse. Unable to find matches with the Rays or Marlins, and resolute in removing Ramirez from their clubhouse, the Red Sox enlisted the Dodgers and a blockbuster trade was made.
The target of fan criticism for deals gone awry and others he didn't or couldn't make, Colletti swung the most spectacular trade in 50 years of Los Angeles Dodgers history, acquiring Ramirez for Minor Leaguers Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris, who were sent to Pittsburgh as part of a three-team trade that sent Jason Bay to Boston.
"We figured we had to do it," said Colletti. "It's an exciting time for our organization, our fan base and the whole baseball team."
The Dodgers got a cleanup hitter, and the Red Sox are paying the remaining $7 million of Ramirez's salary. Ramirez waived his trade veto rights in return for having the two option years of his contract voided, so he will be eligible for free agency after this season.
With one move, Colletti renovated a spotty lineup at no financial cost and energized the clubhouse. He answered the Angels' acquisition of Mark Teixeira with a future Hall of Famer and didn't disrupt the current Major League roster. LaRoche was the key to the deal for the Pirates, although he had become expendable with the play of fellow rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt and had been sent back to Triple-A only days earlier.
Colletti created a jam by adding a fifth outfielder, but got the blessings of manager Joe Torre, then said parsing out playing time was Torre's problem, not his.
"We've got a manager who handles players and makes out the lineup," said Colletti.
Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt, a Boston native and lifelong Red Sox fan until purchasing the Dodgers in 2004, said he had no problem adding a player with Ramirez's reputation.
"He's a personality, but it really is warped by his pure baseball skills," said McCourt. "He is one of the best hitters in baseball and certainly one of the best hitters I've seen in my lifetime. He's a tremendous talent. I think his personality is kind of fun. You also know that Manny wants to win and has won, and you certainly know that the skipper is focused on making sure that this club and the players are focused on one thing, which is winning, period.
"It is the manager, the coaches and the players that make this possible. We see them pointed in the right direction and starting to come together as a team and really working hard in each and every inning of every game, and that is really when you want to step up and help a team. I feel very good about our team."
Said Torre: "I'm not concerned with his behavior until he makes me concerned. There is no downside to getting him. This is huge."
Ramirez essentially forced this trade with critical comments about Boston management and, in the eyes of many, by dogging it in recent games. Colletti said he is not concerned with the baggage Ramirez allegedly brings.
"He's a public figure, and there's a lot of things out there -- some fabricated, some real," Colletti said. "I talked to his agent, Scott Boras, and he said he's thrilled to be coming. We don't control anybody's behavior. We just expect him to be respectful.
"I guess we'll find out. Manny being Manny could mean he'll hit a lot of home runs, drive in a lot of runs and be a clutch player for us. I think we know what we're getting. If he's a distraction, it's probably minimal. We couldn't turn away from that bat, that presence in the lineup and that he'll be a free agent at the end of the season."
Colletti conceded that Ramirez, as a free agent, could be a two-month rental, "hopefully longer this year."
"We're willing to take that chance," Colletti said. "With his World Series experience, his charisma, his electricity ... when he walks into that clubhouse tomorrow, they'll know who he is."
Colletti said he hasn't ruled out adding a shortstop, but denied speculation that one (presumably Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson) was almost included in this deal.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.