Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tonight We Drink Presidente

Tonight we drink Presidente. Tonight we open the beers, one by one, and roll them into our mouths, letting the heat try to pry them back out. Tonight we don’t talk about the man we are drinking, but we are thinking about him the whole time. We drink the beer of the Dominican Republic; we don’t have to say his name.

Somewhere Manny is on a plane.

Somewhere Manny is on a plane.

He is on his way to Los Angeles, to play for Joe Torre and to play with Nomar, to fire balls around Dodgers Stadium’s spacious outfield, to lose the ball in the sun and lope out grounders, to a place where he is singular and epic and beloved all at once.

We have let Manny go because there was no keeping him, now. It was, we were told, the last straw. We had given up guessing how many straws there were, but we figured there was at least one more. There he was, asking to be traded for Brett Favre and smiling and acting like the guy who his teammates liked at times and hated at others but never stopped loving. And then Theo Epstein did something strange: he actually traded him. He actually traded him.

Manny is gone, and he’s not coming back. Not ever. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Manny Ramirez is not walking through that door. And we can’t even exhale, because if we exhaled we wouldn’t acknowledge that our team got painfully, painfully worse today. There’s no more Manny-n-Papi connection. Nothing lasts forever, but this lasted five years — an eternity in modern baseball.
Tomorrow, Manny will play left field, or maybe right field, where he is better suited, and he will bat fourth and probably get a base hit or two.

The Yankees will cheer. The Yankees will exult. The Yankees will do what they do, when they do it, because they are free of Manny’s curse. Manny made Yankee Stadium his own personal ballyard, mere miles from a house in which he grew up and which he most assuredly could not find.

We are left… here. We are left in a new place. Manny is gone, and David Ortiz will seem so alone now. Now we are a team of laser artists, seeing-eye dogs with high on base percentages and all the fundamentals. Eight years ago, we signed a punk, spacey guy from Cleveland for 8 years and $160 million, and for the first time people finally wanted to come to Boston again. That was Manny. Somwhere Manny is on a plane.

Tonight we drink Presidente.


A beer eight years in the making tastes great. It tastes just like you imagined it would taste: sweet, refreshing, relaxing. It does the job. I remember where I was the Red Sox signed Manny: I was in my apartment in Chicago, and when my college roommate came home with the news, I turned on the local radio station and listened to the news update every 10 minutes just to make it feel real.

Nobody ever came to Boston. Nobody. It was shitty place to play with a shitty stadium with shitty locker rooms and shitty fans who would call you a piece of shit the first moment it looked like something was going to go wrong. They blamed you for everything, and would later treat Manny like it was their birthright to tell him how to do his job. Manny was Manny, is Manny, so he didn’t care. He cared in fits. But eight years ago, he felt about Cleveland the way he feels about Boston, and floated his way here after a winter’s worth of negotiations. Eight years, $160 million, with options to push it up to $200. The numbers were so blinding that they were an achievement in themselves. We had someone who made money and deserved it. We could get players.

Manny was the first to come to Boston voluntarily, though Pedro agreed to stay here. I don’t want to think about what happened to him, and the similarities. Look: it’s like a marriage, only the problems only arise once the deal moves past six years. Then people start to get upset. They want freedom. The front office has taken them for granted. They talk. It happens. It happens with almost every long-term free agent. It’s not their fault. We should let it be.
Manny had to go at some point, and it wasn’t going to be later than after this year. But you still felt like they weren’t going to trade him. Everyone in that dugout knows how good he is. David Ortiz knows how good he is. So does Derek Jeter. So don’t everyone. Tim Lincecum’s job just got a lot harder.

Here’s how we should honor Manny: by rooting for him. It costs us nothing. To root against him would cost us everything.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Crazy. I bought Presidente in his honor the night before he became a filthy effin' Dodger.