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January 6, 2009 at 2:23 am ET
Man Child Being Man Child

The ongoing saga involving the Giants and Manny Ramirez immediately brings to mind that one Seinfeld episode where Jerry and George get stuck in a totally awkward meeting with Elaine’s dad, a curmudgeonly author who is so mean and unlikable that the two quickly start scheming ways to get the hell out of there. When George suggests that they make a run for it, Jerry quips, “He’d clunk our heads together like Moe!” Manny to the Giants? Joe says no.

The actor chosen to play the part of Elaine’s dad was notorious screen tough Laurence Tierney, a 1940’s star who was such an insufferable bastard that he got thrown out of Hollywood during the early part of his career. Tierney was famously difficult to work with, due to his general volatile nature, but the Seinfeld producers decided that the comedic potential of having this famous tough was too great, so they said the hell with it and cast him.

The rest is the stuff of legend. The episode, called “The Jacket”, was funny enough, but Tierney made life a living hell for the cast and crew during the making of the episode. He bullied everybody on the set incessantly, didn’t understand that he was acting in a comedy, and then frightened everybody when he suddenly decided to start stealing knives from the set. When confronted about it, he started voicing the Psycho theme while making stabbing motions with one of the stolen knives.

Needless to say, the producers decided he was more trouble than he was worth and never invited him back, and the Alton Benes character was never seen again (“Master of the House” will be his epitaph). So while Tierney delivered, it probably would have been much less hassle for the Seinfeld folk to just find another grizzled old actor who wasn’t a total psychopath.*

This is kind of like our friend ManRam. Yes, he brings one certainty to the table: he’s a hell of a hitter. He’s also an immature prick closing in on 40, and watching him stumble around left field is like watching Bozo the Clown run through a swamp with ten pounds of rock salt in his trousers. Despite being one of the highest paid players in baseball for seven-and-a-half seasons in Boston, he bitched and moaned and demanded a trade every five months. The bat is awesome; the borderline bipolar behavior isn’t.

The baseball writers who cover Ramirez usually characterize him as being everything from a misunderstood simpleton with more dreadlocks than brains to an evil scumbag on the scale of the Kurtwood Smith villain in Robocop. I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in between, but the Giants just got through trying to defend one left fielder’s boorish and narcissistic behavior for 15 years, and I doubt they’re in any hurry to start again. Since they’ve tried to wipe the existence of Barry Bonds from the face of Mays Field, I can’t believe they’d be in any hurry to bring in another malcontent star player.

The Giants already have a roster crunch in the outfield anyway, and would have to perform some really hellish roster machinations, as outlined here, to fit Ramirez in. Obviously, Manny is better than any of those other outfielders, but he’s expensive, aging, gives up half the runs on defense that he plates on offense, and is a complete head case. Like good old Mr. Tierney, the headaches most likely overwhelm the upside.

Is Manny’s bat really worth the nuisance? Will we simply think it’s cute when he decides to take days off on a whim, or stops the game to pee on the cars in left field? Do we want this guy on our team? I don’t think so.

*Okay, in complete fairness to Mr. Tierney, his performance in Reservoir Dogs was a major reason that movie is now a modern classic. Naturally, he was a gigantic pain in the ass during the making of that one, too, and Quentin Tarantino actually had to be physically restrained from attacking Tierney at one point on the set. Still, Tierney, as Joe Cabot (“Dead as Dillinger”) very nearly made that movie what it is, so I guess you could make the case that he was worth the trouble. Likewise, I guess you could make the case that Ramirez was worth the trouble in bringing two World Championships to Boston, but that would kind of deflate my whole argument here. But I digress…

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2 Responses to “Man Child Being Man Child”
  1. RollingWave says:

    I think the question is

    a. does the Giants have a shot at the playoff if they improve a bit on offense?

    Answer: probably, considering that the NL west sucks and the Giants have pretty good pitching.

    b. are the guys in the OF that might lose playing time guys that are good for the long term?

    Answer: it depends. but Randy Winn’s on his last year of contract, while Fred Lewis is 28 in 2009, he’s not exactly the future, he’s what he is, a decent hitter who’s a good glove for a corner, he’s a tick above the average corner OF value. he’s upside is maybe something along Randy Winn’s value. you could either trade Winn or just use some elaborate time sharing. obviously if the Giants were a AL team it be less of a problem. but still.

    Anyway, I think the window for the Giants to compete exist now, and blocking a Fred Lewis for a year or trading a Randy Winn isn’t exactly the biggest penalty ever. going foward if the Dodger find another star FA to go along with their more well rounded core players or if the D-backs tremendous upsides break out, competiting in the future might be even harder.

  2. Paul Rice says:

    I’m not sure the window for the Giants to compete shuts this year if they don’t sign Manny. They have what is widely regarded as one of the top farm systems in the league. My problem is that if you give Manny $22 million or whatever for the next three seasons, he might impair the Giants’ ability to make other wise free agent moves when (if) the young talent is ready. Even with Ramirez, the Giants are probably still only an 83 win team, and I don’t think it’s worth shelling out big money and harm the rebuild just for a short term long shot at contention.

    And what if Manny’s bat declines at all, not a crazy suggestion since he’s 36? Then he’s an expensive non-star who can’t play the field and is a clubhouse cancer. Can you imagine having two $20 million albatross contracts then?

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