Seldom has a losing cause been this much fun. As the Giants witness the comical circus surrounding the Manny Ramirez negotiations, they have to seriously consider if he's worth the trouble.
The L.A. honeymoon is over, that's for certain. It ended with the final out of the Dodgers-Phillies series in October. Fans couldn't wait for the 2009 season, when they could haul out their Manny wigs, strike up conversations with perfect strangers, and continue enjoying the bizarre but undeniable renaissance that Ramirez brought to the Dodgers' organization.
As it turns out, they're being played for fools: the fans, the marketing people, the concessionaires and especially the front office. Owner Frank McCourt is about ready to strangle Scott Boras, Ramirez's agent (the two are scoffing at each other in mass e-mails to the media), and general manager Ned Colletti has to be wondering, exactly what's wrong with the best offer Ramirez is going to get?
Nothing's good enough for Boras and his wildly out-of-touch client. They have issued four rejection notices to the Dodgers' good intentions, each offer an absolute boon in times of economic crisis. They keep expecting McCourt and Colletti to start bidding against themselves - an old Boras trick that buffaloed the Giants ( Barry Zito ) and Texas Rangers ( Alex Rodriguez ) - but Colletti knows the playing field, and he especially knows the Giants, the only other contender in this game unless the Mets and/or Yankees storm into the picture.
You can bet that Larry Baer and Bill Neukom remain interested, on their own terms, but why rush to make an offer when it's so much fun watching the Manny-L.A. romance unravel? For months, a little voice in Colletti's head told him, "We have to do this." But there's a second voice now: "Do we really have to do this?"
At some point over the next few weeks, Manny will stroll into the Dodgers' clubhouse with a big smile on his face, as if nothing in the world is wrong. I wonder if his teammates will portray him as they did last year, the wacky savior who really isn't such a bad guy. Now that he'll be getting an opt-out option for the 2010 season, he's merely a mercenary waiting to get a real offer from a team that truly appreciates him. Not cool.