ESPN.com's Jayson Stark has written an excellent article about the last days of the Manny Ramirez negotiations. "How Manny's deal finally got done" details the level of commitment Frank McCourt expects from Manny:
A commitment to the Dodgers' culture. A commitment to the Dodgers' fans. A commitment to the Dodgers' community. And he wanted Manny to back up that commitment with a $1 million contribution to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, a fund established by McCourt and his team president (and wife), Jamie, to build baseball fields throughout the Los Angeles area.
McCourt also made it clear the Dodgers didn't want a guy who believed he could just show up for a few hours every day and play baseball. They wanted him to commit to being "a full-fledged Dodger."
That meant being a leader. It meant setting an example for younger players. It meant interacting with fans, making appearances, being more than merely a guy who swung the bat four times a night. [...]
Their vision was a man who would become, essentially, the centerpiece of their franchise. They talked about the charisma he had exuded during the summer that energized their team and the people who followed it. They talked about the leadership he'd brought to their clubhouse.
They talked about the championships they hoped he would lead them to and the impact they thought he could make on kids throughout their community, just by appearing at the opening of the DreamFields he would help them build and by encouraging kids to follow their own dreams. [...]
Ramirez gave his promise: no more stunts. No more problems. He knew how people outside Los Angeles felt about him, he said. And this was going to be his chance to rewrite that story and fix [his] damaged image.
So far, so good. I haven't felt this warm and fuzzy about a millionaire's makeover since Martha Stewart was released from prison. But how much rope will the Dodgers, their fans and the media give Manny? Will Manny be happy in what is essentially another walk year for him?
We already know what the best-case scenario is with Manny: lots of bombs and (at least) a playoff appearance. And after those Decalogue-esque negotiations, anything less will be a disappointment. While the Los Angeles media may not be as weaselly as its Boston or New York counterparts, Klieg lights will still illuminate Manny's every misstep. (Although he's already hedged his bets by snuggling up to T.J. Simers. Pretty savvy, Manny.)
They say people don't change. Stark's article gives us hope that isn't the case. The Scott Boras circus may have folded its tents, but Dodger fans should know better than to think the show has left town.
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