Pedal to the Metal
Time to Leave the Yankees, and The Stadium, in the Dust
Crossing the Manny Line
8.25.08, Bob Eckstrom, BDD contributor: By most accounts, it’s been a good month in the Bronx. The Yankees got a mulligan from the New Boss, who says $207 million doesn’t buy enough depth to withstand injuries. That means Empire subjects get a reprieve from defending their underachieving heroes, even with the $16 million stopgap additions of Pudge Rodriguez and Xavier Nady. Shortly after, Yankee-killing Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo departed the New York airwaves, taking his Tampa Bay cap and decidedly anti-partisan sentiment with him.
That’s all well and good, but nothing stokes The Empire’s misplaced euphoria quite like Manny Ramirez’s trade. For nearly a month now, Yankee Fan has driven up and down the Cross-Bronx Expressway wearing a faded ‘2000 World Series Champs’ tee and that sinister smile reminiscent of the Grinch when Max’s snowy snout inspired him how to stop Whoville’s Christmas from coming.
There’s even a prognosis offered for Manny’s departure: Yankee addition by Red Sox subtraction.
And for good reason. Ramirez destroys the Yankees. As a Red Sox, he hit .341 with 38 homers and 105 RBI against New York in 137 games, including 14 in the postseason. His splits are even more eye-popping in the 58 games he played since the 2004 ALCS comeback - .409 with 20 HR, 57 RBI, and an OBP of .512. He hit safely in 43 of those 58 games, helping Boston to a 24-19 record. By contrast, the Sox were 3-12 when Manny went hitless.
So tonight, Jason Bay and the Red Sox open the swansong series between these rivals at Old Yankee Stadium and Manny will be hitless. The Empire is chomping for the first returns on its newfound fortune, some of that old Yankee Addition. But if past performance has any say, the wait could last until next winter’s thaw. Neither this week’s series nor the season finale in Boston will be affected by Manny’s absence, because he wouldn’t have played against New York so late in the regular season in the first place.
We’ve crossed the Manny Line, that vertical obstruction on the calendar beyond which the former Sox left fielder comes down with Blue Flu. In his Boston tenure, Manny missed only 20 Yankee games, seven from a broken finger incurred in his 2002 headfirst slide into home plate. Of his remaining 13 DNPs, 12 came after August 21 and were shrouded by ailments that still can’t be found on WebMD. In just the last two seasons, Manny missed nine of the ten Yankee games played after August 21.
Given the effort needed to get him on the field during two Yankees series last month, the Manny Line would seem to have settled in a bit early this year. Not even the absence of hard-throwing Joba Chamberlain was likely to stir him into duty this week.
Nor should Yankee Fan have quivered when he was penciled in. Since signing Ramirez for the 2001 season, the Sox have an aggregated 25-44 (.362) record against New York after July 1. Manny’s hitting clinics have done little to mitigate the Yankee hex. Boston is 20-37 (.351) over those games with him in the lineup and 5-7 without. They’ve been swept in six of those series – five with Manny, including 2006’s Boston Massacre II. Seems there really isn’t much market share left for Steinbrenner & Son to gain with Manny’s departure.
There was a day when the Yankees didn’t concern themselves with who was in your lineup. They just motored through the A.L. East, and Yankee Fan took pride in a devout self-absorption. Goings-on beyond the Bronx were of little consequence to him in his tidy world of pennants and rings. Now, he spends his days preoccupied with Red Sox implants, resuscitating old curses, and fretting over starting left fielders - not of his own team but of one 200 miles away that has never seemed closer.
Next year, despite a plethora of pinstriped left fielders, he’ll covet Manny as his own. It would be one more ex-Red Sox trophy for the mantle. And he may well be rewarded because, in his house where Yankee Pride and Best Interests of the Game are now checked at the door, Manny will be more than welcome. If so, we in Boston can offer a prognosis for his arrival.
Yankee subtraction by Yankee addition.