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A Manny in full

9/1/2010
Want a full season of Manny Ramirez? Better know how to structure a deal that can keep him playing. Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox swallowed $10 million to get rid of Manny Ramirez just before the trade deadline in 2008, and two years later, the Dodgers gave Ramirez away after receiving 170 games, 27 homers and a drug-related suspension in return for the $33 million they spent on the outfielder in 2009 and 2010.

He quit on those two teams.

The Dodgers aren't saying much publicly because of professional decorum, but behind that facade there are very strong and angry opinions about how Ramirez conducted himself in his last season with the team -- feelings that echo what his Boston teammates and employers felt two years ago.

But Ramirez, at 38 years old, can still hit and should help the White Sox in the last 33 days of the season, and he will get offers this winter. However, any general manager who offers him a big-money deal should have his sanity questioned, given the amount of money squandered over the past three years because Ramirez decided he didn't want to play anymore.

If a team wants to sign Manny for 2011, this is what makes sense:

They should dangle a low base salary -- $800,000 to $1 million -- and structure the rest of the deal in a way that compels him to stay on the field. Incentives based on plate appearances. In other words: He'll have to play to get paid.

Let's just say, for argument's sake, that the White Sox wanted to bring Manny back for 2011, and they gave him a $5 million deal. Well, history tells us there's a good chance he'll just decide he doesn't feel like playing, in spite of the money he is being paid. He apparently lacks a basic level of professional integrity that hundreds of millions of people have in their jobs. Buyer beware.

I'm sure the White Sox were thrilled with the fact that Manny seemed too fatigued to play Tuesday, as well as what David Haugh describes as a bizarre 15-minute press conference. It's unclear whether he intends to abide by the team's hair rules, writes Mark Gonzales. The White Sox are cutting Manny some slack, writes Joe Cowley. They're spending $3.8 million, or a little more than $100,000 a day, and on the first day, they got little bang for their buck -- although he may or may not have influenced the pitch selection of an Indians right-hander in the ninth inning.

The most interesting moments of Ramirez's time with the White Sox will only happen if Chicago drifts out of contention over the next two weeks. If that happens, and Ramirez quits on the White Sox as he did the Red Sox and the Dodgers, then Ozzie Guillen -- who has never had a filter in the way that Terry Francona and Joe Torre do -- will call him out publicly. Francona and Torre never did do that, either because they were trying to maintain his trade value or because they were concerned that Ramirez would go into a shell or because they're just too polite. Ozzie will not care about any of that; he'll say what he thinks.

But if the White Sox win and Manny hits, well, all will be good. Until Ramirez discovers in the winter how few employment options he has.

The McCourts

Frank McCourt didn't seem to remember much during his 45 minutes of testimony, writes T.J. Simers. Some testimony shed light on the collapse of the marriage, writes Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall. Eleven lawyers are working this case.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Rangers traded for Jeff Francoeur.

2. The Royals will wait to call up their best position prospect, which is smart business; it makes no sense for them to start his service-time clock until sometime in June.

3. Fredi Gonzalez could be the next manager for the Cubs, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

4. The Brewers summoned some prospects to the big leagues, writes Tom Haudricourt.

5. Mike Napoli wasn't traded.

6. One of the guys called up by the Athletics was in independent ball a couple of months ago.

7. A Tigers farmhand has been called up after 13 years in the minors. This is a feel-good story, writes Tom Gage.

8. Nolan Reimold was among those who were called up, writes Dan Connolly.

AL Central

A.J. Pierzynski was The Man for the White Sox on Tuesday night, with a big three-run homer, and Edwin Jackson was excellent again for Chicago, throwing 129 pitches to protect the exhausted White Sox bullpen.

The Twins held serve, but are dealing with some serious injury concerns, as Joe Christensen writes. Jason Kubel was hit on the wrist by a 95 mph fastball. And Justin Morneau remains at home, and it seems more and more likely he will miss the rest of the season.

Bill Smith has been making more moves, writes Jim Souhan. The rebuilt Twins bullpen shows that the front office is on its toes.

The Twins' magic number for clinching the AL Central: 27.

NL Central

Twenty-one days ago, the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Cincinnati Reds and moved into first place in the NL Central. Who could have imagined at that time that they would utterly collapse the way they have, losing repeatedly to the worst teams in the National League? That race is not over, completely, but now St. Louis will require one of the more notable comebacks in NL history to run down the Reds, and when they play host to Cincinnati this weekend, the Cardinals must take two of three, at least.

They are in a six-game hole after losing again Tuesday, and as Albert Pujols said to Derrick Goold, "It's been a bad road trip." Ryan Franklin would like more work.

The Reds gained a game in the standings, but what was of much more significance was the debut of Aroldis Chapman, who was clocked at 102 mph. If the playoffs were to start today, the Reds would be facing the Phillies, and you can bet Chapman won't be a fun at-bat for left-handed hitters like Ryan Howard (or, if the Reds played the Braves, Brian McCann).

From Lee Singer of ESPN Stats & Information, how Chapman threw in his debut:

A. He threw six fastballs that averaged 100.7 mph, with his fastest topping out at 102.7 -- the fastest pitch thrown this season.

B. He mixed in two sliders, averaging 86.7 mph, including one on his only strikeout against Jonathan Lucroy.

C. The Brewers were aggressive, swinging at six of his eight pitches, but missing on three and fouling off another.

D. Five of his eight pitches were in the strike zone, and the Brewers chased two of the three that weren't, including on Chapman's only strikeout.

Meanwhile, Edinson Volquez was sent to the minors. Our ESPN colleague Eduardo Perez noted last week that the Reds are concerned that Volquez is tipping his pitches.

The magic number for the Reds to win the NL Central: 25.

NL East

The Atlanta Braves blew out the Mets, with a lot of help from David Ross. Freddie Freeman got the call to the big leagues.

Chase Utley has been among some Phillies who are struggling for hits, writes David Murphy. Ryan Howard clubbed his first homer since coming off the disabled list.

The Braves' magic number for clinching: 28

NL West

Kevin Correia unraveled, and the Padres lost again; that's six straight and counting, as Bill Center writes. Meanwhile, Madison Bumgarner had a strong outing for the Giants, who closed to within four of San Diego. The Giants are calling up a veteran shortstop for September, sort of, as mentioned within this notebook.

The Rockies lost ground in the wild-card race, but there is some good news -- they'll be getting Troy Tulowitzi back for their lineup.

The Dodgers are now 6.5 games out of the wild-card race, and just about dead.

The Padres' magic number for clinching: 27.

AL East

Jeff Niemann got pounded again, in his second start since coming off the disabled list, and the Rays fell out of the first-place tie. Rocco Baldelli is among those who are being called up by Tampa Bay.

The promotion of Desmond Jennings, by the way, tells us that the Rays are prepared to open next season with Jennings in their outfield.

Phil Hughes struggled with his command again, but the Yankees' offense carried them; Mark Teixeira has been hammering the Oakland pitching staff.

Another note on Teixeira: He hit his 30th home run of the season Tuesday, becoming just the fourth player in MLB history (Albert Pujols, Eddie Mathews, Ralph Kiner being the others) to hit 30-plus HRs in at least seven of his first eight seasons. Teixeira, a notorious slow starter, is having another one of his patented strong finishes again this season. Since the All-Star break, far more of his fly balls are leaving the park, including nine in August. It was the most home runs he's hit in a month since May of last year and the second-most he's ever hit in August.

Marcus Thames is on a roll, as Ben Shpigel writes. A.J. Burnett could be pitching for his spot tonight, writes Brian Costello.

Marco Scutaro made a pivotal error and nearly threw his glove in frustration, writes Amalie Benjamin; the Red Sox are just about dead. Theo Epstein is conceding nothing.

The Yankees' magic number: 30

Dings and dents

1. Stephen Strasburg will have his surgery Friday.

2. A Mariners pitcher is having exploratory surgery, writes Geoff Baker.

3. Justin Upton hopes to return to the Arizona lineup soon.

4. Josh Hamilton got a shot in his knee.

Tuesday's games

1. The Royals won on a wild pitch, as Bob Dutton writes.

2. Yovani Gallardo is in a serious rut, writes Tom Haudricourt.

3. Felix Hernandez added to his Cy Young résumé by dominating the Angels.

4. The Angels continue to crumble down the stretch, and continue to struggle for runs.

5. The Oakland pitching staff has gotten pounded in New York, as Susan Slusser writes.

6. The D-backs' Ian Kennedy made adjustments and won, writes Nick Piecoro.

7. Justin Masterson continues to make his case to be part of the Cleveland rotation in 2011, as Paul Hoynes writes.

8. Jordan Zimmermann had a really strong outing, but Washington lost. The Nationals will provide plenty to think about, writes Thomas Boswell.

9. The Rangers lost on a wild pitch, writes Jeff Wilson. How Cliff Lee struggled again, from Mr. Singer:

A. He had poor command (for him): Lee has been a strike-throwing machine this season, leading all starters with a 71.8 strike percentage. On Tuesday, however, he was as poor as he's been all season at pounding the zone. He threw 70 of 108 pitches for strikes (64.8 percent), his lowest strike percentage in a start this season -- incredibly, still above the MLB average of 62.8.

B. He didn't get ahead in the count: Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of 25 batters faced (56 percent), his lowest percentage in a start this year and well below his season average of 70 percent.

10. The Marlins won in extra innings, writes Tom D'Angelo.

11. Neil Walker and the Pirates had a really big day. Andrew McCutchen broke out, as Dejan Kovacevic writes.

12. The Orioles finished off a great August, writes Jeff Zrebiec.

13. The Blue Jays mashed their 200th homer Tuesday, as Bob Elliott writes -- and Jose Bautista clubbed his 43rd homer.

Check out this picture of Bautista getting hit by a pitch.

The Patience Index

Other stuff

• Derek Jeter's lackluster season continues, and this will be problematic in his negotiations, writes John Harper; Jeter is hitting .266.

Roger Clemens is out of this world, writes Bob Ryan, and he doesn't mean that in a good way.

Starlin Castro has joined the batting race.

Jamie Moyer talked with Joe Brescia about the virtues of hard work.

Mike Stanton is stuck in a deep, deep slump.

• Ron Washington is ready for an old-timers' game.

• Vanderbilt should look at Northwestern as an example to follow, writes David Climer. The Geek Bowl is Saturday. (Just kidding.)

And today will be better than yesterday.