On the night of September 27, as Mark Teixeira stood at home plate in Anaheim, Manny Ramirez stood at home plate in San Francisco. Scott Boras, seated in the second row at Angel Stadium, was watching Teixeira when he noticed out of the corner of his eye that the Dodgers game was being broadcast on the flat screen in his box. "Look," he said. "It's Manny." Boras, the agent to both players, was torn -- to watch Teixeira or Ramirez? For the next several minutes, his head spun as if on a swivel, from Teixeira to Ramirez and back again.
Teixeira and Ramirez have been linked since late July, when the Angels acquired Teixeira for the stretch run and the Dodgers countered with Ramirez two days later. Even though the Angels and the Dodgers are not in the same league, they compete for just about everything -- fans, media attention, sponsorship dollars, and the right to call Los Angeles their own. Clearly, the Dodgers are L.A.'s team and probably always will be. But the Angels have made obvious and impressive inroads over the past five years.
Now that Teixeira and Ramirez are free agents, their fortunes are again bound. Boras likes to say that every negotiation is separate, but Teixeira and Ramirez are both his clients, and it would greatly benefit Ramirez if Teixeira were to spurn the Angels and sign with the Red Sox, Orioles or Nationals instead. With Teixeira no longer in the picture, the Angels would inevitably turn to Ramirez and Boras would be able to start an epic intra-city bidding war -- Dodgers vs. Angels, local favor on the line. It is bad enough for the Dodgers to lose Ramirez after he single-handedly took them to the playoffs last season. But it would be humiliating if they lost him to the Angels, their supposed little brother in Orange County.
On the surface, Teixeira and Ramirez are nothing alike. Teixeira is reserved and businesslike, Ramirez flamboyant and unpredictable. But they are both fairly keen about the economics of baseball. Ramirez forced his way out of Boston last season so he could hit the free-agent market this winter. The Red Sox were enraged, but ultimately, they will be rewarded if Ramirez and Boras help grease the skids for them to land Teixeira. Ramirez may be a bat-wielding folk hero in Boston and Los Angeles-- Yogi Berra with dreadlocks -- but Teixeira is a much more valuable commodity at this stage of his career. Even though Red Sox owner John Henry told the Associated Press on Thursday night that his team was not going to be a factor in the Teixeira sweepstakes, indicating that they had been outbid, that could easily be another negotiating ploy, designed to make Teixeira and Boras lower their demands.
Boras will have no trouble finding a team to pony up at least eight years and $160 million for Teixeira, a 28-year-old Gold Glover who switch hits, has power to all fields, and does not take bathroom breaks during games. Rather, Boras will be judged this winter on the deal he swings for Ramirez, a 36-year-old outfielder whose level of motivation always seems to be in question. If the Angels are involved in the Ramirez sweepstakes, Boras can try to push the Dodgers to a long-term deal. But if the Angels get Teixeira, Ramirez may have to return to the Dodgers at a cut rate, or leave Southern California entirely. Ramirez is not the only heavy hitter waiting on Teixeira. A handful of others -- Milton Bradley, Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi -- are waiting for him to set the market. Once the big domino falls, the others will soon follow suit. Teams that miss out on Teixeira will likely target Ramirez, Bradley, Abreu and Giambi.
Ramirez has been good to Los Angeles, and it has been good to him. He spent less than three months with the Dodgers, but because of the buzz he created in those three months, he arguably has more value in L.A. than anywhere else. The Angels and the Dodgers are both playoff-caliber teams with stocked minor-league systems and who draw more than 3 million fans a year. But at times they suffer from a shortage of identifiable stars. If the Dodgers re-sign Ramirez, they will sustain the momentum they built at the end of last season. If the Angels sign him, they will simultaneously help themselves and hurt their cross-town competition. From a PR point of view, the Angels would probably create more of an impact in Southern California by signing Ramirez than Teixeira.
At this time a year ago, Boras suffered one of the few public embarrassments of his career, when Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract with the Yankees, only to go back to the Yankees and negotiate a contract with the help of two Goldman Sachs executives. After the deal was done, Rodriguez told Katie Couric in a 60 Minutes interview that he had stopped talking to his longtime agent. But in the end, Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees and Boras kept him as a client. A little public embarrassment has never been so profitable. This offseason, Boras represents the two best sluggers on the market, and he can use one to bolster the other.
Southern California started out as the epicenter of free-agent activity this winter. The Angels had exclusive negotiating rights with Teixeira, the Dodgers had exclusive negotiating rights with Ramirez, and Bay Area native CC Sabathia made no secret of his desire to sign with a team from his home state. But now that Sabathia has signed with the Yankees and Teixeira has reportedly met with the Red Sox, the focus has once again shifted back east.
The Dodgers and the Angels could be left fighting over Ramirez to salvage their respective offseasons. Ramirez, obviously, will not command as much cash as Sabathia or Teixeira, but his negotiations may generate the most entertainment, and in Los Angeles entertainment is still a large part of his appeal.