GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The mood brightened in sunny, balmy Dodgers camp with the news that
The slugging savant's influence and impact on the team were as big as all Chavez Ravine, and Dodgers personnel understood that, which is why several of them were cringing as club owner
Manny was Manny, according to all meeting attendees. Which is to say he was excited to be back playing baseball, whether or not he had that $100 million contract in hand. "I think he's basically chomping at the bit to get on the field,'' Torre said.
The $45 million deal over two years, with an opt-out option for Ramirez, is much better than the Dodgers' original offer (which was also for $45 million over two years) in that this deal only keeps Ramirez under Dodgers control for one year while that one -- with a third-year player option -- kept him in their control for three. So even though Ramirez didn't get his four-year deal now, he's got a shot at one next winter, especially if he stays on good behavior for another full year and the freefalling economy starts to turn around.
Some folks in baseball were complimenting McCourt for standing up to Boras and not acceding to much bigger requests. However, no one wearing a uniform was counting dollars.
"We couldn't win without him,'' one Dodgers person said. "Everyone in here [the clubhouse] knows it.''
Most of Manny's Dodger teammates didn't go quite that far. Although, they didn't have to. The evidence was already in last season. The Dodgers were a blah .500 team when Manny arrived, and he took them into the NLCS (hard as it is to believe, Ramirez has now played as many LCS games as dynasty's
"We were prepared to give it a go without him, and I don't think we were lacking confidence,'' Dodgers outfielder
"You don't want him on another team helping them,'' outfielder
As fate would have it, the Dodgers were playing their archrival Giants on this spring day, and Giants president
Baer likened it to when the Giants had
Manny played the negotiating game, not committing to where he most wanted to go. But it turns out he likes everything about L.A. that he didn't like about Boston. He lived in Pasadena last year and could walk around the village without being accosted. Even in the smoggy air, he felt he could breathe better than in Boston.
Baer said the Giants were willing to make offers but suggested they weren't about to blow L.A. away. "We have a full outfield, we have a situation where we wanted to be flexible in coming years, and I feel like we've significantly improved our team,'' Baer said.
The Dodgers did the same, but with one bold stroke (or shall I say four months of difficult, even contentious negotiations). Without him, they don't have anyone who scares opposing teams in their lineup. With him, they are a real threat. Without him, they are a.500 team, maybe. With him, they will be installed as favorites in the NL West.
Torre and Colletti made clear they couldn't talk about Ramirez's effect on the team until the deal is absolutely done (he just has the physical to go), but they practically waxed poetic about the hour-and-a-half meeting held at McCourt's Malibu abode.
"I felt very pleased with everyone's comfort level today,'' Torre said.
In other words, McCourt was not throwing any fits. He let everyone speak -- there were about eight attendees among Dodgers people and Manny people -- and not a discouraging words was said. This differentiated it from prior harsh negotiations, which became a public relations battle and threatened to send Ramirez to his second choice.
"We all wanted the same thing,'' Torre also said, meaning for Ramirez to be a Dodger.
That's true. And because Manny ultimately wanted to be a Dodger, probably more than anyone realized, he will be one today. That's great for him, better for them.