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Monday, August 04, 2008

Manny, the alchemist (8/2/08)

Another day, another dramatic demonstration of one the key points from “Joy of Sox” - team chemistry is just as important as individual talent. This time, the Sox chose Kumbaya over Babe Ruth (that’s a reference to a sound bite from one of our science consultants), when they traded Hall of fame slugger Manny Ramirez for someone who won’t make up for his bat power, but whose presence should quiet down the decidedly unquiet vibes that have recently been emanating from the Sox clubhouse.

In a nutshell for the non-baseball fan, Manny Ramirez is one of the most talented batters to ever play the game, and will certainly end up in baseball’s Hall of Fame someday. During his last 8 years in Boston, he was a key ingredient in the celebrated 2004 team’s chemistry, exuding an attitude that has been characterized as goofy, child-like, nonchalant, yet showing such talent that he was called a batting savant, because he’s so oblivious to all the other factors that matter outside the batter’s box. Trouble has been building slowly for a couple of years, with the team usually excusing his sudden absences, mysterious ailments, and frequent lack of hustle by invoking the mantra “That’s Manny being Manny”, ie, loveable and unpredictable, but what a great hitter.

In the past few weeks, though, he’s crossed the line – sitting out a key game against the archrival Yankees (and getting MRIs of both knees, to ensure that he didn’t profess confusion about which knee needed the scan), even knocking down the team’s 60-something traveling secretary who couldn’t provide last minute tickets for a game. These events were affecting the team, leading to a recent slump that included a host of lowlights - poor play execution, missed cut off throws or pick off attempts, the small things that have to go right for a team to win.

And then, minutes before the League’s annual trading deadline, the deal was done and Manny was gone. His replacement was pretty good, but not great. And yet, who was the hero of the next two games? Newcomer Jason Bay- scoring the winning run in the 12th inning one day, then hitting a two run homer in his next. His positive reception by the Fenway crowd had a lot to do with his great performance, as he got standing ovations at his at bats and coasted on that wave of positive energy. Even his teammates admitted that the personnel change had to come or else the Sox would have disintegrated from within.

So for a team that values numbers and statistics above all else (remember, the principal owner is a hedge fund trader, and they have an official team statistical analyst who consults with their MBA whiz kid general manager), this dramatic late season move was more proof that they understand the value of chemistry. Sadly, of the few remaining veterans from the ’04 “lightning in a bottle” crew, only one has that lovable, outgoing, happy-go-lucky nature that made that team so special – David Ortiz. The other alchemists are long gone (Millar, Damon, Lowe, Martinez and Arroyo were the ringleaders), leaving behind a team of good guys and solid citizens, but with not a single real “character” among them. I fear, too, that the Sox’s talent pool has been depleted to such a degree this year that even good chemistry wouldn’t be enough to compensate. I don’t see them in the World Series this year, because you need both Manny/Babe Ruth and chemistry/Kumbaya, and unfortunately, we have don’t have enough of either.


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The Joy of Sox: Weird Science and the Power of Intention is produced by 2 Cousins Productions and Pinch Hit Productions. © 2006 The Joy of Sox Movie LLC. For more information, contact info@thejoyofsoxmovie.com.

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