Will Manny be the spark the Sox need to catch the Twins?

Editor’s note: The Rock River Times welcomes back Sports Columnist S.C. Zuba, who spent the summer covering the Kansas City Royals for mlb.com. Zuba is entering his senior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

By S.C. Zuba
Sports Columnist

Someone might want to place a call to the White Sox’s clubhouse attendant and request two lockers for Manny Ramirez—one for his belongings, and the other for his ego.

Reports indicate Manny’s time with the Dodgers has expired, and the 38-year-old slugger will now help the slumping White Sox in their quest to fend off the reigning American League Central Division champion Twins.

Now, there are two ways to look at this deal. First, you can look back to what Manny did for the Dodgers when he was traded just minutes before the trade deadline in 2008. Or, you can look at what he did to the Red Sox to force that very trade.

Let’s explore the first option. After that trade, Manny exploded at the plate, batting .396 in 187 at-bats, with 17 homers and 53 RBIs as he led the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series.

He provided a spark for that team as the Dodgers went 30-23 in the regular season with Manny. It’s impossible to say with certainty, but the numbers point to the Dodgers missing the playoffs without Manny’s services.

Los Angeles was three games back in the National League West before the acquisition of Manny, and ended up winning the division by four-and-a-half games.

It’s exactly that type of spark the White Sox need to propel themselves past the Twins.

There is, however, an old saying that is dangerously applicable to this situation: “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Those words speak volumes in the case of Manny Ramirez. At first, Manny’s antics were laughable. It was billed as simply, “Manny being Manny.” Take, for example, when he left the outfield at Fenway Park to use the bathroom before the start of an inning. The Red Sox laughed it off, but that was only the beginning.

It’s a scary thing when a players thinks he has become bigger than the game, or the team. With thinking like that, it’s only a matter of time before more serious problems arise.

Like when Manny slid to catch a line drive, and the ball went sailing past him. Instead of quickly getting up to retrieve the ball, he just lay there and faked an injury. He made it clear he was done with Boston. In time, his ego grew too big for his locker at Fenway Park, and the Red Sox decided enough was enough.

Over his career, which has spanned 18 seasons at the professional level, Manny has feuded with umpires, players and managers. He has taken the focus off the team and placed it on himself. He has thought of himself as larger than the game.

But one thing is certain: The guy can swing the bat.

Manny has been both a cancer and a life support; a savior and a destroyer; a hero and a villain—the question is, what will he be for the White Sox?

Share your thoughts with S.C. Zuba via e-mail at samuelczuba@gmail.com.

From the Sept. 1-7, 2010 issue

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