Manny era in Los Angeles comes to a close quietly

Manny Ramirez captivated Los Angeles when he arrived two years
ago, lifting the Dodgers into the playoffs and beguiling the fans
with his dreadlocks, his smile and his big swing.

It all ended Monday when the Chicago White Sox claimed the
slugger on waivers from the Dodgers, who received nothing in
return. In reality, though, Mannywood went into foreclosure a long
time ago.

”It was time for us and it was time for him,” general manager
Ned Colletti said. ”If he could’ve played a lot in the outfield, I
would’ve kept him.”

But the 38-year-old left fielder was on the disabled list three
times this season, missing a total of 58 games because of two right
calf strains and a right hamstring strain.

He landed on the DL a second time in just his second game back
after being reinstated the first time this season.

”He wasn’t faking it. He was banged up,” Colletti said.

After returning from his latest injury on Aug. 21, Colletti said
it was clear to him that Ramirez couldn’t play the outfield even
though the slugger said he wanted to play every day. Without a
designated hitter in the NL, Ramirez became expendable.

”He wasn’t going to do that here,” manager Joe Torre said.

Torre didn’t start Ramirez in his final four games with the
team, choosing instead to go with recently acquired Scott Podsednik
as the leadoff hitter.

”Podsednik gave us a different dynamic that seemed to give us
more energy,” said Torre, acknowledging that Ramirez isn’t the
defensive player Podsednik is.

”The lack of defense was part of his inability to keep his legs
healthy, and that wasn’t his fault.”

Colletti said the White Sox rejected the Dodgers’ offer of $1.5
million for a prospect. Chicago turned down subsequent offers of $1
million and $500,000 for a lower-level prospect. Colletti said
Ramirez didn’t ask to be compensated for waiving the no-trade
clause in his two-year, $45 million contract.

Ramirez went to the White Sox as a straight waiver claim, making
them responsible for the entire $3.8 million remaining on his
deal.

That gave the cash-strapped Dodgers a break financially on the
same day owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife Jamie’s divorce
trial began in Los Angeles Superior Court. They are fighting over
ownership of the franchise.

”It doesn’t hurt,” Colletti said of the savings, ”and we’ll
be able to use it on the baseball side now and in the future.”

Ramirez parted ways with his teammates after the team’s flight
from Colorado arrived on Sunday night. Some didn’t get a chance to
say goodbye, while others like Casey Blake gave him a hug.

On Monday, his nameplate was gone from his old locker in the
clubhouse, with someone else’s bag resting on the shelf.

But he was remembered fondly, with the consensus being that
Ramirez’s short stint was well worth everything it brought, both
good and bad.

The good included helping the Dodgers reach the NL championship
series the last two years before being eliminated by Philadephia
one step from the World Series.

”He did a lot of great stuff while he was here,” Colletti
said. ”He showed a lot of our younger players how to win and how
to play. He excited the city and the franchise.”

Matt Kemp and Blake disagreed with the public perception that
Ramirez quit on the team.

”I don’t think he quit, he was hurt,” Kemp said. ”Manny is a
little older now and he can’t do the things he used to do.”

Blake added, ”Some of the things he does in the public view
people have looked down on. There’s a lot of people out there who
see and hear things and they want to judge. That’s unfair. He’s a
different cat. He beats to his own drum. I have nothing but respect
for the guy.”

Ramirez hadn’t talked to the media since the spring, when he
said this was going to be his final season in Los Angeles. As a
result, the fans hadn’t heard much from him, either.

His final at-bat with the Dodgers ended after one pitch Sunday
against the Rockies, when he was ejected for arguing a first
strike. Some fans calling into sports talk radio shows felt Ramirez
did it deliberately.

”I don’t think the incident was premeditated,” Blake said.
”It just didn’t look good.”

Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, in town for his team’s series
with the Dodgers, spent seven years with Ramirez in Cleveland as
the Indians’ hitting coach and later manager.

”Manny’s definitely not a bad guy, and he definitely doesn’t
mean to cause trouble or get into trouble. But his nonchalant way –
being funny and happy and the way he goes about that – I can see
where at times it can hurt a team,” Manuel said.

”The only time where I felt like he pressed was last year in
the postseason. That’s the first time I ever saw him have a lot of
tension on him. I used to say that every day this guy is
tension-free, and that’s how he played the game. But I imagine as
he’s gotten older, it’s hard for him to understand some of the
things that really mean a lot to the team.”

However, Torre said Ramirez maintained his professionalism to
the end.

”He never was a malcontent or someone who was late coming to
the ballpark,” he said. ”We just didn’t play well and I can’t
drop it all on him.”

A poster of Ramirez scheduled as the giveaway on Sept. 17 has
been canceled, with the posters never having been printed.

Earlier this month, the ”Mannywood” sign on the short fence in
the left-field corner was removed after an insurance company
purchased signage in each corner for the final two months of the
season.

When he arrived from Boston in a deal at the trade deadline two
years ago, Ramirez quickly won over the fans. Dreadlocked wigs and
his No. 99 jersey began flying off the racks at Dodger Stadium.

He showed a flair for the dramatic playing near Hollywood, with
a pinch-hit, tie-breaking grand slam that landed in ”Mannywood”
during a game in July 2009 on his own bobblehead night.

It came a few weeks after Ramirez returned from a 50-game
suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy. After that, he
wasn’t the same offensive player and injuries began piling up.

”2009 was a tough time,” Torre said. ”He was very embarrassed
about it and it really ruined his whole year.”

Back then, Ramirez had said, ”I’m back, Part 2.”

Asked if his second act would be better than his first, he said,
”Remember, you always leave the last part for the best. So that’s
what we’re going to do.”

It never happened.