It’s time for Manny to step up

In his last act as a Los Angeles Dodger, Manny Ramirez lived down to his reputation for disrespectful, immature behavior. On Sunday, he was ejected after arguing a called strike on the lone pitch of his only at-bat.

Within hours of Ramirez’s all-too-predictable exit, the baseball world learned that he was bound for the Chicago White Sox.

Great news for Manny, right? Here was his latest — maybe final — chance at reputation salvation. Hop on the next flight, say how excited you are to play in Chicago, get in the lineup as quickly as possible and gap a few doubles.

Instead, we’re still waiting for the New Manny to make his grand entrance.

The White Sox have played two games since Ramirez officially joined the organization on Monday. He didn’t appear in either of them.

He showed little urgency, reporting to the White Sox nearly 48 hours after the Dodgers decided to part with him.

Despite attending high school in New York and conducting English interviews throughout his career, he insisted on a Spanish interpreter for his introductory news conference after he finally arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday. He wore Oakley sunglasses — with a MP3 player attached — in the basement-like interview room, while answering the first couple questions.

And when a reporter asked if he intended to cut his hair to conform to the White Sox appearance policy, Ramirez dismissed the question as “stupid” and said he’s only worried about playing baseball.

On Tuesday, Manny being Manny meant more of the same, tired attitude.

A bad sign, even if the White Sox didn’t seem to care.

“Off-the-field things are not my problem,” manager Ozzie Guillen declared. “I worry about the production.”

Uh-oh. Manny hasn’t even taken his first White Sox at-bat, and the team is already covering for him. We figured Guillen would need to pacify Ramirez at some point — just like Terry Francona, just like Joe Torre — but would it be the worst thing if he acted like a hardliner for a day or two?

Maybe until Manny, you know, gets a base hit?

OK, full disclosure here: I wrote Monday that acquiring Ramirez was a “perfect move” for the White Sox. I still believe that. The acquisition makes sense. For all his antics Tuesday, he can and will hit.

It’s just that, for the time being, fans in Chicago have a right to be concerned about Manny’s public indifference. His performance before the cameras Tuesday was on par with boxer James Toney in the octagon.

Fortunately, the White Sox aren’t paying him $4 million to give speeches. But they have to wonder if they will truly get their money’s worth. Because the White Sox are off Thursday, Ramirez will appear in one game during his first four days as a Jerry Reinsdorf employee.

Ramirez arrived at the ballpark several hours before the first pitch on Tuesday but still didn’t play. He did, however, meet with Guillen. He told his manager that he was “willing to do what you want to do.”

But  …

“I didn’t like the way he said it,” Guillen said.

So, he sat.

Manny nearly entered as a pinch hitter in the ninth. He even moved into the on-deck circle. But a three-run home run by A.J. Pierzynski meant Manny’s services wouldn’t be needed. So, it was another day off for the big guy, who has had 13 official at-bats in the major leagues since June 29.

Here’s my question: If Manny was really, truly eager to join the White Sox, then why didn’t he dig into his own deep pockets and charter a flight to Cleveland on Sunday night?

By then, it was a foregone conclusion that he would join the White Sox. And a private jet for Ramirez — who earns roughly $100,000 per day — is a venti coffee for the rest of us.

Who knows? The White Sox may have even reimbursed him for the cost.

The point is that — with a pennant race going on — a little hustle would have been a nice touch. Instead, he took an early-morning commercial flight Tuesday, leaving him supposedly too weary to play.

When asked why Manny was held out of Tuesday’s lineup, Ozzie replied, “My call.” But was it really? With Ramirez already this deep in his passive-aggressive playbook?

Manny made a spectacle of himself during his first day in a White Sox uniform, and it was hard to tell if the reason was diabolical or something more benign. He hasn’t spoken to the media all season, and he wasn’t about to make it easy on us just because he changed teams.

He requested an interpreter just moments before the news conference began, leaving bench coach Joey Cora as one of the few available options. Frankly, the task of translating for Ramirez — who has spoken fluent English for years — is beneath Cora, an intelligent baseball man who could easily be a major-league manager at this time next year. But there was Cora on the dais, telling us that Manny wouldn’t explain Sunday’s ejection because “the past is the past.”

(Maybe I’m not giving Manny enough credit. He studied McGwire.)

The issue isn’t that Ramirez would rather catch an Aroldis Chapman bullpen session than take questions from the media. Affability has nothing to do with hitting a baseball. It’s just that — as someone who believes the White Sox were wise to acquire him — I would have rather seen more sincerity from Ramirez during his first day on the job.

Take the dreadlocks, for example. Manny, of course, is entitled to the hairstyle of his choosing. But now he works for an owner (Reinsdorf) who has a rule about keeping a neat-and-clean appearance. A little trim would have been a good gesture. In fact, a barber was on site at Progressive Field on Tuesday. But no.

And there was no nudge from the manager’s office.

“That’s Jerry’s problem,” Guillen said. “I don’t know if he called (Manny) or not. That’s not in my rules. As a manager, I would appreciate he do that. But if Manny don’t want to do it, the only power I have is to bench him. Well, we brought Manny here to play.

“If I was Manny, I’d try to make the chairman happy. But the only thing I worry about (with) Manny is to make sure he’s there on time and drive in some runs.”

With his latest team, Manny is skipping right over the honeymoon period and going straight to the coddle-me stage. As long as he hits, no one will care.

But it’s been 73 days since his last home run. It’s about damn time that Manny Ramirez do something.