L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez makes what many Dodger fans will find an indecent proposal: Lopez says he will hand over a pair of World Series (Game 4) tickets worth $500 to the person who writes the best 50-word essay scolding Left Fielder Manny Ramirez for being . . . Manny Ramirez.
"I can't bring myself," Lopez writes, "to pay good money for the privilege of watching a fraud." Bearing a headline that suggests a slum-clearance campaign, "Dismantle Mannywood," Lopez's column delineates all that is wrong with the team's lethargic slugger: Manny's overpriced salary, this season's 50-game suspension, his lack of hustle, the passive-aggressive statements to the press. It's all there and it's all things most of us churn over in our heads or even say out loud in the car to ourselves -- until Manny hits a home run or we're handed a Manny bobble-head at the park.
Lopez's rage is righteous and well-articulated. Let's face it, though
-- Mannywood is not a real place but a marketing construct. If Ramirez
weren't around it'd be Kempville or Andre Town. This year's home paid
attendance at Dodger Stadium was a stratopheric 3.7 million -- with a
combination of luck and decent relief pitching, post-season play could
theoretically stretch that to a staggering four million forgiving fans.
Chavez Ravine is a field of profits and Manny Ramirez is the Dodger
organization's (not the team's) Colonel Sanders. If he didn't exist it
would be necessary to invent him, and the fact that he periodically
does hit a single or double makes it all the better. (Or at least easier to
Steve Lopez is right to chide the unquestioning fans and to bemoan the
"social and moral decay at work if a player could act like a spoiled
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child and still be marketed and idolized." But in this country today a
Manny Ramirez is not much different than those CEOs who get multi-million
dollar bonuses for destroying their companies. In the back of our minds
Manny (or Mannywood), like AIG or Citibank, is too big to fail.