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Steve Lunetta: Manny happy returns

Right About Now

Posted: March 9, 2009 12:37 a.m.
Updated: March 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.
"Well, I spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin' it from the bench;
You know I took some lumps when the Mighty Casey struck out.
So Say Hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio;
Don't say "it ain't so," you know the time is now."

-John Fogarty, "Centerfield"

The Dodger Nation can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The signing of super-slugger Manny Ramirez to a new, two-year, $45 million contract was completed last week. We may not have Willie, Ty, or Joe in center, but we've got Manny in left.

For those of you who were asleep for the last two months of the 2008 baseball season, Manny Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers for 17 Lee Lacy rookie cards and a box of Chicklets.

Ramirez then went on to bat a mere .396, with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 53 games.

He then went on to bat a paltry .500 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in the playoffs. He helped the Dodgers win their first playoff game since 2004 and their first playoff series since 1988.

To say that Ramirez had an effect on the Dodgers is a gross understatement. Manny woke up a moribund franchise, took the pressure off the rookies, put butts in the seats, and set a city on its ear. Children were wearing fake black dreadlocks to school.

Well, not in the Newhall School District. Teachers and staff can wear dreadlocks, but not the kids.

Some in the media have questioned whether Manny is worth $25 million this year. If he delivers a world championship to a Los Angeles Dodgers franchise awash in a sea of losing seasons and poor playoff performances, his reacquisition will be deemed a roaring success.

At least when millions of dollars get plowed into Manny, there is something to show for it. Unlike the billions that have been sunk into General Motors, about whom Deloitte & Touche LLP just recently raised "substantial doubt" that the automaker could continue operations. GM lost $82 billion in the past three years and $30 billion just last year.

And we were stupid enough to give GM $13.4 billion in loans and will probably give the carmaker another $30 billion.

Why don't we just give it to baseball?

Think about it - every seat in the stadium could be padded with its own closed-circuit TV so that you could catch that replay at the plate that you missed because your kid needed a chocolate malt with a little wooden spoon.

All of the baseball players could be paid a set fee with performance incentives. What about a base salary of $50 million each?

Then, $5 million for each homer and $1 million for each RBI.

No baseball player would ever be concerned about pay again. Also, your favorite players would never leave.

We'd never have to worry about a ridiculous argument between a greedy agent and a petulant owner. Never again. In fact, we could eliminate player agents all together, and guys like Manny's agent, Scott Boras, could go back to doing what they do best - chasing ambulances and stealing money from little old ladies.

GM has until March 31 to renegotiate contracts with the United Auto Workers to lower its cost structure and change rules that prevent it from becoming profitable. If history is any indicator, the UAW will not cooperate and the company will fold.

The UAW will, of course, call a strike. Union members carrying signs will be shown on the evening news walking in front of abandoned auto manufacturing plants. Union representatives will demand to restart negotiations with GM management.

Unfortunately, there will be no GM management. There will be no one sitting on the other side of the table. The union will rail against the "unfairness" of GM's tactics.

And the rest of America will be left to shake its collective head and wonder how such a mighty and proud company fell victim to selfishness, myopia and greed.

But in the meantime, Los Angeles has Manny back healthy, happy, and ready to lead the Dodgers once again.

With the drunken spending binge of the New York Yankees in the offseason, the possibility of a Dodgers-Yankees fall classic is definitely in the offering.

The $25 million spent on Manny will ensure that the Dodgers will be there in October. The $48 billion spent on GM will not ensure anything.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Mondays in The Signal.


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