Tampa honeymoon could be ending for Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez's honeymoon with Tampa Bay may be shorter than the Rays' first homestand.
Ramirez, who had been on his best behavior since signing a $2-million free-agent contract with the Rays over the winter, slipped out of the clubhouse before the media were allowed in following Tuesday's 5-3 loss to the Angels. Ramirez was booed lustily while going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. It was Ramirez's third hitless game in four starts, dropping his season average to .062. (In fairness to Ramirez, he's not the only Ray who is struggling. The team has scored six runs in four games -- all losses -- and is hitting .138. The 0-4 start is the first in team history, which is surprising given the fact the Rays' .438 winning percentage is the worst of any current franchise.)
"I want the fans to know he works. This man really works, this man really cares," Tampa Bay Manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "It's not working for him right now but he's going to be fine. We need to let him be himself and let Manny be Manny and go out there and not try to carry us."
Ramirez captivated the Tampa fans and media during spring training, much as he did in Los Angeles after joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2008. Ramirez carried the team to the National League Championship Series that fall, leading the team to create a special seating area in the left-field bleachers called "Mannywood."
But after being suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy, Ramirez stopped talking to the media and had his worst offensive season since his rookie year. Last summer he missed half the team's games, getting thrown out after one pitch in his final at-bat, before the Dodgers put him on waivers.
It's too early to tell how this latest chapter will end. But the track record isn't good: Ramirez wore out his welcome with surly behavior in Cleveland and Boston before doing the same in Los Angeles. His new teammates, meanwhile, closed ranks behind him before Wednesday's game with the Angels, the finale of a season-opening five-game homestand.
"It's way too long of a season to be booing somebody right now," B.J. Upton said. "That I do not understand one bit."
-- Kevin Baxter in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Photo: Tampa Bay's Manny Ramirez reacts after striking out in the fourth inning Tuesday against the Angels. Credit: Mike Carlson / Associated Press