First of all, I want to thank the Arizona Diamondbacks for playing their part perfectly. They came into Fenway to get pounded by the Red Sox and performed their job admirably, getting swept in a very unremarkable fashion. They helped the Sox get within two games of the Rays and Yankees, and set things up for the weekend very well.
And this is the weekend everyone has been excited about since the schedule was announced. The return of Manuel Aristides Ramirez to Fenway Park was deemed to be such a big draw that they lumped these tickets in with the ones for Yankees games, and for good reason.
There was a time when I hated Manny. After he douched his way out of town two years ago (don’t forget that that was Boras aided), I felt betrayed. He had faked injuries, complained, physically assaulted a traveling secratary and gotten in a skirmish with an angry Youkzilla in the dugout. He wanted out because of money, ignoring what the people of this team and this town had given him for seven and a half years. He left on bad terms, and then seemed as if he had completely forgotten about us when he got to LA. Him bringing suspicion on the 04 and 07 title teams last season with his steroid busts didn’t help.
But since then, I’ve had to reconsider my stance on Manny. His exit from town notwithstanding, I can’t boo the guy. (An aside: I know I bashed Nomar a year ago for his departure from Boston. It’s a different situation. Manny was always a flake and never the hope of the entire region. He didn’t come up through the system and become recognized as the face of the franchise. Nomar did, and the way he snuck out of town was that much more hurtful for all of those reasons.)
That’s the rub of this whole thing; you can’t ignore what Manny meant to so many of us. His signing was a big part of the return to prominance for the Sox, and then he was the heart of the order for two title winning teams. Manny was an Idiot, he was the slightly aspbergery hitting savant that held down the middle of the order and made pitchers groan when they got around to his spot. He was the first World Series MVP in Red Sox history and he entertained us for seven and a half solid years. Without Manny, Johnny Pesky doesn’t have two rings. For that, ignoring the way he left (only because he’s not a Yankee), he needs to be cheered when he gets to the plate tonight. Loudly.
As cool as Manny’s return is, I’m more excited about Felix Dubront’s debut at Fenway tonight. Why? Because the kid put up almost Strasburg-esque (yeah, he’s already good enough that his minor league stats are being used as a measuring stick for other rookies) numbers this year in the minors (6-1, 2.11, 59.1 IP, 54K), and is one of the guys that Theo has been Bridging us to, though there has been little fanfare. At the very least, he is a starter who can show other teams something so that when the time comes to pick up a bat or shore up the bullpen in July, he could be very valuable.
Sweet, Manny vs Felix, 7:10.