MLB: Manny Ramirez speaks, and he’s full of surprises
By T.J. Simers
Los Angeles Times
CHESTER, W.Va. — Of all places.
One hour outside Pittsburgh, and what are the chances of running into Manny Ramirez way out here, let alone land what might be considered an outrageous interview?
He begins talking and there's no shutting him up, Manny making it very clear Jamie McCourt has his support, and right about now I would imagine Frank is picking up the telephone.
He also talked about how his agent, Carlos Lopez, which will undoubtedly be news to Scott Boras, named San Francisco as favorite in the West. Manny Ramirez says his favorite baseball player is Manny Ramirez. What a surprise.
It's Tuesday night on the tail end of an off day for the Dodgers, nothing for four sportswriters to do in Pittsburgh except go to a hockey game, so everyone agrees it's best to get out of Pittsburgh.
We make the trek to West Virginia and the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort, the best chance any of us will ever have in the newspaper business of getting a raise again — if only No. 5 wins the third.
There is almost no one here when we arrive, so it's easy to understand why Manny Ramirez has selected this as his hideaway.
MLB.com's Ken Gurnick spots him first but doesn't think it a Page 1 story. ESPN.com's Tony Jackson has never been to a racetrack or to West Virginia, and he's so distracted that when he first sees Manny, he acts as if he's never seen him before.
The problem for everyone is that none of us knows if Manny will agree to speak, and if he does, will he do so only in Spanish.
Los Angeles Times beat writer Dylan Hernandez can speak Spanish, and Hernandez agrees to stop betting on the races if that's what it will take to get an interview. Sacrifices, sacrifices.
But we get lucky. We run into Ron Staley, who says he knows Manny and he will persuade Manny to talk with us. If only Joe Torre would be so helpful.
We also catch a break because there's no sign of Ronnie Belliard — hired by the Dodgers to laugh at Manny's jokes, allow Manny to ignore his other teammates and talk trash about reporters in Spanish so the reporters won't know what he's saying.
Without Belliard, Manny seems like a different guy. He smiles when he sees us. He takes off his blue cap. It's like he welcomes the opportunity to open up.
He shakes hands with everyone, but then blows off Hernandez. Manny just being Manny. He will speak in English, no need for Hernandez, and so we begin to chat.
Hernandez takes rejection in stride, using the time to count his $32 in losses, happy he saved his losing tickets because he knows how the newspaper likes receipts when charging anything over $25 on his company expense account.
There's no telling how long Manny is going to speak, it seems like a lifetime since the last time we heard him say anything, so right away I ask who gets his support, Frank or Jamie McCourt?
Without hesitation Manny says, "Jamie," and he's very adamant about it.
He also says he wants more money, every month — I presume, so it starts to make sense why he would support Jamie.
He mentions his agent, Lopez, and explains why he hired him. "I just like him," he says, which should clear things up for Boras.
He says his heart wasn't in the Pirates' opener — probably just what some people would expect to hear from Manny Ramirez. He also admits, "I was never any good on defense."
But he takes off his jersey, possibly a ploy to show everyone he's in shape, although it appears he's shrunk. When I mention female fertility drugs, he reacts as if he's never heard of them.
We start talking about Arizona, Colorado, San Diego and San Francisco. He says he favors San Francisco, and I wonder how that plays in the Dodgers' clubhouse.
He says it's just part of the game, finishing last. "Happens every day," he says, and I thought that was just when Vicente Padilla pitches.
He hates Boston more than any other city, wants to live in Florida, and we're talking to Manny Ramirez here, so why bother telling him that's exactly where Manny Ramirez lives?
Manny says he has no problem "with you guys," meaning the media, and if he was like this all the time, the admiration would be mutual.
He thanks us for talking to him, and imagine that. He would've talked all night, but a racetrack official says they're locking up.
So we all say goodbye to Mountaineer jockey Emanuel Ramirez, known around the track as Manny Ramirez — as good a time as any of us can recall having with Manny Ramirez.