TWO VIEWS OF MANNY’S RETURN, SIR CHARLES & GOLF

July 18, 2009

T.J.Simers & Bill Plaschke of the LA Times have opposing views on the return of Manny Ramirez, and neither one has any fear of writing how he feels.

Simers- pro-Manny

It is hours before his return to Dodger Stadium becomes official and Manny Ramirez is all grins walking down the tunnel leading to the dugout, bat in hand, and then he notices the manager surrounded by media.                                                                                    
He immediately pushes his way through the crowd to sit beside Joe Torre, Torre joking, “Here goes all the attention I was going to get.”
In seconds Manny has everyone laughing, the very reason why almost no one in L.A. can, or is going to, remain upset with the big goof who is already a proven entertainer. PLASCHKE MADE a big deal in the paper earlier, going so far as to suggest the Dodgers should not bring Manny back, but now he’s sitting in
Mannywood.
I suppose he has his reasons, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s wearing a wig. If you’ve seen “Around the Horn,” you know what I’m talking about.
It’s now 7:04 p.m., the Dodgers’ lineup being announced to a half-full stadium and Ramirez gets the loudest cheers of any Dodgers player. If you’ve ever seen “Around the Horn,” you know how loud Plaschke can be.
As for being caught, Torre says, “In his mind he didn’t do it intentionally. He will be a little more diligent what he puts in his body, would be my guess.”
Who among us have not mistakenly taken female fertility drugs? But what about Manny’s legacy, the 50-game suspension served, yet most Hall of Fame voters probably forever turned off?
“I will worry about that when I retire; there’s plenty of time,” Manny says. “I just wish I could have been around here longer. It’s good I won two championships in Boston, but you know what they say, it’s all about saving the best for last.”
Legacy shmegacy, next Wednesday every fan in attendance will receive a Manny Ramirez Bobblehead, and not every baseball player and banned substance user is so honored.
I hope I can get one for Plaschke’s desk.
Manny’s hair is longer by the way, but no one seems interested. Those were the days. TORRE’s ASKED if he’s worried about blowing it now that the Dodgers are so far ahead.
“I had a three-game [playoff] lead against Boston,” he says. “I’ve done the ultimate blowing. I blew that inside a week. So what can I do in a couple of months, who knows?”

Plaschke- anti-Manny

After blowing off honesty, accountability and one-third of the season, Manny Ramirez did something more egregious in his return to Dodger Stadium on
Thursday.
He blew off Mannywood.
In the first inning of his first appearance in a left-field corner adorned with the “Mannywood 99” banner and filled with hundreds of loving fans who paid a premium for their proximity, Ramirez acted as if none of it existed.
As if his employers had not just compromised their integrity by continuing to name an entire section of seats in honor of a drug cheat.
As if his fans had not just gone against all reason to embrace him in his first home appearance after 50 games on a drug-policy suspension.
As if he didn’t owe anybody anything.
“I was just mentioning that to my wife,” said Mike Jaramillo, a postal worker from Torrance who was seated in the heart of Mannywood. “I came here to see how he would react, but he didn’t look at us, didn’t acknowledge us, seemed kind of arrogant.”
 Kind of?                                                                                                                                                    On a night when Ramirez could have finally returned some of the love that has been showered on him over the last two months, he gave little.
In a 3-0 loss to the Houston Astros, he failed to hustle after a line drive that bounced off the bullpen fence, struck out twice, flailing, and showed little respect for his most loyal fans.
“Twenty-one years is a long time, we can only live off Kirk Gibson for so long,” said Brent Aguilar, a Mannywood visitor. “We’ve got to sell our souls to get
another one.”
At least he was honest about it. So was postman Jaramillo, who was the only soul in Mannywood who actually, momentarily, jeered the slugger.
“Cheat-er, cheat-er,” he chanted before his voice wilted in the face of hundreds of scowls.
“Actually, I like Manny,” he said later. “But somebody has to say something.”
Ramirez should have felt fortunate that Jaramillo was the only one in Mannywood who was publicly critical, yet the mayor didn’t act like it.
If there is any sense that he is thankful for any of the blessings bestowed upon him by his forgiving fans, it is not obvious. If he even cares that the Dodgers have bowed to his every whim, it is not apparent.
“I was just trying to focus on the game,” he said of Thursday night.
Fine, but wasn’t it a night when at least a little public display of affection would have made sense?
As Thursday showed, the unconditional support has only made him feel more empowered.
Like, before the game, when Ramirez plopped down on the bench next to Manager Joe Torre in the middle of Torre’s daily meeting with reporters and started taking questions.
The focus of dozens of reporters immediately turned to Ramirez, leaving Torre to sit patiently and wait for the slugger to finish his shtick.
In my 26 years of covering baseball, that is the first time I have seen a player upstage a manager that way. And for it to happen to one of the best managers in baseball history, well, the kindly Torre didn’t seem to mind, but it rattled the senses.
“If you didn’t know him, you would think he’s a pain in the neck,” Torre said. “But he’s able to relieve all the tension with his attitude and personality.”
As he has done all along, Torre also defended the fan’s right to cheer him.
“Nobody says its OK to violate rules, but he took his punishment and fans came here to be entertained,” Torre said. “They’re just looking forward to him
playing baseball.”
You know what was the most entertaining part of Thursday night? It occurred in the seventh inning, with the huge, surprise standing ovation given to pinch-hitter
Juan Pierre.
It was louder than anything heard by Ramirez. It was as if fans wanted to thank him for his hard work in keeping the team in first place while Ramirez was missing. Good for those fans. Good for Pierre.
If only there was the same attitude of gratitude in that guy who replaced him.”

 

Ron Kroichick was pretty brave to be a caddy for Charles Barkley at a celebrity golf tournament. Hr described his experience by writing in the SF Chronicle,
“By the time he reached the No. 6 tee, Charles Barkley realized the gallery was in danger. So, when he spotted two spectators obliviously wandering down an adjacent cart path – about 100 yards away, left of the fairway, outside the ropes – Barkley offered a loud, friendly warning.                                                                                                                                         
“Y’all better pay damn attention,” he shouted. “That’s right in my wheelhouse.”            
Give him this: The man with the most infamous swing in golf doesn’t take himself seriously. Barkley came here for the American Century Championship, the annual celebrity tournament starting today outside South Lake Tahoe, and spent Thursday’s exhibition round spraying wayward shots, sharpening his comedy routine and providing lively entertainment for the many fans who showed up to see him.              
Here’s the strange part: I was his caddie.                                                                    
Barkley didn’t even mind if I took notes more reliably than I read putts. He greeted me on the practice range with a smile and a quip – “You’re getting hazard pay today, huh?” – and stayed in good spirits throughout our 5-hour, 45-minute journey around Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.                                                                                              
The experience was alternately hilarious and insightful. On No. 3, where Barkley needed to bend his approach shot around several tall trees to a small green, I ignored reality and encouragingly said, “Just hit a high, soft cut, no problem.” He replied confidently, “Oh yeah, I got that shot.”                                                                                  
A woman standing nearby heard this, laughed and said, “No, you don’t.” She offered to bet Barkley $5 he couldn’t pull off the shot. He wisely resisted – no
small feat, given his gambling issues – before clanging his shot into one of the trees.                                
One curious thing I learned Thursday: Barkley is a stud on the range. He hit balls for a half-hour before his round without any sign of the ugly, mid-swing hitch Hank Haney (Tiger Woods’ coach) tried to fix on their recent Golf Channel reality show. The ball routinely flew high and straight, making Barkley look like an
actual golfer. Honest.                                                                                                                                                    
Then he strolled to the No. 1 tee, stopped in the middle of his downswing – akin to a car abruptly reaching a red light – and hit his customary low, unsightly hook.
The crowd practically groaned, until Barkley broke the silence by saying, “Hey, Tiger played like s- today. It’ll be OK.”                                                                                            
Barkley even stayed in good humor when another famous friend, Michael Jordan, showed up. Jordan was playing two groups behind Barkley in this celebrity-amateur event, so when play backed up on No. 16, Jordan burst onto the tee and reminded his buddy to “keep that big old head still.”                                                                           
Another hitch, another hideous hook.                                                                             
 Jordan naturally made fun of Barkley – their relationship is built on savage trash talk – but his tone changed when Barkley walked away. Jordan’s voice dropped low and he seemed genuinely saddened by his friend’s lingering mental block.                                  
“For a guy who has great passion for the game, I feel so bad for him,” Jordan said. “He just can’t get loose on the course. I haven’t played with Charles in years, mainly because I don’t want him to feel any added pressure.”                                                         
This helps explain why Barkley exposed himself to public humiliation on “The Haney Project” – the chance to fix his ailing swing and revive his long-ago duels with Jordan. Those outings flowed with rollicking laughter, until Barkley developed his bizarre hitch.                                                                                                                          
“You want to be able to compete,” he said. “That’s the problem. Michael and I used to have some good matches back in the day.”                                                                            
Barkley sets aside his misgivings in Tahoe partly because of his connection with the people here. He’s no saint – see his DUI arrest in Arizona on New Year’s Eve – but he endeared himself to locals by donating nearly $200,000 to victims of the 2007 Angora fire. Several fans thanked him Thursday.                                                               
His good-natured demeanor was especially evident to me and Sam Adams, a Colorado writer who carried Barkley’s bag on the back nine. When one of his
wedge shots soared toward the flagstick, he implored the ball to “get in the hole.” I chided him for being greedy – his tournament caddie, Chris Detsch,
suggested giving Barkley grief whenever possible – and Barkley replied, “I don’t have too many chances to say that. It’s not often I hit the ball at the pin.”                                                                         
My personal highlight came when one of his putts followed the exact line I predicted. Barkley looked up, startled, and said, “You’re smarter than you look.”
(Low bar, pal.)      
I was feeling pretty good about my effort until the round ended. Barkley offered a hearty handshake and these parting words: “Enjoyed it, my brother. Don’t give up your day job.”                                                                                                            
Charles Barkley is a star on the driving range, but on the course, his swing is full of starts, stops and uncontrollable hitches. It’s both sad – to his friends – and
funny.

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