Hopefully the last word on Mannygate

Hi All, my name is Gary Jacobs, and while Evan is sunning himself, foofoo umbrella drink in hand (GOD, I’m jealous), I’m filling in for him.
And, of course, it’s a great time to write about the Red Sox (my usual gig is to write about the farm team and the Boston Bruins ). The events of the past week have served, like any adversity that doesn’t prove deadly, to strengthen the team and gear it up for the stretch run. In fact in hindsight it could be said that this kind of thing was just what the team needed.
We’ve heard the expression “Manny being Manny” far too often lately, from the writers and talking heads around Boston, and even from Manny himself. That expression seems to connote a sort of hitting savant, who can knock the cover off the ball when he wants to (or hit a clutch single when he wants to) but whose fielding is — to be charitable — suspect, and his clubhouse behavior is baffling. That last contention is a critical error in thinking, and correcting it is a key to understanding and working with Manny.
Because it’s widely been written by those same scribes and TV types that Manny has a certain “childlike” quality about him, which I don’t disagree with in the slightest. However, people that are baffled by his behavior don’t extend that metaphor far enough.
Children are prone to pout. Children often say things that they mean right then but don’t mean in the long view. Children often are stung by reproach and need to feel loved and validated all the time.
So when Manny demanded to be traded, it should have been met with the same sort of gravitas as if he had said that he was going to hold his breath until he turns blue and dies, and won’t we be sorry then. And, for the most part, it was.
Children need to, from time to time, feel the rod of correction (to borrow a phrase from the Bible, a book which I admittedly have little more than a passing familiarity). #38 apparently took care of that when he reminded him from two inches away of the old bromide about playing for the name on the front of the uniform, not on the back. And, like most corrective behavior in children, it worked.
Terry Francona, I think, gets this more than most. What did he do? Why, he grounded him, that’s what he did. Because that’s what you do with a misbehaving child.
Whether the powers that be displayed the wisdom herein encapsulated or they just lost his temper with him and benched his ass, I don’t know. All I know is it seemed to work beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Because just as a problem child can put a strain on a marriage, Manny’s troubles did indeed seem to upset the dynamic of the clubhouse (full disclosure: never having set foot in their clubhouse, that’s an outsider’s view). Now that Manny is once again pacified, it seems that not only has the clubhouse gotten back to where it was before, but I think that it has found its chemistry, its personality, and is far more ready for its stretch drive than it was a week ago.
Certainly other factors have contributed to that: Theo’s quiet dealings over the month of July have strengthened the club immeasurably (read: Hi, Graffanino, see you Bellhorn), the trade deadline is past so nobody is on pins and needles (the Boston Globe reported that Bill Mueller kept a packed suitcase with him all last week just in case). The PawSox have contributed Manny Delcarmen and Jon Papelbon (who is back down until the callups), and of course Curt’s back. But it does seem as if Mannygate (and the ensuing MannyMania in which we currently find ourselves) gave this team exactly what it needed. I feel comfortable about our ability to defend our title for the first time all year.
Incidentally, don’t misunderstand my observations about Manny as a knock on him: I love the guy. I’ve had the privilege of watching him up close his entire career (I lived in Cleveland when he started off there, and I moved back home the year he came here). You just have to know what you’re dealing with when you deal with him. Boston is reaping the benefits of that understanding and hopefully will all through October.

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