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Will unemployed fans find empathy for Manny? ...

Baseball’s middle-class roots have been threatened for decades, almost literally since the arrival of free agency 34 years ago, but fortunately, the hold the game of baseball has on the American psyche is so profound that even the numbskulls who run the game haven’t been able to destroy it. But God knows they’ve tried, though I am willing to concede probably inadvertently.

But the absence of intent hardly gets them off the hook for having stood in the owner’s box and watched as the best game on Earth gets battered from every direction.


That ponderous introduction results from hearing news that Manny Ramirez has politely declined the Dodgers’ offer of $25 million for the exalted privilege of having him take another season of swings at Chavez Ravine.

In normal times, that would be little more than another annoying bit of nonsense from the singularly narcissistic modern athlete, but these are hardly normal times. One of the zillions of reasons that old-timers are so beloved by older fans is that many of them used to spend their winters working a wide variety of odd jobs in order to make ends meet. We could relate to them on a personal level.

Of course, that means they were sorely underpaid back then, just as many are perhaps obscenely overpaid now. But of course, that’s a subjective judgment. (Original artwork of Manny Ramirez by acclaimed artist Paul Madden;

The responsibility for doing all that overpaying lies with the owners, who have been hornswoggled by the union at virtually every juncture for more than 30 years.

It’s kind of interesting to ponder how fans will react in 2009 to a player turning up his nose at a paltry $25 million, especially in a time when millions represent chump change. These days, we talk hundreds of billions, and don’t hardly blink.

And I assume just about everybody who reads this knows someone – a family member or a friend – who’s lost his/her job over the last year. And for those who haven’t lost their job, they’ve watched helplessly as a hapless government and malevolent band of thieves on Wall Street teamed up to threaten the present and the future all in one fell swoop of greed and insanity.

I’m not even mad at the man-child Manny, who I guess shouldn’t be crucified for merely being Manny. He’s been elevated to heroic status and paid handsomely for all of his adult life for doing all the stuff he has done precisely as he has done it.

I have a bit less sympathy for his agent, Scott Boras, who may have finally botched what otherwise should have been a routine grounder to first.

We’ve got to figure out an acceptable way to “boo” the actual people who deserve to get booed.

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