- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- A day after Manny Ramirez accepted blame and apologized for the way his tenure with the Red Sox ended in 2008, slugger David Ortiz acknowledged that "things weren't going in the right direction" during Manny's final days in Boston but pronounced his friend a changed man.
"If he was upset about something he wouldn't tell me, but he was upset about things [in 2008]," Ortiz said Saturday. "Everything started going crazy toward the end of his time here because he wanted his way out or whatever. Things happened and it's sad he went down like that with that caliber of player."
On Friday, Ramirez, who is back at Fenway Park this weekend with the Chicago White Sox, accepted responsibility for the ugly way things ended in Boston.
"I think everything was my fault," Ramirez told ESPNBoston.com. "But, hey, you've got to be a real man to realize when you do wrong. Hey, it was my fault. I'm already past that stage and I'm happy with my new team."
It was obvious to the Red Sox organization and his teammates at the time that Ramirez was unhappy in Boston in the months prior to the trade deadline in 2008. He became a problem on and off the field, and many of his relationships in the clubhouse soured. His transgressions included shoving the team's traveling secretary and an altercation with teammate Kevin Youkilis.
There was no love lost at the time of the deal that sent Ramirez to the Dodgers as part of a three-team trade that brought Jason Bay to Boston. The Red Sox players and front office were at odds with the slugger, so general manager Theo Epstein traded him.
"I'm just a guy who looks at his job like a guy who has to follow rules," Ortiz said. "It doesn't matter how good I am on the field or off the field, there are rules that I have to follow. I'm an employee here, so I don't do things that go against the rules of this clubhouse. I'm not saying that my boy did. I'm just saying there were some things that Manny and the front office didn't agree on and things went down that way."
The vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse quickly changed that summer. Prior to the trade, Ortiz knew Ramirez wasn't happy and knew there were days when he could have a conversation with his friend, and also knew there were days to stay away.
"It was something where they found a way to figure it out and they did because Manny went somewhere else," Ortiz said. "Things were getting a little dark around here and the team needed that. When I played with him I saw him do more good things than bad things. I would say seven of the eight years he played, he did his thing around here."
Ortiz and many of the rest of the Red Sox heard or read Ramirez's apology Friday. Youkilis, whom Ramirez singled out during his mea culpa, called it "old news."
"I've been cool with him for a long time," Youkilis said. "I have no hard feelings. The media's making a big deal of it because anything he says there's an uproar because he doesn't talk much."
Why did he choose now to apologize, more than two years after the trade?
"You know, Manny seems to be reading the Bible a lot," Ortiz said. "I've heard from people the last few years he's into the Christian thing and he's taking things very seriously now. I'm talking about personally. I'm not talking about anything related to baseball because he always took that serious. I'm talking about the person that people don't know. He's taking this very serious and I'm not surprised he came out with [the apology] because he's been very honest since he's finding himself with God.
"He had to learn and realizes that sometimes we do things, and he thought he was doing the right things, and sometime it wasn't. I give him a lot of credit for just coming out and letting people know [he apologized]."
This weekend is Ramirez's second trip to Fenway Park this season as a visiting player. When he returned to Boston with the Dodgers in June for the first time since he was traded, the reception he received was a mix of boos and cheers. It was clear on Saturday there were more boos than cheers this time around.
"Don't take me wrong, my boy has never been a guy -- he's not a bad person," Ortiz said. "Manny's not a bad guy. He just did things that he thought was the right thing to do because some of the times he didn't know better. He's a man who recognized his mistakes. He knows he did a few things wrong and before everything is over he's letting people know."
Not only did Ramirez apologize for his actions in Boston prior to the trade, he also admitted he would have come back to play for Boston if the Red Sox had traded for him. Even though that scenario was unlikely, Ortiz was happy to hear Ramirez say it.
"That's good to hear," Ortiz said. "Sometimes we believe that going somewhere else is the key for us looking for what we need. Sometimes it doesn't work like that. I'm a guy who doesn't feel like going anywhere else. All the crap that we deal with around here, we're kind of used to that. I feel like I'm a Bostonian. I've been here for a bunch of time and I'm used people and used to what it is. Everybody knows me for who I am. Hopefully I don't have to go somewhere else. This is home."
What about Ramirez?
"That's what he probably found out. He probably thought 'I need to get out of Boston. I can get what I want elsewhere.' Then he gets to California and he saw what it is out there. Now he's in Chicago and he's seeing what it is and he might be like, 'I was in the right place. I just never recognized that. I thought I was in [a bad place] and wanted to get out of there so fast. I was in a place where people loved me, where people wanted me and I did what I was supposed to do.' It's a whole combination of things that you've got to appreciate, but you do that after you go somewhere else. It happens."
Ortiz was glad Ramirez admitted he was at fault for the way his Red Sox career ended.
"I'm happy for him that he come out and let people know what his feelings are and what his thoughts are because he's not a bad person," Ortiz said. "He's not what people probably think he is. At the end of the day he's a good guy. He has his ups and downs and just like everyone else, he has his bad days. I enjoyed more of his good days than bad days.
"It's great to hear him sound like that. I wanted him to be like that for a long time, since way back because that's him. He's a good human being. He's not somebody who you hate because he's in a bad mood one day. Hopefully, who knows, maybe he'll come back and retire with the Red Sox."
Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't care what happened in Boston or Los Angeles. He's only worried about the Chicago White Sox and the race in the AL Central.
"Manny has to be himself," Guillen said. "Manny did not come here to save this ballclub. Manny came here to make us better. ... Everyone has to contribute to win games. If that happens to be Manny, good for us. We didn't bring him here to be The Savior or The Guy. We have a lot of guys here who can do the job."
Could it be that Ramirez finally realizes what he meant for Boston, or perhaps what Boston meant for him?
"He may be trying to find himself with God, reading the Bible," Ortiz said. "There is truth that can be found in God's word that let you know how things really are. You might be confused in your life how to do things and Manny's been into that for the past few years. If you see Manny talking right now you would be like, 'Huh? Who is this guy?' We are human. We're not perfect and sometimes we figure things out."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Manny Ramirez has changed since his ugly final days with the Red Sox, says David Ortiz.