Francona, Red Sox hold rare team meeting in wake of Ramirez trade

Updated: August 2, 2008, 1:09 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Jason Bay made it clear shortly after arriving at Fenway Park: He's not Manny Ramirez.

For the Boston Red Sox, that may have been good news.

The Red Sox held a rare club meeting Friday about 24 hours after Ramirez was shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team deal that sent Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston.

Ramirez had repeatedly criticized the team, upset teammates and twice said he couldn't play because of a sore knee that appeared normal in examinations.

"There are 25 guys down there right now that feel like a team," general manager Theo Epstein said after the meeting. "It hasn't felt like that for a while and you have to feel like that in professional sports to perform at your best."

Boston hasn't been doing that.

The Red Sox had lost five of six heading into Friday night's matchup with the Oakland Athletics, their first game since changing left fielders just before Thursday's deadline for non-waiver trades.

For one day, at least, the switch worked as Bay tripled and scored the winning run in the 12th inning of a 2-1 victory. He scored both runs, made two-run saving catches and reached base four times -- walking twice, getting hit by a pitch and striking out twice before his triple.

That slide began last Friday night with a 1-0 loss to the New York Yankees and Joba Chamberlain. Ramirez's powerful bat was out of the lineup when he reported with what he said was a sore right knee. The team then sent him for MRIs on both knees which showed no problems, according to manager Terry Francona.

There had been growing sentiment over the past several weeks that Ramirez wasn't trying hard enough. He said the team didn't deserve him, and he and the club were tired of each other in his eighth season with Boston.

"It didn't seem like we were handling the challenge up to what we needed to," one reason for the meeting, Francona said. "It's an exciting time to stand in front of your players."

Bay found out quickly that Boston fans were excited to have him.

"I had numerous people try to help me with my bags at the airport," he said. "It was very overwhelming."

Bay tipped his cap when he received a standing ovation 15 minutes before the game as his name was announced in the fifth spot of the starting lineup. He waved as the crowd gave him another standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning for the first time in his No. 44 Red Sox uniform.

He walked on five pitches, took third on J.D. Drew's double and scored on Jed Lowrie's sacrifice fly.

Bay said comparisons to Ramirez will be "inevitable." Both play left field, bat right-handed and hit in the middle of the lineup.

The 29-year-old may not have Ramirez's power but he says all the right things.

"I'm not going to be Manny Ramirez," said Bay, whose father Dave is a "diehard" Red Sox fan who still has posters of former Boston left fielders Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice hanging in his home. "I'm going to try to do what I can do. I think I'm equipped to handle that."

Bay hit .282 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs for the Pirates. The 36-year-old Ramirez, in the last guaranteed season of an $160 million, eight-year contract, batted .299 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs for Boston.

"I don't think it's fair of me to sit here today and look back and comment on why Manny was unhappy. It's a question for Manny," Epstein said. "He had a remarkable run here. ... He's one of the best right-handed hitters in history."

Despite their recent slide, the Red Sox started the day in second in the AL East, three games behind Tampa Bay. For the first time, Bay finds himself in a pennant race -- and with the defending World Series champions.

"It hasn't really hit me," he said. "I don't think it's going to resonate that quick."

He feels he can adjust to the more intense atmosphere in Boston.

"If I was a free agent, I couldn't have picked a better place to go," he said.

Epstein hopes the addition of Bay and the subtraction of Ramirez will lead to a better atmosphere.

"We were having a difficult time and it wasn't any one person's fault," Epstein said. "There was doubt. There was even exhaustion on the part of some players and a pretty major distraction."

David Ortiz, who batted third in front of Ramirez, took a wait-and-see attitude.

"We'll see how it goes," he said. "Manny and I were friends. Of course I'm going to miss him."

Now he's gone and Epstein doesn't want to put too much pressure on Bay, just for him to play his normal game and not feel he has to carry the team.

"For Jason, we want what we want for the rest of the players, to have an atmosphere where good players want to do the right thing," Epstein said. "We're not asking him to fill (Ramirez's) shoes. We're asking him to be a contributing member of a winning baseball team, emphasis on the last word."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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