No doubt Mannywood will be remembered by many as the highlight of the 2008 season. Until Manny showed up the team was boring and listless and many season ticket holders were choosing to stay home instead of attend the games. He brought excitement not seen since 2004 when Beltre did his Schmidt imitation and Gagne was still Game Over. I think Eric is not remembering the Game Over years correctly because Gagne had the place rocking every night.
However this is 2009 and we can't get caught up in how good Manny was in 2008. His two month spree was an aberration and as he gets older the chances of him replicating his 2008 are slim. We must look at Manny with a skeptical eye and see if he will be worth the type of contract it will take to sign him.
1. Manny showed two things in 2008. One is that he is still an elite hitter, the second is that he is a big baby with self-interest at the core of his character. As Andrew has pointed out, even an unhappy Manny intent on forcing his way out of Boston, was still pounding the ball, but do we as fans really want to put up with a pouting Manny? The odds are high that if we sign Manny he will not be happy from the get go. As he left the team his expectations were for a contract of at least 4/100Million and that was on the short side. With no suitors showing up it looks like he will end up looking like a chump, and having to take at best a three year deal. Does anyone think chump Manny is going to be a happy camper? The things he did in Boston might have been over exaggerated but he did sit out games with imaginary injuries during a huge series with NY. He did knock down a plus sixty year old man. He did go on and on about being disrespected by the Red Sox. He did try to force a trade every year for the last three years. He rarely ran to 1st base for the RedSox but once he became a Dodger he was running hard to first on every play. The guy can play, the real question is, will he come to play every day with a contract he feels is not good enough for him?
2. Manny is 37 years old and is a DH/LF. Any contract we give him means he will be playing LF every day. While in LF he will be one of the worse defensive left fielders we will ever see. When he plays hard he has shown that he can at least be adequate. When he stops playing hard, when he stops caring, he will end up being a target for the crazy pavillion fans who expect effort on every ball not just the ones he decides to make an effort on.
3. During the winter of 2007 Manny went on a serious workout regime because of his declining performance in 2006/2007. He had enough injuries in 2006/2007 that he missed over sixty games. During the last three years this 37 year old DH has had the following injuries courtesy of rotowire.
2008 - Soreness in his right knee (or left knee he wasn't sure which one when he was ordered to get an MRI), sore hamstrings
2007 - Strained left oblique (missed 25 games), muscle spasms back, sore hamstrings
2006 - Patella Tendinitis (missed most of Sept)
Nothing more or less for any 37 year old. However we should expect the knee and hamstring to continue to dog Manny. In the AL he could simply DH, he does not have that luxury in the NL.
4. There was a point in 2008 from late April to late May where Manny hit .189 over 24 games. He could just as easily done that for us instead of what he did. If he had would we be as adamant about making him a part of our future? We got the best streak of his career, we could just as easily have gotten the worse streak of his career. If we sign him and he's playing for us from age 37 - 39 you can probably bet we will see the worse streak of his career. Some seem to have forgot but Manny was not the cure all, all the time. He was on the team when they went through the dreadful August where getting a hit with a man in scoring position became as fruitless as hoping Rick Monday will give the score.
5. In 1974 Jimmy Wynn came to LA and led the young Dodgers to the World Series. 1975 was not so kind. In 1988 Kirk Gibson came to the Dodgers and led them to the World Series. 1989 was not so kind.
Let us remember Manny for 2008 when he was the best hitter in the universe not for 2009/2010/2011 and be forced to watch this HOF slugger sit on the bench beset by injuries he cannot control.
Here is a list of left fielders age 37-39 with an OPS+ > 120. We should be able to strike Bonds from that list leaving only Ted Williams and Hank Aaron as viable comps. Bob Johnson did his numbers during the war years. Here is a list of HOF/or HOF Ballot left fielders after age of 30 sorted by OPS+. You will see Ted and Hank but the best seasons are not done by someone age 37 and up. Other then Ted and Hank, the greatest left fielders in baseball left their game behind at the point we are expected to make Manny the richest Dodger in history on a per year basis.
Does that really seem like a good idea?