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Monday, December 11
Updated: December 19, 3:31 PM ET
Ramirez eager to dethrone Yankees

Associated Press

BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez buttoned his brand new Red Sox jersey, smiled, gave a double thumbs-up and uttered the $160 million word.


It was a sight and a sound his new bosses were thrilled and relieved to see.

Manny Ramirez
Boston Red Sox
439 92154 38122 .351

Less than three days after Boston general manager Dan Duquette thought the slugger would spurn the Red Sox' more lucrative offer and stay with Cleveland, Ramirez strolled Wednesday on the field where he had been a feared enemy.

Now he's part of a fearsome group, with two-time AL batting champ Nomar Garciaparra and three-time Cy Young award winner Pedro Martinez, as Boston gears up for another run at its first World Series championship since 1918.

"This kid has been the most gifted hitter in the business," Duquette said. "We're a lot stronger than we were."

But on Sunday, Duquette added, "we thought we were going to lose him. Monday we negotiated all day and we knew that if we did a couple of more things we had a good chance to close the deal."

"Dan was a bulldog on this project from Day 1," said Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad. analysis
Last season, the Boston Red Sox allowed 69 fewer runs than the New York Yankees.
Last season, the New York Yankees scored 121 runs more than the Boston Red Sox.

By signing Mike Mussina (and letting David Cone go), the Yankees caught the Red Sox in pitching.
By signing Manny Ramirez, the Red Sox are well on their way to catching the Yankees in hitting. (However, they've still got a ways to go. Last season, nearly every Red Sox regular spent time on the disabled list, and if that happens again, the Sox will once again fall short in run production.)

And so it goes, as these two Beasts of the East continue their death struggle, which seems perpetual but has, in reality, only just begun, as both clubs pull away from most of their brethren in both revenues and payroll.

The Red Sox, though, still have a problem: they've likely maxed out their payroll, at least for the 2001 season. What you see now is, quite likely, what you're going to get. That's not true for the Yankees, though. Does anyone doubt that, if the Yanks don't have a comfy lead next July, they'll go out and trade for a star left fielder or middle reliever or whatever else they might want?

The Red Sox should now be considered the favorites in the wild-card race, but the Yankees are still No. 1 in the East.
-- Rob Neyer

The eight-year, $160 million contract agreed to Monday night and signed Wednesday dealt a blow to two of Boston's fiercest rivals.

It deprived the Indians of their best power hitter and made the Red Sox more competitive with the New York Yankees, winners of four of the last five World Series.

And Ramirez, who grew up not far from Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, jumped headfirst into the rivalry.

"I'm just tired to see New York always win," he said.

The Indians and Red Sox both missed last year's playoffs. In 1999, Boston beat Cleveland 3-2 in the first round but lost to the Yankees for the AL pennant.

Ramirez found it hard to leave the Indians "because I've been in Cleveland for seven years," he said. "It was like a roller coaster."

But conversations with Martinez, also born in the Dominican Republic, and Garciaparra helped sway him. And he thinks Boston is closer to a World Series title than Cleveland.

"Over here we've got the best pitcher in both leagues (Martinez) and the best hitter (Garciaparra)," Ramirez said. "I think if we get another guy, we've got a great chance to win it all."

The most important addition already has been penciled into the lineup between Garciaparra and Carl Everett, with Dante Bichette probably supplying power from the sixth spot.

"The addition of Manny to our lineup will make it one of the more dynamic lineups in the league and, arguably, the strongest 3-4 combination in Red Sox history with Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez," Duquette said.

He said he's talked with three or four teams about trading for a pitcher, but a deal didn't necessarily have to involve left fielder Troy O'Leary or right fielder Trot Nixon.

Ramirez, who played right field in Cleveland, will take one of their jobs.

"Wherever they (the Red Sox) want me to play I'm going to go and play," Ramirez said.

He wasn't worried, either, about his subpar performances in Fenway Park where he has a lifetime .278 batting average with 16 RBI in 37 games, his lowest numbers in any AL park. He was 0-for-8 there in the 1999 AL playoffs and 1-for-18 in the series against Boston.

Inside the deal
ESPN had a ringside seat to one of the biggest deals of baseball's free agent frenzy. ESPN followed Manny Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, as he criss-crossed the country, working the phones, meeting with general managers, and strategizing with his client.

On Sunday morning, Outside the Lines goes inside the deal for a unique look at the negotiating process, as it played out over the past seven weeks. OTL Weekly airs at 9:30 a.m. ET.

"It doesn't matter," Ramirez said. "I think I can make that change."

Ramirez, 28, hit .351 last season with 38 homers and 122 RBI in 439 at-bats. He missed 44 games with a hamstring injury, but led the league in slugging percentage and was third in on-base average.

After returning from the disabled list, Ramirez, a .313 career hitter, batted .371 with 25 homers and 75 RBI in his final 71 games. In the last three years, only Sammy Sosa (437) has driven in more runs than Ramirez's 432.

And in 1999, he drove in 165 runs, 10 fewer than the Red Sox record set in 1938 by Jimmie Foxx.

That was the year Foxx set the team record with 50 homers. Ramirez's career high is 45 in 1998, but the inviting left field wall could give him a chance to top that.

"I don't know," Ramirez said. "Maybe I could come next year, hit 40. I could hit 20, 15."

Duquette has little doubt he'll hit closer to 40.

"Manny is a hitter and he understands what it means to be included in a group of (Ted) Williams, (Jim) Rice, (Carl) Yastrzemski and Jimmie Foxx," all former Red Sox, Duquette said. "I believe that his best years are ahead of him."

Those years nearly were destined to be spent in Cleveland until the final hangups were worked out late Monday afternoon.

"It was a path that had a lot of bumps along the way and yet it worked in the end," Moorad said.

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