Fair trade: Bay, Manny play to draw
Sluggers in three-team Deadline deal open playoffs with bang
On the first day of the postseason, the jury on baseball's most conspicuous tradeoff of 2008 remained hung.Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez, the present and past in left field for the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, again played to a draw.
That means both again were terrific and played up to the circumstances.
Ramirez treated the first day of October like any other day since he landed in Dodger Blue, powering a home run out of Wrigley Field and reaching base three times in Los Angeles' 7-2 stunner over the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.For Ramirez, it was a been there, done that type of moment.
"Nothing, I'm just being Manny," Ramirez said. "That's it. I've been playing great everywhere, and I'm just happy that I'm here in LA. It was a great move for me, just to go and show people that that other stuff that I left behind wasn't true, that I just want to come and get a new life and play the game, play hard and show people that I still can do this."
A few hours later in Angel Stadium, Bay reclaimed the thunder, his two-run home run in the sixth inning turning around John Lackey's 1-0 lead and leading Boston to a 4-1 victory over the Angels in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.Doing his impersonation of Ramirez? Not necessary. "He's not trying to be Manny Ramirez," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "He's Jason Bay, and that's all we ask of him."
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Yet even before his own game began, Bay could've been excused for feeling that Ramirez was still casting a considerable shadow over him. The Red Sox were in the midst of their pregame batting practice when, there on Angel Stadium's huge video board, was Manny muscling an "unhittable" pitch through the stiff Chicago winds."Obviously he's one of the best postseason players of all time," Bay said of Ramirez, "and regardless of where he's at, I think a lot of us enjoy watching him." Shortly after he and his Boston teammates had done just that, Bay joined the ranks of players with memorable postseason debuts through the years. For Manny, it was old hat. After batting .396 with 17 homers in 53 games following his July 31 trade from Boston to rally the Dodgers to the NL West title, he hit his record 25th postseason homer. "Everybody acts like his second half was unbelievable," Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly said of Ramirez. "That's what he does all the time. He puts whole years together like that. He's not hot. He's always like this."
Bay, who had spent most of his career with the Pirates prior to going to Boston in the same July 31 three-team business, was making his postseason debut after 771 games and 2,782 at-bats."I had nothing really to compare it to," Bay said of his first postseason exposure. "It's a little bit different but once you get over it and get into the flow of it a little bit. ... It's just baseball again, and I couldn't have picked a better kind of a first game, I guess."
Bay Day at 'The Big A'
Bay struck out in his first two at-bats against Lackey, but with Kevin Youkilis on base with a walk and two outs in the sixth, Bay quickly turned forgettable into memorable by yanking a 1-0 high pitch into the left-field seats."He's a good hitter, man," David Ortiz, formerly Ramirez's accomplice, said simply. "He was fooled once or twice [early in the game]. But at some point, it's going to click." "He's cool as a cucumber," Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon said of Bay, soon after nailing down a save. "He's got ice in his veins. In this game, the coolest cat always wins. It's that simple." In the context of the ALDS, it was a huge clout, standing up as the winning blow of Boston's obligatory postseason abuse of the Angels. In the context of baseball history, it was a precedent-honoring blow. Hitting a home run in one's postseason debut is a relatively common occurrence, particularly in the years since baseball's playoff format has branched out from merely a World Series. But few introductory acts have been as significant as Bay's. Or as timely -- both from the perspective of piercing Lackey's apparent invincibility, and of answering Ramirez's siren song halfway across the country.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.