"I wanted to visit with Manny, I thought it was the best time," said Francona. "I told him that I think, and not just in his best interest, but in our ballclub's best interest, that he should sit, clear his head, take a few deep breaths. And he agreed. I think he was very receptive to it. He felt good. The object was for us to go out and win. I thought we played a very inspired game."
The Red Sox downed the Twins, 6-2, for their fourth victory in a row. But the game almost felt like a mere footnote to all of the talk surrounding Ramirez's status.
While the baseball world was buzzing on Friday and Saturday about a potential three-team swap between the Red Sox, Mets and Devil Rays that would have sent Ramirez to New York, those talks ended on Saturday as there were too many variables to make it a reality.
The deal that was rampant on the rumor mill had outfielders Aubrey Huff and Mike Cameron coming to Boston along with right-hander Aaron Heilman. The Mets would have received the lethal bat of Ramirez, along with Devil Rays closer Danys Baez and shortstop Julio Lugo. The Devil Rays were looking for four prospects in the exchange. According to one report, a stumbling block was the Red Sox refusing to send their top prospect, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, to the Devil Rays.
The Red Sox and Mets tried to make a deal on their own after that. According to a Major League source, the Mets considered Boston's asking price to be too high and left it in the hands of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to revive talks before the deadline.
A high-ranking Red Sox official said that Ramirez was told shortly before Saturday's game that he wasn't likely to be traded.
Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated reported that Ramirez had recently asked Red Sox ownership for a trade, complaining of a lack of privacy in Boston.
Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino confirmed the outfielder's request during a radio interview with WEEI-850 in Boston on Thursday, but admitted that it would be hard to deal Ramirez because he's due to make roughly $60 million over the balance of his contract, which expires following the 2008 season.
Ramirez hasn't been speaking to the media, so there's no word on how he feels about the likelihood of spending the rest of his season in Boston. His teammates, on the other hand, seemed to like the idea.
"Manny enjoys it here," said Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "The request to be traded, he goes through a spell every year. It's four straight years he's requested to be traded. It's just something that, you know, he needs some time [off] during the course of the season. He goes out, he plays every day. He's worshipped here. And he's a superstar. So anywhere he goes, there's not going to be any privacy. He just needs to kind of realize how to get his privacy. Hire someone to create a schedule, have security. He's definitely being paid a lot of money. He can definitely control his destiny."
With the game on the line, there's nobody -- aside from David Ortiz -- that the Sox want at the plate more than Ramirez. And, according to first baseman Kevin Millar, whatever issues Ramirez might have playing in Boston won't affect him when he goes to the plate with his powerful right-handed bat.
"Manny is fine. Manny will be fine," said Millar, one of Ramirez's closest friends on the team. "This guy, you put him in the batter's box and nothing stops him. [He's the] biggest RBI man in the last eight or nine years in the big leagues."
The trade rumblings weren't the only reason Ramirez was in the news this week.
Following Tuesday's emotional win over the Devil Rays (when Matt Clement was struck by a line drive and Trot Nixon injured his oblique muscle), Francona asked Ramirez if he could postpone a day off that had been originally planned for Wednesday afternoon.
Ramirez declined, saying that he needed the rest, even though the Red Sox had a scheduled day off on Thursday. The result was that the left fielder received a considerable amount of boos from the Fenway faithful on Friday night against the Twins. During Ramirez's time with the Red Sox, he has typically enjoyed a good relationship with the home crowd.
When Ramirez walked on the field to congratulate his teammates following Saturday's win, there were a considerable amount of "Manny" chants from fans who were happy to still see him in a Boston uniform.
"He's a big part of this team and fans know that and they love Manny," said Millar. "And Manny loves the fans and this place. Sometimes things get snowballed and taken and ran with. I don't know the whole ball of wax. Only he does. That's between [Ramirez and the Red Sox].
"We're human beings," continued Millar. "Sometimes that gets forgotten at times, that we have feelings and there's emotional things that go on with baseball. Right now it's a good time for Manny to clear his head. He's going through some tough times right now but those are his situations that he's got to deal with and I think for us we have to keep grinding away as a team and win ballgames and we played a good one tonight."
The announcement came just minutes before Saturday's game that Ramirez was out of the lineup. This, coming 10 minutes after public address announcer Carl Beane announced to the crowd that Ramirez was battling cleanup and playing left field. In other words, natural speculation began to abound that trade talks had heated up again.
Instead, Francona, out of respect for Ramirez's privacy, had no choice but to wait that long to meet with the slugger and decide that resting him was the best course of action.
"If we were in a [visiting clubhouse] and I had an office down the hall, I might have done it earlier," said Francona. "I wanted some privacy. I thought it was the best way to do it, the only way it would work out. I just wanted to visit. I have a responsibility to everybody on our ballclub to communicate, to set things straight, sometimes reassure people, things like that, and I thought it was very successful."