- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Divorces can be such ugly affairs.

Take the one Frank and Jamie McCourt are going through right now in a Los Angeles courtroom. Just a few days into their trial, there have already been tales of tears and fears as they battle for control of what turns out to be one highly leveraged baseball team.

There’s a lot at stake there, namely the future of what used to be a proud franchise. Once portrayed as the saviors of the Dodgers, the McCourts are now being exposed by their own lawyers as a dysfunctional couple with dreams of grandeur.

Thankfully, the child was spared all of this. Little Manny was sent off to spend the rest of the summer in Chicago, where uncle Ozzie promised to protect him from nasty things people were saying about him at home.

“You treat Manny with respect and he’s fine,” Ozzie Guillen said, somehow resisting the urge to playfully rub the dreadlocked head of his newest charge.

Ah, respect. Such a magical concept that Manny Ramirez can talk about it in English and Spanish.

Give Manny some and there’s an outside chance he may respond by leading you to a World Series. Don’t give him any, and there’s a very good chance he’s going to leave you with a broken heart and a busted wallet.

The White Sox obviously hope they’re getting the good Manny, not the one who apparently was so disrespected by manager Joe Torre that he got himself ejected after only one pitch in what turned out to be his last at bat with the Dodgers. And maybe they did, at least for the month or so that he has to make his case for conning his new team into giving him a new contract.

Ozzie and Co. certainly aren’t risking much, essentially renting Ramirez for the rest of the season. The Dodgers did the same thing two years ago and he responded by hitting .396 with 17 home runs in 53 games to carry his new team to the National League championship series.

Indeed, Ramirez almost had the chance to be a hero in his first two games with the White Sox. He was in the on deck circle Tuesday night when A.J. Pierzynski hit the game-winning three-run home run, and was there again Wednesday when Paul Konerko did the same thing in Cleveland.

But White Sox fans shouldn’t start sporting fake dreadlocks at the ballpark just yet. Because the reality is that Manny simply isn’t Manny anymore.

One look at this year’s numbers certainly seem to indicate that. Ramirez was on the disabled list three times, missed 58 games, and had a meager eight home runs to show for his $20 million paycheck.

He’s finishing like many players of the steroid era, breaking down frequently as he ages, swinging late on fast balls, and hitting balls to the warning track that used to easily carry the fence. He’s pretty much been that way ever since he was suspended for 50 games last year for using a fertility drug that masks steroid use, and there is no real reason to believe going to Chicago will change that.

But the White Sox remember the big home runs and the clutch hits. They’re desperate for a bat that will help them catch the Minnesota Twins and hoping that the pairing with Guillen will somehow rejuvenate Ramirez.

Best of all, the deal didn’t cost them anything other than some salary. With the McCourts burning through cash with expensive lawyers, the Dodgers were equally desperate to dump Ramirez and the $3.8 million left on his contract.

In court on Wednesday, Frank McCourt was on the stand, trying to explain that he really never meant for his wife to have any ownership of the Dodgers despite the fact he was married to her and she was the team’s chief executive officer.

Just a few miles from the courthouse the Dodgers were going through the motions in an afternoon game at home. The former Mannywood section now advertises an insurance company and there wasn’t a set of dreadlocks in sight among the few fans still interested enough to show up.

While Torre insists the Dodgers haven’t given up on the season, it’s clear that by dumping Ramirez they have indeed. Soon Torre likely will be gone, too, if only because the team that brought him to the West Coast with so much fanfare is not about to pay the going rate for a manager of his stature.

Torre may be happy to get out, and not just because one of his teams will miss the postseason for the first time in 15 years. Even working all those years for George Steinbrenner couldn’t prepare him for the mess that is the Dodgers today.

Manny being Manny was bad enough.

But for the Dodgers the McCourts being the McCourts is turning out to be even worse.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org

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