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RED SOX Ramirez says Boston is the place for him



Published: Tue, August 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



His teammates and manager have expressed joy that he remains with them.

BOSTON (AP) -- These are the statistics that Red Sox manager Terry Francona expects from Manny Ramirez each season: 40 homers, 140 RBIs and one or two "fiascoes" that send the clubhouse into turmoil.

"That's pretty much the way it's been every year," Francona said after a trade deadline heart-to-heart with his enigmatic left fielder Sunday. "I hope it continues."

There's a good chance it will, now that the Red Sox have decided not to ship Ramirez to the New York Mets in a three-team deal that would have freed up much of the nearly $64 million he is due through 2008.

One year after trading Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs -- a deal that probably helped Boston win its first World Series title in 86 years -- general manager Theo Epstein made no trades at the deadline.

"We came pretty close," Epstein said after an emotional day at Fenway Park, when Ramirez returned from exile to deliver the eighth-inning hit that kept Boston 21/2 games up in the AL East.

"I feel pretty good about the depth of this team overall," Epstein said. "This is a first-place team. This team has a chance to win the division. This team has a chance to go deep into the postseason."

Polarizing figure

Those chances are better with Ramirez, who had become a polarizing figure in the Fenway stands and the Red Sox clubhouse.

After refusing to play on Wednesday -- he said it was a misunderstanding -- Ramirez was booed at home Friday night and given the weekend off to clear his head while the team tried to trade him.

Asked if the trade talk was tough on him, Ramirez said, "It was. But then I said, 'Man, we've been through a lot. This is the place for me.' I'm just happy to be here."

The trade deadline passed on Sunday in the middle of Boston's 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. When the clock struck 4, outfielder Johnny Damon looked over at Kevin Millar, also the subject of trade rumors, and realized the team was intact.

"We got past the 4 p.m. deadline," Millar said.

"Now the Sox will roll."

Millar has been one of Ramirez's biggest supporters in the clubhouse, a player credited with calming the slugger's many mood swings before they disrupt the team's chemistry. But even Millar couldn't keep a lid on the latest turmoil, when Ramirez's annual trade request coupled with his absence on Wednesday drew criticism from teammates.

Happily intact

But Ramirez declared on Sunday that he wanted to stay in Boston. And after he singled to win Sunday's game with his major league-leading 93rd RBI, his teammates were glad he did.

He even got a postgame hug from Francona on the field.

"Now we get to keep the best right-handed hitter in the game," catcher Jason Varitek said. "It was great. The end result was it got us a win."

Damon agreed.

"We talked to him [Ramirez], told him we loved him and missed those hugs. He's going to be happy the rest of the year," Damon said.

"We know the guys that are going to be with us the rest of the season. You just can't replace Manny Ramirez. If we get rid of him, David Ortiz turns into Barry Bonds -- nobody pitches to him. We hope he's here for the rest of his career. He signed a contract here. Forget about it."

Although Epstein opted not to make a deal on Sunday, he has been far from idle.

Five members of the 25-man roster were acquired in July -- Chad Bradford, Tony Graffanino, Alex Cora, Jose Cruz and Gabe Kapler -- and two others were promoted from within the organization.

"It wasn't as dramatic as you might see with a last-minute trade, but I feel good about the roster and the depth we have," Epstein said.

"I think July is always the tensest month of the year, especially in Boston. We weathered it. We had our trials and tribulations and found a way to get through it with our heads held high and together as a team. And now we move on to August. The last couple of years, we have played our best baseball of the year in August, September and October."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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