Frank McCourt is counting on Manny being man enough to apologize to his teammates for the awkward position he put them in last week - and the sooner, the better.
LOS ANGELES — Frank McCourt is counting on Manny being man enough to apologize to his teammates for the awkward position he put them in last week — and the sooner, the better.
The Los Angeles Dodgers owner sat at the head of a long table in the Vin Scully Press Box dining room where the advance scouts eat, telling reporters during Sunday's 13-inning loss to San Francisco about the two meaty conversations he had the previous day with suspended slugger Manny Ramirez — one by phone and the other in person.
"I felt it was important that the conversation be eyeball to eyeball and not on the phone," McCourt said. "I found him to be very sorrowful."
It was their first contact since Ramirez was banned for 50 games last Thursday for failing a drug test. The 12-time All-Star apologized to the man who signed off on the two-year, $45 million contract the club gave Ramirez during spring training after weeks of contentious negotiations that spilled over into the public forum.
"I'd be lying to say I wasn't a little angry at first," McCourt said. "But it's nothing a good night's sleep doesn't solve. Anger gets you nowhere. It doesn't solve any problems.
"We all make mistakes, and it's how we deal with those mistakes that really differentiates one from the other. And if Manny does with others what he did with me yesterday, I think we'll be on the road to full recovery."
The Dodgers are on the road now for six games — three in Philadelphia and the rest in Miami following an 8-3 homestand in which they lost three of the four games they played without Ramirez. He lives in Pembroke Pines, Fla., so there is a possibility he'll catch up with his teammates when they play the Marlins.
Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall for that reunion?
"I think he'll decide what the right words are," McCourt said. "There's no question that when you let somebody down, there's some sort of apology. But I can't speak for him. He needs to speak for himself, and he knows that."
What Ramirez will say to the other players is anyone's guess, but the window of forgiveness remains wide open.
"He's still beat up by this thing," manager Joe Torre said. "Again, it's not that he feels it's unfair, but he's embarrassed and he still has to clear his head before he basically feels good enough to come out. Hopefully it's in the near future, but we didn't nail him down for a (specific) day."
Ramirez also spoke with Torre and general manager Ned Colletti by phone. Colletti declined to say when — or if — the dreadlocked outfielder would show up in the clubhouse, acknowledging that his separation from the ballclub remains a sensitive issue.
"Yeah," Colletti said. "Why wouldn't it be? I really don't want to get into it."
McCourt feels it's still too early to foresee how much of a negative impact this scandal will affect the club in the long run.
"It's really up to Manny how he conducts himself before I can answer how it affects the organization," McCourt said. If he takes the steps that I'm hopeful he will, I think this will be something that won't damage this franchise at all. That being said, the Dodgers are much bigger than Manny Ramirez or any player. The Dodgers are much bigger than anybody — including me. Including owners."
Ramirez practically carried Los Angeles into last year's playoffs after joining the team at the trade deadline from the Boston Red Sox — who picked up the rest of his salary and were glad to be rid of their 2004 World Series MVP. The Dodgers didn't have to spend a dime on Ramirez, while raking in the profits generated by merchandise with his name and likeness on it.
"I think what was most disappointing was that we put a lot of confidence in Manny and built a relationship there," McCourt said. "And whenever a relationship is violated like that, there's a sense of disappointment. But we all make mistakes, so I think what we really need to focus in on is the pathway forward."
The way Ramirez's current contract is structured, he will lose $2,732,240 this season and $1,366,120 in each of the next three years — a saving of $6,830,600 for the Dodgers. The deal included a $20-million player option for next season.
Ramirez played in 27 of the Dodgers' first 29 games, batting .348 with six homers and 20 RBIs to help them get off to a 21-8 start — their best since 1983. The marketing gurus at Chavez Ravine even named a corner of the left field stands in fair territory "Mannywood," a capricious, knee-jerk idea that was quickly scrapped about a week after it began due to last week's public relations embarrassment.
Ramirez said he did not take steroids and was given medication by a doctor that contained a banned substance. A person familiar with the details of the suspension said Ramirez used the female fertility drug HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the banned substance wasn't announced.
"I think we've all agreed that this is the most stringent testing policy in all sports and that there are very, very significant penalties that go with a positive test and this is just an example of that," McCourt said. "A 50-game suspension without pay, that's a steep price to pay."
HCG is popular among steroid users because it can mitigate the side effects of ending a cycle of the drugs. Now the Dodgers are dealing with the side effects of Ramirez's latest off-field headlines.
"He knows he's disappointed not only me but everybody in the front office, Joe, all of his teammates, the fans and the community," McCourt said. "Manny's hurt, but he also knows he brought the hurt on himself. He's in the process right now of doing what anybody else would do if they made a mistake — in terms of making amends here, communicating with the people he knows he has to communicate with, and then going about repairing his relationships."