During baseball's wild Winter Meetings of 2000, when Twitter didn't exist and technology wasn't close to being what it is now, agent Jeff Moorad and Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette felt like pioneers as they worked out the details of the mega free-agent deal over e-mail that would send
During baseball's wild Winter Meetings of 2000, when Twitter didn't exist and technology wasn't close to being what it is now, agent Jeff Moorad and Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette felt like pioneers as they worked out the details of the mega free-agent deal over e-mail that would send Manny Ramirez to the Red Sox.
Blockbuster transactions in countless industries take place electronically all the time now, especially in baseball, where nearly every big deal is first reported on social media.
But 17 years ago, things were much different.
"Moorad said that it was the first deal that was ever made over the computer," said Red Sox historian Gordon Edes, who covered the 2000 Winter Meetings as a reporter for The Boston Globe. "He had e-mailed the details going back and forth with Duquette, including all the details of the contract. It kind of shocked me to hear that and be reminded of that recently because it just kind of feels like it has been there forever."
For many reasons beyond technology, the signing of Ramirez probably marks the most memorable Winter Meetings moment in the Red Sox history, though last year's blockbuster trade for ace Chris Sale is right up there also.
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Ramirez's contract was for eight years at $160 million, and it was consummated less than 24 hours after Alex Rodriguez and the Rangers had agreed on a history-making 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers.
Before the Rodriguez and Ramirez signings, baseball had never had a $20 million per year player. Suddenly, there were two.
It serves as a reminder heading into next week's Winter Meetings in Orlando that you never know what might happen.
Back in 2000, there was a certifiable buzz in the air when word filtered through the hotel lobby at the Winter Meetings in Dallas that Ramirez had chosen the Red Sox over the team he had spent his entire career with up to that point -- the Indians. The final offer from Cleveland was for eight years at $136 million.
Heading into that 2000-01 offseason, the Red Sox decided to put the team up for sale, and John Harrington, who ran the team for the Yawkey Trust, instructed Duquette that the team needed to sign a marquee player to increase the value of the team to a potential new owner.
"It was important for us to get a player like that, and for us to have really good, identifiable players from a competitive basis," said Duquette, who is currently executive vice president of baseball operations for the Orioles. "We thought that Manny would be a long-time fixture and fit in with the tradition of great Red Sox sluggers in left field."
After striking out in his pursuit of Mike Mussina, who went to the Yankees, Duquette went all in on Manny, flying to Miami to visit the slugger, then going to Moorad's offices in Southern California and racing to the Winter Meetings in Dallas. He was in three different time zones in the span of a few days, determined to get his Manny.
Duquette also set up recruiting calls to Ramirez from Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra, Boston's two superstars at the time.
Duquette was so focused on landing his prize that the normally reserved executive didn't even object to Moorad allowing ESPN unprecedented access to during the negotiations.
After Ramirez officially signed, ESPN aired an "Outside the Lines" special that had phone calls between Moorad and several of Ramirez's pursuing teams, and virtually every detail that transpired during the courtship. The program included the phone call of Duquette welcoming Ramirez to the Red Sox, finishing the conversation by saying, "Good news, you don't have to hit against Pedro anymore."
And it was in that special that the most humorous nugget of all became known to the public.
Ramirez had told the Red Sox that he would only sign with them if they would hire Indians clubhouse attendant Frank Mancini.
"He was a clubhouse guy, he was 37 years old at the time," said Edes. "I ended up writing a big story about it. Mancini was like a confidant for Manny. He'd throw soft toss to him and get him his sushi and he took care of him. ... [Ramirez] actually talked to Mancini on the day of his decision and Frank told him he didn't want to go for family reasons."
Ramirez ultimately said goodbye to Mancini and came to the Red Sox. Incidentally, Mancini must have been some sort of whisperer for mercurial sluggers. Albert Belle had once offered him a $300,000 deal over five years to leave Cleveland and join him after he signed with the White Sox.
Clearly something that was not incidental was the impact Ramirez made with the Red Sox. Though he would seem to have a dramatic period of time each season when he would lose interest or say he would want to be traded, the right-handed hitter raked in Boston (.999 OPS, 274 homers, .312 average), and helped the team to World Series championships in 2004 and '07. In fact, Ramirez was the MVP of that '04 World Series, when the Red Sox won it all for the first time since 1918.
Duquette only got to enjoy one of Ramirez's eight seasons in Boston. He was let go after the transfer of ownership in 2002. But he enjoyed seeing the way the memorable signing panned out.
"Mr. Harrington was able to sell the club. Mr. Henry was able to leverage the performance of Manny Ramirez, so it worked out well for both the owners and the player," Duquette said. "[Ramirez] had a nice career there. He was a very entertaining player. He was captivating and always interesting."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.