Decade Debate: 10 Biggest Betrayals

To betray is to “be disloyal to one’s country, organization, or ideology by acting in the interests of an enemy.” In the world of sports, a betrayal can refer to any number of things: a beloved star choosing to play for a bitter rival, someone who breaks the public’s trust or even a head coach who lies to his boss about where his loyalties lie. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, we chose the ten biggest betrayals of the last ten years. (By the way, we’re focused on sports business related betrayals only, so Tiger Woods, Mike Vick and Roger Clemens are safe. For now.)

10. NHL cancels the 2004-05 season.

After failing for months to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL finally canceled the 2004-05 season in February of ’05. The dispute between the owners and the NHLPA covered a number of issues, but the biggest was the owners’ proposal of a salary cap that was tied to league revenues, similar to the NBA salary cap. The NHLPA rejected every offer that included a salary cap and the season had to be canceled. A majority of fans blamed the players due to their out-of-control salaries and unwillingness to accept a cap, which is something that both the NBA and NFL – two very successful leagues — have in different forms. Finally, in the summer of 2005, the players association ratified an agreement (which – surprise, surprise — included a salary cap tied to league revenue) and the lockout ended after 310 days. It marks the only time that a North American professional sports league ever canceled and entire season over a labor dispute. In the end, the NHLPA’s stubbornness was fruitless; the owners got their salary cap and the fans got screwed out of year of hockey. Way to go, guys. – John Paulsen

9. Damon skips Bean Town for the Big Apple.

There are some things in life that are just wrong. One is watching any of the “Twilight” movies alone as a single man. Another is flossing in public. Wearing sandals with a nice pair of slacks is also a terrible idea. Regardless of your opinion of these faux pas, we can all agree that a player jumping ship from the Red Sox to the Yankees (or vice versa) is a huge no-no. Babe Ruth never wanted to leave – he was sold. But guys like former Red Sox manger Ed Barrow (took over as Yankees GM), Wade Boggs, and Johnny Damon – they had a choice. Only one season removed from helping the BoSox capture their first World Series since 1918, Damon signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Bronx Bombers. The Red Sox Nation cried “foul,” but Damon claimed his former team didn’t push further than their initial four-year, $40 million offer. Nevertheless, the fans felt slighted. Damon had flourished in Boston, racking up career numbers and gaining celebrity status. He hit the memorable leadoff homerun in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The blast was all the Red Sox needed to extinguish the curse. (They would go on to win the game 3-0 and the World Series in a sweep.) But he was gone, ready to face the chorus of boos from former fans, and prepped to win a championship in pinstripes four years later. In the end, a t-shirt I saw at a Fenway Park merchant’s booth said it all. A crude picture of Damon adorned the front: “Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.” – Christopher Glotfelty

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Red Sox were apparently ready to suspend Manny Ramirez

And you thought the Red Sox-Manny Ramirez drama was over:

Several baseball sources told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez today that Red Sox management delivered an official letter of suspension to Manny Ramirez at 11 p.m. on Fri., July 25, shortly after Ramirez sat out his second straight game with the club. The letter informed the slugger that the suspension was to go into effect on Sat., July 26, and stated the reason for the suspension was Ramirez’s unwillingness to play, according to the report. Ramirez cited a knee injury as his reason for missing the two games, but MRIs on both of his knees failed to find physical damage.

Copies of the suspension letter, Gomez reports, were also sent to Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association, and Ramirez’s agent, Scott Boras.

According to the report, Ramirez called the team several hours later to inform them he would indeed be playing on July 26 against the Yankees. Ramirez did play, but after what is now a well-documented saga, the left fielder was traded to the Dodgers a week later.

Yeah he played all right – he stood there and took three straight fastballs from Mariano Rivera and never moved the bat off his shoulder.

I’m almost praying the Red Sox make him an offer and he accepts. We need Manny in Boston for the theatrics.

MLB looking into Manny Ramirez’s strange departure

Red Sox fans want to know if Manny Ramirez’s final days in Boston were on the up and up. Apparently MLB wants to know the same thing and is looking into how things unfolded around last week’s trade deadline.

Here’s why Selig’s office is looking into the matter:

The Red Sox had an option to retain Ramírez in 2009 for $20 million. They had the same option for 2010. Ramírez, who will turn 37 next season, wanted to be a free agent at the end of this season. His agent wanted the same thing. Boras inherited Ramírez’s old contract and stood to earn nothing until Manny signed a new one. It was in the interest of the player and the agent to have the options dropped.

Manny’s only leverage was withholding services and playing at half speed. So that’s what he did.

How do you prove that Manny was playing half-assed? Unless they find documentation that Boras ordered Ramirez to only go half speed so that he would be traded (and thus become a free agent at the end of the year), it’s going to be hard for the league to draw any conclusions from this situation.

It is nice, however, that the league cares enough to look into a dirty situation, because Stevie Wonder could see Manny was dogging it. Who knows, maybe the league will find some damning evidence and nail Boras and/or Ramirez.

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