Three Strikes: Manny can't be Manny edition

STRIKE ONE -- MANNY CAN'T BE MANNY DEPT.: For months now, I've been hearing people speculate about how dangerous it would be for the Dodgers if their man Manny Ramirez were to take their money but feel as if he'd been low-balled.

But here's my question: Why?

I have to admit I actually bought into that premise myself for a while -- that having a nonmotivated Manny might be worse than having no Manny at all. But one longtime front-office man told me that theory is less logical than it sounds.

"Let me ask you something," he said. "How many mulligans is this guy going to get? How many more times can he quit on his team?"

Hmmm. Good question. And the correct answer would have to be zero. Wouldn't it?

This guy had enough trouble finding teams to employ him after staging one sitdown strike in Boston. So how many teams would be interested in him next winter, or the winter after, if he pulls another stunt even remotely like it?

That would be none, right? So what's the best way to motivate Manny at this stage -- besides dollars? Easy answer.

"A deal as short as possible," that front-office man said. "Anything that says, 'You want that $100 million?' Then do it again."

STRIKE TWO -- THE ALL-MANNY TEAM DEPT.: Amazing how much time we spend fixating on Manny when you could still put together a respectable team of unsigned free agents that doesn't include him -- on Feb. 26. Here goes:

1B: Frank Thomas

2B: Mark Grudzielanek

SS: Orlando Cabrera

3B: Nomar Garciaparra

LF: Moises Alou

CF: Jim Edmonds

RF: Luis Gonzalez

C: Pudge Rodriguez

DH: Jose Vidro

Pinch-hit specialist: Mark Sweeney

Starting rotation: Pedro Martinez, Paul Byrd, Kenny Rogers, Sidney Ponson, Esteban Loaiza

Bullpen: Juan Cruz, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, Joe Beimel, Mike Timlin, Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez

Injured reserve: Curt Schilling, Mark Mulder, El Duque Hernandez, Chad Cordero, Chuck James

Not even counting the injured list, that group has made a combined 59 All-Star teams -- 15 appearances within the past five years. And they're all still 100 percent unemployed. Unbelievable.


• Box score line of the day: It isn't baseball season 'til we throw out the first box score line of the spring. So here goes. Horacio Ramirez started the Cactus League opener for the Royals -- and didn't make it out of the first inning: 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, one two-run HR by Hank Blalock. That's 10 batters faced, two outs, if you're scoring at home.

• Where was Brett Favre?: My friend Tyler Kepner, of New York Times fame, obviously has been hanging around me too long, because here's the first thing he noticed about Wednesday's Yankees-Blue Jays spring opener: Pitching for the Yankees -- Brett Tomko. Pitching for the Blue Jays -- Brett Cecil. Leading off the game -- Brett Gardner. That's every big leaguer named Brett except Brett Myers and Brett Carroll. Hard to believe George Brett wasn't there to sing the anthem.

• The J Crew: As long as we're playing the name game, why not the initial game? Loyal reader Bill Chuck, of the always-entertaining billy-ball.com, is another guy who needs to get out more. He reports that when Jed Lowrie plays third for the Red Sox, his team can roll out a lineup of six players whose names start with a J: Jed (Lowrie), Jason (Varitek), Julio (Lugo), Jason (Bay), Jacoby (Ellsbury), and J.D. (Drew). On the bench: Josh (Bard) and Jonathan (Van Every). And on the mound: Josh (Beckett), Jon (Lester), Javier (Lopez), Justin (Masterson), John (Smoltz), Junichi Tazawa and Jonathan (Papelbon) all of whom are coached by John (Farrell) with occasional help from Johnny (Pesky) and Jim (Rice). They should all be arrested for J-walking.

• Quote of the day: Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, on being the only team in baseball to average 85 wins a year the past three seasons and not make the playoffs, thanks to the insane AL East:

"It's like being in the SEC and going to the Citrus Bowl, while everyone else goes to the Sugar Bowl."