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Where will Manny wind up?

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Here we are, just over a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and the biggest fish on the free agent market is still no closer to finding a home than he was when free agency began in the middle of November.

Of course, we are talking about Manny Ramirez.

In case anyone missed it, Ramirez has rejected the Los Angeles Dodgers' latest one-year, $25 million offer after not responding to the team's two-year, $45 million offer shortly after the end of the season.

The Dodgers, by the way, have been the only team this winter to show any interest in Ramirez, so unless a team like the New York Mets or somebody else jumps in, ManRam doesn't seem to have much of a choice on where he is going to play next season.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why the Mets are not in on Ramirez. If there is a team that needs him, it is the Mets. From everything I have heard, general manager Omar Minaya, despite what he may say publicly, desperately wants to sign him. It is the owners who are against it.

Obviously, bringing Ramirez into any clubhouse could turn out to be volatile, but the Mets are not exactly the Goodship Lollipop. This is a team that is coming off back-to-back September collapses, and is anything but a cohesive unit.

Wouldn't it be nice to actually have someone who can hit in the clutch down the stretch, rather than the same deer-in-the-headlights group they are running out there?

Forget the fact that he is probably the best right-handed hitter in the game - he is also a former World Series MVP and he always comes up with a big hit. Just look at what he did for the Dodgers after joining them last season.

If this is the Mets team that Minaya plans on going to war with, I have them no better than third, possibly fourth in the NL East. The Phillies are the Phillies, Atlanta has improved itself and Florida may have the best rotation from top-to-bottom in the NL. Sure, the Mets helped themselves immensely by shoring up their bullpen, but the back end of that lineup is garbage.

The Mets need Manny, but for whatever reason they are not going to do anything about it. When it is all said and done, Manny will re-up with the Dodgers. He really has no other choice at this point.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if this lingers into camp. I am guessing a two-year deal in the $50 million range with an option for a third season will ultimately get it done. The big question is how he responds to having to settle for a contract. Does he go bananas trying to show everyone the mistake of their ways? Or does he react by going through the motions, as he did in his final days in Boston?

Manny isn't the only big name left out there still looking for a home.

Position players like Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cabrera and Orlando Hudson are still available.

Dunn supposedly has an offer on the table from Washington, but could land in LA if the Dodgers get tired of dealing with Ramirez. Abreu, meanwhile, started this process looking for a three-year deal, hopefully in the $48 million range. The Chicago White Sox reportedly offered him a one-year contract the other day for $7 million. So he may have to lower his expectations a tad.

Griffey returning to Seattle could still be a possibility.

Once Ramirez signs, everything else should fall into place.

From a pitching standpoint, Ben Sheets, last year's NL starter at the All-Star Game, is still available. Teams have been scared off by his injury history, and some people think he may wait until after the season starts before he signs.

There will be 16 teams that report to camp by next Friday. With all these big- name free agents still out there, it could make for a wild week.

TORRE'S BOOK NOT AS BAD AS FIRST THOUGHT

I didn't want to comment on Joe Torre's book "The Yankee Years" before reading it. Since I did not get an advance copy - actually I may have, but my mail seems to disappear around here - I bought it on Tuesday.

At first glance and hearing Torre in a few different interviews over the last couple of days, it doesn't appear to be the massive tell-all that was initially being portrayed. There are revelations in there, though, that probably should have stayed in the clubhouse.

The A-Rod/A-Fraud stuff is ridiculous. Torre says it was a joke amongst the team, and it was said to his face. But the book says, "People in the clubhouse, including teammates and support personnel, were calling him 'A- Fraud' behind his back."

So what is the truth, Joe?

Honestly the worst part of the book comes from the recently-retired Mike Mussina, who calls out Mariano Rivera for blowing the World Series in 2001, then blowing the save in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.

"As great as he is, and it's amazing what he does, if you start the evaluation again since I've been here, he has accomplished nothing in comparison to what he accomplished the four years before," Mussina says in the book. "He blew the World Series in '01. He lost the Boston series. He didn't lose it himself, but we had a chance to win in the ninth and sweep them and he doesn't do it there."

Mussina may be right, but it is absolutely laughable that anyone on the Yankees could criticize Rivera.

COSTAS HEADING TO MLB NETWORK

The Major League Baseball Network scored its biggest coup yet, as it has lured Bob Costas from HBO.

Costas, who will debut on the MLB-owned cable channel on Thursday with an interview with Torre, will call a yet-to-be-determined amount of the channel's 26 regular-season TV games.

He is also expected to host a number of specials for the network throughout the year.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.

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