At first, it was dismissed as a minor incident, something that happens behind closed doors all the time, something that wasn't a symbol of any clubhouse issues, something that was no big deal.
In hindsight, it clearly was.
"It" was a small brush-up between Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis in the Red Sox' dugout on June 5, 2008, and it turned out to be the first of a string of incidents that summer that built the impetus for the July 31 trade that shipped Manny as far from Boston as possible.
How, exactly, the scrum went down is not known with any such certainty, but there was enough circumstantial evidence to at least make an educated guess. The game was unique in itself in that Tampa Bay starter James Shield intentionally drilled Coco Crisp right on his backside, and a brawl ensued.
At the time of the fight between the Rays and Sox, Manny had already put Boston ahead 3-1 on a first-inning homer. Manny added an RBI single in the fourth to put the Sox up 5-1. A couple of minutes later, however, something happened.
By chance, a NESN camera was focused on the Red Sox dugout between innings. There was some shuffling, and the camera operator zoomed in to see Ramirez being restrained by several teammates, climbing onto the bench and appearing to be trying to get at Youkilis. The situation was diffused, both players stayed in the game and the Sox cruised to a 7-1 win.
The best guess made about the fight was that Youkilis, who never hides his emotion, may have shown too much of it when his team was winning — at least too much for Manny's liking. It's not the best explanation, but remember, this is the same guy who took exception to an eye-high Roger Clemens fastball that was over the middle of the plate.
The team then downplayed everything about the incident, saying everything was just fine. Both Ramirez and Youkilis seemed to have a little bit of fun with it a few games later, hamming it up and hugging in front of a camera. At the time, it was brushed off as yet another chapter of the "Manny being Manny" saga, but looking back, it was clearly the start of something more serious.
Weeks later, it was rumored that there was a team vote on whether to keep Ramirez or trade him away, and it was believed that he received almost no votes of support. That vote may or may not have happened, but the belief that Manny had to go was undeniably present in that locker room. Within two months of the incident with Youkilis, Ramirez — one of the great Red Sox of all time — was sent packing to Los Angeles without so much as a goodbye.
Each day leading up to Manny's return to Boston on June 18,
NESN.com will run through one highlight and one lowlight from his career
with the Red Sox.
4. Manny hits No. 500
Wednesday, June 16: Manny catches high-five in Baltimore
5. Manny being Manny
4. Manny fights Kevin
Wednesday, June 16: Manny forgets which knee hurts