Yesterday, the Oakland A’s announced that Ramirez requested his release from the team, and they honored his wishes. Ramirez is now a free agent and can sign with any club (although one can guess that he’s probably not willing to report to Triple-A). This is similar to Vladmir Guerrero, who just this week asked for his release from the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A club, the Las Vegas 51s. He also hoped to catch on at the major league level, and felt he still had enough in the tank to help a team. So with Ramirez (and Guerrero) now available, it’s only logical that Indians fans would ponder whether or not the team should sign one of them. The Tribe needs help in left field, and they also need a right handed bat. As much as I’ve always loved Manny, and secretly wished he’d find a way to return to Cleveland, I have to say that I hope the Indians pass on this one. While I’m almost desperate for a right-handed power bat at this point, and even though I still love Manny, I can’t let that desperation and emotion cloud my judgment and I hope the Indians don’t let it cloud theirs.
Manny Ramirez hasn’t had a great couple of years. In 2009 he was suspended 50 games for taking a banned performance enhancing drug. In 2011, shortly after he signed a 1-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, he was busted again and received a 100 game suspension. Rather than serve the time, he decided to retire from baseball. While the Rays (and Ramirez) had been struggling before his release, they managed to storm back and propel themselves into the postseason. This spring Ramirez decided that he wanted to make a comeback and signed with the Oakland Athletics. This made sense for several reasons – Oakland has always been willing to take a chance on players with “issues” in the hopes that they can find a bargain. Plus with all of the uncertainty surrounding a new stadium for the team, they’re sort of in a holding pattern at the moment…trying to rebuild, yet trying to keep a somewhat competitive team on the field. (Or at least one that looks at least slightly better than a Triple-A team.)
With his suspension reduced to 50 games (MLB considered his sitting out for most of last year a part of the suspension) Ramirez reported to spring training with Oakland (he was allowed to do so before his suspension officially started). I saw him this spring at the Oakland-Cincinnati game I attended. While he received a nice ovation, he did nothing particularly special during that game, or throughout March. With his suspension formally over, Ramirez had been playing with the Sacramento River Cats, the A’s Triple-A club. I heard that he looked particularly awful with the River Cats, but had been better lately; good enough to raise his overall numbers to .302/.348/.349. The thing that concerns me the most about his numbers is that in 63 at-bats over 17 games with Sacramento, Ramirez hit zero home runs. While that’s a relatively small sample size, if he’s not knocking them out of the park in the minors, it may not happen for him in the majors. What’s the point of bringing in a right-handed power bat, if it doesn’t really have any power left in it? Ramirez also had 3 doubles, struck out 17 times and walked 5 times. I think what’s most telling about this is that Oakland took a pass on calling him up to the major league club. The A’s rank 24th out of 30 teams in runs scored; they’re 27th in hits, and 29th in team batting average. If they can look at Ramirez and think, “thanks, but no thanks” then that may not bode well for his ability to succeed in the majors at this point in his career. As much as it pains me to say this, he may not turn out to be any better than any of the Indians’ internal options. The only thing I can say positively about a potential Ramirez deal is that he probably qualifies as low-risk, high-reward at this point. It probably wouldn’t take much to give him a shot, and if he fails, you could just release him.
I think that I need to add the fact that I just don’t trust Ramirez at this point. He was busted for performance enhancing drugs twice in three years, and there’s speculation he may have used them earlier in his career as well. While part of me thinks, “no way would he be dumb enough to try this again,” I thought the same thing after his positive test in 2009. Manny was a fantastic hitter in his prime, and I can sort of understand that he just wants to try and hang on for a little while longer. Desperation can make you do crazy things, and it’s quite clear that Manny is still desperate to play in the majors. I’d hate to see the Indians deal with some kind of PED scandal when they’re in contention in a division where every team seems to have very visible flaws. There’s a realistic chance the Indians could win the AL Central, if they can find a way to add some offensive help (particularly a right-handed bat). While I wish that solution involved a reunion with Manny Ramirez, I fear that is not the answer.
Besides, I guess that Manny’s dreads make him some kind of bad influence. (?)
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