January 16, 2013 by Matt Musico
Just when we thought we had heard the last from Manny Ramirez, his bat starts to once again heat up. The soon-to-be 41-year-old has been playing in the Dominican this winter, and his latest hot streak through the playoffs for the Aguilas Cibaenas has spurred his agent to remind everyone the outfielder would like to play in the Major Leagues one more time.
It’s been a rocky road for Manny Ramirez since he signed that monster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers after getting traded to SoCal in the middle of the 2008 season. If he wasn’t suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs, he’d be guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame. When looking at his numbers, it’s hard to argue with a career .312/.411/.585 line with 555 homers and 1,831 RBI. However, if this year’s Hall of Fame vote was any indication, the writers of the BBWAA are planning on making it very hard for players linked to PEDs to gain entrance into baseball immortality…if they make it at all.
It was in 2011 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays when Ramirez was hit with his second suspension for PEDs, and he quickly decided to retire from the game, after playing only five games for Joe Maddon‘s club. Once the season was through, he got the itch to start playing again, and Billy Beane decided to give him a chance to work his way back to the Majors with the Athletics once he served his suspension (which was reduced from 100 games to 50). It figured to be a good strategy; not only could he act as a mentor for Yoenis Cespedes, he would draw more fans to the ballpark with his popularity.
Even though Manny hit .302/.348/.349 in in 17 games played (69 PAs) for Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, the organization didn’t give him any assurance he would be promoted soon, so the slugger asked for his release, hoping to find another team willing to give him a shot. Now that he doesn’t have to sit out any more games as part of a suspension, a team may take a flyer on him after seeing what he’s done this winter.
In 25 games played during the Dominican Winter League regular season, Ramirez posted a .293/.360/.434 line with four homers, and improved once the playoffs began, as he’s currently hitting .322/.414/.559 with four more bombs during that time.
Manny’s best days are behind him in his baseball career, but I can understand why he wants one more chance to play in the Major Leagues. The way he bowed out of the game in 2011 with the Rays was disgraceful, and even if fans won’t be able to forget that he took PEDs, he doesn’t want that to be the last memory they have of him.
There is a saying that the last skill professional boxers lose is their punch. Therefore, there is always that “puncher’s chance,” giving them one last great fight when no one else expects it (I credit the Rocky movies for that). With regard to Ramirez, he has that puncher’s chance; the last skill to leave an elite hitter is their swing. He’s one of the most prolific hitters in MLB history, as there aren’t many players that have won eight straight Silver Slugger awards.Whether he was taking PEDs during that time or not is not known, but the one thing I’m sure about is that steroids don’t help hitters put the bat on the ball, and Ramirez has done that better than anyone since his MLB debut as a 21-year-old in September 1993.
From his time in Triple-A last season and the small sample size in the Dominican this winter, he still has the type of swing needed to succeed at the highest level. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an American League team take a flyer on Ramirez. I hope Manny does get one more chance to be Manny in the Majors; although I don’t condone the use of performance enhancers (like most fans), I believe every ballplayer should get the chance to end their career on their own terms. It doesn’t happen very often, but I always root for those players to get that chance.
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