(Photo by Associated Press)
I’m starting to get inundated with emails and tweets from people wondering if the Mariners should make a play for Manny Ramirez, who is a free agent and looking to make a comeback.
Perhaps “inundated” is too strong a word, but there’s been a steady enough stream of inquiries for me to feel I should address the question. Or, in honor of Manny’s penchant for third-person referrals, let me rephrase that: I feel Larry should address the question.
Here’s Larry’s answer: No, no and no.
I understand the temptation, mind you. Manny Ramirez with a bat was always a thing of beauty, regardless of how you felt about Manny being Manny. For about 15 years, no one was more feared at the plate. A .312 career average, .996 OPS, and 555 homers don’t lie. He was one fantastic hitter.
Was. I have strong doubts that at age 40 — which is how old Ramirez will be three days after he finishes serving out his 50-game suspension for a second violation of baseball’s performance-enhancing drug rules (reduced from 100 games) — Manny can still make an impact at the plate. The Mariners don’t have a great recent history of trying to coax one last hurrah out of formerly great hitters. And if they’re truly going to go young this year, I don’t think they need a 40-year-old two-time PED transgressor in the mix.
That’s 40 with pretty much a year off from baseball after his second suspension caused him to walk away last year after just five games with the Rays (during which he was 1-for-17). And the previous year, Ramirez bombed out with the White Sox, who picked him up for the stretch drive and got exactly two extra-base hits from Manny in 24 games (69 at-bats).
Yes, it would be pretty much a risk-free venture, financially, because he would come (to any team) on a minor-league contract for a low base salary with the understanding that any indescretions whatsoever would result in his immediate ouster. Yes, manager Eric Wedge knows Ramirez from his glory days with the Indians, when Wedge was a minor-league manager in the Cleveland organization. Wedge even managed him for one game with Double-A Akron in 2000. And yes, Manny said all the right things in a recent interview with Pedro Gomez of ESPN, including this classic:
“I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing.”
He went on to say he wants to be a role model, which is rich for someone who was run out of Boston amidst charges that he quit on the team. Here’s what Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote in 2010:
On a daily basis, there’s nothing evil or disruptive about having Manny on your team. He shows up most of the time, puts in the work, and produces. He keeps to himself for the most part and generally acts like your average 12-year-old kid. There’s no evil force at work.
He’s goofy. He’ll forget to cash paychecks, disappear inside the leftfield wall to take a leak, cutoff a throw from a centerfielder, and forget how many outs there are. He’s been known to hug complete strangers.
Sometimes teammates are strangers to Manny. There’s nothing menacing about Manny Ramirez.
But he quits. He quit on the Red Sox twice. He quit in September 2006 for no apparent reason. In 2008 he was mad because the Sox were not extending his contract, so he acted out. He slapped Kevin Youkilis in the dugout. He toppled then-64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick when he couldn’t get a bunch of tickets for his friends an hour before gametime. He was asked to pinch hit on his day off, and took three strikes without moving the bat off his shoulder. Then he invented hamstring injuries to get himself traded. It was blatant. When he left, he spoke of how he “suffered” in Boston.
OK, that’s just a writer speaking. Here’s a former teammate, Curt Schilling:
“The day he realized that they were not going to sign him to an extension was the day he said, ‘Uncle. I’m done.'”
And: “There were times when you had players who were on like fire duty, ‘Show up tomorrow, I’m not sure if you’re playing or not, we’ve gotta find out what [Manny] wants to do.’ That’s not fair to anybody.”
And: “The fact of the matter was, you looked at a guy who, at the end of the day, when you look back on the history, never, ever cared about any of us.”
That was all before getting busted for PEDs — twice.
Manny might be sincere in his desire to make amends, to end his career on an upbeat note. I wish him well in that quest. But the Mariners don’t need the distraction, certainly not for a bat that is far from guaranteed to produce. They don’t need the drama of Manny Being Manny.