Billy Beane Signs Manny Ramirez To Join The A’s
Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane made news yesterday by reaching an agreement with disgraced slugger Manny Ramirez on a one-year deal believed to be worth around $500,000. Due to the financial constraints and payroll limitations Beane has to deal with on an annual basis, this deal makes perfect sense from an Oakland perspective. BJR texted me that this is a classic “Billy Beane move” and he has a point; Ramirez is just the latest in a long line of aging stars the A’s have signed to low-risk contracts during Beane’s tenure with the hope of catching lightning in a bottle.
Manny Ramirez has worn many hats in a baseball career that has spanned nearly two decades. For years he was one of the game’s most prolific hitters, consistently putting up amazing power numbers while still maintaining a high batting average. After 8 successful seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Manny took his bat to Boston and became a folk hero. Despite all the “Manny being Manny” antics, at the plate there were few better. Opposing teams never wanted to see Ramirez coming to the plate in late games situations or with runners in scoring position, as he always seemed come up with a big hit when he needed too. Along with David Ortiz, Manny was a key cog in the middle of the order for Red Sox teams that won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, and there was little doubt that he would eventually retire as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time.
Unfortunately for Manny, things started to go downhill for him during the 2008 season, and in the years that have followed the aura that had surrounded him for so long would take some irreversible hits. Never completely thrilled with the intense media attention in Boston, in the summer of 2008 he checked out on his Red Sox teammates and was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dodger fans were immediately enamored with Ramirez (has it really already been 3+ years since “Mannywood”), and his torrid hitting that summer and fall led Los Angeles all the way to the NLCS. The thrill was short-lived however; in the spring of 2009 he was suspended for 50 games by MLB for using a banned substance and it was later revealed that he also tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during a league survey in 2003. Manny has struggled with an assortment of nagging injuries since his reinstatement, and after falling of favor with Dodgers he joined the Chicago White Sox during the tail end of the 2010 season, making little to no impact (.261 average w/one home run in 24 games).
Having retired abruptly from the Tampa Bay Rays last spring after testing positive for another banned performance-enhancing substance, Manny is now back trying to salvage what is left of his mangled baseball career. Although he has to sit out the first 50 games of the 2012 season as punishment for last year’s drug transgression, the A’s feel that they have nothing to lose in taking a flyer on Manny. After a flurry of off season moves and signings, the Angels and Rangers are once again expected to compete for the AL West crown. It will be a stretch for the youthful A’s to make a run at the playoffs this year, so at the very least Ramirez will bring an element of excitement around the team when he returns and should boost ticket sales for a few weeks. If he has anything left in the tank, Beane can decide whether he wants to keep him around or trade him to a team in need of a bat.
Signing veteran players on the downside of their careers specifically for the DH role has been a Beane trademark over the past few years, with varying results:
2006: Frank Thomas (38 years-old on opening day), 39 HR’s, 114 RBI, .270 AVG in 137 games played.
2008: Frank Thomas (40 years-old on opening day, returned to Oakland after release from Toronto), 5 HR’s, 19 RBI, .263 AVG in 55 games played.
2009: Jason Giambi (38 years-old on opening day), 11 HR’s, 40 RBI, .193 AVG in 83 games played.
2011: Hideki Matsui (36 years-old on opening day), 12 HR’s, 72 RBI, .251 AVG in 141 games played.
Manny will turn 40 at the end of May and won’t be eligible to be in the A’s lineup until early June. How he performs this season is anyone’s guess, but he is reportedly in great shape and determined to prove he can still play at a high level. Motivations vary, as Billy Beane hopes he can squeeze a few more hits out of a once awe-inspiring bat, while Manny will attempt to write a different final chapter to a MLB career that has fallen way off track.
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