I really didn’t think that any team would be interested in taking a flyer on Manny Ramirez ever again. The Texas Rangers shocked me today by signing the former slugger to a minor league contract with at least some expectation that he will make the major league club at some point this season.
The headlines brought to mind the “Bring Out Your Dead” clip from the classic movie Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. Like the man in the clip, I had mentally tossed Manny’s on the proverbial cart filled with other career corpses. But apparently, his is not quite dead yet (for those unfamiliar with the movie, the clip is included below for your reference).
Ramirez hasn’t played in the MLB since 2011, where he played just five games with the Tampa Bay Rays before testing positive for elevated testosterone. The failed test was his second violation of baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy, and netted him a 100-game suspension. Ramirez agreed to retire instead of facing the full suspension. He returned in 2012 when he joined the Oakland Athletics’ organization. He served a 50-game suspension in the A’s minor league system before flaming out and ultimately being released.
Ramirez did play earlier this year in Taiwan, where he hit .352 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs in 49 games. But he recently left his Taiwanese club in hopes of making a return to the major leagues. It looks like he’ll have his chance.
The Rangers are sending Ramirez to their Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock where he will be begin his hopeful journey back to a big-league roster. Obviously, Texas’ scouts still believe Manny will be able to produce despite the fact that he is 41 years old and had shown obvious signs of natural decline in his most recent years in the MLB level. However, success against Taiwanese league pitching is not necessarily an accurate forecast on what the former All-Star slugger will be able to do against the best pitchers in the world.
Best case scenario, Manny makes it to the majors as a designated hitter and provides a right-handed bat that is desperately needed in the Rangers lineup given Lance Berkman’s struggles this season.
Worst case scenario, he is unable to make it to the big leagues and we all come to the realization that Ramirez’s career is done. But even if that’s the case, the Rangers will not have lost much in the form of dollars.
This deal is extremely low risk. According to Ramirez, he will be making the league minimum salary (he admits even that is too much money for him at this point in his career), so taking Texas faces no real detriment in this signing.
Personally, I think the headlines about today’s signing will be the last we read about Ramirez until he is either released by the Rangers or decides, once again, to retire. Players of Manny’s age just don’t have Renaissance moments. At some point, the game passes us all by and never looks back.
Ramirez’s career is not dead yet. But like the guy in the Monty Python sketch points out, it probably will be soon.