The story that started buzzing around Birdland yesterday afternoon was that manager Buck Showalter and Fred Ferreira (the Orioles’ director of international scouting) watched Manny Ramirez take batting practice in a Florida batting cage sometime after the winter meetings. Let me preface all of this by saying that I’m NOT in favor of Manny Ramirez playing for the Orioles. I wouldn’t have liked it back when he was in his prime in moxieland. I’ve never been a fan, nor will I ever be. I’ve always said that baseball was a gentleman’s game built on a mutual respect between opponents, as well as for the game. Based upon his actions on and off the field, Ramirez doesn’t see things that way.
First and perhaps foremost, at the moment he’ll have to serve a 50-game suspension before he’s able to play again. So any team that signs him would only have him for 112 games. As I said above, I’ve never been a fan of Ramirez’s antics. The whole “Manny being Manny” thing really rubs me the wrong way. Whether or not they’re winning or losing, the O’s seem to have a fairly professional clubhouse full of good character guys. That’s very important in that if your clubhouse has a group of individuals odds are you’re not going to go anywhere. (One might argue that these “character guys” haven’t gotten them anywhere to date, however that’s another column for another day.) Ramirez’s old team, the Boston Red Sox, are a perfect example of this in that their clubhouse seemed to have individuals playing for themselves and they came apart at the seams last year. The O’s don’t need a cancer the caliber of Manny Ramirez to unravel one of the few things that they do have going for them.
One thing I will say for Ramirez is that he was a great hitter. I’d gladly put my hand to the fire to vouch for his talents in his hey day. Notice I used the past tense there; Ramirez will be 40 in May. At best he might be able to turn in a few doubles and perhaps a homer here and there, however he’s not the feared power hitter that he once was. To that point, he’s certainly not the guy that they’ve lacked for years who they could plug into the cleanup hole in the middle of the lineup. If they’re going to go the “aging veteran” route again, I’d much rather they re-sign Vladimir Guerrero because at least he doesn’t have the baggage that Manny would bring to the team.
Most importantly, Ramirez is a steroid guy. I think baseball is the greatest game that was ever played, and I deeply resent what steroids (and the players that use them) have done to it. The Orioles were one of the first franchises that were billed as a “steroids team” after Rafael Palmeiro’s positive test in 2005. I’m certainly not defending Palmerio, however in retrospect he was probably one of the lesser offenders. At the very least, he served his suspension and retired after that season. Ramirez turned in his second positive test last spring, and rather than face the music of a long suspension he retired. Again, that’s a slap in the face to the greatest game that was ever played. How dare he.
You know where I stand on Ramirez. However as I said, his numbers aren’t what they once were. From a baseball standpoint, do the Orioles really want to bring in a guy that hit .059 with no HR’s last year? In fairness, that was over a five-game span. But I suspect that his numbers would equal those of any 40-year old athlete if he wasn’t juicing. And there’s another point; what if the Orioles or anyone else signs him and he does it again? The fact that he wants to come back at all might possibly mean that he’s found a new masking agent for steroids, because his past indicates that if there’s a way to do it again he’ll try.
So is this vitriol towards Ramirez in any way due to the years of pounding that the Orioles took at his hand? Maybe, maybe not. However the fact is that he’s not very well thought of around baseball due to his various antics as well as his steroid use. Do the Orioles really want to put up with that? I hope not…
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