Confession Time: I love Manny Ramirez. I always have and I always will. No matter the circumstance or controversy that has polluted his career, I have always loved Manny Ramirez as a baseball player. Even as a member of the Boston Red Sox, destroying my other great baseball love.
It’s true. Perhaps the only thing in baseball that I love more than Manny Ramirez is the Toronto Blue Jays franchise.
Given these two indisputable facts you’d think that when the separate entities appear to align, and a collision course becomes rumoured, I would begin the Dance of Joy or do something else that both exhibits my excitement and references 80′s pop culture.
Not so my friend. And not merely because referencing 80′s pop culture is played, or because these rumours seem to emerge every offseason.
My two favourite people in the universe are my best friend and my little sister. I would have no problem whatsoever trusting either of them with my life. They’re at the very top of the, admittedly short, People I’m Willing To Take A Bullet For list. And yet, if they made any motions toward getting together, I would embark on an any means necessary, Steven Segal Out For Justice style attack to tear it down before even the slightest spark was started.
My impulse to keep Manny and the Jays separate may not be as destructive, but it still exists. Put simply, the two are not a good fit.
Despite having the best on base numbers among all available free agents, at this point in his career, Ramirez projects to be nothing more than a designated hitter for five days a week during the season, when not dealing with personal issues, injuries or steroid suspensions.
The Jays already have one of those, minus the off-field problems, in Adam Lind, and have a future one in Travis Snider, and got rid of another future one at this year’s trade deadline in Brett Wallace.
Yes, Lind struggled against left handed pitching in only his second full season in the Majors, but just as Jose Bautista found his swing against right handers, the phenomenon of on and off years is hardly unfamiliar. New manager John Farrell has already talked about the Red Sox successful approach against Lind and Aaron Hill. Given his 2009 season, Lind should be given every opportunity to come back on the strength of a new managerial staff aware of the adjustments he has to make.
It has been suggested that Lind could simply be moved to first base or left field on a permanent basis, but Lind has proven to be even more of a liability in the field over a longer stretch of time than he is against left handed pitching.
Ramriez hit a grand total of 10 home runs last year. You could say that the current Jays lineup doesn’t need to worry about power, but there’s no place for Manny in the current Jays lineup without taking at bats away from Lind, who will still be only 27 when the 2011 season starts, or Travis Snider, who desperately needs a season worth of at bats to properly develop into the hitter that many believe he can be.
While I’ll put nothing past agent Scott Boras, it’s quite possible that the best contract available for Ramirez would be something similar to what Vladimir Guerrero signed with Texas, a one year deal that would pay him $5 – $7 million. While the price tag is certainly within the Jays budget, finding a fit for Manny requires a complete reworking of the lineup.
Anyone suggesting that the addition of Ramirez would increase attendance or jersey sales is forgetting that the best pitcher in baseball threw from the mound at Rogers Centre for several years without attracting record attendance. I doubt that Manny’s addition would make for a dramatic increase.
Still, it’s a fair question to ask if a rejuvinated Manny worth a $5 million deal. He certainly is, but it would be a risk. And this team will be taking enough risks as it is with:
- a new manager who has no previous managerial experience,
- a young starting staff,
- a rookie starting catcher,
- possibly an inexperienced Lind at first base,
- a second baseman coming off his worst season ever,
- a complete unknown at hot corner that may or may not be the worst throwing third baseman in the league,
- a slugging prospect, who is now on the verge of no longer qualifying as a prospect, and still hasn’t completed a full year with the big club,
- an overpaid center fielder whose range seems to decline every game and
- the most powerful hitter in baseball last season who has never come close to showing that kind of isolated power or hitting ability against right handed pitching in any previous MLB season.
Finally, the goal of the Alex Anthopoulos led Toronto Blue Jays has always been said to be the production of a sustainably competitive team. Adding Manny Ramirez to the roster does not match that objective. The Jays claim that they will have no problem going out and signing a free agent if he’s the “final piece to the puzzle” type of player. Ramirez, with his question marks combined with the question marks surrounding every single other position on the roster, is not that type of player.