The Oakland A’s need power. They need to be frugal (so famously frugal, they’re nominated for a couple of Oscars). So why not take a chance on a 39-year-old slugger who can serve as designated hitter and mentor younger players, like Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes?
Manny Ramirez, nearly as well known for “Manny being Manny” as his accomplishments on a baseball diamond, has agreed a minor-league deal with the Athletics. Of course, first he must serve a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, but the deal still is one that carries little risk for Oakland, which will pay Ramirez no more than $500,000.
His first game, barring rainouts, could be May 30, his 40th birthday. The allure of Ramirez, besides the price tag, is part statistical — he’s a 12-time All-Star who is 14th on the all-time list with 555 home runs — and part intangible. He’s expected to report to spring training by the end of the week, as a non-roster invitee.
“He'll be just fine here,” pitcher Dallas Braden said via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser. “Obviously, Oakland, over the years, has been known for a freewheeling clubhouse, and we love it when anyone goes out there and enjoys what he's doing. And Manny has no problem enjoying performing and enjoying his performances. So it will be a seamless transition.”
The element of risk is not insignificant, though. Ramirez retired from the Tampa Bay Rays last April rather than serve a 100-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs for the third time. Because he missed basically all of the season, Major League Baseball cut his suspension to 50 games in December and Ramirez let it be known he was ready to play again. In addition to the perception that he has quit on his teams at times, he has had other issues; he was arrested last September and charged with battery after a domestic dispute.
In Oakland, the expectation is that he will help Cespedes, who speaks little English. On the field, though, no one is certain what Ramirez has left. The “Moneyball” team frequently looks for aging stars, like David Justice, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui, who — they hope — have a few hits left. (As Mark Purdy writes, lowering expectations would be a good idea, for several reasons.)
“We still don't know what we're getting,” pitcher Brandon McCarthy said, "but it will be interesting to see a guy with that kind of pedigree if he's clicking on all cylinders. That would be awesome.
“I certainly get it from the A's perspective: If he comes in and rakes, you're adding an impact bat, and if not, you're not losing anything.”