Sunday, January 23, 2011
Idiots Remix: Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to the Rays
Yes, you've been hearing correctly. The Tampa Bay Rays have officially signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez for the 2011 season. Manny, of course, will spend the majority of his time as the designated hitter, while Damon will play left field, DH, and add some leadership to a club that's full of very promsing - but very young - talent.
As you all know, Ramirez and Damon were key pieces of the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox, and while Damon skipped town for the Bronx in 2005, we had to put up with Manny being Manny until mid-2008, when he took his act out to "Mannywood" and the Dodgers.
Since being suspended for use of the women's fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) early last season, Manny's power has been somewhat diminished, but it is also worth noting that the once-feared slugger is now 38-years old, and he wouldn't be the first hitter to lose some power as he ages. [Personally, I always thought that of all the players in baseball, Manny was the one who could get caught with a women's fertility medication and actually claim he wanted a baby - it's just Manny being Manny, right? But I digress.]
No doubt Ramirez's presence in the clubhouse will present Manager Joe Maddon with a new set of challenges, starting with Spring Training, when Manny's grandmother will develop yet another illness that will result in his tardiness. Maddon has certainly proven his mettle at managing teams full of the ambitions and egos of young budding stars, but Manny Ramirez is another enigma altogether. Surely the manager will look to Manny's former teammate Damon for some pointers, and possibly even to keep the aging Ramirez in line.
Besides his admittedly useful leadership skills, Damon's biggest value at this stage in his career comes from his ability to get on base consistently. Now out of the friendly short-porch confines of Yankee Stadium for a season, Damon's home runs have fallen from 24 in 2009 to just 8 in 2010 - a steep drop-off, even for a 36-year-old. Of course, Damon's arm strength is as questionable as ever, so it's likely that a good portion of the $5.25 million Damon will be paid next season is for his clubhouse presence.
Ramirez, on the other hand, has nothing to offer but his bat - his defense has never been impressive (and it's worsened with age), and he's more of a detriment than a help to most clubhouses, so he'll only be getting $2 million in 2011. Oh, how the mghty have fallen: Ramirez once demanded that the Sox not pick up his option for 2009 because $20 million dollars was not enough (TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS!), and now three years later, he's a bargain-basement pickup.
All said, I think this is an excellent move by the Rays, who have watched a huge chunk of their young talent walk away to greener pastures this winter. Manny and Johnny could fit in nicely in Tampa Bay (Maddon will likely let Manny leave his famous dreadlocks be, after all), and the two have tremendous upside. Plus, we'll get to see them at Fenway eleven times this season.
For any of you wondering about my travels thus far, I'm currently deep in enemy territory in New York City for the start of my abroad program. I (of course) brought mostly Red Sox clothing, and so I've been getting the evil eye from more than a few New Yorkers. Last night at dinner, one even jokingly refused to serve me! I laughed, he laughed, and we both took our differences in stride, but I won't be surprised if I get some actual vitriol soon enough.... After all, they all must be pretty jealous of our stellar offseason, especially after the infamous Cliff Lee snub!