It has been well documented over the last 5 years that the Oakland Athletics have made a habit of giving 1 year deals to aging sluggers, the hope being they have just enough left in the tank to make an impact for a season. On the surface it appears that the signing of the much maligned, twice suspended, recently retired Manny Ramirez was just another instance of Billy Beane trying to squeeze the last drops of productivity out of a player. While that may very well be part of Billy Beane’s thought process, I don’t think it tells the whole story.
Manny Ramirez, at this point in his career should not even own a glove. He is the quintessential definition of a Designated Hitter. He was never a Gold Glove threat anyway, so one could imagine the horrors that would take place if he were to take the field at 39/40 years old. So it seems to be counterproductive that the A’s would add someone like him when another perfectly incompetent fielder by the name of Chris Carter is eagerly awaiting his chance to DH for the A’s.
Then there’s the added wrinkle that Mr. Ramirez won’t see the batter’s box until 50 games into the 2012 season. When he tested positive for PEDs in 2011 he faced the possibility of a 100 game suspension, rather than serve that suspension Manny retired. Fast forward to 2012, Manny wants to come back and prove himself, MLB agrees to reduce his suspension to 50 games, he signs with the Athletics, and here we stand now.
So the Athletics signed a nearly 40 year old DH who will block a 25 year old DH from getting his chance, who also is facing a 50 game suspension. Notwithstanding the fact that Chris Carter isn’t even going to be on the Athletics roster to begin with while Manny serves his suspension, it makes no sense. Or does it?
In fact the signing of Manny Ramirez may ultimately be the most significant signing of this current rebuilding effort. Because Manny will help shape the career of a young slugger by the name of Yoenis Cespedes.
One of the first images of Yoenis Cespedes at A’s camp in Phoenix was of Manny Ramirez and him standing in the outfield talking for an extended period of time. I strongly believe this was not an accident. Yoenis is going through a massive culture shock right now, and Manny was called upon to help guide him through it. Many players from Latin America go through the same adjustment period, and it can be extremely difficult. Having someone like Manny who has accomplished so much in the Major Leagues and can show Yoenis the ropes of life in the MLB world will be extremely beneficial.
When I first saw the 20 minute promotional video Yoenis Cespedes had produced as a marketing tool to Major League teams, two things ran through my head. ”This guy is a freak of nature.” “His swing reminds me of someone…… Manny Ramirez.”
Is it just me, or does this seem to ring true? Not just the simple fact that he’s a right handed power hitter, who has power to all fields, but instinctively when I saw him hit for the first time, Manny came to mind. Manny and Yoenis are very much alike in their approach at the plate, their stance, how they hold the bat, everything.
When Cespedes launched his first Major League home run in game 2 of the Japan series against the Seattle Mariners, I thought again to myself, “That is a ball Manny would have punished just like that.” A ball out over the plate, on the outer half, a hanging slider that was just asking for it, and even though it appeared Cespedes maybe didn’t get all of it, he muscled it out to left center field off the end of his bat. It is obvious that Cespedes has the killer instinct at the plate to make pitchers pay for missing their marks. No doubt about it his aggressive swings will raise the strikeout totals, but when he connects, the bleacher bums better watch out.
It doesn’t matter what happens with Manny when his suspension is over and he joins the A’s, it’s very possible he may have nothing left in the tank as far as hitting goes anyway. His duty in Oakland is to pass along the encyclopedia of hitting knowledge and experience to the most promising young hitter the A’s have seen since the likes of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, and Jason Giambi were in the green and gold. Cespedes has a chance to be the centerpiece of the rebirth of one of baseball’s most decorated franchises, much like Manny Ramirez was in Cleveland and Boston. Manny may never see the inside of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but he has had a Hall of Fame caliber career, and his final act in baseball is to try to put Yoenis Cespedes on that same trajectory.