There's a good chance that the Manny Ramirez Era is about to being in Oakland. The big question is what the veteran slugger has to offer the A's at this point in his career. (Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

Triple Play: Manny being Manny

Welcome to Swingin’ A’s Triple Play where we field one subject and turn it into three possible outcomes. My gut feeling on how things may pan out is at the end of the post where you can cast your vote in the monthly poll and sound off in the comments section.

There’s no getting around the fact that Manny Watch is on as Manny Ramirez logs at bats in Triple A and he moves closer to completing his 50 game drug suspension. You can’t escape the updates on his progress (or lack of it) on TV, the radio, Twitter, and in the newspaper.

At some point the big guy is probably coming to Oakland so there’s no better time to kick around what to expect from everyone’s flaky slugger.

IN PLAY: What fate awaits Manny Ramirez with the A’s?  NOTE: This is all working under the assumption that the man gets the call to the big leagues in the near future which might be a stretch, but let’s kick some ideas around anyway.

FIRST OUTCOME: Manny powers the A’s.

In this scenario Ramirez finally stays off the performance enhancing drugs and somehow finds the fountain of youth, shocking the world and slugging Oakland into the Wild Card picture.

By the end of the summer Manny Mania is running rampant in Oakland as the team flirts with snagging the second Wild Card spot in the American League and the souvenir shops at the Coliseum can’t keep the dreadlock wigs on the shelves for more than a few innings at a time.

Ramirez may not hit for a great average but he homers in the clutch, takes Yoenis Cespedes under his wing, and keeps the clubhouse loose with his offbeat personality.

In short, Manny turns out to be general manager Billy Beane’s best bargain acquisition of a veteran slugger since Frank Thomas in 2006 and the surprise playoff run saves baseball in Oakland by rallying the community around a band of lovable underdogs.  Coliseum City will be affectionately known as the House That Manny Built.

SECOND OUTCOME: Stick a fork in him, he’s done.

Let’s face it, Ramirez didn’t do anything special in spring training, he’s been just as unremarkable so far in Sacramento and this scenario fully embraces these uninspiring showings.

The second Triple Play outcome anticipates Manny toiling away in Triple A a week or so past May 30 when he’s eligible to return to the major leagues just so he can show a little life with the bat and create the appearance that he earned his promotion. Manny returns to action in the majors with a lot of fanfare but very few hits and no hint whatsoever of the power that made him one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball during his prime.

Eventually the A’s stop the charade and graciously release Manny early enough in the season for him to latch on with another club and be still eligible to be on a playoff roster if some contending team wants to take a flier on him as a pinch hitter down the stretch.

By then Oakland’s season will be completely in the gutter and they can use the freed up roster spot to take a look at some young players which is what they should have been doing all along.

THIRD OUTCOME: Isn’t that guy at the end of the bench Manny Ramirez?

In the final option of this Triple Play, Ramirez hits just enough to be worth keeping around but not enough to make a difference in the win column.

His batting average is OK and his on-base percentage is actually pretty decent but he has almost no power left and the nagging injuries that come with being 40 and off steroids keep him out of action too often to be relied on as Oakland’s everyday designated hitter.

But the kids on the roster love him, especially Cespedes, and Manny turns over a new leaf and embraces his role as a mentor to younger players making him worth keeping around as the last guy on the bench in the final month of the season.

In this scenario Ramirez is Beane’s most ho-hum bargain acquisition of a veteran slugger since Nomar Garciaparra in 2009.

MY CALL: Stick a fork in him, he’s done.

I just don’t think Manny has anything left in the tank and that may be painfully obvious after about a month of seeing him weakly flail at the ball while wearing green and gold. For a team going nowhere in 2012 and building for the future it’ll be more important in the final part of the season to get a look at some of the top prospects in Sacramento than it will be to let Ramirez try to end his career on a high note.

Another reason I’m not sold on Ramirez being able to bring anything to the table is that history isn’t on the man’s side.

The Mitchell Report came out in December 2007 so let’s assume that from 2007 through 2011 players knew they needed to be steroid-free to play ball. Manny’s about to turn 40 and if you look at the OPS of 40-year-olds in that window of time you won’t find much to get excited about if you have even a shred of hope that he can be an everyday DH for the A’s.

If Ramirez was healthy enough to play every day through the final 4 months of the season he might log close to 300 at-bats and Baseball Reference can only scare up eight players who have pulled that off from 2007 through 2011.  The only guy to post an OPS over .900 was Moises Alou in 2007 with the Mets when he finished at .916. Outside of Alou, only two players had an OPS over .800 (Jim Thome, .838 with the Twins in 2011 and Gary Sheffield, .823 with the Mets in 2009).

A major difference between Alou, Thome, and Sheffield in each of those seasons compared to Ramirez in 2012 is that they all logged significant playing time when they were 39 years old. When Manny was 39 he only lasted five games with the Rays in 2011 before he was hit with his second drug suspension so he now has a thick layer of rust all over his game as he tries to return to the majors. And since his first drug suspension in 2009 his slugging percentage has dropped from .531 to .510 to .319 to .059 as he’s drifted from the Dodgers to the White Sox to the Rays.

With an increasingly lifeless bat and two drug suspensions under his belt, Ramirez clearly isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed or the biggest bat in the rack anymore.  If he proves me wrong I’ll gladly take the runs he drives in for the A’s because they need all the help they can get but I’m not counting on it.

What’s your call? Click on the poll below to cast your vote and feel free to jump into the comments section with your take on Ramirez’s fate with the A’s.

What fate awaits Manny Ramirez with the A's?

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