Like it or not—believe it or not—the Oakland Athletics have reportedly come to terms with free agent Manny Ramirez. According to Pedro Gomez of ESPN.com, the A’s brass have reached a deal with the embattled slugger—a deal worth roughly $500,000.
The oft-beleaguered Ramirez has not played in the Major Leagues since last May, when he retired from the Tampa Bay Rays following a second failed drug test.
The impending Ramirez signing adds to a flurry of transactions by the Oakland A’s, a morbidly moribund team that has been surprisingly active this offseason.
The revamped and rebuilding ballclub has lobbied heavily for a new ballpark in San Jose, traded away a slew of key players, extended the contract of its face-of-the-franchise general manager and somehow signed several free agent veterans.
It’s been a roller-coaster winter for the organization, with the signing of Ramirez becoming the plunging corkscrew that will hopefully have fans screaming.
Many have questioned the Athletics’ pursuit of Manny, however. After all, by the time he becomes eligible to play this season, it will have been over a year since he last played a major league game. And, coincidentally, his projected return date is May 30th—his 40th birthday.
What exactly is Oakland’s intention for acquiring an over-the-hill, declining-in-productivity, PED-ically induced Ramirez?
First and foremost, one thing is clear: Oakland has continued to try. Given their circumstances—imagined or not—they are indeed doing their best. While critics have predicted that the A’s will scrape the bottom of their division for a tortuous 162 games, Oakland has surprisingly constructed a roster that has the makings of a spunky and enthusiastic team.
But the Athletics hope that their multitude of small splashes can somehow outdo the cannonballs of their AL West counterparts. Maybe the A’s can compete a little bit this season.
With the out-of-nowhere catch of Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and now the addition of Ramirez, the A’s have a lineup that has some promise and excitement, one that Oakland foresees will score some runs and make things happen.
Ramirez’s right-handed power replaces that of the departed Josh Willingham. And, if anything, he’ll provide a light-hearted atmosphere with his Manny Being Manny antics—which fits right in with Oakland’s notoriously laid-back clubhouse personality. Plus, at $500,000, there is little risk in Ramirez. If he fails, he fails. If not, good for Oakland.
Certainly, General Manager Billy Beane and the A’s public relations department are aware of the attention that Ramirez will bring to the franchise—both good and bad. After all, Ramirez sort of disappeared when he “retired” last season following reports of his failed drug test.
The media will absolutely be on his case for him to respond to those unanswered questions whenever he makes his first appearance in spring training. The circus will follow Ramirez wherever he goes for a little while.
But, hopefully, because of Oakland’s dim spotlight, Ramirez can quietly go about his business after the initial crush of questioning dies down. And then he can focus on getting back his health and timing and contributing to his new ballclub. At which point, if all goes according to Oakland’s plans, Ramirez will add to his 555 career home runs and 1,831 runs batted in.
If he produces at a high level, he could become a feel-good story of sorts, and the media attention would shift to Ramirez’s career achievements.
Which would be the perfect irony for the Oakland franchise, one of the first nests for performance-enhancing drugs and steroid use. Everything would come full circle from the hotbed of Jose Canseco’s days with the A’s in the early '90s, when steroids were initially becoming prevalent throughout the MLB.
To have Ramirez come to and be successful in the Bay Area, the breeding ground of steroids and BALCO so long ago, would be a nice little bow on the use of PEDs in baseball.
To be sure, though, Oakland has perplexed fans with its offseason activity. They have proved that there is one way to run their ballclub: the A’s way.
No matter what hurdles face them, be it territorial rights or low payroll or a recessive economy, the Athletics will keep trying to move forward, keep up and be there in the middle of it all. The signing of Ramirez is proof that they’re certainly going to make things interesting this year.
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