Since when have the A's become one of the more bland teams in baseball? For a franchise with a reputation for being wild and out there, their clubhouse has been extremely quiet in recent years.
Sure the days of the Mustache Gang, and Charlie Finley and his orange baseball are long gone, but when the A's have been successful, they've always had those fun, and even outlandish locker-room guys that make both the team and game captivating.
After Finley began dismantling the team in 1976, the A's wallowed in mediocrity for years until "colorful" players like the "Bash Brothers" and Rickey Henderson once again returned the team to its former image.
It's an image most teams try to avoid, most notably the Yankees, who are notorious for their no facial hair policy in an attempt to look "professional." Essentially, the A's and Yankees have always been polar opposites in terms of franchises. That distinction has diminished heavily in the past few years, illustrating just how low the Oakland Athletics image has sunk.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have gone out and acquired eccentric players like A.J. Burnett and former A's outfielder Nick Swisher, while the A's have continually lacked a bold veteran presence like that of a Barry Zito or Eric Byrnes.
What happened was, in an attempt to replace those kind of guys that left, Oakland was forced to invest in a bunch of young, inexperienced players who were only concerned with trying to find a role on the team. Players like All-Star pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez should've been those guys deemed as cornerstones of the franchise. Instead, they weren't even in Oakland long enough to be considered building blocks (being traded for yet another crop of young players).
Hopefully for the A's, one of those young prospects can establish themselves as a face of the franchise and restore that A's brand of baseball they've been lacking the past few seasons—their true identity. But in the mean time, Manny Ramirez has the capability to be that initial spark that can liven up the franchise once more.
Ramirez has always been known to have a flamboyant personality, for better or worse. The side of Ramirez that doesn't play hard because he is unhappy cannot help the A's—it couldn't help any team. If, however, the Manny that shows up is the one that plays with a less serious but fun mentality, then the A's can live with that. In that scenario, the pros outweigh the cons. His shenanigans in the outfield won't be an issue, seeing as how he won't see the field (only playing in the DH role).
His play can inject the team with a much-needed dose of energy and excitement, especially if the expected losing season comes to fruition. For the young players, that carefree attitude can come in handy if the team finds itself out of the race come August and September.
Now, that doesn't mean that Manny's influence will condone not caring about the outcome of games, but a lack of success can really affect the mindset of a young player. Having a lighter atmosphere in the clubhouse may help combat any loss of confidence they could experience. No doubt Chris Carter could've used someone like Ramirez to lighten the mood during his 0-33 display when he was first promoted to the big leagues in 2010.
Combined with current A's like Dallas Braden and Coco Crisp—and fellow newcomer Yoenis Cespedes—Oakland can once again be a fun team to follow. What goes on off the field is still a critical aspect of what actually happens on the field. Just ask the 2011 Red Sox if you don't believe me.
So if the A's are to compete like they have in years past, then first they must change the clubhouse culture back to what it was when they were winning. Letting "Manny be Manny" is the first step to getting back there.
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