Cleveland Indians Preview: Part 1—Why Didn't They Gamble on Manny Ramirez?

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Cleveland Indians Preview: Part 1—Why Didn't They Gamble on Manny Ramirez?
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

This is part one of a six part installment previewing the 2012 Cleveland Indians season.

Now that we’re a week away from the start of the season, I’ve awoken from my off-season slumber to learn that Manny Ramirez signed a one year, $500,000 minor league deal with the Oakland A’s. 

So I just want to know one thing...why isn’t Manny Ramirez a Cleveland Indian?    

As a writer who would like to establish some credibility and respectability, I’m supposed to sit here and say that the Indians absolutely did the right thing in avoiding Manny.  Aging guys like T.O., Ocho Cinco and Manny aren’t worth the time or the price—that’s how we’ve been educated when it comes to sports. 

But with that said, I’m perfectly comfortable in saying the Indians are dumb (yes dumb), for avoiding Manny.

If you’re the Indians—a small market team that just netted more profit than any other MLB team in 2011—is there any risk in paying a $500,000 premium (not exactly Prince Fielder kind of change) for a one year rental of Manny Ramirez?  No, there isn’t.  

The fact that Oakland was the only team to pursue Manny says a lot, and it surely doesn’t help support my argument. 

The fact of the matter is that it’s really easy to see why the Indians, along with 28 other teams, didn’t go after Manny.  He still has to serve a 50 game suspension, he’s a cancer to a team (especially a young one), he’s 40, he’s never given a crap, it’s a guarantee that he still doesn’t give a crap and the Indians don’t need that kind of distraction festering on this team. 

Especially because they can compete for the AL central this season.

However...

What happens if this team doesn’t compete?  What happens if they’re out of the race by June.  We’ve seen it before in 2006 and 2008, and we could definitely see it again in 2012.  

If the Indians turn out to be a disappointment, fans aren’t going to watch this team, and they sure as hell aren’t going to pay for a ticket. 

That’s just how baseball fans are.

The game is painstakingly boring unless you’re team is competitive.  So yes, having the option to bring up Manny Ramirez in June could have been a nice outlet to have. 

But I know the Indians are better than that. 

They didn’t want to sign Manny as a sideshow just to rake in a few more bucks and generate fan interest when, and if the team found themselves out of the hunt. 

Wait...(Remembering that the Indians traded for Jim Thome as they were clearly slipping out of the division race last year) never mind.  Ok seriously, why didn’t they take a chance on him?

Manny could have actually been a legitimate force in the lineup.  He could have actually helped this team, perhaps even propelled them to October. 

Haven’t Indians fans‘ spent the past off-season wondering if this team will find a right handed hitter with some “pop” in his bat? Yes. 

Isn’t there a giant question mark in left field right now?  Yes. 

Don’t we pretty much know what Shelley Duncan is as a major leaguer—an energy guy in the dugout who, every now and then, can come through with some timely hits?  Most likely.     

But I’m no dummy, I know that it isn’t a question of can Manny still hit, it’s a question of does he care.  Odds are he probably doesn’t. 

However, he did just sign with Oakland for pocket change, so either he’s a closet degenerate gambler in need of some cash, or he’s changed his way.  (silence) 

Alright you’re right, he still doesn’t care, nor will he ever care.  It won’t surprise me if he fails another drug test within the first two weeks of the season.  But that’s in Oakland.  Perhaps it would have been different if he were in Cleveland.  

It’s possible that he would have been motivated going back to his original team.  I only say that because it’s entirely feasible that he just hasn’t cared about baseball (or life in general) after leaving Cleveland. 

I mean, after all, he didn’t let himself go (ballooning to 300 pounds, growing his hair out, wearing weird numbers like 96, etc.), until after he left Cleveland.  He’s mentioned before how it would be nice to return to the Indians one day. 

Maybe that’s what he’s wanted to do for some time.  Maybe he never actually wanted to re-up with the Dodgers in 2010 or go to Tampa in the first place (hence, the reason he purposely failed two drug tests).  

There’s really no way of telling how Manny would have panned out in Cleveland, but here’s what the Indians front office forgot to consider...

They forgot that Cleveland Indians’ fans are infatuated with the past.  They’re still very much stuck in the 90s.  Regardless of what happened in the past, or how you feel about him now, seeing Manny Ramirez in an Indians uniform again is the kind of stuff Indians fans live for.  It just is.

On “paper,” the Indians were smart to avoid Manny Ramirez. 

The front office used their “How to properly build a winner” pocket manual.  It was easy for the Indians to dismiss (and probably never give any real consideration to) Manny the same way it was easy for Tom Heckert and the Cleveland Browns to dismiss Randy Moss when he came out of retirement this off-season.   

But...if you’re the Indians, with the exception of possibly Boston, you had a distinct advantage over every other team...you had a genuine feel-good history with him. 

Sure, that might not mean anything as far as projecting what we he would do, but isn’t this the same small market team that (for the past decade or so) has essentially taken pride in finding bargains? 

Isn’t signing Manny Ramirez (to a similar deal that Oakland signed him to) a bargain opportunity that doesn’t come around too often?

I suppose there is always July waivers, though.  

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