It came as a shock to many this offseason when the A's announced they were going to officially sign Manny Ramirez. There were always rumors that Oakland may be a potential destination for Ramirez, but the signing came on the heels of the A's inking Yoenis Cespedes to quite a hefty contract.
Naturally, questions arose regarding Manny. Would he be a distraction, where were his at-bats going to come from, where's his place in the lineup? Well finally the time has come for these questions, or should I say issues, to be settled.
The A's find themselves surprisingly ahead of the Angels and Mariners at this point in the season, and a presence like Manny entering at this stage in the season could very well be a gamble. He may come in and be the force in the middle of the A's lineup that they desperately need, or he may just add unneeded and unwanted complications to a team that finds itself in the playoff hunt right now.
If the Manny experiment is going to work in Oakland, then a high level of production isn't even needed. All Manny has to do is focus on the rest of the team and not makes things about himself, but does that really sound like Manny Ramirez to you?
These are ten bold predictions for Manny's time in the green and gold this year.
Just because Manny is able to come back on May 30th, it doesn't mean he actually will. After getting off to a rough start in Sacramento, Ramirez if finally regaining his stroke.
His 0-4, three strikeout debut was alarming to some, but since then he has gone on a tear. Going 3-4 in his last two games Manny appears to finally have regained his stroke. Now AAA pitchers are in AAA for a reason, so it wouldn't be out of the question for the A's to keep Ramirez there until he's fully comfortable again in the batters box.
There's no reason to rush Manny, and allowing him to get off to a good start once he arrives in Oakland is critical if he's to have success all year long.
Manny has said himself that he's found many things this offseason, including peace of mind, a good relationship with his family, and even God. Making only the league minimum, there's truly nothing else in it for Manny other than playing for love of the game.
In the past it seemed as though Ramirez was playing only for himself, on his terms and no one else's. Who knows, maybe the reason why he chose Oakland was because its remoteness would be a good place to lay low this year, out of the spotlight.
It seems as though Manny is in a good place, and it's quite doubtful that something would happen out of the blue in Oakland to make him revert back to his old self.
Along with his new and improved attitude about life should also come a new and improved attitude twoard the game. Ramirez may not make any team speeches or lead players only meetings, but he does have the ability to lead by example.
Yoenis Cespedes was quite taken by Ramirez this spring and it appears as though the feeling was mutual on Manny's side as well. Ramirez took it upon himself to aid the young Cuban and his vast wealth of experience should only help straighten out Cespedes who thus far has had a rough introduction to the American game.
Even if Manny's skills are fading, his approach and knowledge of hitting would still make Ramirez a great teacher if he takes up that role on the team.
The last three games the A's have had three different players hit in the four hole in their lineup. Those guys were Kila Ka'aihue, Jonny Gomes, and Seth Smith, not exactly players who strike fear into the opposing pitcher.
Manny's presence alone in the box makes opposing pitcher respect his ability and alter their approach to the other players hitting around him in the lineup. When you have relative no names hitting in that spot, it makes it awfully tough for the player in the three hole to see a decent pitch.
Manny may not have the pop he did four or five years ago, but his abilities as a natural hitter still need to be recognized by opposing teams.
It's no secret that Ramriez is getting up there in age, and his diminished production that last few seasons doesn't bode well for any future success either. However, there are reasons to think he can be a productive member of the A's.
While with the White Sox and Rays his focus clearly wasn't there, still being dragged down by the Manny of old. This year he entered camp in better shape and with a clearer mind. His power numbesr may not show up as they have in years past but that may be due to a different approach rather than a lack of ability.
Manny is still one of the smartest hitters in the game, so with his raw power regressing look for his approach at the plate to feature more sound technical hitting. Instead of swinging with power every time, he may now opt to take what pitchers give him, merely trying to get on base.
This may result in fewer home runs, but that doesn't mean it'll make for a poor season.
As previously mentioned, Manny is getting up there in age, so it makes sense for the A's to give Manny more days off than he's generally accustomed to. The team also gave up a lot of pitching this offseason to acquire Seth Smith from Colorado, so there's also a good chance they don't want to see that investment sit on the bench all season.
Smith does offer Oakland pop from the left side of the plate, as exemplified by his home run yesterday off of one of the games best pitchers, Jered Weaver of the Angels. It would take an awful lot for Manny to man the DH role for the entirety of the season, especially if the A's decide to keep their entire surplus of outfielders come trade time.
With Manny never really being an above average fielder, and the great defensive outfield the A's possess, there is simply no logical reason for manager Bob Melvin to put Ramirez out there in left field.
Ramirez knows his role on the team, and it's to hit in the middle of the lineup. That is all he has to focus on and it's probably best to keep his attention focused on only one aspect of the game so it doesn't wander off elsewhere.
Unless the A's find themselves up ridiculously big one game, don't expect to see any Manny moments happen out there in left.
With the limited physical requirements of only having to hit, it should also result in a higher level of durability. Manny never did exert himself physically in the field, but the limited amount of stress exhibited on his aging body should aid in keeping him healthy this year.
One of Manny's greatest attributes is his ability to remain healthy over the course of the season. So with less opportunity for injury, there is no reason to think that he should all of a sudden break down.
Seeing as how Manny decided to return to the game just for the game itself, there seems to be no reason why he wouldn't want to keep playing again next season. If his production is there and he can prove to teams that the Manny of old is behind him then surely another team would be willing to add an experienced player who can still contribute offensively.
If Manny is willing to once again take the bare minimum salary wise, he would definitely at least get a non-roster invitee opportunity with a club next spring. If the season is a success for Ramirez, expect him to announce shortly after the season ends that he intends to give it another go next year. If he still loves the game like he says he does there's no reason why he wouldn't.
If Manny does produce for the A's, and shows the rest of the league that he still has some good baseball left in the tank, then expect Billy Beane to receive a few calls around the trade deadline. It probably wouldn't take much for the A's to part with Ramirez, even if they're offered only a little in return.
For the A's to not consider moving Ramirez, they would have to be in serious contention for the postseason, in which case they'd be buyers not sellers. At the end of the day though there's really no reason why Oakland wouldn't move Ramirez. His contract is cheap which would only make him more attractive to potential trade partners, and clearly Ramirez isn't in their long term plans.
If the A's are offered any prospect or player of value come the July trade deadline, expect Ramirez's time in Oakland to be extremely brief.