It was a crapshoot at best when the Oakland Athletics signed disgraced slugger Manny Ramirez last winter in hopes of channeling production from his glory days to the middle of the A’s bargain basement lineup.
With the San Jose Mercury News reporting that the franchise has not set timetable for the aging star’s return to the bigs, it is possible that Ramirez might not even get a chance to make a comeback effort this season in Oakland.
What was a competitive start for the A’s in the early stages of 2012 has quickly turned for the worse, with Oakland now dwelling the cellar in the AL West. While a bat like Ramirez’s could boost an A’s offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in every statistical category (28th in runs, 29th in OBP and 30th in SLG) it makes no sense for the franchise to bring a 40-year-old Ramirez into the mix, especially with a crowded roster.
The A’s are in the midst of a rebuilding phase, and it’s important for the franchise to develop their young talent as best they can moving forward.
Promoting Ramirez to the majors would also mean the A’s would have to pick up his contract of $500,000. While that’s pennies on the dollar in MLB, the cash stricken A’s boast upon having the second-lowest payroll in league and could opt to save themselves some change by not picking up his deal this season.
Business and politics aside, Ramirez’s opportunity will likely come down to his ability to produce at the plate. He struggled initially in Triple-A Sacramento, and is hitting just .273 with a .632 OPS through 15 games with the River Cats.
Mediocre minor league numbers should serve as a red flag for Billy Beane regarding Ramirez’s promotion, especially with guys like Colin Cowgill and Coco Crisp starting to turn the corner at the major league level.
Then there is a matter of Ramirez’s health. He has not played a full season since 2008, and has failed to reach at least 400 at-bats in each season since. Ramirez recently had a setback in minors with a wrist injury, and while he's seemingly fully recovered, it might be another indicator to stay away from Ramirez going forward for the Athletics.
The A’s knew they were taking a huge risk when they signed Ramirez in the winter, and never relied on him making a big league appearance in 2012. It was a gamble that came with a side of optimism and hope, but Ramirez’s future in green and gold appears bleak at best.
Fortunately, there are not any long-term consequences with the A’s wager gone wrong, and Manny’s failure should be a distant afterthought going forward. It is unfortunate for fans wishing to see an iconic name they can recognize in the middle of the A’s lineup, but it is reality, and that’s baseball. This might be the final curtain call for Manny Ramirez’s legendary, though tainted, career.