Manny Ramirez just wants to get back to being Manny.
But can Manny ever really be Manny again?
Frankly, given all the failed drug tests and suspensions and other direct and indirect ties to performance-enhancing drugs in his past, it's hard to know if Manny ever was Manny.
How many chances does one man deserve? Even if that man was once considered to be among the premier right-handed hitters in the history of the sport?
With all that Ramirez has done in recent years to tarnish how we think of him, it's easy to forget, not too long ago, that was Ramirez's legacy. A .312 career average, 2,574 hits, 555 homers, 1,831 RBI and nine top-10 MVP finishes—a Hall of Fame résumé if there ever was one—will do that.
But now? Well, Manny's just a 41-year-old hoping to beat the odds by returning to Major League Baseball after not playing in the bigs since April of 2011.
Manny wants a second chance (or is it a third or fourth by now?) to make one last impression.
Perhaps hoping that Ramirez could help them at some point—in some way—this season, the Texas Rangers were willing to take a chance by signing him to a minor-league deal last week (Todd Wills, ESPN Dallas).
And so Ramirez is playing for Triple-A Round Rock these days.
Incidentally, Manny began his trek back by heading overseas. He played for Taiwan's EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, where he hit rather well, actually—a .352 average (64-of-182), to go with eight homers, 13 doubles and 43 RBI—prior to ending his stint there on June 19.
But can he still hit enough to prove he deserves yet another shot in the majors? And once there, can he hit enough in the majors to help not only the Rangers (who recently placed designated hitter Lance Berkman on the disabled list) but also his damaged reputation?
We can assume Manny means business. Heck, he even cut his hair:
And he's saying the right things, like when he told Todd Wills of ESPN Dallas: "I will play and I'll be ready. I only have to go and play and do well as I did in Taiwan."
Except there's a big, PED scandal-sized difference between just getting back to the bigs and repairing one's legacy.
If all Manny wants is the former, he's got a pretty good shot at it. If Manny wants the latter, though?
Well, then he should probably just head back to Taiwan.
If baseball as a whole—management, players, writers and fans—has shown anything over the years, especially recently, it's that the sport doesn't take kindly to cheaters.
That doesn't mean it wouldn't be entertaining to see Ramirez on a major league diamond again for one last hurrah. And it doesn't mean Ramirez couldn't potentially help the Rangers in their quest for a fourth straight trip to the postseason.
But it does mean that Manny can never be Manny again.