Languishing among the worst teams in MLB, the Chicago Cubs hope "Manny being Manny" can have an impact on their Triple-A squad that could someday help the struggling franchise return to contention.
Ramirez will report to Mesa, Arizona, to get some competitive spring training reps before he heads to Iowa.
Cubs general manager Theo Epstein praised Ramirez as a "dedicated student of hitting" and "gifted teacher" and said he will "coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects."
Epstein also alluded to Ramirez's past suspension for performance-enhancing drugs:
Manny has made real mistakes in the past but he has owned up to them and moved his life in a positive direction the last couple of years. He is in a really great place right now and wants to share the lessons he's learned along the way. We think he deserves another chance and that our young hitters will benefit from it.
Epstein specified that Ramirez "is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs major league roster" but left the door open for Ramirez returning to the big leagues with another organization if he plays well.
This move reunites Epstein and Ramirez, who were together with the Boston Red Sox and were part of the teams that won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. In 2004, Ramirez was the World Series MVP.
CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam alluded to the link between Epstein and Ramirez in his analysis:
How long before Manny tells Theo: "You know, you remind of a guy I used to know when I played in Boston?''— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) May 25, 2014
Chris Emma of Scout.com feels that Ramirez's presence will have a positive impact, diverting attention and scrutiny from Chicago's minor league players:
Manny Ramirez, Iowa Cubs player-coach, creates a distraction from the club's young prospects, offers mentorship. Great idea by Theo and Jed.— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) May 25, 2014
While Epstein said Ramirez won't return to MLB action with the Cubs, considering his past prowess, just about anything could help their lowly offense at this point. They ranked 27th in both batting average and on-base percentage entering Sunday's action.
However, it seems the 12-time All-Star is at peace with his impending position and what it will entail, per the Cubs' press release:
I know I am nearing the end of my playing days, but I have a lot of knowledge to pass on to the next generation - both what to do and what not to do. The Cubs have some very talented young hitters, and I would love nothing more than to make a positive impact on their careers. I am passionate about baseball and about hitting, and I have a lot to offer.
There's no doubt that Ramirez, 41, can bring a wealth of knowledge to the prospects Chicago is grooming right now to someday take the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field. What he can also pass on is how to avoid off-field issues, which he encountered toward the end of his playing career when he was suspended 50 games in 2009 for utilizing a banned substance.
For the most part, Ramirez was a magnificent ballplayer and the type of extroverted personality that could permeate a clubhouse and galvanize a team. If Ramirez can get the Cubs winning at the Triple-A level, perhaps that can have a positive effect on the MLB team when some of his pupils get promoted.