Manny Ramirez: The Best Move the L.A. Angels Never Made

Johnathan KronckeCorrespondent IApril 12, 2011

ST. LOUIS - JULY 18: Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers sits in the dugout against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 18, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Say what you will about Tony Reagins and the L.A. Angels' offseason. At least they never made a mistake this big.

Manny Ramirez, once considered the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation, walked away from baseball last week after failing his second drug test in three years, casting a shadow of doubt and shame over his once-brilliant career.

His 19 years in baseball are an unmatched highlight reel of spectacular offense and nonsensical, immature antics that eventually caused him to bounce between four teams in his final four years.

The L.A. Angels were potentially one of those teams.

Ramirez thrived for years in Boston, but when the Red Sox finally had enough of his selfish attitude and refusal to cooperate with team management, he was quickly shipped along with his expiring contract to the one place in America where zany personalities are not only accepted, they're encouraged.

He became the clown prince of L.A. and a key piece of the Dodgers' playoff run in 2008.

The Angels meanwhile, had just set their franchise record for wins before falling weakly to the Red Sox in the playoffs. It was clear they would need another bat to drive in runs, preferably one with a proven track record in the postseason.

Ramirez seemed like a natural fit in the Big A. But like so many times before and since, Angels general manager Tony Reagins ignored fans' wishes and passed on the chance to bring Mannywood to Anaheim.

Thank the baseball gods he did.

The Dodgers wound up in a bidding war with themselves and gave Ramirez a two-year deal for far more than he ended up being worth.

His first failed drug test in 2009 kept him off the field for 50 games, but the real damage revealed itself when the suspension ended. Manny just wasn't Manny anymore.

He bounced back the next year, swinging at a .311 clip through the first three months for the Dodgers, but his power was non-existent compared to years past. Worse yet, the moment his name came up in trade rumors, he flat quit on the team.

Ramirez's final at-bat with the Dodgers is a brilliant microcosm of his mindset throughout his career. He was sent in to pinch-hit in a game he expected to sit out. After begrudgingly consenting to do the job he was paid for, he stepped up to the plate, took one pitch, argued the obvious strike call, and successfully got himself ejected.

It was like watching a toddler throw a fit in a store for being denied candy.

He was immediately traded to the White Sox, where his production dipped even more.

Again, the possibility of his coming to Anaheim floated through the hallways last offseason before the Angels made the highly contentious Vernon Wells trade.

Ramirez hooked on with the Tampa Bay Rays and seemed genuinely interested in putting the past behind him and helping a depleted franchise succeed.

Instead, he embarrassed both himself and his new organization with a stunning show of stupidity.

This latest gaff, however, is more than just another episode of Manny being Manny. It's much simpler than that— It's Manny being dumb.

Selfish players only play for themselves. They build their careers, their production, their image around what they feel is best for them. When they abused steroids, it was to soak up the glory from the fans and money from the organizations.

When they got caught, most denied or downplayed the allegations in an effort to save face, protecting themselves from any negative criticism.

Ramirez, however, shrugged off his first drug bust, treating it more like an image-boost than the shameful punishment it was, and then he did it again.

As an outsider, there is no other way to approach this situation than to say his is not the sharpest cleat in the clubhouse.

Facing a 100-game suspension for a second failed drug test, Ramirez chose simply to retire rather than miss two-thirds of what was likely his final year in baseball. His decision all but confirms that this failed test was accurate and that he was a cheater.

Ramirez's goofball behaviors on and off the field were always seen as mere eccentricities, childish diversions excused by others because of his fearsome offensive presence.

The Angels were not fooled.

Reagins is clearly unafraid to overpay for veteran players, perhaps to his detriment, and he may have been tempted by the threat of a Manny Ramirez in the middle of the Angels' lineup. But he understood that Ramirez's particular brand of baseball ran counter to everything the organization stands for as a whole.

They are a team-first club, skippered by one of the savviest baseball minds in the game  today. Ramirez would have clashed at every turn with Mike Scioscia and the rest of the Angels' staff.

So keep that in mind Angels fans, the next time you want to boo when Wells pops up with men in scoring position. He might be struggling now, but he will eventually produce at the level his career numbers predict.

And even if he doesn't, at least he's not Manny.