Manny Being Manny . . . in Taiwan?
Despite two suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use and an unsuccessful comeback attempt with the A's last year, Manny Ramirez is still hoping for another shot in the majors. The 40-year-old slugger told ESPN Deportes that his agents have called nearly every AL team in an attempt to sell his services as a designated hitter, but if they can't find him a stateside gig by March 7, he will play for the EDA Rhinos of the Taiwan-based Chinese Professional Baseball League. Given his recent track record and the degree to which teams — even ones with glaring holes at DH such as the Orioles and Rays — have their rosters set, it's likely he'll have to head abroad, though who knows what kind of international misadventures could befall Manny Being Manny on foreign soil.
Ramirez was suspended for 50 games in May 2009, just after returning to the Dodgers via free agency following his incredible late-2008 showing. Traded from the Dodgers to the White Sox during an injury-plagued 2010, he signed with the Rays the following winter, but after playing just five games in April 2011, he tested positive again. Rather than serve a 100-game suspension for his second offense, he abruptly retired. He applied for reinstatement that winter, and when the A's signed him last February, it was announced that he would be credited with having served the first 50 games of the suspension while he sat out.
Ramirez went to camp with Oakland last spring, then served the remainder of the suspension before joining the team's Triple-A Sacramento affiliate in mid-May. His thin .302/.348/.349 showing in 17 games and 69 plate appearances, left the A's in no hurry to promote him, so he requested his release, only to find no other opportunities forthcoming. He hit eight home runs in 181 at-bats while playing for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League this winter, but still nothing doing.
The CBPL is a long ways from the majors. Around since 1989, the league currently consists of just four teams playing a 120-game schedule against each other in front of crowds averaging around 3,000 fans. Only a small handful of former major leaguers played there last year, all pitchers, with former A's lefty Lenny DiNardo the most "famous." Foreign-born players reportedly earn $9,000-$12,000 a month, though there's no word on what Ramirez's salary would be. With 555 home runs, 2,574 hits, 12 All-Star appearances and a lifetime batting line of .312/.411/.585, Ramirez would be a lock for the Hall of Fame without the suspensions. Even given his awful defense, he ranks ninth among leftfielders with a 50.8 JAWS, 0.1 above the standard among Hall of Famers at the position. Given his transgressions, which mark him as the most prominent of the four players rung up twice and which also include reports of a positive test during the supposedly anonymous survey testing in 2003, he would likely receive only minimal support from voters if he were on the ballot — perhaps in the neighborhood of Rafael Palmeiro (8.8 percent) and Mark McGwire (16.9 percent) in the most recent cycle. By the time Ramirez reaches the ballot in 2017 (barring another major league appearance), PED-linked players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may be enshrined, but it'll be a lot longer before anyone who flunked a drug test gets in.