Manny Ramirez dominated overseas but he hasn't played in the majors in over two years. (Wally Santana/AP)
Wherever Manny is planning to be Manny next, it won't be in Taiwan. After tearing up the Chinese Professional Baseball League for half a season, the 41-year-old slugger has opted out of his contract. His team, the EDA Rhinos, claimed it was because he was homesick. A Japanese website reported that he has drawn interest from the Chibe Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League, while Fox Sports reported that he's eying a major league comeback:
"The reason he decided not to return for the second half was to free himself to be available to play in the United States,” Barry Praver, Ramirez’s agent, told FOXSports.com Wednesday. “This whole thing with Manny in Taiwan was a phenomenon. He invigorated the league. Attendance went through the roof. It was a very positive experience for both sides.
Ramirez hit .352/.422/.555 with eight homers in 49 games according to Brandon DuBreuil, who runs the Manny Does Taiwan website. He was making $25,000 a month in a league that has dwindled from seven teams to four due to fallout from numerous game-fixing incidents over the past 10 years. His presence helped the Rhinos increase their attendance by 412 percent, to 10,500 per game, and television ratings more than doubled. Along the way, he provided his share of Manny Being Manny highlights, from half-minute home run trots to mis-timed slides:
As exciting a show as Ramirez put on, it's very difficult to envision an MLB team welcoming him back to the States. While he owns a career line of .312/.411/.585 with 555 home runs, Ramirez hasn't played in the majors since a 1-for-17 stint with the Rays in April 2011 that was halted by his second positive test for a performance-enhancing drug under the Joint Drug Agreement. Rather than serve the 100-game suspension, he retired abruptly. He was credited with serving half of the ban when he decided to mount a comeback attempt with the A's in 2012. After hitting .302/.348/.349 without a homer in 17 games with the organization's Triple-A Sacramento affiliate, he was granted his release when he learned that the team was in no hurry to recall him.
This past winter, Ramirez played for Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League and hit eight home runs in 181 at-bats, but without interest from an MLB team, he left for Taiwan. As strong as his CBPL numbers may be, the quality of the league is around that of A-ball
. Any team desperate enough to employ an aged DH-only type could just as easily pursue Jim Thome or Vladimir Guerrero, neither of whom carry the type of baggage Ramirez does, and both of whom held their own against major league pitching more recently. It's doubtful a team would bring him to the majors without the benefit of the type of minor league stint with which Ramirez lost patience last year. The guess here is that if Manny wants to continue being Manny, it will happen in Japan.