Manny Ramirez has just one home run in professional baseball in the U.S. since being traded to the White Sox
in August 2010. (AP)
Two weeks ago, in the wake of news regarding Manny Ramirez's departure from Taiwan and rumors as to his next stop, I opined in this space that it would be very difficult to envision a major league team welcoming him back to the States. As it turns out, the Rangers have signed him to a minor league deal according to Evan Grant of the Dallas News. He will begin his comeback with Triple-A Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League, though it remains to be seen whether he or the Rangers have the patience to see this through.
Ramirez hit .352/.422/.555 with eight homers in 49 games in the Chinese Professional Baseball League according to Brandon DuBreuil, who runs the Manny Does Taiwan website. While he helped boost the attendance of his team, the EDA Rhinos, by more than 400 percent with his half-minute home run trots to mis-timed slides, it's worth remembering that the CPBL features just four teams and at best the caliber of play is somewhere along the A-ball spectrum. Alas, given my inability to read Chinese, I can't test my hypothesis that the league features more players who played in the Little League World Series than who even reached the majors.
What I can say is that despite his impressive career numbers stateside (312/.411/.585 with 2,574 hits and 555 home runs), Ramirez is now 41 years old, and far removed from being a productive major leaguer. Since the 2010 All-Star break, he owns a major league line of .212/.355/.273 with one home run in 99 plate appearances, and a .302/.348/.349 line without a homer in 69 Triple-A plate appearances. Injuries and a PED suspension that forced him into retirement after just five games in 2011 have been part of that decline, and while he'll presumably be clean — perhaps a generous assumption for a player who has been suspended from the majors twice under the Joint Drug Agreement and reportedly failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test as well — there's no guarantee his body will hold up.
Nor is there any guarantee that he'll have enough patience to show he can still perform at Triple-A; when the A's were in no hurry to promote him during his 17-game post-suspension stint at Sacramento last year, he asked for and was granted his release. As it is, he'll also have to cut his hair to comply with the Rangers' minor league policy. As Samson and Tim Lincecum can attest, that may not be the wisest move.
That said, Texas appears to be in need of some help in the DH department. Lance Berkman has hit just .263/.362/.392 with six homers in 268 plate appearances, hasn't played since June 26 due to troubles with his right knee and has played in just four of the team's last 15 games. It's not known whether the few games he spent filling in for Mitch Moreland at first base during the latter's recent DL stint are part of the problem, but the knee in question needed two separate surgeries last year, not to mention a 2004 ACL repair, and his other knee is no stranger to the surgeon's knife either.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told Grant that the Ramirez signing is "a no-risk flyer," adding, "If he’s productive and we feel he’d fit our culture here, we’ll give him an opportunity… If either of those ends don't pan out, no harm, no foul."
For as tantalizing as the prospect of Ramirez tapping into his 1995-2008 form may be, consider this a bet that this won't pan out.