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The Strike Zone

Why the Rangers signed Manny Ramirez - without watching him in person

Manny Ramirez may come back to the big leagues after all after signing a minor league deal with Texas. [AFP/Getty Images] Manny Ramirez signed a minor league deal with Texas. [AFP/Getty Images]

The Texas Rangers signed Manny Ramirez sight unseen – unless you count the clip or two from YouTube that team officials watched. Without scouting Ramirez in Taiwan or at an open workout he held in Florida, the Rangers signed Ramirez to a minor league contract. Why would they sign Ramirez without seeing him in person? They essentially bought themselves a virtually free look at the slugger – as long as he adheres to team rules.

The Rangers made sure Ramirez specifically agreed to several conditions before they signed him. Those rules include making sure his hair is cut to a length above his shoulders, wearing uniform pants that don’t look like pajama pants, running hard on balls hit into play and showing up on time for early work and stretching. Ramirez agreed to all conditions without protest.

So why would Texas take any risk on Ramirez? It’s essentially costs them nothing (with the exception of bad PR) to see if Ramirez has anything left to offer. Hitting coach Dave Magadan and public relations director John Blake both offered GM John Daniels scouting reports on Ramirez from their time with him in Boston – both the upside and downside. Daniels decided it was worth the low risk.

The Rangers rank ninth out of 15 American League teams in OPS from designated hitters, as Lance Berkman has struggled to generate power because of a sore knee. The offense could use a boost. Ramirez may or may not be the answer, but the Rangers are simply buying themselves a look at Ramirez in the minors to see what he has to offer. If he can still hit, Ramirez eventually may find his way into the lineup of manager Ron Washington, an expert at getting the best out of players with checkered pasts.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that guys like Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley had their best years in our clubhouse with Wash,” Daniels said. “If Manny is productive with the bat and we have a spot for him, Wash with get out of him whatever he’s got.”

It’s a smart move for the Rangers. Ramirez works hard on his hitting (less so in some other areas of his game) and is a very smart hitter who loves imparting his knowledge on young players. The Rangers’ Triple-A hitters will learn from him. And Ramirez, playing under strict rules, has to know this is his last chance. He might very well be done, which would only mean this minor league “tryout” yielded nothing – the way it did for Vlad Guerrero with Toronto in the minors last year. The best-case scenario is that Ramirez can still hit even in a part time role, and can deliver big hits for the Rangers in the second half.

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