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Getting Manny a good move for White Sox -- but not good enough

The Chicago White Sox are a sedate, orderly team, committed to playing baseball properly. To a man their best players are polite and reserved, and many of them are unusually intense. The Sox aren't grandly talented, but they get a lot out of the talent they have.

How the ambulatory circus that is Manny Ramirez will fit on such a team is an interesting question. Possibly the sheer scope of his vacuity will cause Carlos Quentin, unnerved by his own imperfections, to collapse into a pile of dust. Perhaps John Danks and Gavin Floyd, inspired by their new teammate's impressive hair, will decide to unlearn everything pitching coach Don Cooper has taught them.

More likely, to be in a quiet place among quiet people -- the obvious exception, manager Ozzie Guillen, is something of a performance artist who spends a lot of time thinking about how to draw pressure off of his players and onto himself -- will free Ramirez to play baseball, rather than be Manny, with all that implies. He is very good at it; at 38, in fact, he is still about as good a right-handed hitter as there is, and playing in the best home run park in the game he will probably line up fantastic numbers in September.

If the Sox had been able to get him a month ago, before they lost four of six to the Minnesota Twins, or even before this weekend, when they lost two of three to the New York Yankees, he might have made a difference. As of now, though, they're 4½ games back in the American League Central. They have at most a one in six shot of winning the division, and Ramirez doesn't do much to change that. The gap is too large, and time is too short.

Ramirez will be playing at designated hitter, a spot lately taken by Quentin, Mark Teahen and other veterans in need of the odd rest. Essentially, then, his at-bats will be taken from Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel, who play the field when those men slot in at DH. The difference between them and Ramirez is considerable, probably on the order of 10 runs over a month -- a whole, badly needed win in the standings.

Still, one win is not 4½, and the team has its other problems. Matt Thornton, the best left-handed reliever in the game, and J.J. Putz, who earlier this year set a team record with 27 straight scoreless appearances, are both on the disabled list. Chris Sale, who was drafted this summer, pitched in the eighth inning against the Yankees with the Sox down a run Sunday, which says as much about the state of the team's relief corps as it does in Guillen's nerve and trust that talent, rather than veteran presence, will out.

If the math doesn't quite work, though, the significant point is this: While the Sox's odds are low, they aren't impossible, and going into a month where they'll play the Twins three times and the Boston Red Sox seven, what they needed more than anything was a hitter better than Omar Vizquel. They not only got one, they got a man who, for all the talk of his decline, ranks 13th in the majors in adjusted on-base plus slugging among hitters with as many at-bats as he has.

Coming as soon as it does after the leak of financial documents proving that it really can be more profitable to play to lose than to try to win, it's something to see a team take winning seriously enough to lay a reported $4.5 million worth of chips on that one shot in six.

Chicago is, as the great Frank Thomas once infamously said, a Cubs town. When a play like this goes down, you wonder why.

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