Manny Ramirez spent time last season playing in Taiwan's professional league. (AFP)
In an exclusive interview with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, former slugger Manny Ramirez said that the suspensions he received for performance enhancing drugs were "the best thing [that] happened to me," and that he wants a chance to play in the majors again. "I'm so hungry to get back, just to get that feeling that I used to have before," Ramirez said in the interview.
Ramirez, who will be 42 on May 30, last played in the majors in 2011 with Tampa Bay, when he retired in order to avoid a 100-game suspension for a positive drug test. He spent 17 games with Oakland's Triple-A team in 2012 and 30 games with the Rangers' Triple-A squad in 2013, but posted an OPS under .700 both years and didn't get a major league at-bat. That 100-game suspension was later reduced to 50 games, which MLB considers him to have served. Ramirez had earlier drawn a 50-game suspension in 2009 as a member of the Dodgers for testing positive for a female fertility drug commonly used to stimulate testosterone production after a steroid cycle.
In his interview with Rosenthal, Ramirez admits that he made mistakes in his career with regards to PEDs, and has learned from his late-career travails.
"When you make a mistake in life, no matter what you do, you're going to pay the price," Ramirez said. "That's what happened to all of the players that did it. I'm not going to judge people. Everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes. ... Sometimes, we get caught up in the moment. We start hanging out with the wrong people. But you know, everything in life happens for a reason, so you can appreciate what you are."
Contrition aside, it's unclear if Ramirez has anything left to offer a major-league team. Both his minor league stints in 2012 and '13 showed a player whose once prodigious power has apparently disappeared, and in his last taste of the majors, in 2011, Ramirez lasted just 17 plate appearances with the Rays before calling it quits due to the suspension. In his last full regular season, Ramirez slashed .298/.409/.460 with the Dodgers and White Sox.
Ramirez also carries plenty of off-field baggage aside from the PED suspensions. During his time with the Red Sox, he gained a reputation as difficult to manage, clashing repeatedly with managers. During the 2003 offseason, Boston placed Ramirez on irrevocable waivers, leaving him free to claim for any team. Though no one bit, and Ramirez later helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 and 2007, relations remained strained between player and ballclub. In 2008, things finally came to a boil, with Ramirez getting into an in-game fight with Kevin Youkilis in Boston's dugout, allegedly pushing a team employee over a ticket dispute, and then pulling himself from a late July game against the Yankees at the last minute due to a sore knee. Boston finally dealt Ramirez at the trading deadline that season, sending him to Los Angeles, where he played until mid-2010.
Despite the long absence from organized baseball, Ramirez told Rosenthal that he was ready to come back and could offer teams a solid bat.
What kind of player does Ramirez think he could still be?
"I could be like Raul Ibanez," Ramirez said, referring to the respected Los Angeles Angels designated hitter who is just three days younger than him and coming off a 29-homer season with the Mariners.
"I look at him, he's such a great person in the clubhouse and a role model ... and he still can play, don't get me wrong. I remember Raul when he was in Seattle. He used to hit .300, hit 30 home runs. Now he might not hit you 35 like he used to, but he can hit you 20 or 25 and help young guys in the clubhouse. That's how I look at myself right now."
But can Ramirez still hit?
"Let me ask you a question," Ramirez said. "I'm 41 years old and you're asking me if I could still hit the way I used to hit. Nobody is going to hit like when they were 25, 27 or 30 when they're 41 years old. I don't care how good you are. It's not going to happen. But you can contribute in other ways."