ARLINGTON, Texas — Who said Taiwan is where major-league baseball careers go to die? Manny Ramirez put up big numbers for the EDA Rhinos, so the Texas Rangers have decided to give him a chance stateside.
One of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball will report for duty Thursday at the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, Texas. Rangers GM Jon Daniels said the Rangers were simply taking a “flyer” on the 41-year-old slugger. His baseball career has been a series of starts and stops since his crash-landing with the Red Sox. This is a no-risk move…unless Ramirez actually makes it to the big-league ballclub.
The Rangers didn’t send a scout to see Ramirez in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, but they took a look at him on YouTube. No, I’m serious. That’s what Daniels told us on local radio Wednesday. Scouts in foreign locales may be rooting against Manny.
Daniels also pointed out that players such as Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley had their best seasons while playing for Rangers manager Ron Washington. It’s probably not fair to put Hamilton in the same boat with a perennial malcontent like Bradley, but Daniels did it anyway. And it was a not-so-subtle reminder that perhaps Hamilton did need the Ranger organization.
I think it’s still a longshot that Ramirez will be called up to the majors, but it’s worth taking the risk. The Rangers are in desperate need of another right-handed bat, as evidenced by switch-hitter Jurickson Profar having to fill the DH role against Seattle left-hander Joe Saunders on Tuesday. And though Daniels wouldn’t admit it, this move probably doesn’t get made if Lance Berkman’s knees were healthy and the Biogenesis cloud wasn’t hanging over Nelson Cruz.
Despite his massive contributions to Boston’s two World Series titles, Ramirez wore out his welcome with the organization. He fought with teammates and was even accused of pushing the team’s 64-year-old traveling secretary to the ground after he couldn’t deliver 16 tickets for Ramirez on a last-minute request. But Daniels said he talked to Rangers hitting instructor Dave Magadan about what it was like to work with Ramirez in Boston. Magadan talked about how Ramirez was often the first player to arrive at the ballpark to work on his swing. He also told reporters Wednesday that Ramirez had strengthened his religious faith since his time with the Red Sox.
Ramirez hasn’t had a plate appearance in the majors since April 8, 2011. He started that season with the Rays, but ended up abruptly announcing his retirement. It later became clear that he’d failed a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs. It’s a little strange for the Rangers to be taking a chance on a known cheater when their starting right fielder is currently under suspicion. But again, this is about taking a flier on a player that may have rediscovered his swing in Taiwan.
The Rangers obviously have a lot of trust in Washington, Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler to even consider Ramirez. But anyone assuming this clubhouse is immune from problems is underestimating one of the most petulant players of the past 20 years. That’s why the Rangers would release him at the first sign of trouble.
Manny’s name still generates plenty of buzz, but it’s been five years since he was an All-Star caliber player. The Rangers are giving him one last chance in the majors.