Thursday, February 23, 2012

SMALLS TALK: Would you want Manny on your team?

1 + 1 = the number of times I've been busted for PED's!

I loved Manny. His playful personality, his smooth right-handed stroke, his consistent production - I, along with countless others, considered him one of the best hitters to ever play the game - and there was a bonus: in addition to home runs and RBI's, this guy pumped out sound bytes that had TV producers drooling. I mean, what was more hilarious than the Manny being Manny series? He was the zany clubhouse clown in addition to being one of the league's most feared hitters. Whether or not you liked him, you couldn't deny that he was entertaining to watch, both on and off the field.

But then, something happened. At some point between his unceremonious departure from Boston, his first 50-game suspension, his mediocrity in Chicago, and his sudden abandonment of Tampa Bay, Manny became a villain. His immature ways that had always passed as wacky were now scorned as irresponsible and idiotic. His cluelessness that had once made him so lovable had become a blatant disrespect of the game. He had always been quirky, but it was no longer a happy-go-lucky quirky - he had gone bad.

Manny's numbers are now tainted by two failed drug tests. His reputation is in shambles, and his career, over. Until now. Now he wants back in, and up until two days ago, no teams were biting.

There are some guys you simply stay away from. They could have all the talent in the world, but they don't possess the qualities needed to help a team more than they hurt it. Look at Barry Bonds - has he even retired yet? He had been tentative to use the "R" word after playing his last game in 2007, adamant that he was still a free agent "waiting for a call." Well the problem was: no one was calling. The phone wasn't ringing for Jose Canseco either, who's been eager to get back to the Big Leagues since he last played in 2001. Some guys just aren't worth the risk.

Sadly, I now put Manny in that category. Aside from the two steroid-related suspensions, I'm most turned off by the way he completely abandoned ship in Tampa Bay. After receiving news of a second failed drug test, he fled the city without notifying anyone in the organization of his sudden retirement. Teammates that were counting on him to produce, a manager looking to him for leadership, and an organization that took a chance on him - all left in the rear view, left to deal with a Manny media storm before they even knew what had happened.

So if I were a GM today, I wouldn't touch Manny with a ten-foot stick. Recently he has proven to be more trouble than he is worth. Can he still hit? You bet he can. But not like he used to. And given his unreliability and erratic behavior, I'm not willing to take that risk just for a few fleeting Vintage Manny home runs.

But maybe Oakland hit it just right. A minor league deal, paying just over the league minimum? Seems like a small price to pay for a player that was once widely considered a first ballot Hall of Famer. But then there's the 50-game suspension. And the media distractions. And the everyday uncertainty of just what he'll bring to the table. What appears to be a deal that could only have upside still looks too risky to me. I can deal with mistakes. I'm all for second chances. But sadly, I believe Manny Ramirez has overstayed his welcome in Major League Baseball.

Though he did produce some memorable moments.

College Baseball's Opening Day
On-Field Composure
When did "Can I have your autograph" turn into "Give me a ball"?
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The Spit Hit
Being Friends with Pitchers
The Yankee Core
Opening Day
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It's Not Always Sunny in Arizona
Tee Work
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Approaching Spring Training
Top 5 Things I Won't Miss About My Local Gym
Getting New Equipment
Last Day at Work
My Bat of Choice
The Superstitions and Quirks of a Ballplayer
The Art of the Autograph
Greensboro's 'Bat Dogs'
Tim Kurkjian is a Man Among Boys
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The Ryan Howard Namesake
The Magic of the Rally
Jeter and A-Rod, How Times Have Changed
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Red Sox Nation Goes Crazy, JD Drew Can't Be Bothered
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Who Has the Best Uniforms in College Baseball?