Monday, February 16, 2009

What If Manny Ramirez Doesn't Mind Retiring?

Something occurred to me the other day when I was considering just how monumentally stupid and/or greedy Manny Ramirez and his faithful man servant are. There was a place and time when I actually thought Manny being Manny was just an act to diffuse the considerable pressures that can destroy an athlete's performance. Especially considering he was a star on a the Boston Red Sox.

Not really a low-profile gig.

Back then, I thought Manny was a genius because he had figured a way to take all the scrutiny off his normal play and that of his teammates. No wonder they loved him. Of course, he dogged his way of those same Sawks and my suspicious were confirmed.

Manny was just another spoiled diva who demanded he get his way at all times and part of his way was doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. No matter how ridiculous or the consequences.

But look at the totality of his circumstances.

The Los Angeles Dodgers made that initial offer of two years at $20 million per year back in November. That was before the bottom really fell out of the long-term economy. Or at least before everyone caught on, including Major League Baseball. It was still an outrageous rejection considering the man's age (a perilous 37 years old).

But maybe not. I'll get to that.

The second and most recent offer Manny rejected (one year at $25 million) came in February after the economic parasite had gotten its maw into MLB. That move was just too insane to defend. There is simply no way to imagine a sucker willing to pay more than $25 mil per.

Nor one willing to offer a lengthy contract that averages even close to that figure. And that's what Manny continues to demand. If Ramirez doesn't budge, he might find himself out of a job this year. And what if that turns into another year?

I was in the process of thinking Manny Ramirez might be forced into retirement by his own greed and stubbornness, when an astoundingly obvious idea occurred to me: what if he doesn't care?

That little caveat changes everything drastically. We'd have to re-open the genius discussion. Consider:

1. Man-Ram is 37—that's getting up there even at the height of the Steroid Era. I'm not naive enough to believe performance-enhancing drugs are completely gone from baseball. I'm not even sure the level of use has dropped rather than switched from anabolic steroids to human growth hormone. Regardless, it is undeniable the scrutiny has been cranked up a notch so the days of dominating 40-year-olds are over.

Being generous, Ramirez has about three or four really good years left.

2. Speaking of that increased scrutiny, it's only a matter of time before it rolls around to Manny. What if he's a juicer? There's no reason to believe otherwise since the guy has been one of the best hitters of this "tainted" generation and forgive me if I'm skeptical about his work ethic. Whatever anecdotal evidence may exist to the contrary.

3. Ramirez (and most other MLB insiders) would know the true level of PED use in MLB. As such, he would have to know other stars were using and that eventually more names would leak. If he is/was juicing, he'd have to be a little concerned by those implications.

4. Manny's place in the Hall of Fame is as secure as anyone's from this era i.e. either all the greats are going in or none are. So he has no real reason to linger around the game—he's got two World Series rings, a bunch of personal accolades, and presumably a ton of money.

5. No additional achievement will allow Manny to go down as the best ever. Even if he were to hang around and set a bunch of records, he'd merely be a place holder for someone like Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez, etc.

Furthermore, his antics in Boston preclude even the notion. Too many influential people in baseball have eyes for the Red Sox to allow that to happen.

6. It's tough to argue that a guy who quits on his team the day its blood rival comes to town for a big series is playing for the love of the game.

With all that in mind, reconsider the situation.

If some sucker does bite, like a really desperate Bum front office, swell. Manny's got his big dollar, long-term contract and Scott Boras comes out smelling about as well as a decomposing corpse of humanity can smell.

If not, Manny gets to retire a couple years early. To a beach and (I'm guessing) beautiful women.

Plus, Man-Ram would most likely duck any of the personal scrutiny. There'd be a lot of sexier witches to hunt since an active star is always a juicer (ugh) story than a retired one. That's not a small part of the reason Mark McGwire has been able to dodge the PED bullets for so long.

Manny's place in baseball history—already at its maximum capacity—would be secure. In fact, retiring might be the one thing that could substantially enhance Manny's place in baseball. If a bunch of other guys above him start falling prey to the hypocritical PED smear campaign, that could only help his rep.

From that angle, Manny Ramirez looks pretty freakin' astute.

He would've opted out to take a shot at getting an even fatter contract, which would make sticking around and operating under the increased PED scrutiny worthwhile. There would've been no risk to him because he would be perfectly willing to retire if no bigger contract proved forthcoming.

Considering the restraints seem to have been taken off the witch hunt, maybe Manny would even prefer that option.

In any event, the chances of that eventuality would be reduced by his ability to play chicken without actually playing—his part in the contest would be sincere.

Nothing can change the fact that Manny Ramirez is a punk and a dog for his exit from Boston. But there might just be some method to his madness after all.

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