Manny Ramirez: Last season of his career?
You never know when a few words might catch fire on the Internet.
On Nov. 1, Ken Gurnick, who covers the Dodgers for MLB.com, wrote that Manny Ramirez had "told teammates that he ought to be a designated hitter," which would have meant opting out of a Dodgers contract that guaranteed him $20 million this year. Gurnick wrote pretty much the same thing this week -- tucked within a story about how Joe Torre plans to rest Ramirez and Casey Blake more often this year -- and all of a sudden the Internet buzzed with all sorts of reaction and analysis.
Take a stroll through the Dodgers clubhouse, and you'll hear Ramirez saying just about anything to just about anybody. Remember last spring, when Ramirez had just re-signed with the Dodgers and then told USA Today how he would love to finish his career with the Cleveland Indians?
Ramirez is well aware he makes his money with his bat, not his glove, and no one would fault him for thinking aloud that he might be better off as a DH. But here's the thing that somehow seemed to be lost in all that Internet commentary: Ramirez has the best agent in the business, Scott Boras.
If Boras has leverage, he does not hesitate to use it. In 2006, J.D. Drew told everyone he planned to return to the Dodgers. Boras showed Drew how there was more money to be made in free agency, then asked the Dodgers how they might sweeten Drew's contract. So Drew opted out of his contract with the Dodgers and signed with the Boston Red Sox.
Boras had absolutely no leverage with Ramirez, even with the opt-out clause, and he let Ramirez know that. He also let Ramirez know there would be no DH job awaiting him. Boras didn't even try asking the Dodgers to sweeten the contract, because he and the Dodgers knew there was no chance Ramirez could get anything close to $20 million anywhere else.
Ramirez might not have gotten a contract anywhere else. After he hit .396 in that monster two-month run with the Dodgers in August and September 2008, how many teams besides the Dodgers extended him a contract offer? None.
So how many teams do you think might have extended him a contract offer this winter, with the baggage of his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy? None.
This might well be the last season of Ramirez's career. If he wants to play for relative peanuts next year, maybe he finds a job. But given the absence of a market for Ramirez over the last two winters as well as the suspension and the decline in his production last season, who's to say he even gets a contract offer?
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: Manny Ramirez. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.