- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
In the past two years, Manny Ramirez has been suspended on a performance-enhancing drug violation, landed on the disabled list repeatedly, frustrated some of his teammates with what they perceive to be an intermittent effort and missed 115 games.
But if he hits the waiver wire sometime in the next two weeks, as expected, he will be the source of a whole lot of head-scratching among baseball executives, because despite all those things that Ramirez isn't -- emotionally invested or an ideal teammate, for example -- he continues to be a really good hitter.
Ramirez has played in 61 games this season, and in his 186 at-bats, he's hitting .317 with a .409 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage. He has a .457 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position and a .976 OPS. Manny could sleep in the dugout for the next 30 days, wipe the sleepies out of his eyes and walk up to home plate -- and opposing pitchers and managers would be scared of what he could do in the clutch.
This is why the Chicago White Sox will face an excruciating decision assuming Ramirez hits the waiver wire. If they put in a claim on Manny, they know the Los Angeles Dodgers might dump him just to save the last $5 million owed to him for this season. Would he be worth it?
The Boston Red Sox have no interest in taking on Manny, of course. But they are in position to block Manny from going to the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays or Texas Rangers if they put in a claim on him. Is it worth the risk for Boston?
The Rays tried and failed to get Adam Dunn before the trade deadline, and undoubtedly, Ramirez would improve their lineup. But would it be worth it for them to take on Ramirez's contract?
The Yankees traded for Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns, and Kearns has had some nice moments for New York. If the Yankees risked taking on the Manny Ramirez sideshow and Ramirez was fully invested in playing for New York -- throughout the years, he has repeatedly begged the Yankees, through emissaries, to sign him -- he would make a very good lineup even better.
A lot of teams interested in Manny may let him pass through waivers because they don't want to pay his full salary. In other words, maybe he'll pass through waivers unclaimed, and then the Rays or White Sox could get him in a trade with the Dodgers with some salary relief included. The Yankees could prevent that from happening by placing a claim on Ramirez.
What about the Rangers? Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan just took over ownership of a team capable of winning the World Series, and think about what an invested Manny could mean for the Rangers' lineup in October. This is what the first seven spots could look like:
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Nelson Cruz
2B Ian Kinsler
But any team getting Manny would know that there is a very legitimate chance that he would get hurt, or he wouldn't really care that much and, in spite of a huge investment, would give you almost nothing. Manny's presence on a waiver wire would create the kind of quandary that club executives probably would want to land in the lap of some other team. The Red Sox and Rangers probably would be thrilled if the San Francisco Giants placed a claim on Manny and took the whole thing out of their hands.
Trouble for Lincecum
No matter the source of the problem -- mechanics, timing in his delivery or maybe innings racked up in recent seasons -- the bottom line is that Tim Lincecum's fastball is not close to being what it was in the past. Not in velocity, not in movement, not in command.
Whether his fastball can improve through a better workout regimen, corrected mechanics or just time remains to be seen. But the simple fact is that Lincecum's exceptional fastball has been the backbone of his success, because it was good enough to beat hitters even when they were looking for it or because it set up his off-speed pitches.
At the outset of Lincecum's Sunday start against the San Diego Padres, he was throwing 93 mph, but by the fourth inning in his abbreviated outing, there were moments when you weren't sure how he would get the ball past hitters; his fastball was clocked at 87-90 mph.
Wade LeBlanc beat the Giants, and here's how, from John Fisher of ESPN Stats and Info:
A. LeBlanc threw 51.5 percent of his pitches down in the zone or below. (He had thrown 40.6 percent entering Sunday.)
B. He generated nine misses (a career high) and recorded six of his seven strikeouts down in the zone.
The Giants still have seven games left against San Diego, and they need to solve their Padres Rubik's Cube, John Shea writes.
Madison Bumgarner has an innings-count issue that could affect his availability the rest of the season. The Giants are more old-school than other organizations, and their recent history (hello, Tim Lincecum) suggests they won't limit his innings. But maybe their recent history (hello, Tim Lincecum) will prompt them to protect Bumgarner in a way that they have not protected other pitchers (hello, Tim Lincecum).
Draft-pick deadline upon us
A whole bunch of young men will get a whole bunch of money if they sign with the teams that drafted them.
Bryce Harper was the No. 1 MLB draft pick this year, and the No. 1 pick last year, potential Washington Nationals teammate Stephen Strasburg, says he doesn't have any advice for Harper. From Adam Kilgore's story, Strasburg's comments: