Does Manny Ramirez still have relevance? 

July, 5, 2013
On July 22, a few days after play resumes following the All-Star break, the Texas Rangers are scheduled to host the New York Yankees on ESPN. On Wednesday, I discussed Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez being on the mend from hip surgery, and how he's targeting that date to rejoin the team. Now we have another generational slugger potentially in play by then as well, because while you were planning your Independence Day festivities, the Rangers signed the eager Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal. Yeah, that Manny Ramirez. What is this, 2005? Ramirez, though, is not hurt and he had been playing well in Asia, and wow, July 22 could be its own day of fireworks.

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Manny Ramirez
Andrew Woolley/Four Seam Images/AP Images Manny Ramirez's previous action in the United States was a brief stint with the Athletics' Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento last year.

I’m a bit more skeptical in Ramirez contributing to the Rangers and fantasy owners than I am on Rodriguez, but not so much that I’d simply dismiss the possibility of relevance. After all, I’m not really buying the awful numbers the previous time Ramirez played in the majors, for the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. He hit one single in 17 at-bats in five games. It’s hardly a fair sample size, ended prematurely by a pending suspension for testing positive for elevated testosterone, and I’m not going to speculate about what was or currently is in the player’s body. I do know that the year before, Ramirez posted a .870 OPS -- for comparison, there are only 22 current qualified hitters with an OPS that strong -- with most of the good stuff for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then mainly singles and walks for the Chicago White Sox. I don’t care much what his numbers were for Taiwan’s EDA Rhinos, frankly, but they were good enough for the contending Rangers to be interested.

My first thought on the Ramirez signing was to praise the Rangers. While this move likely will bring a circus of attention, there’s precious little risk. It’s not as if it took a $10 million contract. If he hits, he can help. If he doesn’t, just move on. My second thought was about Lance Berkman, and for a longtime admirer of his, this just reinforced the notion that this isn't going to be his year. Berkman hit .319 in April, with more walks than strikeouts, and eight extra-base hits, but hasn’t done much since, with nine extra-base hits in two-plus months, more strikeouts than walks and a .237 batting average. Berkman, 37, historically has hit right-handed pitching far better than lefties. This year that’s not the case, but don’t read too much into 75 plate appearances against left-handers. He’s been periodically missing games lately due to what the team has called “general soreness,” and he has bad knees. Sadly, Berkman isn’t having the season I or the Rangers hoped for, and I’ve moved on in shallow leagues. Now the Rangers have brought in help, perhaps in a platoon, perhaps more.