The Week Ahead: Manny hits Big Apple

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Manny Ramirez’s return from a 50-game suspension this past week was met
with a mixed reaction, helped no doubt by the games being played in
“Mannywood South”, also known as San Diego’s PETCO Park.

But this week, Manny and the Dodgers head to New York for a
three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. Will Ramirez’s
reception be any different? Will the boo birds come out in force, or
will it be more of the rainbows and puppy dogs we saw in San Diego?

Ramirez’s reception so far has been fascinating to watch, a mix of boos and cheers, with the booing seemingly half-hearted. (Video, here)

Can you imagine Barry Bonds receiving that kind of treatment anywhere outside of San Francisco?

Stephanie Armijo, 27, fell into the category of indecisive fans who
don’t hold an opinion concerning Ramirez. She brought along three
friends, all San Diego residents, and made creative signs in the hopes
of finding tickets to Friday’s sold-out game.

“Baseball is entertainment,” she said. “Manny is just being Manny.”

Ahhh! Manny being Manny. I guess that’s the difference. Very few
ever found “Barry being Barry” to be particularly charming. But if you
wear dreadlocks, smile a lot and appear to float through life on a
childlike cloud of indifference, they cut you some slack.

It will be interesting to see if New Yorkers treat Manny any
differently. It seems to me he deserves at least as much scorn as Bonds
received. For all his faults, at least Bonds never failed a drug test,
as Ramirez did. At least Bonds was never suspended by baseball, as
Ramirez was.

But Manny wasn’t caught with a steroid, you say? It was only a female fertility drug?

My answer then, is this: Why was this substance banned by baseball
in May of 2008? Why are they testing for it? Why, if you are caught
with it, does it result in a 50-game suspension?

The N.Y. Daily News sheds some light on these questions:

While it’s not technically a steroid (a point Ramirez strove to make
early on) hCG is well-known to bodybuilders, who use it as an adjunct
to their testosterone regimens, according to experts interviewed by the
Daily News.

“Every steroid dealer carries hCG because he knows his customers
will use it,” says Anthony Roberts, a trainer, blogger and steroid
expert who has written two anabolic reference books. “That indicates he
was a longtime user and that he knew what he was doing. The fact that
he was using hCG is as damning as a positive drug test to me.”

Manny being Manny? Not so charming now is it?

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

**Rangers at Angels, July 6-8: The Rangers enter the week
on a four-game winning streak, while the Angels have won their last
two. Oh, and they’re tied atop the AL West. The Rangers took two of
three from the Angels last week.

**Giants at Marlins, July 6-8: Two surprising second-place
teams go at it in Miami. The Giants have managed just enough offense to
back a great pitching staff, while the Marlins have been boosted by the
return to form of starter Ricky Nolasco, who struck out 12 in eight
scoreless innings on Sunday.

**Cardinals at Brewers, July 7-9: The top two teams in the
NL Central battle this week, although no one seems able to run away
from this division. Even the last-place Pirates are only seven games
out of first.

**Dodgers at Brewers, July 10-12: After Manny braves New York, he and the Dodgers head to Milwaukee. Should be a welcome reprieve … or will it be?

**Yankees at Angels, July 10-12: The red-hot Yankees enter
the week having won nine of their last 10. After a series against
Toronto, they head to Anaheim. Should be a good test.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Braves at Cubs (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Mets (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Dodgers at Brewers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.