The L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke has been carving Manny Ramirez up since his PED suspension back in May, so you know he was just waiting for the right time to bring this kind of noise:
Something is wrong with Manny Ramirez. Something different than a hitch. Something more than a slump.
Something is wrong here, something that might be lodged as deeply in
the head as in the hips, something that perhaps batting practice can’t
fix . . .
. . . Although the official explanations for his slump involve those habits,
and are technical and convoluted, those familiar with steroids quietly
submit one simple reason:
Ramirez trying to kill the ball to overcompensate for the fact that
he’s no longer juiced, attempting to show everyone that his previous
success was him and not steroids.
There are those who also wonder whether he is struggling with the loss
of that invincible feeling that steroids give hitters, a syndrome
commonly associated with those who are struggling to find themselves
after coming clean.
“Those familiar” with steroids submit one question? “There are those” who wonder? How on Earth do Plaschke’s editors allow him to hide behind that stuff? He’s the only one in this article asking that question and wondering those things. He quotes no one, anonymous or otherwise. This is quite obviously Bill Plaschke and Bill Plaschke alone making such an accusation, yet he he’s not willing to simply say it without couching it as the accusations of others.
Why? Probably because he’s a writer who knows absolutely nothing about what causes or ends slumps, be they by ex-PED users or otherwise. He wants to make Ramirez the goat of this Dodgers’ team, and he wants to continue to slam him for his PED use despite the fact that everyone else has moved on. But hey, if he can marry a slump to the ‘roids, it’s a current story that accomplishes both of his goals.
Put differently, it’s hack work. But then again, it’s Bill Plaschke, so what else did you expect?
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.