Can we stop pretending that Manny Ramirez isn't any good?

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Manny Ramirez was benched in favor of Scott Podsednik, claimed off waivers and let go just to save money, and ended his Dodgers career by getting ejected in the middle of an at-bat yesterday, so the number of articles being written with the premise that he’s a useless bum is at an all-time high.
Before buying into those arguments, here are some counter-arguments I hope you’ll at least consider …
First and foremost Ramirez is hitting .311/.405/.510 this season, which is good for a .915 OPS that ranks as the fourth-highest in the league among all hitters with at least 200 plate appearances:

Joey Votto          1.023
Albert Pujols       1.019
Carlos Gonzalez      .955
MANNY RAMIREZ        .915
Adrian Gonzalez      .909

Now, to me that alone would be enough to suggest that Ramirez is still pretty damn good, but the above numbers don’t seem to have had the same impact on many mainstream writers. So, take a look at this, which is the Dodgers’ scoring and record with and without Ramirez in the lineup this season:

                      R/G       W-L
With Ramirez          5.1     32-22
Without Ramirez       3.7     35-42

When the Dodgers have started Ramirez this season they’ve scored 5.1 runs per game and have a 32-22 record. When the Dodgers haven’t started Ramirez this season they’ve scored 3.7 runs per game and have a 35-42 record.
So, the guy ranks fourth in the league with a .915 OPS, his team has scored 38 percent more runs per game with him in the lineup, and they have a .593 winning percentage with him compared to a .455 winning percentage without him. I realize he has plenty of faults, has missed time with injuries, and can be a pain in the ass, but can we at least stop this charade about him no longer being a really, really, really good hitter?
When sportswriters (and fans, too) like a player personally they naturally tend to overstate his ability and value (see: Eckstein, David), but as we’re seeing now the opposite is certainly true about Ramirez. Based on the hundreds of mainstream articles written about him during the past couple weeks you’d assume he was hitting .225 and the Dodgers were thriving without him, when in reality that’s far from the case.
Manny Ramirez is a lot of things, but a bad hitter still isn’t one of them.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.