Manny Ramirez

What are the Rays getting in Manny Ramirez?

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The Rays’ $2 million investment in Manny Ramirez certainly seems like a worthwhile gamble, but there’s no denying that the 38-year-old slugger seemed washed up during his stint with the White Sox last season. He hit just .261/.420/.319 with one homer and two RBI in 69 at-bats following the August deal. On the other hand, he came in at .311/.405/.510 in 232 at-bats prior to the trade, making him one of the NL’s 10-best hitters.

In all, Ramirez hit .298/.409/.460 with nine homers in 265 at-bats last season. Since returning from his 50-game PED suspension in July 2009, he’s had 525 at-bats and hit .284/.399/.476 with 22 homers.

So, let’s look at how some similar players hit in their age-39 years. Here’s a list of all of the players since 1961 to amass a .375 OBP and a .450 slugging percentage in at least 300 at-bats at age 38 and how they followed up in their age-39 seasons.

Gene Woodling – .313/.403/.471 (1961) – .276/.379/.424 (1962) – OPS+ 138 to 116
Hank Aaron – .265/.390/.515 (1972) – .301/.402/.643 (1973) – OPS+ 147 to 177
Willie Stargell – .295/.382/.567 (1978) – .281/.352/.552 (1979) – OPS+ 158 to 139
Ron Cey – .273/.384/.508 (1986) – .221/.359/.394 (1987) – OPS+ 138 to 107
Harold Baines – .301/.375/.458 (1997) – .300/.369/.451 (1998) – OPS+ 120 to 114
Edgar Martinez – .306/.423/.543 (2001) – .277/.403/.485 (2002) – OPS+ 160 to 139
Barry Bonds – .341/.529/.749 (2003) – .362/.609/.812 (2004) – OPS+ 231 to 263
Larry Walker – .289/.384/.502 (2005) – Retired
Moises Alou – .321/.400/.518 (2005) – .301/.352/.571 (2006) – OPS+ 138 to 132
Jeff Kent – .292/.385/.477 (2006) – .302/.375/.500 (2007) – OPS+ 133 to 119
Frank Thomas – .270/.381/.545 (2006) – .277/.377/.480 (2007) – OPS+ 140 to 125
Gary Sheffield – .298/.409/.460 (2007) – .225/.326/.400 (2008) – OPS+ 119 to 89

I have to say, the list fares a whole lot better than I expected. Cey, who simply had a last hurrah at age 38, doesn’t really belong in this group. Sheffield was the only player to fall apart, but he was playing with a shoulder that required surgery and he did rebound to a 119 OPS+ at age 40.

For the record, Ramirez’s OPS+ last year was 138. I don’t think he’ll bounce back with 30 or maybe not even 25 homers this season, particularly with how Tropicana Field has played as a pitcher’s park these last few years. Still, the OBP will be there and he should slug .450 anyway. He’ll be better than at least half of the league’s DH and a big improvement over the .238/.322/.391 line the Rays received from the spot last season.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.