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.
Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.
For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.
So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?
The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.
I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.
Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.
But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.
United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.
Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.