Confirming reports from earlier this week, MLB executive vice president of labor relations Rob Manfred told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that Manny Ramirez is indeed banned from participating in an MLB-sanctioned winter ball league.
Ramirez had planned to play in the Dominican Republic, but to do so he’d have to get permission from Bud Selig and … well, that ain’t happening after he retired in April rather than serve a 100-game suspension.
Ramirez previously told Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that he was “really interested and enthusiastic” about playing winter ball and “it would be really sad if I’m not allowed to play.”
If he wants to continue playing at age 39 it’ll have to be in a lesser, non-MLB affiliated winter ball league or perhaps for an independent league team next season. There’s probably an opening on the Jose Canseco-managed Yuma Scorpions.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.