If Manny Ramirez hadn’t been stupid enough to file retirement papers when he learned he was getting slapped with a 100-game PED suspension back in April, he would have been eligible to resume playing in the majors last month. That’s not to say anyone would have taken him — the Rays almost certainly would have released him, and it’s doubtful anyone would have been quick to pick him up — but eligibility wouldn’t have been an issue.
So, now Manny says he wants to play in the Dominican Republic, serve his 100-game ban and potentially return to the majors. Those last two things are new, but he was talking back in late April about playing winter ball, and no one from the commissioner’s office stepped up then and shot the idea down. It’s only now, with training camp opening in four days, that MLB has said Ramirez can’t play for Aguilas Cibaenas.
MLB doesn’t owe Ramirez any favors. He’s flaunted the rules and got busted twice. If he’s found cheating again, he’d get a well deserved lifetime ban.
The second suspension, though, isn’t supposed to be a lifetime ban. Only that’s what it is if MLB decides to enforce it now. Ramirez wouldn’t be able to play this winter, and he’d have to sit out until mid-July next year. His career would almost certainly be over at that point.
Which leaves me wondering if there’s some room for compromise here. Can filing those retirement papers when he wasn’t sure he was done by looked at as just another Manny-being-Manny moment? How about giving him partial credit for all of the time he’s already missed? Ban him for the first 20 games of the Dominican Winter League season and the first 20 games of next year, though allow him to play in the minors during that time if he’s able to find some team willing to take him off? Ramirez will still have paid a fair price, and maybe he’ll still have a chance to go out on a better note.
I’m not saying that’s the way to go. I’m not feeling particularly charitable to Ramirez right now. I’m mostly interested in what everyone else thinks.
The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.
Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.
Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.
While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.
“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”