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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.