Another prominent columnist perpetuates the "Manny Ramirez is no longer any good" myth

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I wrote yesterday about how silly it is for mainstream media members to act as if Manny Ramirez is no longer a good player despite his owning the fourth-best OPS in the entire league and the Dodgers having a significantly better record when he was in the lineup.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote a column about Ramirez today and it includes exactly the sort of “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” approach that I was talking about. Here’s an excerpt:

With the exception of an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat, he departed the Dodgers the moment he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat. How do you say goodbye to someone who has been gone for 16 months?

“Man ain’t the same since he’s been off his medicine,” one of the Dodgers told me late last season.
Man lost faith in his drug-free swing. Man lost the swag in his clubhouse swagger. Man wasn’t Manny again, really, until last weekend. That was when he officially quit.

According to Plaschke he “lost faith in his drug-free swing” and “has been gone for 16 months” except for “an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat.” That all sounds good until you actually try to match up Plaschke’s statements with facts.

Since “he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat” Ramirez has batted .287 with a .396 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 143 games. That works out to an .896 OPS, which is the best on the Dodgers during that time and ranks 12th in the entire National League, directly behind Adrian Gonzalez (.916) and Ryan Howard (.903) and right ahead of Hanley Ramirez (.877) and Ryan Braun (.865).

I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone has to overlook Ramirez’s many faults, but why does pointing out his flaws have to include ignoring or even distorting his strengths to fit into a certain storyline? Since returning from his 50-game suspension Ramirez has been the best hitter on the Dodgers and one of the dozen best hitters in the entire league, yet from reading the many articles like Plaschke’s you’d think he was batting .190.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.