Why did Manny Ramirez retire instead of serve suspension?

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We covered Manny Ramirez’s retirement from all angles here Friday, but I had one lingering question about the whole situation: Why did Ramirez retire rather than simply serve his impending 100-game suspension?

After all, if he served the suspension Ramirez could have conceivably returned to the Rays’ lineup in August and September. And even if the Rays wanted nothing to do with him, serving the suspension would at least get it out of the way should he somehow find another gig late this season or in 2012. Why not let the 100 games burn off just in case?

He wouldn’t have gotten paid during a suspension and forfeited his salary anyway by retiring, so perhaps Ramirez was informed of the coming suspension and basically just said, “Aw, screw it, I’m done.” And that certainly makes sense. By retiring he can also claim, technically, that he wasn’t suspended. For whatever that’s worth.

However, if Ramirez ever decides to make a comeback and beats the odds by actually convincing one of the 25 or so teams he hasn’t pissed off already to sign him, he’ll now have to sit out 100 games first. Which probably takes the odds of a comeback from 1 percent to .01 percent.

I understand the impulse of wanting to wash his hands of the entire situation and just be done with everything, but if the money is the same and the impact of not playing is the same, what is the upside of choosing immediate retirement over a 100-game suspension?

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.