Manny Ramirez slated to report for winter ball on Monday

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With one week to go before training camp, it looks like Manny Ramirez is actually going to follow through with those plans to play in the Dominican Republic this winter.  He’s set to arrive this weekend and join Aguilas Cibaenas on Monday.

Ramirez retired from MLB in April after learning that he’d be suspended for 100 games for a second violation of the league’s steroids policy.  ESPN Deportes reported later that month that he was planning to play in the D.R. this winter, and Aguilas team president Winston Llenas confirmed the news (hat tip: USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner).  Apparently, his recent arrest on battery charges for hitting his wife won’t stop him from leaving the US.

Ramirez would almost certainly still have to serve that 100-game ban if he tried to return to MLB at some point.  However, he wouldn’t be the first player to hang around playing winter ball for years after retiring from MLB.  Fernando Valenzuela was done in the majors in 1997, but he pitched in Mexico up until 2006.  Vinny Castilla played two seasons in Mexico after retiring from MLB following 2006.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.