Manny aims to ‘be a role model,’ rehab image

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Manny Ramirez left Major League Baseball in disgrace early last season after violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy for the second time.

Rather than face the mandated 100-game suspension, and the negative attention that would come with it, Ramirez opted to retire after just five games – and one measly single in 17 plate appearances – with the Tampa Bay Rays. As if his image couldn’t fall any further, he was arrested in September and charged with battery in a domestic dispute with his wife.

Now he wants a chance to not only write a happier ending to a career that once looked like a slam dunk for Cooperstown, but also to rehabilitate his image. He pulled out all the stops in an earnest and at times emotional interview with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. (Watch the video)

“I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing,” Ramirez told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez in an interview. “And to show people that I still can play. I don’t want to leave the game like I did. I also want to show my kids that if you make a mistake, don’t quit. Just go back and fix it. And if you’re going to leave, leave the right way.”

Asked why a team should give him a chance, Ramirez made two points:

1. “I still can play.”

2. “I’m gonna be a role model.”

I’ll give the more cynical readers a chance to stop laughing before I continue … OK, ready?

I have to admit I had a good chuckle over Manny’s two-pronged argument, but in watching the video, you can’t help but get the feeling that he actually believes what he’s saying, and if he believes it, who knows? Maybe Ramirez does have the pride and the drive to re-write his own ending.

The real question, of course, is whether anyone will give him a chance. Ramirez does have 555 career home runs and a .312/.411/.585 line to go with it, but it’s difficult to imagine any team offering more than a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training at this point, and you have to wonder if a guy who has made more than $200 million over the course of his career will be willing to swallow his pride and take such an offer. That could be the real test to see just how serious Ramirez is.

And as earnest as Ramirez seems in his interview with Gomez, there are a couple of red flags that crop up in the video.

  • One is that Gomez says Manny “forgot how to pick up a bat during his time away,” and that he is working to retool his swing in the batting cages. That’s not a good sign given how he slid after his first failed drug test.
  • Another warning sign is his cutting edge workout regimen, complete with shower cap. Just look and see for yourself.

On the bright side, Ramirez’s suspension has been reduced to 50 games (he would begin serving it on opening day should he sign). So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

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Police: Felipe Vázquez admits to trying to have sex with 13-year-old

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Yesterday’s news about the arrest of Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez was pretty disturbing. Today’s update from Jeff Passan of ESPN is even worse.

Vázquez has been charged with solicitation of a child and providing obscene material to minors, and yesterday’s report said that he texted a 15-year-old girl that he would meet up with her after the season for sex. According to police, however, Vázquez had already met with a minor in an attempt to have sex. When she was 13:

Yesterday Vázquez’s attorney, Jay Reisinger, issued a statement saying “We are in the process of reviewing both the Pennsylvania and Florida charging documents, as well as the underlying facts of the matter.  At this time, any comment would be premature.”

The Pennsylvania charges referenced involve an alleged statutory sexual assault of a victim who is at least 16 years old by a person who is at least 11 years older than the victim; unlawful contact with a minor; corruption of a minor by a defendant who is 18 years old or older; and indecent assault of a person less than 16 years old. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last night that the offenses allegedly occurred on Aug. 1, 2018.

Vázquez is still in Pennsylvania, where he was arrested, and is awaiting extradition to Florida. He was denied bail and was characterized by the arraigning judge as a flight risk. Likely because he is a native and citizen of a foreign country with substantial financial resources.

UPDATE: I had missed this previously, but the Pirates issued a statement about all of this yesterday afternoon: