Rangers wrong to gamble on Manny Ramirez

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It’s been three years since Manny Ramirez was last a worthy major leaguer, hitting .311/.405/.510 in 66 games for the Dodgers in 2010. They then shipped him to the White Sox, where he was a disappointment in 24 games, hitting .261/.420/.319.

In 2011, Ramirez signed a cheap deal with the Rays, played five games and then retired rather than face his second steroids suspension, this one for 100 games. He was arrested for domestic battery in September of that year. He later had second thoughts about retirement (not that he did much thinking about it in the first place) and attempted a comeback with the A’s in 2012, hitting .302/.348/.349 in 17 games in Triple-A before walking away again.

Now, after a successful stint in Taiwan, Ramirez is being granted another chance, this one from the Texas Rangers. He’s 41, and he’s probably no longer any sort of option in left field. For him to be useful to a major league team, he’d have to go back to hitting like he did at 38, which doesn’t seem likely.

How unlikely? Well, here are the 10 most similar players to Ramirez through age 38, according to Baseball-reference: Ken Griffey Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, Frank Robinson, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Frank Thomas, Mel Ott, Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa. Every single one of those guys put up Hall of Fame numbers, yet only two were still going at 41. Thome had 163 at-bats last year in his age-41 season, hitting .252/.344/.442. Mays hit .250/.400/.402 in 244 at-bats for the Giants and Mets at 41. He played one more season, hitting .211/.303/.344 in 209 at-bats, before wrapping up his illustrious career.

Raul Ibanez obviously excepted, there just aren’t many good 41-year-old players. Hence, I don’t see the upside for the Rangers here. All of the Ramirez baggage would hardly be worth overlooking if Ramirez were a guaranteed 850-900 OPS. As is, he’s far, far from it. Now, sure, it’s only a minor league deal. The Rangers took no financial risk by bringing in Ramirez today. They did, though, lose the ability to take the high ground, at least for as long as Jon Daniels is running the team. The message is that winning is the only thing. Does anyone think Ramirez is a repentant cheater? That he’s full of regret? I’m not sure he even considers what he did to be cheating.

I don’t see why Daniels and the Rangers had to lower themselves this far. Better bets than Ramirez will be available in trade talks this month, and some of them might even be upstanding citizens.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.