Manny Ramirez will likely make Minor League debut on Sunday

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Manny Ramirez will likely get his 2013 season started on Sunday with Triple-A Round Rock, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. The Rangers recently signed the controversial 41-year-old slugger to a Minor League deal in what amounts to a low-risk, medium-reward flier.

We last saw Ramirez in the Majors in 2011 when he had a very short-lived, controversy-laden stint with the Tampa Bay Rays. He posted a .118 OPS before failing a drug test, prompting his retirement. During the off-season, he requested and was granted reinstatement into Major League Baseball, then signed a Minor League deal with the Athletics as spring training began. With Triple-A Sacramento, Ramirez posted a .697 OPS in 69 trips to the plate. He requested his release from the team. During the off-season, he played in the Dominican Professional Baseball League.

Ramirez signed with the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan for the 2013 season. There, he finally found success at the dish, hitting .352 with eight homers and 43 RBI in 49 games. Ramirez opted out of his contract with the Rhinos on June 15, then signed with the Rangers, effectively starting the next chapter of his waning baseball career.

Love him or hate him, you can’t slight the guy’s passion for the game. Not many 40-year-olds, let alone those who have done as much on the field and earned as much money as Ramirez has in his career, would traverse the globe to continue playing for relative peanuts in relative obscurity. And in a season in which Raul Ibanez is helping us rethink what we know about 40-year-olds playing baseball, it wouldn’t be the strangest thing if Ramirez hit his way back into the Majors.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?