Tampa Bay Rays acquisition of Manny Ramirez will put this fan's ass in a seat — for a couple of games at least

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One is, do people really care he got busted for a PED?  I know some people do, but it happened the same year that A-Rod got popped, as well as Manny's former Red Sox partner, David Ortiz.  In other words, at this point, save for a couple of noted stars (Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, Jim Thome) it's pretty well established that many power hitters over the past decade or so were probably doing some form of steroids to fuel their power surges (pitchers as well).


Yet none of them will ever be tainted with the accusation as Barry Bonds was, for being simply the best when it came to using such performance enhancers. (Forgive my digression, but I'm still calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to throw out the feds' case against Bonds for perjury in the BALCO case that's scheduled to begin in March).


Does Manny have anything left in the tank?  Although it's widely considered that 2010 was a disaster for him, that's not completely accurate.  In the first half with L.A., he was hitting over .300. But his tenure with the White Sox was awful, with just one home run and a couple of runs batted in during 69 at bats.


Still for just $2 million, if he can hit 20 to 25 home runs for Tampa Bay, that would be just swell.  Of course, being that Manny's a noted headcase, "Merlot Joe" Maddon may have his hands full in peacefully managing the mercurial one.


But with Johnny Damon making over $5 million, the Rays are investing relatively little for a couple of past-their-prime players who do still have name value.  And let's face it, people buy tickets to watch players, not necessarily teams.  It was outrageous this past season how Tampa Bay Buc fans, supposedly part of the Florida's football madness culture, were the only team not to sell out any of their games.  And we all know the stories printed last year about how lame the attendance was at Tropicana Field.


But Ramirez, like Barry Bonds or Ortiz, is a friggin' star, a guy who, to use the cliche, you don't get up to use the john when he's at-bat.  His overall offensive numbers are totally Hall of Fame caliber.  And yes, he's a trippy head-case kind of guy.


Which is why I definitely will take the time to purchase tickets to several games in 2011, certainly more than I intended to before this past weekend. Sure, the Rays will be on television all summer long, but any fan knows it's all about being there, in the flesh.  Manny Ramirez's signing (and Damon's to a certain extent) will bring new fans to Tropicana Field, and no, not just lapsed Red Sox patrons.

As several baseball pundits have commented, the Tampa Bay Rays signing of Manny Ramirez to a one-year, $2 million contract for the 2011 season could be one of the absolute steals of the off-season, or quite possibly, a monumental bust.

On Friday night news broke that the Rays had signed Ramirez and former Royal/A/Red Sox/Yankee/Tiger Johnny Damon, which definitely has to excite some local fans despondent over the vast number of productive players who have departed via free agency or trades (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, etc.).  The two players still need to clear physical exams before the signings will become official.

As a somewhat neutral observer (I certainly enjoy and root for the Rays, but my heart bleeds San Francisco Giants orange and black), I would say that Damon can still hit, and thus satiates an obvious need for the Rays, who for years — even with their success the past three years — have always craved more offense.  Damon at 37 is a natural for designated hitter, but unfortunately for the Rays, he'll actually be governing the spot that Carl Crawford has occupied for much of the past decade — left field.  Although left field is considered the best place to put an outfielder without a strong arm, trust me, Damon's liabilities with his throwing abilities could prove deleterious next season.

But Damon has to play in the field, because Manny Ramirez certainly can't.  Well, he did for almost two full years in Los Angeles.  Let's just say at this stage of his career (he's 39) he's definitely more natural at the DH position.

And what about Manny?  The Washington Heights native (in New York) has had an incredible career that has been marred by controversy over the past couple of years.  He alienated Red Sox Nation in 2008 when it appeared to many that he was dogging it after the BoSox decided they weren't going to pay him the huge contract that he was demanding.  Considering the team had just won its 2nd championship in four seasons, it left an indelibly sour image to many fans after he received his wish and was ultimately traded.

But he did turn them on in Southern California, as it became more evident that he was faking injuries when he completely blossomed in the National League, helping the Dodgers make the playoffs that year.  But in 2009 he got busted for using an artificial testosterone and a female fertility drug (i.e. performance enhancing drugs)  and had to serve a 50-game suspension.

The magic was gone from L.A. last year, and he was ultimately traded to the Chicago White Sox, who dumped him in the off-season.

Now, a couple of things.

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