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Manny Ramirez to Make Season Debut for Sacramento

May 19, 2012

This evening the River Cats will be playing the Albuquerque Isotopes in New Mexico. Starting for the River Cats at designated hitter will be a man with Hall of Fame numbers, Manny Ramirez. Ramirez begins his long(ish) road back to the Majors tonight. As the A’s completed their 40th game yesterday in San Francisco that means now Ramirez can begin MiLB work as he waits out his 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy. Ramirez has been participating in extended spring training but tonight will mark the first time has faced opposition in games that count. He faces Dodgers minor-leaguer Will Savage, a University of Oklahoma alum who has a 7-0 record but some very middling stats: 4.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 for a 3.40 ERA but 4.74 FIP in 42 1/3 innings.

Every news outlet you can find will talk extensively about how Ramirez has ten games in Sacramento and then is poised to make his A’s debut in ten days on his 40th birthday in Minneapolis when the A’s visit the Twins. I have a big problem with this. Ramirez was signed to an MiLB contract. Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith have performed very well in a left-field/designated hitter platoon. Coco Crisp is set to return from the disabled list and looks as though he will be inserted back in left field if for no other reason than the fact that Billy Beane has a contract for him worth $7M a season. Therefore it seems set that Gomes or Smith will see a significant drop off in their playing time in ten days time. Ramirez is set to be 40, has not faced Major League (or in a real game minor league) pitching in over a year, why is he guaranteed a roster spot? If he is a reformed and reborn and whatever it is that Ramirez is saying these days, why should he not earn the spot that Gomes or Smith have done absolutely nothing to lose? Gomes in 99 plate appearances has been worth 0.7 WAR, with 5 home runs and a 138 wRC+. Smith in 124 plate appearances has been worth 0.4 WAR with 3 home runs and a 111 wRC+. Yet despite that it looks set that Ramirez will steal one of their spots.

It’ll be interesting to see how he performs but if he looks lost – as he did often did during spring training when he had a .167/.250/.556 line though with two home runs, in 20 plate appearances – he should sit and stay in Sacramento. The approach that the Rays who signed Hideki Matsui and the Blue Jays who signed Vladimir Guerrero is how I feel the Athletics need to treat Ramirez, but sadly I don’t think that’ll be the case. It’ll be telling about how the A’s operate, to see if Ramirez’ performance speaks for itself, or whether he gets a free pass after a few warm up games with the River Cats.

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