By Jason Wojciechowski on June 15, 2012 at 9:15 PM
Word has come down from a number of places, though I'd guess it was first tweeted by Susan Slusser,1 that Manny Ramirez has asked for and been granted his release by the A's.
Let's, first of all, not get this twisted. Reading just that first paragraph, some of the more virulent Manny-haters out there might add this to his laundry list of supposed evils -- taking drugs, hitting his wife,2, being a distraction in the clubhouse, etc. -- but this is a baseball decision, not one about personality, not one about Manny being petulant or anything else. Ramirez, who wasn't hitting for any power in Sacramento but who was batting over .300 with a few walks, felt he'd shown enough that he'd proved he wasn't going to be a liability on the major-league roster. The A's, whether they agreed or disagreed, weren't willing to bump anyone they'd have to bump to make a hole for him: Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, and Collin Cowgill have all had their uses (at worst), and obviously Josh Reddick isn't going anywhere. So Manny saw that there wasn't a path to the major leagues and asked for the courtesy of his release, which the A's granted.
Now, I do not appear to have ever said this on the blog, but I'm sure I tweeted it once it became clear (again, via Susan Slusser's reporting) that Ramirez was signing a minor-league deal that would only pay him the listed $500,000 if he made the majors: the odds were always pretty decent that this was exactly how Ramirez's time with the A's (or "time" with the "A's") would end. Either Ramirez wouldn't perform in the minors, or he'd hurt himself because he's 40 and trying to be a professional athlete after well over a year off, or he'd perform just ok but not be any better than the options already in the majors, or he'd perform pretty well but the A's wouldn't want to displace the guys they already had. That last possibility would have been really tough, though there was at least the chance of a trade (for cash considerations, maybe, but that's not nothing), but luckily for the A's, the third is what materialized.
That's three legitimately good hitters, one of them who's been hitting despite being in a part-time role that not everybody can necessarily adjust to, and one player who, while he hasn't hit yet, does have some promise. More importantly for Cowgill, he's the backup center fielder when Yoenis Cespedes is hurt, as Bob Melvin has made his discomfort with Josh Reddick in center clear. Further, Melvin very clearly likes Cowgill. In a losing season, there's no point at all in taking away your manager's favorite toy from the bench when that favorite toy is 26, when the possible replacement is 40, when your two other center fielders are either proven to be (Crisp) or potentially (Cespedes) injury-prone. That way lies the path to discord.
Nico at Athletics Nation wrote a piece about the A's offense that turned out to be sort of prescient in this regard -- with the hitters humming right along in ways we're not used to, there was no need to add an uncertainty to the bunch.
I doubt the Manny situation was ever a distraction to anyone who mattered -- he mainly caused us bloggers and the team beat writers to tweet a lot of speculation about when he might be up, speculation about who might be cut to make room, speculation about how this would all play out. I'm, frankly, glad it's over. The A's have received good work from end-of-the-line players in the past (Frank Thomas, Tony Phillips, David Justice, Randy Velarde, John Jaha, Rickey Henderson), but Manny looked more like Hideki Matsui or Mike Piazza than Tony Phillips, especially since he wasn't going to wear a glove, much less make good plays on the ball. So given all that, I'm a little glad to not have to worry about any of this anymore.
This won't be hard to google, and I'm a lazy blogger. ↩
This, of course, is far more than "supposed" evil, but it's also, frankly, of a completely different character than being a distraction in the clubhouse. If you're a certain kind of general manager or owner or manager, you might not want to employ a player with a history (even a history of just one reported incident) of domestic violence, but I've found it a little ridiculous when writers have included domestic violence on the same list as "PE"Ds, as if they're at all comparable, either morally or in their effect on a team. ↩
True Average is, as always, Baseball Prospectus's batting value stat. It's park-adjusted, league-adjusted, and weighs offensive events properly (or at least more properly than, say, OPS). It's also scaled to looking like batting average, so the numbers over .300 are quite good. A .260 TAv is league average. ↩