PHOENIX -- Billy Beane successfully turned the Manny Ramirez signing into a two-day story Tuesday, which while he maintains is not the reason why the As signed the 40-year-old force of nature.
In fact, other than his new pet phrase, low-risk, he went to remarkable lengths to make this seem like a no-brainer baseball signing that had literally no asterisk to it.
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In double fact, when someone suggested that one of the high rewards of Ramirez would be that he could provide fat statistics for market come the trade deadline, he laughed a bit derisively and said, You mean like we have a 12-pound trout wed like to fatten up a bit and make restaurant-ready?
Therein lies the Beane conundrum he knows what everyone else thinks of the Ramirez signing, both good (he costs a pro-rated 340,000 and may still be able to hit like a dervish) and bad (hes a past-it rental who is just the latest version of Mike Piazza), and yet he wants people to see that he signed Ramirez because he might still be Manny Ramirez, available and eager to help the Oakland Athletics Baseball Club be a little more fearsome and a little less . . . well, you know.
In short, he wants Manny Ramirez to be thought of as his second Frank Thomas, rather than as the latest in a line of past-it stars who for the most part got a bit of early buzz then proved that they were actually out of options. And no, we mean playing baseball effectively options.
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In terms of the Manny signing, the one Id compare it most to is Frank, Beane said Tuesday, leaning against a dugout railing at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, yet another of the many parks and facilities the As are hoping to leave in the next few years. Frank was more expensive, and hed had some injury history, but his ending (with the Chicago White Sox) was not entirely pleasant, and we thought he had something left.
Which he did, as it turns out, performing as the closing act in the teams last playoff run.
But Beane also went to some efforts to leave the impression that if Ramirez hadnt worked out, there was no Plan B (Maggio Ordonez, Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, et. al.) to fill the DHfour-hole space that apparently cannot yet be filled by any of the As younger candidates, like Johnny Gomes, Kila Kaaihue or Chris Carter.
And while Beane also said, if one of them steps out and has a big first half, we are open to not bringing Manny up at all, that seems unlikeliest of all. Signing Ramirez and then not bothering to see if he has any Manny left seems even dafter than signing him at all.
To be sure, Beane is more than resistant to skepticism, as he has habitually chosen the path less taken sometimes to his greater glory, sometimes to his detriment. He doesnt mind the ridicule on the front end.
On the back end, though, he does have his ego investment, too, and the fallow years since 2006 have been dotted by signings like this that ran the gamut from ineffectual to wasted Piazza, Mike Sweeney, Thomas, again), Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui.
In short, Beane wants Manny Ramirez not to be viewed as what it seems to be a what-the-hell signing from a team that seems to do one a year, whether it needs it or not. And unless one of the DH candidates already in the dressing room (Ramirez is expected in work clothes on Friday) is planning to have an OPS like Mannys in 1999, he will get that opportunity.
And to be more than just your standard restaurant-ready trout.