Ramirez's redemption tour starts anew


Ramirez's redemption tour starts anew

Manny Ramirez said he wanted to wear No. 7 as an Oakland Athletic, but that was taken, by Adam Rosales. So he took No. 1 instead, which was also taken, by club factotum Phil Garner.I guess we know where Rosales, Ramirez and Garner stand in juxtaposition then. Beyond that, we are taking Ramirez at his word that he wanted to come back to the game with more dignity than he left last year, that he found God through a difficult time with his family last fall, and that his sixth new start will be an enduring one.Im thankful I have a job, he said with a laugh. God said he would open a door for me, and he did.Gods position on the Oakland As has always been under some question, but if Ramirez said his family and faith are what drove him to play one more year, and to make one last stab at redemption, well, that will have to be the story until proven conclusively either way.

Ramirez signed a pro-rated 500,000 contract with the As for what ostensibly will be the final 112 games of the season. He must first sit out a 50-game drug suspension, presumably in an extended spring session and then a 10-game minor league rehab. Upon arriving in Oakland, as he is expected to do at the end of May, he will take on what may well be the last leg of his full rehabilitation.A rehabilitation, he knows, that will not sit well with everyone.I know people are going to say things, he said, but I think every problem, when it happens, it has to happen. You have to reflect on your life, and I didnt want it (the baseball career) to end that way.That way was the shame of Tampa, where he signed with the Rays only to quit in advance of the positive drugs test and essentially miss the entire season. He looked as done as done can be, because nobody would take a chance on a 39-year-hitter with his on- and off-field resumes.Except that done is a very flexible concept in baseball, especially in Oakland. Billy Beane found the right vehicle at the very right price, and offered in exchange a way for Ramirez to try and salvage some of the reputation that has both enriched and endangered him.Indeed, 2011 was about as bad as it could have been for him, between the baseball meltdown and domestic violence charges last September, which presumably caused Ramirez and his wife Juliana to reassess the direction of his life.It apparently took, as she and their sons, Manny Jr. and Lucas, joined him at his impromptu presser.Indeed, while he talked with reporters, Juliana threw batting practice to the boys. Apparently Garner, still stung by the appropriation of his number, was not available.We kid. Pretty much.Of course, with Ramirez, the danger of taking anything at face value is ever present, but there is currently no indication that he views his Oakland year as anything other than that last crack at redemption. It may be too late for too many people, but its what is available to him, and he has chosen not to look a gift door opened by God to Papago Park in the mouth.And if he is bitter about the turn his life took last year, he certainly betrayed none of it, even when asked about Milwaukees Ryan Braun, whose appeal of a drugs suspension was upheld Thursday by an arbitrator.Thats good for him, Ramirez said of Braun, who held his presser to a larger crowd in Maryvale than the one Ramirez entertained in Phoenix. Now he has a chance to clear his name, and that happened for a reason. We are all men, and we make mistakes. Im happy for him because hes a great guy, and a great ballplayer. Im sure his family went through a lot, and Im happy he is clean.And somewhere he hopes someone is saying that about him. If not now, then eventually. If not in Oakland, then maybe a seventh team. Doors always seem to swing open when someone can pick up a bat and hit balls over the center field wall.

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A's GM Forst feels passion of fans, will not second-guess decisions

A’s general manager David Forst says he has a stack of strongly worded letters from fans who grow frustrated with many of the team’s personnel moves.

That comes with the territory of running a major league front office. But Forst also said, during a wide-ranging interview on the latest A’s Insider Podcast, that honest critiquing must come from within office walls.

“You do want to do some self-evaluation and self-assessing,” Forst said. “What I don’t do, I don’t go back and second-guess decisions, whether it’s a trade or a signing. I don’t sort of hypothetically think, ‘Well, what if we hadn’t done this,’ because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. What you do have to do is make sure the process that led to that decision is sound and a good one.”

Certainly one of the most scrutinized A’s moves of recent history was their signing of designated hitter Billy Butler to a three-year $30 million contract in November 2014. That turned out to be a costly mistake, with Butler being released in September with one year left on his deal and the A’s still on the hook for roughly $10 million. Forst acknowledged how poorly that decision worked out but sticks by the initial motivation to sign Butler.

“Look, Billy Butler didn’t go the way we expected, and that’s one that gets brought up a lot,” Forst said. “But I think back to the time when we made that decision to sign him, and what we were projecting Billy to do. It was very clear what our team needed. Again, going into 2015, coming off the wild card that year, we still felt like this was a team that could compete for a division title. So all the things that went into the decision, ultimately I will stand by.”

Forst spoke frankly about several other topics during the podcast. Regarding fans’ frustration about seeing so many high-profile players traded:

“I’ve got a stack of letters on my desk, the substance of which I can’t repeat on the air,” he said with a smile. “… But there’s passion. And I know we have a fan base that cares, and that’s really a good place to be.”

Forst said the A’s definitely will pursue starting pitching this offseason, despite the fact that 1) he’s very optimistic about the crop of young pitching Oakland has developed, and 2) he believes Sonny Gray will bounce back from a poor 2016 season. The GM takes encouragement that Gray made a full physical recovery from a strained forearm.

“Am I going to get the Cy Young (caliber pitcher) from Day 1? I don’t know. But I think there’s a confidence that this was an aberration, this whole year, more than anything else.”

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.