Manny Ramirez still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. As noted in yesterday’s Call to the Pen piece by Steve Engbloom, the former Red Sox left fielder wants one more shot at the big leagues, telling the ESPN Radio affiliate in Santo Domingo, DR he “can still help in MLB.” Yes, the man responsible for this blooper reel wants a crack at a veteran mentor role similar to the one Jason Giambi currently occupies with the Cleveland Indians.
Bouncing from Mannywood to Chicago’s South Side to St. Petersburg to the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland’s Triple A affiliate) to Taiwan to the Round Rock Express (Texas’ Triple A affiliate) over four years and getting popped for two drug suspensions on his journey, Manny is somehow still clinging to the dream of a final big league at-bat, perhaps using his textbook swing to slash a jet-propelled double to the warning track in front of a packed house or swat an uppercut bomb to the highest reaches of the stadium. But does anybody want him?
The numbers haven’t been terrible over his past two minor league stints: he’s hit .275 in 171 at-bats. But his bat speed is slipping and the power is largely absent, with just three homers and 27 RBI to show for his time. On both occasions, when he realized his chance with the big club was slim to none, he picked up his things and went home.
The story reminds me of an August 1994 Sports Illustrated profile of the then-fledgling Northern League. Writer Alan Shipnuck described it as “a league for dreamers, hangers-on and guys mustering one last hurrah.” Among them: a 38-year old Pedro Guerrero, hitting .338 for the Sioux Falls Canaries and looking for one last shot.
Here was the 1981 World Series co-MVP, a five time All-Star, who Bill James once called “the best hitter God has made in a long time,” starring before a home crowd of 2,486. Why? A chance to prove his feeble 1992 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, in which he hit .219 with just one home run, wasn’t his final act.
Guerrero thrived for the Canaries but never made it back to the Majors.
Now, Manny is the new Guerrero. But he’s also 41 years old and a lot of professional bridges have turned to ash. Perhaps his only path is through Sioux Falls.