As the Yankees' season looks more and more like one that will end with the end of September, the buzz around water coolers and bar stools is: "Should the Yankees go after Manny Ramirez this winter." Wouldn't that be cool?
In a word, no.
Yes, I'm aware of what Ramirez is capable of. A righty bat that can thump the ball anywhere any time. Power, average, the works. Then why no?
The first reason not to do it is Ramirez's age and the amount of money it would take to sign him. Ramirez, while still a dangerous hitter (especially when focused, which is rare) is aging. His HRs are way down, hitting only 24 this year after only 20 last year (compared to 43 and 45 in 2004 and 2005). Up until the trade to LA, he had a .529 slugging percentage and only a .493 last year. Consider that even past his prime, Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, would command a 5- to 6-year deal in the 20 million a year range (Ramirez is not taking a 1- or 2-year deal as some have suggested) and that's a serious commitment to an aging player. And where exactly does Ramirez play—in Yankee Stadium's spacious left field? If so, where does Matsui or Damon play—both highly paid players themselves? And how would your defense really perform if, say, Matsui and his bum knee played in left, Damon and his weak wing patrolled the deep parts of center, and Ramirez was on first? Is that a better option than Ramirez playing in left?
All that considered, do you really want to give 100 to 120 million to a player who—should we put it politely?—dances to his own beat. Even more so than the huge financial commitment, his declining stats, and his indifferent—if not outright poor—defense, the reason the Yankees shouldn't go after Manny Ramirez is...well, I'll let these examples speak for themselves:
1. Ramirez pushes a traveling secretary down because the man can't get him the 16 tickets he wanted, only 4.
2. Ramirez misses an important series against the Yankees claiming he has pharyngitis. He is later seen at a hotel bar with Yankee Enrique Wilson.
3. In his first game ever, Ramirez hits a ground rule double, but thought he hit a home run until the third base umpire stopped him and told him to go back to second. He is shortly thereafter picked off.
4. Often, doesn't leave batter's box after hitting a ground ball.
5. Refused to enter a game when manager Grady Little sends him in to pinch hit.
6. Takes a self-appointed day off even though outfielder Trot Nixon is injured and the Red Sox have a short bench.
7. Tried to sell his neighbor's barbecue grill.
The list goes on.
The point being, manager Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman are in the process of refurbishing the roster to make a new Yankee team. And while yes, the mandate in Yankee Stadium is always to win now, no matter the cost, the philosophy has changed—for the better. With the hiring of Girardi and the refusal to sign huge market free agents last fall, the Yankees have recommitted to what won them their last four championships (and what is working for the Angels and Rays right now) that is, defense, speed and pitching. Not huge money signings.
Right now the Yankees roster is clogged with slow, station-to-station DH types and a mish-mash of old and young pitching. But that is slowly changing. With Joba, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, and hopefully Phil Hughes and with kids like Austin Jackson on the way, it's clear that Cashman and Girardi have a new plan in mind. And that's a plan worth sticking to.
Again, I don't think Manny Ramirez is a bad player; he's a remarkable bat when focused, but at this point in his career, and considering the Yankees aren't in a place where he's a good fit, the wise move is to pass.