Our long national nightmare is over. Everyone's favorite dread-locked future Hall-of-Famer and consumer of female fertility drugs is slated to be back in the big leagues! Former Red Sox and Indians mainstay Manny Ramirez was signed to a minor league contract by the Oakland A's last week, and he appears to be the favorite to take over as their regular DH sometime around the start of June. Apparently deviating from their offseason quest to corner the market on crappy fourth outfielders, the A's decided to take a small gamble on ManRam, hoping that he can still provide some modicum of his old offensive production even after a one-season layoff.
Why are the A's doing this? Perhaps it's a last-ditch effort to add a cheap bat and compete in the top-heavy AL West (think Frank Thomas in 2006). Perhaps they think Manny will return to his old self and draw interest from a contender at the trade deadline. Or perhaps Billy Beane was just so enamored with Brad Pitt's portrayal of him in Moneyball that he has decided to pay tribute to Pitt by impersonating Floyd from True Romance on a daily basis, with all of his decision-making being influenced by said character's recreational habits.
I don't know. The Oakland ball club's questionable personnel moves are beyond a mere mortal's ability to explain. What I want to know is what you think. Below in the comments section, I want you to project Manny Ramirez's 2012 stat line. Will he be the Manny Being Manny of old? Will he be worth even a waiver wire flyer when he finally reaches the big club? Will he wash out of Sacramento while swinging feebly at PCL pitching? Post your predictions, and at the end of the year we can come back here and see how smart we all are.
After the jump, my prediction, plus some more rambling.
What do we know about Manny Ramirez going into the 2012 season? For starters, he's perhaps one of the twenty or so best pure hitters in the history of baseball, a shoo-in Hall-of-Famer if voters aren't completely put off by the steroid stink that has emanated from him in the past few years. He was still an elite hitter as recently as 2010, when he posted a 150 OPS+ in half a season with the Dodgers.
He'll also turn 40 in May, and he hasn't set foot on a major league baseball diamond since his ill-fated stint with Tampa Bay in April of last year, when he hit a scintillating .059/.059/.059. That's a batting line that just jumps off the page at you. We also know that he'll miss 50 games due to his drug suspension and will almost certainly be sent for a minor league stint before joining the big club. Thus, you could probably put his ceiling for total games played in 2012 at 100, which is being charitable given his age and probable rustiness.
None of which means that he won't have any value to your fantasy team this season. Many fantasy leagues have been won on the backs of second half hot streaks. I'm sure Brett Lawrie's torrid hitting at the end of last year vaulted more than a few managers to the top prize. Amid a sea of skeptics, I'm going to be "that guy" and predict that Manny isn't done. Not yet.
Manny Ramirez 2012 Projected Line:
.260/375/.480 18 HR 53 RBIs 45 R
Keep in mind that there's no rigorous, intricate, PECOTA-style projection system behind this. I'm not whip-cracking a bunch of scared, starving college interns into formulating the perfect algorithm that will spit out Manny's exact 2012 batting line. This is just from my heart to my brain to my keyboard, so if you want to accuse me of pulling that above line directly out of my backside, then you might not be completely wrong.
Oakland's ballpark is hell on a hitter's batting average, what with its vast expanse of foul territory. It is not, however, as murderous on power. Look at Josh Willingham last year. His batting average dipped substantially, but he still set a career high in home runs, and even slugged better at home. Ramirez used to hit for high batting averages, but there are too many factors against him now (ballpark, age, hibernation period) and I think his average will dip.
I do think he'll retain some power and the same batting eye. Even in his truncated stint in Chicago in 2010, he posted his typical superlative walk rates, despite not hitting for a lick of power. The utter lack of any competent hitters in the rest of the Oakland lineup will keep his RBIs and runs scored down.
Enough of what I think, though. Let's see your projection. Hold nothing back. If you think he'll wash out before even reaching the bigs, I want a hilarious reason why, like being caught urinating on the River Cat mascot or something.