Manny's potential reward far outweighs risk
Ramirez offers insurance at dish in White Sox playoff chase
CHICAGO -- At last glance, Manny Ramirez could not -- and will not -- pitch out of the White Sox bullpen.
And with setup men extraordinaire J.J. Putz and Matt Thornton on the disabled list, the second-place team in the American League Central certainly is in need of a little relief.
Ramirez might be able to provide that assistance without ever throwing a pitch, beefing up an already-sturdy White Sox lineup featuring Most Valuable Player candidate Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin.
Baseball sources have confirmed to MLB.com that Ramirez's run in Los Angeles has reached the end -- the 38-year-old with 554 career home runs will move back to the AL. Ramirez will become the White Sox primary designated hitter over the season's final 32 games, starting with six games in his former baseball homes of Cleveland and Boston, and the team hopes it gets a motivated talent whose final-month production could enhance his 2011 contractual status as a free agent.
Right leg injuries led to three trips to the disabled list this season, leaving Ramirez with just 12 at-bats since July 17. He has two hits in 11 at-bats since returning from the disabled list, but aside from two pinch-hit appearances, Ramirez has not played in the past four games or in any of the three weekend contests at Colorado. Although Ramirez could have forced extra compensation by refusing to waive his no-trade clause, a move to Chicago appears beneficial for all parties involved.
If this move becomes a straight waiver claim, with the White Sox being awarded Ramirez over Texas and Tampa Bay with a lesser record, then the South Siders will be on the hook for all $3.8 million still owed to Ramirez. That total represents more than the yearly salary for John Danks, Quentin or Thornton.
Even with Ramirez's current playing status not exactly known, whether he simply grew disenchanted as a bench player for the Dodgers or isn't quite the same force he used to be, there seems to be no doubt Ramirez can help any team -- especially for a playoff push during the season's final month.
"It's just another guy that people are like, 'Wow,'" said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham. "Even if he's not playing great, people are still like, 'That's Manny Ramirez. I'm going to pitch around him.' He puts that fear in your lineup. We have him batting fifth, sixth or seventh, that's pretty good."
"I'm sure he'll help the White Sox," said Rangers third baseman Michael Young. "He's one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time. He can help someone."
"He's one of the best right-handed hitters out there, and I don't have a lot to say except whatever team he's on, he's going to help them," said White Sox outfielder Andruw Jones. "He's a big bat and he knows how to play the game."
Jones can speak about Ramirez as a teammate, being part of the 2008 Dodgers' roster when Ramirez arrived from Boston and hit an amazing .396 with 53 RBIs in 187 at-bats. With Ramirez's arrival, Jones is reduced to a spot-starter and a defensive replacement in the outfield.
Mark Kotsay will get some at-bats against right-handers, but his role reverts to a backup first baseman -- where he saved a run with a great defensive play on Sunday -- and a pinch-hitter. As for Mark Teahen, signed to a three-year, $14 million deal before the season started, he will remain the team's super-sub but will have less chances at designated hitter.
"The reason we [may] bring him in is maybe those guys don't do their jobs," said manager Ozzie Guillen, speaking hypothetically on Friday -- a time frame when the White Sox could not comment.
This team has gone through a great deal of ups and downs this season. The White Sox were nine games under and 9 1/2 out of first place on June 8, but they went on a 28-8 run to grab a 3 1/2-game AL Central lead on July 20. They've been down to the Twins by as much as five games, but still refuse to doubt their playoff chances for a moment with three head-to-head games left against Minnesota at home from Sept. 14-16.
"We have to do what we are capable of," Beckham said. "And what we are capable of is going to the playoffs."
Many believe that capability will receive a boost Monday or Tuesday when Manny arrives. As for the whole "Manny being Manny" routine, both Juan Pierre and Jim Thome have talked about the incredible work ethic shown by Ramirez away from the show he puts on for the media.
Don't think for a second that show will cause consternation for Guillen.
Guillen is the face of the franchise, the clubhouse leader. It's his way or no way -- not in an angry or adversarial manner, but with no gray area to be discussed. Over the weekend, Guillen told a story of how when Ken Griffey, Jr. arrived in 2008, he told Guillen that he hadn't played center field in a while. Guillen turned around and said center field was the position he had for him to play, and that spot is where Griffey primarily had to go if he wanted time.
Griffey ended up throwing out Michael Cuddyer at the plate, from center field, in the Blackout AL Central playoff victory over the Twins. Ramirez comes with a little heftier cost, but with 16 home games in the final 22 to be played, the White Sox hope the reward far outweighs the risk.
"When you're a White Sox player, you know what you have to deal with," Konerko said. "It's not going to change much if you're worried about bringing in another personality. We have enough to go around if you look at everybody around here.
"Manny can hit, and if he comes here, he'll hit. Wherever he is, he's going to hit. That's just what he does. But I wouldn't worry about the chemistry."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.