Williams says Manny will fit in with White Sox
Slugger expected to join team in Cleveland on Tuesday
The truly important question, the one concerning Manny Ramirez being passed around by a multitude of fans throughout the country, was answered by White Sox general manager Ken Williams about half-way into Monday's conference call.
Manny will continue being Manny, only now taking his show to the White Sox and the race for the American League Central title after the team claimed him off waivers from the Dodgers prior to Monday's game in Cleveland. But will his Chicago act include a haircut?
"We have a certain way we like to have our players represent us," Williams said. "That was discussed quite some time ago with one of my coaches. We will wait and let you see how they try to handle it.
"From my understanding, it is not going to be an issue. He's going to make an adjustment and he will conform to how we like to have our players represented out there."
OK, so Williams didn't quite clear up the quandary as to whether Ramirez will be sporting dreadlocks when he becomes the White Sox designated hitter Tuesday night or for Wednesday afternoon's series finale in Cleveland. But Williams did address many other questions attached to the character that is Ramirez.
Williams went after Ramirez prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, basically for the same reason he pursued Jake Peavy and Alex Rios in 2009 and Ken Griffey Jr. in 2008. The goal for the White Sox never simply has been to win the division, get to the playoffs and go home happy. It has always been a focus on winning it all.
That goal jumped a level after the 2005 World Series championship. So, adding Ramirez could help the White Sox not only make up 4 1/2 games on the American League Central-leading Twins but also be highly successful once they reach the playoffs.
"Our thought behind it was very simple," said Williams, who listed Ramirez as one of numerous impact candidates the White Sox pursued at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. "We not only want to get into the playoffs, but once we get in, we would like to have a chance to do something special. You need a hitter who can hit good pitching and hit in the clutch, and it's just a matter of him getting his timing back and he will be effective."
Ramirez, 38, was beset by injuries throughout his final campaign with the Dodgers. He wasn't able to play defensively or really exert himself on the bases due to wear and tear on his body, and he made three trips to the disabled list, with just two hits in 13 at-bats since the All-Star break.
To think Ramirez isn't the same player who drove in at least 100 runs during every season but one from 1998 to 2008 would be accurate. But to think Ramirez has nothing left to offer as the White Sox primary designated hitter would be completely and totally off the mark.
In 196 at-bats this season with the Dodgers, Ramirez posted a .311 average with eight home runs, 15 doubles and 40 RBIs. He has a .405 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage. He had become more of an opposite-field hitter than a pure power force.
Andruw Jones entered Monday with a .215 average in 251 at-bats with the White Sox, along with 18 home runs and 42 RBIs, while Mark Kotsay entered Monday with a .233 average, eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 283 at-bats. Both players' respective on-base percentage and slugging percentage are below Ramirez's numbers.
With Ramirez entering free agency after the 2010 season, the White Sox are counting on the slugger with 554 career home runs to have a little extra motivation in proving his capabilities with the bat. Ramirez "didn't ask for anything" to waive his no-trade clause to come to the White Sox, according to Williams, after being made aware that he would be nothing more than a bench player for the Dodgers.
No one-year extension. No extra compensation. Ramirez had told teammates since back in Spring Training how he wanted to finish his career as an AL DH and was amenable to the change of scenery.
"All he wanted to do was play," Williams said. "And win. He's excited, and he really wanted to get back out on the field and show that he's one of the premier hitters around.
"There's no commitment to him past this year, but I go in with an open mind. He is our designated hitter. Let's see how he goes and how he fits, and let's see how we end dollar-wise and projection-wise for what we have to work with next year.
"That's 2011," Williams said. "Let's worry about 2010. That's my message."
Much like the Rios waiver acquisition from Toronto last Aug. 10, Williams could have lessened the financial load by adding a prospect or multiple prospects in a trade. The Dodgers were willing to pay about one-third of the sum owed Ramirez and wanted Minor League catcher Tyler Flowers, who could be the White Sox starter in 2011. Williams chose not to weaken the system's overall talent base and instead absorbed the approximately $3.8 million owed to Ramirez, factoring in his remaining 2010 salary and deferred payments.
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf admitted to MLB.com in Spring Training how he needed a little convincing when Williams came back to him about acquiring Jake Peavy at the 2009 non-waiver Trade Deadline, having concern over the money and years being invested in a starting pitcher. Williams eventually made his case for Peavy, but Williams said the White Sox chairman was behind this Ramirez move.
"Jerry, a lot of people don't know this, and haven't got as good of a feel as you could, he's ultra competitive," Williams said. "My selling jobs, I don't have to stand in his office and pound the table. He wants to win as much as I do and is not averse to taking a chance."
Set to wear jersey No. 99, Ramirez will top Tony Phillips' previous franchise high of jersey No. 73 from 1997. He was slated to fly on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Cleveland on Monday night, leaving manager Ozzie Guillen unsure if Ramirez will start Tuesday.
If Ramirez is in action, he will be hitting fifth and cut into playing time for Jones and Kotsay. This veteran pair has helped galvanize the clubhouse in the team's fight from nine games under and 9 1/2 games out to serious playoff contention.
"I'm not really concerned about it," Kotsay said. "There's just 32 games left, and we need to win baseball games and get to the postseason. I don't worry about playing time, I don't worry about at-bats. At this point, you just worry about winning and getting in the playoffs."
"He's coming here to play," Guillen said. "How much is he going to produce? I don't know. I wish I knew. But he's coming here to play. He's going to be in the lineup as long as he's healthy."
Guillen hopes Ramirez's White Sox beginning is far better than his Los Angeles finish. Ramirez didn't start any of his final four games with the Dodgers -- although Williams said that the White Sox didn't ask to have him held out -- and was ejected from a Sunday pinch-hitting appearance after one pitch. Ramirez understood at the start of this past weekend's Rockies series how his role would be limited.
Comfort could be a key factor for Ramirez. Whether that level includes his dreadlocks or a new look might play out Tuesday.
"Guys can go out there butt naked," said Guillen, remembering how Joe Crede and A.J. Pierzynski had to get haircuts in 2006. "And if they win a game for me, I'm happy for them. The hair? That's not my department."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.