When the Cubs' news release about the signing of Manny Ramirez landed in my inbox Sunday, I was out for the day. (Thanks again, Josh, for covering the news item.)
Thus I had plenty of time to think about what this means for the Cubs and the organization. The release made it clear Manny's never going to make a single plate appearance for the major-league Cubs. Quoting Theo Epstein, from the release:
"While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he’s a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization. Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects. If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference."
This is very likely true. Manny's "Manny being Manny" reputation comes with him, but everything I've read since this announcement has said that Manny's a great mentor for younger players and the guy who everyone wanted to learn hitting from around the batting cage. Here's a representative sample, from a current Cub who was a teammate of Manny's in the Rangers organization at Triple-A Round Rock in 2013:
Mike Olt said he had an "awesome" experience playing with Ramirez last July at Round Rock before he was dealt to the Cubs’ organization. "We didn’t know what it was going to be like from watching him in the past," Olt said. "He had a great work ethic and interacted a lot with all the young guys and definitely helped us out. "The stuff I heard about him was all good. Yeah, there were times maybe people might have worked with him in a different way, a little differently, but from what I heard, he was a hard worker and understood how to hit. That’s all you need to know about a teammate." Olt said that Ramirez wasn’t a distraction at Round Rock, adding that he helped teammates with mentally preparing for a pitcher. "It’s going to be good to have him work with our young guys," Olt said.
That's good enough for me. Here's Manny's statement from the press release:
"I’m at the stage of my life and career where I really want to give something back to the game that I love -- the game that has meant so much to me and done so much for me and my family," Ramirez said. "I know I am nearing the end of my playing days, but I have a lot of knowledge to pass on to the next generation – both what to do and what not to do. The Cubs have some very talented young hitters, and I would love nothing more than to make a positive impact on their careers. I am passionate about baseball and about hitting, and I have a lot to offer. While I would love to return to the major leagues, I leave that in God’s hands. My focus will be on working with the young hitters, making sure they don't make the same mistakes I made, and helping the team any way I can."
Let's assume that Manny is serious about having young players not making the "same mistakes" he made. Manny will turn 42 next Friday. When a man reaches that stage of his life, no matter the profession or what he's done in the past, it often is time to take stock of what he's done and correct wrongs. We know about Manny's PED use -- he's admitted it, served a big-league suspension and wants to make amends. We know about Manny quitting on the Red Sox during the 2008 season, even getting into a physical altercation with the Red Sox traveling secretary, a 64-year-old man. It got to the point where Theo felt he had to get rid of him, and found a taker in the Dodgers.
Where Manny helped lead the Dodgers to an unexpected division championship, and you know what happened after that. Say... maybe this is a way for Manny to make that up to the Cubs.
Seriously, if Manny is serious about being a new Manny, someone who can lend his considerable knowledge about hitting to Cubs prospects, and also to show them the things not to do as a major-league player, this is an inspired signing. I've often wished new Cubs management would do something "outside the box." This is about as outside as you can get, I think.
It just might work. Manny, you be Manny -- the guy who was the best hitter in baseball for more than a decade starting in 1995. That's the guy the Cubs can use. The rest of it, let's hope he has left it in the proverbial dustbin of history. Another quote from Theo from ESPN Chicago:
"Manny has made real mistakes in the past but he has owned up to them and moved his life in a positive direction the last couple of years," Epstein said. "He is in a really great place right now and wants to share the lessons he's learned along the way. We think he deserves another chance and that our young hitters will benefit from it."
I like this move. Hopefully, all the things he's taught players around the batting cage will help Javier Baez and others be better major leaguers.