A big story making the rounds today is in regard to former Tribe outfielder and current Los Angles Dodger Manny Ramirez and his recent thoughts on wanting to finish his career in Cleveland. You know, the place where it all started? “I think to go back where you started is everyone’s dream,” claims Ramirez.
The baseball fan in me first thought, “Wait. This guy just signed a huge contract with the Dodgers. He went most of spring training in a hold out of sorts, waiting for just the exact deal to hit the table. It’s now exactly ONE week into the season (let alone his brand new $40 million contract) and he’s already talking about where he wants to go next?”
And that was shortly followed by, “Oh man. This is just what is needed right now with the team off to a terrible start and a good chunk of the city still clinging to the memories of the late 1990s.” To add a little more excitement to the proverbial mix, Ramirez has also reportedly been in contact with Jim Thome (also a former Tribe slugger) who wil be a free agent at the end of this season. Theoretically, both players could hit the market this summer and return to their roots.
Or return back to the city that they left when they actually had a chance to stay here and help win some baseball games. The place that they said that they wanted to play in for the rest of their careers, until the contracts were actually signed. The same city that refused to overpay for their services during every renegotiation. That’s the city that they’d like to return to now that it is convenient for them, both now in their late 30s.
“Manny was very sincere when he brought that up to me,” Thome said. “Manny was saying how special that would be for us to both go back together. He was very passionate. Baseball’s such a weird thing. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Well, I can tell you what won’t happen: Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez coming back to Cleveland. It’s not saying that I wouldn’t welcome them both back; they would put a ton of fans in the seats, and a few baseballs in the bleachers. But to say that this team has moved on without Manny and Jim Thome would be an understatement.
Thome will likely never see a baseball glove again for the remainder of his career. Alas, his position of designated hitter is currently occupied by one Travis Hafner – he of the four years and $57 million left on his contract. Even if you take the 2013 club option out of the mix (assuming that the Indians do not want to pay him $13 million in said year), there is zero chance that Hafner will have significant trade value if the team wanted to make room for Thome.
“I love L.A. I really do. But the way the city responded to me, it reminded me a lot of how it was in Cleveland.”
Only Manny Ramirez would say that Los Angeles, California reminds him of Cleveland, Ohio. I’ve been to both areas, and not once did I say, “Hey, this is just like back home!” Regardless, it also says a lot that the city he “loves” is the city he’s already planning on evacuating if the time is right.
For those that are really considering a return of Ramirez next season, consider a couple of things. One, this team is young. Sure, Victor Martinez is a cagey veteran, but look around the rest of the team. The average age on this team is 27-years. Adding a 38-year old left fielder and his designated hitting counterpart would not be in line with what this team has in store for the future.
The future is currently located in Columbus, Ohio in the form of Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley.
LaPorta, just turning 24-years old, has had one of the best starts in all of Triple-A baseball. Through his first three games, the slugger is batting .625/.667/1.500 with a home run, a triple, two doubles and four runs scored. Brantley, who will turn 22-years old in a month, is not doing too bad himself. In four games played, Brantley is hitting .467/.529/.600 with a triple, a stolen base and two walks to his lone strikeout.
Obviously, those splits are not sustainable, but what I’m pointing out is that these are the guys that Mark Shapiro traded his ace starting pitcher for last season. These are the guys that the team is banking on being their next Belle/Lofton. There is no sense in actually going back and signing Albert Belle and Kenny Lofton simply based on what they meant to this city back in the mid-1990s. Sure, Manny and Thome actually still playing makes that comparison a bit of a stretch, but that doesn’t change the fact that as much as it would be “fun” to have both Ramirez and Thome back with the Tribe, it is merely a nostalgic pipedream.
One that makes no sense both financially and from a baseball standpoint for the future of the Cleveland Indians. As a collective fan base, we should embrace the present and look forward to the future. Yes, the mid-90s were a good time, but they’re long gone. The economics, the payroll, you name it – it’s different. Those major markets can have those guys on the downside of their carreer.I don’t know about you all, but I’ll gladly sit and wait for the days of Brantley and LaPorta.
Manny Ramirez would love second shot with Indians [Bob Nightengale/USA Today]