Manny – Good Idea or Bad Idea?

Rumours have been swirling. 

The speculation is growing. 

Is there a chance that Manny Ramirez signs with the Blue Jays? 

I will admit that when I first heard of the idea I was not happy.  Why would Toronto want Manny?  With his oversized ego, clubhouse clashing personality, and declining production it seemed like a no-brainer – don’t touch him with a 10-foot pole.

Whenever “Manny” is mentioned, warning signs follow.  The negatives, dangers, and pitfalls are many.  For instance:

Production – Without a doubt Manny Ramirez is one of the premiere offensive producers in baseball history.  He has 555 career HR, a .998 career OPS, and a career .411 on-base-percentage.  He is a 12-time All-Star, has finished in the top-20 in MVP voting 11 times, and is a two-time World Series Champion.  He has been to the playoffs 11 different times with three different teams.

But…

The two worst seasons of his career were 2009 and 2010.  He was suspended for 50-games for performance enhancing drugs.  He was injured.  He hit only 9 HR last year, and was a colossal bust for the White Sox.  Why would he rebound at age 39?

Attitude – Manny rubs people the wrong way.  And he has proven in the past that when people irritate him, he shuts down.  He did it in Boston.  He did it in LA.  Why wouldn’t he do it in Toronto?

Age – Manny will turn 39 on May 30th.  The Blue Jays are a young, up-and-coming team.  Why would an aging slugger make a good fit on a young team, especially one with a questionable attitude?

Agent – He is represented by Scott Boras, an agent who searches for enormous contracts.  Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays are not in the market for enormous contracts.

But after thinking about it for a few days, and after reading Richard Griffin’s Toronto Star mailbag, I have softened my stance. 

I no longer think it is a terrible idea to sign Manny Ramirez. 

In two words, here’s why:

Motivation.  Legacy.

In this writer’s opinion, Manny Ramirez has truly been motivated five times in his career:

1. 1994: His rookie year in Cleveland, to prove he belonged in the majors – .269 average, 17 HR, 60 RBI, .878 OPS, 2nd in ROY voting

2. 2000: His final season in Cleveland, a contract year – .351 average, 38 HR, 122 RBI, league-leading 1.154 OPS, All-Star, Silver Slugger

3. 2001: His first year in Boston, to prove he was worth his contract – .306 average, 41 HR, 125 RBI, 1.014 OPS, All-Star, Silver Slugger

4. 2004 World Series: To prove he could perform in the World Series – .412 average, 1 HR, 4 RBI in 4 games, 1.088 OPS, World Series Champion

5. Second half of 2008: First arrival in LA, to prove Boston wrong for trading him – .396 average, 17 HR, 53 RBI in 53 games, 1.232 OPS, 4th in NL MVP voting 

There’s no way a beat up Manny Ramirez was motivated upon arriving in Chicago last year, to a team that doubted him and was already out of the pennant race.

So why will he be motivated in 2011?  Because of that second word: legacy.

Manny is a selfish player.  Always has been, always will be.  His final career numbers and the way he leaves the game are huge issues in his mind.  He will not want to be remembered as a washed-up veteran who hung around too long.  That would tarnish his legacy.  So will he be satisfied the way 2010 ended?  Absolutely not. 

That means wherever he lands in 2011, he will be extremely motivated.  He will  want to preserve his legacy, and cement his Hall of Fame status.  Think Frank Thomas signing with Oakland in 2006.

Now, imagine him producing one of those motivation-influenced season in a Blue Jays uniform.  Looks pretty good doesn’t it?

If Toronto did sign Manny, there would also be side benefits.  Love him or hate him, he has the type of colourful personality that sells tickets – both at home and on the road.  On top of that, people of Toronto often complain that the team doesn’t get enough exposure in the US, making it difficult to attract marquee free agents.  Manny instantly gives us that exposure. 

It might be a long shot, but if (and this is a HUGE if), Toronto can get him on a lower salary, incentive-laden, one-year deal, why not sign Manny?

He has already publicly stated he loves playing for John Farrell.  He has already publicly stated he likes the city of Toronto.  The Jays have a heavily latin influenced clubhouse, could use a solid DH, and desperately need higher OBP. 

It might be a match made in heaven.

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