Would the Rays Entertain a Possible Man-Dam Reunion for 2012?
Last off season we became intrigued by the possibility that two men could hold the fortunes of the Tampa Bay Rays within their veterans hands. One provided a bit of stability to a offense that sometimes tumble, tumbled and fell upon it’s face, the other was a gamble, but not a costly one. Each player had their pros and cons for their addition to this young squad, and each blazed their own path for the season early, one falling from grace while the other was quickly embraced by the Rays Republic.
When Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez emerged for their 2011 Press Conference within the confines of Tropicana Field, the sky seemed the limit for these two aging gladiators of the AL East wars. Both brought a huge chunk of veteran promise towards eradicating and eliminating the offensive woes of this young Rays squad.
The Spring came and went with each providing moments that quickly gathered energy and excitement, with each accomplishment building more confidence within the Rays Republic as to their inclusion on the Rays roster. In the end, it was the stability and leadership of Damon, and the perplexity of “Manny being Manny” that played out their parts and determined each of their roles.
So here we are almost a year later and again both of their free agent names are producing a intriguing hum along the Coconut Telegraph as a potential Rays duo once again. But I have to ask this in advance this time, will the rubber hit the road with either of them in 2012, or could this be a possible “Pat the Bat” moment in waiting?
We all know each player has offensive merits, and their liabilities are well documented, but if the price is comparable to their 2011 salaries, could this be the momentum to include them again in the Rays fold? To what extent do we believe the sincerity of Ramirez, and do we believe Damon’s “youthful” 2011 campaign will play out miraculously again, or fall flat on its face. When veterans are brought in there are risk, but do the risks outweigh the stats when winning has to be archived to stay the course or ramp up wins in 2012?
Damon has hinted he would love to again don the Rays Carolina blue unis and stay within his home state for another Rays tour. But even within Damon’s statement there is a dark looming cloud that could not only wreck such a reunion, but could deflate it instantly. Even in the enthusiastic language displayed by Damon in his want for a return into the Rays fold, his hint of a possible migration to Houston has to bring up some interesting question marks.
Why would Damon want to glide into Minute Maid Park possibly for the 2012 season when that team will be entering it last tour of duty as a National League franchise. Because of Damon’s obvious defensive skill depreciation as a fielder, his optimistic attitude in possibly joining the Houston club at this juncture seems a bit odd. This same oratory would make more sense in the 2012 off season as the Houston club re-evaluates and re-tools for their own migration into the AL West.
Doesn’t it seem more apt and par for the course that Damon would return to the Rays for 2012 with a possibly of a small raise in pay and the same attendance incentives. This kind of move would give Damon a chance to start the 2012 season in Tampa Bay, then if the Rays show a talent/ win digression , he could be a solid Trade Deadline addition for the Maestros emerging as an early candidate for their 2013 Designated Hitter slot. You also have to ask yourself if Damon knows a piece of information or move we are not privy to, or if it is just pure conjecture on his part at this moment.
The double talk of Damon eventually showing his cards to both locales would seem moot to some, but the underlying questions is why is Damon showing his cards so early, and why even mention Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s name at all, especially since there is a slim chance of him leaving the Rays and going “home” to Houston. Damon is a smart guy, maybe he is playing the odds in both directions even though it could cost him a bit at the bargaining table in the end.
Then there is Ramirez. A guy who can drive you batty with his bat and dialog as well as his off-the-field distractions. We all know of his transgressions early in the 2011 season, and it is not worth time mentioning it past this sentence. Still, his domestic situation brings about its own red flags, and possibly makes his name quickly disappear from the Rays “Wish List” this off season, even at a huge discount.
Even though Ramirez has paid his supposed penances by removing himself from baseball for the entire 2011 season, will MLB mandate a 50-game sentence still before he can even step upon a MLB diamond. It might be a bit of time before the MLB honchos and the MLBPA sort out his options, eliminating him from the Rays equation by proxy.
I was not upset or even a bit surprised by the announcement of Ramirez’s suspension in 2011, but it still cuts deep into the Rays Republic’s aching heart when this past April, as the Rays floundered at the bottom of the AL East, Manny had to vacate the clubhouse bringing an unneeded and warranted distraction that could of cost the Rays more than just a dismal April.
Because Ramirez was not lighting up the Rays scoreboard or providing moments of clarity or brilliance at the time of his “reveal”, he was able to fade away basically because we let him. But could a Manny return be in the works possibly with Ramirez again giving a bargain basement price so he can again elevate his game and possibly bargaining chip as a trade piece come late July bringing the Rays an addition that could get them again into the October promised land.
I guess the answer all depends on your own opinions as to the ultimate worth of these two players, and if the risk is work the possible rewards, or keeping them out of the hands of divisional foes. These two names might not be heard loudly among the MLB Winter Meeting hallways in Dallas this week, but their presence even outside the comfort level of teams within their division will merit as least a glance in their direction.
So should the Rays even listen to a Manny conversation this off season, or just watch as he aligns himself possibly with the Baltimore Orioles or maybe even the New York Yankees and become a thorn in the Rays rise once again. You almost wish the Rays had the payroll of New York or the Boston Red Sox just so we can take him out of the American League East equation in every aspect. Problem is, if Manny comes back to the AL East in 2012, what penalty will MLB propose, or will he possibly be welcomed back with open arms having stayed away from the game for almost a year.
When Damon and Manny emerged for that Press Conference the room grew suddenly silent. There was an aire of dramatic change of realistic hopes of veterans of this caliber embracing this young team and their quest for another trip deep into the playoffs. Manny had to buy a ticket to see those games, Damon got a front row seat to watch this team mature before his eyes. Both took extremely different paths in 2011, but could a possible 2012 reunion or resolution tour be warranted?