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Manny Ramirez, of the Los Angeles Dodgers and formerly of the Boston Red Sox, has said that he would like to play 3-4 more years in the major leagues. This would put him around 40 years old by the time he ends his career, which would total about 20 years in Major League Baseball.
Unfortunately for Manny, the signs are beginning to point towards him being unable to pull this off. During the 2009 season, he batted .290, which was actually his worst batting average since 1994, his second year in the league. Additionally, his slugging and OPS were down from 2008. Manny is starting to show signs of aging, and if he has some sense of pride, he may want to consider getting out before his performance drops too egregiously.
Now to be fair, there ARE some compelling reasons for Manny to stay in the league. The biggest is to try and break 600 home runs. He currently sits and 546, 54 off the mark. Looking at his last two seasons (OK, season and a half) with L.A., it looks like it will take about 3-4 years to hit 600 home runs. So, it would seem that is his primary motivation.
It shouldn’t be his salary, as he is currently making over $23 million per year, and any new contract will be diminished in the face of his age, not to mention his on-field issues and history of steroid use. And it can’t be for more accolades, as he’s already won a World Series MVP, three silver slugger awards, and two Hank Aaron awards, not to mention 8 All-Star appearances. He’s done just about everything you can do in the Major Leagues, and he’s more or less a lock for the Hall of Fame, so he must be staying in the league primarily to build up his stats.
While Manny Ramirez is getting older, I don’t believe he has so little left in the tank that he can’t reach his goal of hitting 600 home runs. While his home run production went down some this year, he also played fewer games due to a steroid suspension. In two seasons, he has proven he can hit home runs in L.A. While his performance may dip some in the next few years, we’re talking about a player who in his prime could belt out more than 40 home runs in a season. Now all we’re talking about is 14 per year for the next four years, which is fewer than he’s hit in either season he’s played for the Dodgers. Hitting 14 home runs in a season is definitely within his abilities. And if he can do it, why not stick around and go for the next big milestone in a hitter’s career?
While Manny may find his popularity among contending teams diminishing due to his age, there are any number of teams out there who would kill to have a player as popular as Manny Ramirez on their roster, shooting for 600 home runs. Teams like the Royals and Orioles would be able to put more fans in the stands with a star like that on their team. And many AL players would still want Manny to DH. While he would need to get over his prima donna attitude, I bet more teams would be willing to put up with him than you’d think. He can still hit and in a DH or bench capacity, he would be an excellent addition to a poor team looking to jump levels or a good team looking to contend for the playoffs. Look at what he did for the Dodgers.
All in all, I think Manny Ramirez is talented enough to be able to last through his 30s as long as he keeps his expectations in check and is willing to play through an inevitable drop in performance. I don’t believe that drop will be so bad that he won’t be able to hit 600 home runs, but it just won’t be the Manny Ramirez of the late 90s who could bat .300 and hit 40+ home runs. Good luck to him.