"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Old Friends Are Best

Six years ago if you’d told me Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon would, in 2011, both sign relatively inexpensive one-year contracts with the Tampa Rays, it would have been jarring. Really, it’s still a bit jarring. Time and change come to us all, yet it’s odd to think how quickly yesterday’s superstars become today’s late-offseason bargains: Manny Ramirez made $20,000,000 last year, and last week he signed for $2,000,000. He didn’t get old overnight, but he started getting paid like an old player overnight. He is still only 38.

The real winners of this move are the few, the proud, the Tampa beat writers and columnists, whose clubhouse just got about 12 times more interesting: Damon is outgoing and easy to talk to and always sticks around to offer goofy quotes, and for a player who rarely talks to the media, Manny manages to provide plenty of material. Not that either new acquisition is destined to be useless, by any means. Damon had quite a lousy 2010, by his standards, but still produced more than the average left fielder, and is a clever enough hitter that he’ll be finding his hits here and there even after his bat speed and power deteriorate further; Manny fell off too, but I wouldn’t want to see him up against my team in the late innings with the game on the line, and I doubt too many pitchers would either. With that said, Damon was, even four or five years ago, not the best fielder- I remember bleacher fans at the Stadium joking about his “perfect 20-hoppers to first” – and hasn’t gotten better with wear and tear, which means right-handed visiting hitters may find their BABIP getting a nice boost in Tampa next year. Manny, of course, will probably not be seen in the outfield unless he jogs out there to urinate between innings.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Damon is getting paid more than twice as much as his brother-in-hair, even though he’s nowhere near twice as good a player as Ramirez, and just one year younger; I can only assume that Manny’s positive steroid test played a role, and perhaps the lingering ill-feeling after his acrimonious breakup with Boston (where he was more or less accused, at various times, of faking or exaggerating an injury, missing spring training to make promotional appearances, and shoving an elderly traveling secretary to the ground). When I mentioned these signings to a friend, her first thought was that Tampa might be looking for veteran leadership on their young team, and she wondered if it was really a good idea to have Manny try and full that role. But I don’t think any team’s management would view Man-Ram as that kind of figure, although you could do a lot worse that having young players watch the way he hits. I think he’s there for his pop, as well as his talents as a box-office draw and attention grabber. I have a hard time imagining that he won’t give the Rays their $two million’s worth.

For more analysis check out Jay Jaffe over at Pinstriped Bible, talking about how the additions of Damon and Ramirez give the Rays flexibility. I know it’s way too early to surmise anything, but on this frigid winter day I’m not loving the Yankees’ odds against Tampa or Boston.


And speaking of old friends… Bill Clinton had dinner in Miami last week with Alex Rodriguez and Cameron Diaz. While none of those people are on my “If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?” list, I have to admit that, like the nymag.com headline, I’m curious about what they might have talked about. Other than “so, being incredibly rich: pretty cool, eh?”


1 RIYank   ~  Jan 24, 2011 8:10 pm

I dunno, I might choose Clinton. Well, not as one of my top three of all time, not close. But Alex and Cam are actually on my "Never have dinner with even if they're paying" list.

Also, I am so ready for baseball. This always happens to me during the five month/two week build-up to the Superbowl.

2 Mattpat11   ~  Jan 24, 2011 10:26 pm

It still amazes me that after trashing every player that's left the organization for twenty five years, other teams still take the Red Sox at face value when they start telling everyone how the player sucks.

3 thelarmis   ~  Jan 24, 2011 11:07 pm

was just reading an article about Torre taking the MLB position. saw this quote and just had to post it at the banter...

"I've been in the dugout forever, I know what I'm doing there," Torre said.

oh, reeeaaaallllyyyy?! i imagine there's quite a few (hundred thousand) folks here that might differ! ; )

4 Bruce Markusen   ~  Jan 24, 2011 11:16 pm


Off topic. Came across an interesting name that you may or may not have profiled:

Emory Elmo "Topper" Rigney

A great name, and great nickname, too.

5 The Mick536   ~  Jan 25, 2011 9:47 am

Well said about the dinner companions. I wonder if they actually conversated? Who would start? Would it be about the others or themselves? Are they friends, as in boy-does-my-life- suck today or were they hitting on each other for donations to the charity of their choices? Did they order cocktails? What did they eat? Were I present and the time came for me to talk, "I pass."

As for Manny and JD, both be berry berry tired shadows of their former selves. I say neither makes it through the year and that Tampa doesn't go as far as Jay thinks with those arms and young studs.

Best line was about Damon's wing coming out of a KFC container.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver