Cubs Turn To Manny Ramirez In Grooming Their Young

Theo Epstein
Theo Epstein
Cubs GM Theo Epstein Dennis Wierzbicki USA TODAY Sports

Here’s hoping for a Manny who understands just who he is.

The Chicago Cubs announced on Sunday they have signed 12-time All-Star outfielder and twice-suspended steroids abuser Manny Ramirez as a player/coach for their Triple-A affiliate. Not only that, the team is boldly promoting a plan heralding the 41-year-old Ramirez as a “nice fit as a mentor for some of the young, talented hitters we have in the organization.”

No, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has grown demented from all the losing. The numbers and my eyes don’t lie, and I have always viewed Ramirez as one of the best pure hitters to ever take to the box, which all the more make his long-checkered history of being a performing enhancing drug abuser that much more perplexing.

Truth is, when it comes to such paradoxes, I truly believe Ramirez simply got caught up. Caught up in an era of the game so tainted by such rampant abuses that talents like his came to absurdly feel their gifts would no longer stand out unless they were willing to take advantage of all that was at their fingertips, like so many others were already openly doing.

Besides Manny, think Barry Bonds, Ivan Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, maybe even Sammy Sosa. All, in some ways, as much victims as they were demonized to be villains.

Does the Cubs entrusting Ramirez with such prized prospects as Javier Baez pose profound risks? Absolutely, but the potential rewards in unlocking all the talents of the star-studded infielder now mired in a slump that has him hitting just over the Mendoza Line are too much to ignore.

For sure, Ramirez had that kind of eye and stroke as a hitter, posting a .312 career average and smashing 555 homers, good for 14th on the league’s all-time list. If only he could have been so disciplined when he left the ballpark.

But the Cubs are now hoping being back in his element will bring out the best in Ramirez.

“Manny is not only one of the best hitters of all time, he is also a dedicated student of hitting and has proven to be a gifted teacher with younger teammates who have worked with him in the batting cage,” Epstein told ESPN. “Behind the scenes, he has always been a tireless worker who is very serious about the craft of hitting. Manny has made real mistakes in the past, but he has owned up to them and moved his life in a positive direction. “

And now it has landed him another chance with the Cubs and under Epstein, his old boss during his glory days in Boston, though the team stresses this isn’t at all about Ramirez someday soon being summoned to Chicago and left to swing for the fences of Wrigley’s vine-covered walls.

“Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects,” said Epstein “If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the Major Leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here.”

The point is Manny Ramirez is back in baseball, and that simply can’t be an entirely bad thing. Hitters like him just don’t come around every day.

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.