While Rays fans seem a bit torn about the recent signings of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, others seem a bit more certain that the move is one of desperation by the Tampa brain trust after they were forced to slash payroll in the aftermath of last years failed attempt to return to the World Series.
One thing is certain however. The locker room just got a lot more interesting.
Both Damon, 37, and Ramirez, 38, are on the downside of their storied careers. For Damon this will be the third AL East team he’s played for. If you are into karma, that could well be a good thing, since he sports World Series Championship rings from both the Red Sox and the Yankees. Ramirez has a couple of his own, both with the Red Sox, but comes with considerably more baggage. Known as one of the more colorful players in the game, Ramirez might be most infamous for his antics during the 2008 season that essentially forced the Boston franchise to trade him.
Personally I love both signings. There may not be a more diverse manager in the game than Joe Maddon. He is certainly one of the most ecclectic, if not eccentric, managers of this era. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if he was doing a little Rosseta Stone work to bone up on his Spanish.
If anyone can coax production out of the aging Ramirez, Joe would be at the top of my list. Certainly he’s kept things fresh and interesting with the young Rays team. And according to reports from BJ Uptons recent charity event, the players are excited to have him.
Damon brings something altogether different to the clubhouse. Damon’s reputation is one of a very classy, warm and caring player who gives back to the community. David Price reportedly said that Damon was one of the only players to come up to him in his first year and welcome him to the game. He is also the person often credited with the “Idiot’s” moniker that stuck with the Red Sox during their improbable run to a championship in 2004 that broke the long-suffering “Curse of the Bambino.” His price tag was almost four times that of Ramirez, and I’m on record as a believer that his presence in the club house will be the true payoff of his signing.
Regardless of how you feel about this signing one thing is certain. The Tampa Bay Rays are going to be in the news a lot this year. Let’s hope, for the sake of the fans, that it’s good news.