It was barely a few hours after I posted my first of my weekly columns about Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon that Manny promptly retired. Considering that Manny would be serving a 100 game suspension had he not retired, I would probably still have the same news to report, at least for a while anyway. Goodbye, Manny, we hardly knew ye and with an .059 average and one run batted in, we hardly wanted ye anymore. Manny, now off to enjoy retirement, is disgraced after becoming the first baseball player to flunk two drug tests since the new drug policy was instituted. So because of the big news last week, this will be the last of this weekly column.
Whether or not Manny makes into the Hall of Fame is a debate for another day. Clearly, his numbers say he should be with 555 home runs, 1831 runs batten in and a .312 career average. Whether the day he gives his induction speech ever comes will be a much more complicated matter. His strong link to performance enhancing drugs will probably keep him out of Cooperstown for a long time.
With Manny gone, Damon has taken over the designated hitter spot in the order with Sam Fuld moving to left field. This has worked surprisingly well. Fuld has been white hot, playing great defense with his usual reckless abandon and getting big hits all over the place. Damon, meanwhile, has raised his splits to .217/.250/.413, which is still well below average, but much better than the .053/.100/.053 line he had last week at this time.
Maybe fans at the Trop should start booing Damon. I was at Fenway on Monday night, and the Red Sox crowd booed Damon lustily. The crowd had a similar reaction to the first time that Damon came back as a Yankee in 2006. He tipped his cap then to turn the jeers into cheers. He didn’t this time and proceeded to go 5 for 9 with a homer and five runs batted in in the series. He also contributed a big home run in the only game the Rays won against the Chicago White Sox. And of course last night Damon provided the big hit of the night with a walk off homer over the Twins. Joe Maddon tweeted after the game, “I like hard work and I like fun and Johnny epitomizes that. Big lift tonight.”
Damon’s bat has to continue to improve for the Rays to justify using him as the designated hitter, let alone in left field. Although, they do not have many better options. So it makes sense to let Fuld and Damon ride out their hot streaks and who knows? Maybe Fuld is the real deal.
Catch all my thoughts on the Rays via Twitter @Jonathan_Bohall