Once the baseball bug gets inside of you, it never leaves. For some, who have achieved the pinnacle of success in the game, they never stop loving the roar of the crowd, the camaraderie of the locker rooms, and perhaps, dreaming of a return to the top. Former Dodger, Manny Ramirez, at the splendid age of 44, has signed to put on the cleats once again and play baseball in Japan.
Ramirez will be playing for the Kochi Fighting Dogs, an independent league team which is not a part of the Japanese major leagues. This isn’t his first foray in Asian baseball. Back in 2013 he played in the Taiwanese professional league, but he left after just one season.
Ramirez hasn’t played ball since 2014, when he was a player-coach for the Cubs’ AAA club. He hasn’t played in the American majors since 2011, when he retired from baseball rather than serve a 100-game suspension for his second violation of MLBs drug policies.
Since then, Ramirez has been steadily working on improving his baseball image, and he made some progress on that front as a coach in the Chicago farms. He’ll need all the help he can get with that, as he’s now eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If it were only based on numbers, Manny Ramirez would be a shoe-in for the Hall, as he has put up career numbers that make him one of the best hitters of all time. He batted .312/.411/.585 with 555 home runs.
But it isn’t just about numbers. Manny Ramirez has more than the cloud of performance-enhancing drugs over his head, he has the suspensions to go along with it. That said, the HOF electors seem to be entering a phase where players from the steroid era will be forgiven and voted in. They’re allowing Bud Selig to have a plaque on those hallowed halls, and he allowed the tainted era to take root and spread throughout the game under his watch. It seems his juiced players will soon be following.
Why is Manny returning to the diamond at 44 – and choosing to do so in Asia? Is he doing so because he craves the adulation that he may receive in Japan, which will probably drown out anything he received in the Cubs’ triple-A Iowa circuit? Is he hoping to play out one final year teeing off on sub-par, semi-pro Japanese pitching? Maybe he loves the game that much, and is looking forward to just having fun in a low-pressure baseball atmosphere. We’ll probably never know the real answer – so let’s just put it down to Manny bein’ Manny.