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August 30, 2010

Prospectus Perspective

Going, Going, Gone

by Jay Jaffe

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On Sunday, Manny Ramirez made just his second plate appearance in a four-day span, and it didn't last long. The Dodgers' 38-year-old slugger watched an outside fastball from Rockies pitcher Matt Reynolds go by on the first pitch of the at-bat, and when home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom called it a strike, Ramirez turned to argue and was immediately ejected. Instead of coming out to defend his player, manager Joe Torre remained in the dugout as Ramirez departed, a final symbolic act that brought down the curtain on his time in Dodger blue in surreal fashion. Hours later, the team reportedly let Ramirez go to the White Sox on a straight waiver claim.

When the Dodgers placed Ramirez on waivers last Wednesday, it was hardly a surprise, as the move had been telegraphed for nearly a month. While general manager Ned Colletti made himself look busy by making a trio of deals with the Royals, Cubs, and Pirates prior to the July 31 trading deadline—acquiring Scott Podsednik, Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, and Octavio Dotel in the process—it was apparent to all but those in rose-tinted glasses that the moves were too little, too late. The Dodgers' distance from first place had doubled during July as their offense fizzled in Ramirez's absence (3.53 runs per game) and their fifth starters were pulverized (20 runs in 20 innings over four starts), a problem which in turn exposed the bullpen's lack of depth; at the deadline, they were seven games out of first place and 4 1/2 back in the wild card, with their Playoff Odds just below 9 percent.

As if to underscore the fact that those trades were just a smokescreen, the team had taken down the "Mannywood" sign in Dodger Stadium's left field, claiming it was because another buyer had purchased the advertising space (who purchases advertising space at midseason?). The message was clear: The Dodgers were preparing for the slugger's inevitable departure. At the time, Ramirez was on the disabled list, serving his third stint of the season, first for a calf strain in late April, then for a hamstring strain in late June, and finally for yet another calf strain in mid-July, after he'd made just four plate appearances since his previous stint. Why dedicate a cheering section and a promotional package to a player who not only wasn't around anyway and certainly wasn't going to be around for much longer?

The final indication that Ramirez was going-going-gone came via Torre, who started him just three times in the eight games since he returned from the DL, and only once since he hit the wire. Claiming that the decision for the benching was his and not on orders from the front office, and that he was "trying to win games," Torre shoveled more manure in the space of four days than he had in 13 years at the helm of the Yankees. "This is just my dumb move," he told Los Angeles Times beat reporter Dylan Hernandez, fumfering disingenuously about getaway days, the big outfield of Coors Field, team chemistry, and the speed of Podsednik. "There's no reason I can give you that makes sense. A lot of what I do is a feel thing." Somewhere, Orlando Hudson nodded silently.

Torre was right: There is no earthly reason not to have Ramirez in the lineup, at least not in the service of a playoff race. It's only slight hyperbole to say that even spouting blood from three missing limbs à la the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, he'd be a better hitter than Podsednik, though admittedly, under such conditions the latter would certainly have an edge afield. Presumably, the manager did Colletti's dirty work by serving tacit notice that if Ramirez didn't waive his no-trade clause, forgo his desire for a contract extension, and agree to go gentle into that good night, he'd be buried on the bench.

Ramirez has been a handful since coming to Los Angeles at the 2008 trading deadline, not that he wasn't a handful before that. From his ever-growing dreadlocks—which proved Ball Four author Jim Bouton's point: if you slug .743, you can have hair down to your ass—to his game of contractual chicken to his 50-game suspension for violating the game's drug policy to his three DL stints, he created his share of headaches for Torre, Colletti, and company. He also created thrill after thrill while hitting as well as he ever had; his .322/.433/.580 line in Dodger blue is good for a .345 True Average, compared to a .312/.409/.590 line and a .319 TAv for his years in Cleveland and Boston. His numbers this year (.311/.405/.510/.328 TAv) show that he hasn't lost anything substantial with the stick, and the Dodgers' record and scoring rates with and without him in the lineup (not including pinch-hit appearances) over the past three years speak volumes about his value:

 

With

Without

Year

W-L

Pct

RS

W-L

Pct

RS

2008

30-23

.566

4.69

54-55*

.495

4.15

2009

60-40

.600

5.06

35-27

.562

4.42

2010

31-21

.596

5.33

36-43

.456

3.72

Total

121-84

.590

5.03

125-125

.500

4.08

*Dodgers were 54-54 prior to trade, 0-1 when he sat

Ramirez added nearly one run per game to the Dodgers lineup during his tumultuous two-plus years, almost single-handedly turning them from a .500 team to a contender, and he helped the team win its first two playoff series since 1988. He's one of the greatest hitters in history; his .321 TAv ranks 19th among players with at least 7,500 plate appearances, and if you raise the bar for playing time, his ranking climbs even higher.

He's gone now, and the Dodgers' season is fated to die an ignominious death; they're 10 games out of first place and 6 1/2 back in the wild-card race, with their Playoff Odds lingering around 2 percent. The team will save some $4.3 million in remaining salary, about three-quarters of which is deferred, no surprise given owner Frank McCourt's penny-pinching strategy with his divorce trial looming. And as happened when Juan Pierre played during Ramirez's suspension, they'll be the subject of many a moralizing columnist's tome about how much better, more versatile and more gosh-darn likable the team is with a slappy speedster who knows his place than with a petulant slugger who supposedly quits on his club. As a Dodger fan I can only ask: Please kill me.

As for the White Sox, while there's little question Ramirez can flourish at the hitter-friendly Cell—he's a career .338/.448/.601 hitter with 15 homers in 261 PA there—this pricey move may be too little, too late for them as well. After losing two out of three to the Yankees over the weekend, they're 4 1/2 behind the Twins in the AL Central race, and 9 1/2 back in the wild card, with their own Playoff Odds below 9.0 percent. The team's need for a designated hitter has been glaringly apparent ever since manager Ozzie Guillen told GM Kenny Williams not to re-sign free-agent slugger Jim Thome, who as a Twin dealt them a crushing blow during their series a couple weeks back. The rotating cast of Sox DHs have hit just .243/.313/.408, producing the third-lowest OPS of any position in their lineup and the sixth-lowest of any AL team. Consider whom they've been using there:

Player

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

TAv*

Mark Kotsay

177

.233

.311

.396

.243

Carlos Quentin

95

.205

.295

.470

.284

Paul Konerko

76

.299

.368

.522

.328

Andruw Jones

46

.209

.261

.419

.280

Juan Pierre

45

.325

.386

.325

.261

Others

64

.230

.266

.279

 

*Overall, not just at DH

Brutal, Juice. While there's certainly reason to park Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko in the spot for an occasional half-day's rest or to find Jones the occasional opportunity against lefties, the above is a long way from a defensible distribution of playing time, primarily because Mark Kotsay's bat died years ago; his career TAv is .261, but he hasn't had a season above that mark with at least 150 PA since 2004.

 Two years ago, the Dodgers' bold acquisition of Ramirez and the slugger's subsequent tear carried them all the way to the National League Championship Series. It took something of a perfect storm for that to happen—a disgruntled player with immense talents, a chip on his shoulder, and a looming desire for a nine-figure contract moving to an easier league and tapping into the hot streak to end all hot streaks. While Manny is moving back to a more favorable hitter's park (albeit in a tougher league), he's got much less at stake here, and frankly, so do the White Sox. Expect some fireworks, both figuratively (Ozzie vs. Manny is the stuff of late-night Syfy Channel fodder) and literally (given the Cell's homer-friendly ways, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ramirez double his season output for homers). But don't be surprised if the Sox fall short, because there's simply too little time to close the gap.  

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

Related Content:  Manny Ramirez,  The Who,  Trade To Dodgers

26 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

bobbygrace

Jay, thank you for a strong, analytical piece worthy of one of the game's greatest hitters and most complicated personalities.

Masochistic BP readers may find one of the moralizing columnist's tomes that Jay spoke of in Jayson Stark's ESPN.com column today. It might be worth reading, just to remind yourself why you pay for a BP subscription.

Aug 30, 2010 13:18 PM
rating: 2
 
WaldoInSC

Look, I love the BP approach as much as the next guy, but let's not forget that Dodger brass have to work with Ramirez on a daily basis. The guy is a juvenile, narcissistic twit, whose brain, heart, integrity and pride could fit in a sesame seed with enough room left over for two gnats to polka.

The Dodgers may not win more games without Ramirez, but they'll sleep better at night, and that's worth something -- at least to them.

Aug 30, 2010 19:24 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

It's always dangerous territory when you think you can get inside the head of any public figure and tell us how much pride, heart etc. they have - it takes the special talents of a mustard-covered wretch like Bill Plaschke to do so.

Manny Ramirez is a piece of work, but by most accounts, he's an obsessive cage rat with a demonstrable pride in the craft of hitting. I highly recommend Ben McGrath's New Yorker profile from 2007 for some actual insight into what makes him tick: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/23/070423fa_fact_mcgrath

Aug 31, 2010 07:40 AM
 
WaldoInSC

Jay, I'm not interested in getting into Manny's head; I'm just observing his actions. He's quit on two teams. He's literally gone onto the field of play and refused to try. That would get you, me and everyone reading this fired on the spot.

Sep 01, 2010 08:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

I'm sorry, but I simply don't buy into the bullshit mainstream narrative that he quit on the Dodgers (not that I really trust idea that he quit on the Red Sox either). Once he was claimed on waivers, it was clear he was gone, and to allow Joe Torre or Bill Plaschke or whomever to craft the narrative of whether or not he asked Ramirez to play without the latter's contribution to the story doesn't wash.

Furthermore, Manny's beef with the final fateful pitch he saw was a legitimate one; it may not have been a particularly smart thing to do to give the umpire any lip, but calling it "quitting on a team" is a purely subjective observation which fits into preconceptions.

Sep 01, 2010 09:49 AM
 
WaldoInSC

You don't believe he quit on the Red Sox? Jay, I'd like to introduce you do reality. Reality, my friend Jay.

I see a goodly portion of cognitive dissonance here that prevents you from acknowledging anything that doesn't fit neatly into your worldview.

I'm with BP's distrust of mainstream media and of its resistance to assigning personal characteristics based on on-field play. But Ramirez's arm-length baseball rap sheet provides ample evidence that he's a knucklehead.

Sep 01, 2010 14:41 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Reality? If yours is dictated by the reports of certain powerful middle aged white men with cozy relationships with front office executives, I'm not sure there's much I can do but suggest that the cognitive dissonance is yours.

I'm not saying that Ramirez didn't have personality conflicts which paved his way out of Boston or that he didn't commit misdeeds there, just that there's an element to the reporting there that I inherently mistrust given the rabid glee with which certain tools of the industry have "reported" that particular story.

Sep 02, 2010 10:49 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

If I was replaced by Scott Podsednik, I'd feel a bit juvenile too. In some ways, the Dodgers shot themselves in the foot.

Aug 31, 2010 13:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Duranimal

I've already seen several articles likening Manny's Dodger departure to his Red Sox departure.

To me, Manny's looked genuinely hurt all year. Beisdes, how can anyone trust Dodger management to say otherwise?

His departure shows how low Dodger management credibility has sunk. Manny's more believable.

Aug 30, 2010 13:59 PM
rating: 3
 
Scherer

Can you clear up the salary obligations. My understanding is that Ramirez has $15 million of this year's salary deferred over the next three years. If the White Sox take over the contract via the waiver claim, how do they not assume the $15 million liability? Is there an MLB bylaw/CBA provision that deferred salary is also pro rated between the two teams?

Aug 30, 2010 16:21 PM
rating: 0
 
Sam F

No CBA provision or MLB bylaw specific to deferred payments is necessary. The Dodgers already incurred the contractual obligation for deferred payments which Manny has earned by being on their roster; the White Sox assume the remainder of the contract per MLB revocable waiver rules, under the contractual payment schedule.

If Manny had a strange contract that guaranteed him a front office position after he retired or something the CBA might come into play to ensure that he wasn't giving up something of value without compensation.

Aug 30, 2010 17:47 PM
rating: 0
 
drawbb

Sorry, but your reply is too unclear. If the White Sox "assume the remainder of the contract", wouldn't that also include deferred payments which have yet to be made? If not, why? Furthermore, can you provide a link that supports any of this?

Aug 30, 2010 23:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Based upon the fact that the reports are only talking about ~$4 million, it appears as though each deferred payment is connected to his having been on a given roster at a certain date.

Aug 31, 2010 07:26 AM
 
drawbb

If the $4M figure is correct it would seem to suggest the White Sox assumed some portion of the deferred money.

According to Cot's, Manny is getting just $5M in salary for this regular season with deferred payments of $3 1/3 M due on 06-30-11 and 06-30-12 plus another $8 1/3 M due on 06-30-13. The remaining pro-rated portion of the $5M regular-season base salary at the time Manny was claimed came out to roughly $850K, so to get anywhere near $4M in total obligation for Chicago that would be like the White Sox agreeing to pick up one of the two $3 1/3M deferred payments.

Is there any way Jeff Euston can clarify this issue? We were talking about the claim in our clubhouse the other day and none of us had any clue which team was responsible for the deferred payments.

Aug 31, 2010 10:50 AM
rating: 0
 
Scherer

Okay, I started this salary discussion with a fairly stupid question. Once the brain cramp subsided, the obvious finally sunk in: the total salary is earned in real time, regardless of when it is paid. The Dodgers incur the liability with each game played, independent of when such liability is realized. This is what Sam F tried to explain to me above.

Using drawbb's numbers above, Ramirez' total comp (independent of the timing of payments) is $20 million. The Sox have remaining 31 games, or 19.1% of a season; proportionally, that makes their tab -- voila -- $3.8 million. Presumably, the Sox' obligation is due on the same schedule as that of the Dodgers. (the Dodgers have played 132 games vs the Sox' 131, but with rounding it is irrelevant to the above).

Aug 31, 2010 16:05 PM
rating: 0
 
bldxyz123

Thanks, Jay. This makes it clear that that Dodgers have given up on 2010, and that saving $4.3 M was the only reason not to fight the waiver-claim.

I wish I had any info on if the White Sox offered any prospects, because I'm not as clear on why just saving the money is enough reason to let go someone who would help salvage the season, however unlikely that is.

Aug 30, 2010 16:33 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

The latest word is that the Dodgers may have offered to pay as much as $1.5 million of the remaining salary in exchange for receiving a prospect. Can't seem to recall the name tossed around, but it wasn't anybody particularly noteworthy.

Also, the latest figure being bandied about is now that it was $3.8 million remaining, not $4.3.

Aug 30, 2010 18:14 PM
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

The prospect mentioned was Jonathan Gilmore, a 2007 supplementary first-round pick by the Braves (#33 overall). He's a third baseman in his age-21 season who's hitting for average but lacking in secondary skills, .317/.354/.403 at High-A Winston Salem. That only comes out to a .159 TAv, or a .232 peak TAv. Kevin Goldstein calls him "an unathletic, stiff third baseman who laces balls all over the field but doesn't have power or patience," which means he looks like an organizational player at best, not a guy worth $1.5 million in savings.

Again, I think the best face the Dodgers can paint on this is that the saved money more or less covers the Lee bonus, particularly given how both are spaced out over time.

Aug 31, 2010 09:28 AM
 
ncimon

Great writing dude, bracing really. It's not often we get such a straight dose of honesty, no chaser. Thanks

Aug 30, 2010 19:21 PM
rating: 1
 
StarkFist

Okay that all makes sense as reasons why he's no longer a Dodger, but I still don't understand why they didn't get anything for him. Looking at what he'll bring to the Chisox, wouldn't they have given up something of value, had the Dodgers asked?

Aug 30, 2010 22:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

It's not that the Dodgers "didn't get anything for him." They weren't going to get an A-grade prospect, and while they could have settled for taking less money to get somebody, the salary relief they received has definite value.

One way of looking at it is that the money saved was almost enough to cover the $5.25 million signing bonus they gave first-round pick Zach Lee, who was considered a longshot to sign with the Dodgers given his commitment to LSU.

Aug 31, 2010 07:32 AM
 
greensox

I just don't like the Sox getting involved with Roiders. They don't need the reputation of the Giants, or, worse, the As in that regard of running a roid mill.

Aug 31, 2010 09:15 AM
rating: -3
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Ugh. You're naive to think the Sox have somehow been exempt from involvement with "Roiders."

Aug 31, 2010 09:29 AM
 
ClubberLang

They've employed at least one that was confirmed (Scott Schoenweis). And there's at least one prominent guy they signed as a free agent in the 90s that everyone seems to think was on something even if he never tested positive. Even with the attempted collective refusal to take the survey testing in an effort to ensure testing with penalties would happen, the Sox don't have clean hands (nor does any team in baseball in reality).

I want the team to win and this helps them toward that goal, even if John Kruk thinks that Brian Fuentes was a bigger pickup than Manny (ah, Kruk once again bringing the weapons-grade stupid).

Aug 31, 2010 11:08 AM
rating: 0
 
greensox

Exempt? Maybe not. But certainly nothing like the Giants or As.
There's no evidence on Frank Thomas, for example.
I know this place loves the As, but my goodness man.

As for Schowenweis - come on. He pitched there for, what, 1 year?

Aug 31, 2010 17:24 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

The White Sox wound up nothing like the A's but in all likelihood that's simply because they weren't at the epicenter of a major investigation such as BALCO or the Radomski ring. There were certainly other routes into the game for steroids, not all of which have been (or will be discovered). And let's not forget that Jose Canseco spent more than half of the 2001 season with the White Sox.

Without wishing to impugn any specific member of ANY team, I still find it hopelessly naive to think that the usage of such illegal substances was limited to what we've uncovered thus far via major investigations which had a lot to do with geography (count the number of Yankees and Mets impugned in the Radomski investigation) and minor accidents of luck.

Sep 01, 2010 09:44 AM
 
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