Manny Ramirez’s Legacy, and the Fate of the Rays

Manny Ramirez, one of the greatest hitters to ever walk the face of the Earth, and one of the most polarizing athletes of his generation, abruptly announced his retirement this afternoon.

Major League Baseball had notified Ramirez about “an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention/Treatment Program.” Reading between the lines, it’s likely that Ramirez chose to retire rather than face a second (major) suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. He leaves behind a complicated legacy, a checkered Hall of Fame case, and a team that suddenly faces some gigantic decisions.

As jarring as his sudden retirement might be, and as seductive as it is to launch into a Manny Being Manny tirade, one has to start any discussion of Manny Ramirez by pointing out his spectacular career. After all, if he were just a garden-variety loon who hit .220 and disappeared after a couple of years, would we really care all that much?

Even in one of the friendliest hitters’ eras in baseball history, Manny’s numbers were off the charts. He hit .312/.411/.585 for his career (9th all-time in both slugging and OPS), and posted a sky-high .417 wOBA (17th all-time). Counting stats loved him too: 14th all-time in HR, 18th in RBI, 13th in extra-base hits, and about a dozen other eye-popping rankings. Hank Aaron, Rogers Hornsby, Willie Mays, and Jimmie Foxx were clearly superior hitters. After that, Manny’s right there with Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, Honus Wagner and yes, Frank Thomas on the list of greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. He was also one of the worst fielders ever to play the game, racking up -113.7 fielding runs since 2002 — only Adam Dunn was worse during that period.

His outfield adventures aside, Manny’s offensive numbers would make him a no-brainer first-ballot Hall of Famer…except for, you know. Jeff Bagwell also ranks among the top right-handed hitters to ever play, never tested positive for anything, was revered throughout most of his playing career for being an exemplary franchise player, and even he couldn’t get in on the first ballot. We should never say never in baseball. The makeup of Hall of Fame voters will change over the years, and opinions will soften over PED use as time goes on. Still, there’s practically no scenario that sees Manny get 75% of the vote on his first ballot. If he does get in at some point in the future, he might have to wait a long time for it to happen.

We know all this. What we don’t know is how Manny’s abrupt retirement could affect the team for whom he played for about 10 minutes. The Rays came into this season riding their amazing run of two AL East titles in three years, despite a payroll a fraction the size of their big rivals in New York and Boston. But a major off-season retooling job left even the biggest Rays optimists figuring Wild Card contention as a best-case scenario. With Evan Longoria nursing an oblique injury that was supposed to keep him out three weeks but might linger longer knowing what we know about initial injury estimates (and obliques), this was already a team hurting for offense. Even acknowledging the incredibly small sample size of six games, scoring more than one run just once in your first week of the season isn’t an encouraging sign.

Even if we assume that week one was an aberration, those six losses to start the season were already banked. Dave Cameron wrote about Boston’s identical start weakening the Red Sox’ chances at an AL East crown. Given that the Rays already looked the weaker team on Opening Day, and have now lost their best player for what might be all of April, and one of their two best projected hitters forever, Rays management has to be giving serious thought to a change in plans.

What could that change entail? With dynamic pitching prospects like Matt Moore, Chris Archer and others nearing major league readiness, we might see the timetable for James Shields and Jeff Niemann trades moved up. On the offensive side, Johnny Damon and Dan Johnson don’t hold much utility for a team that might struggle to top .500 even if everything else goes smoothly this year.

The debate over when to bring up top prospects given the conflicting goals of wanting to see what they’ve got vs. service time considerations becomes magnified. Do we see Desmond Jennings now? Though a Shields trade would save money and augment an already strong farm system, is keeping Moore and Archer in the minors until management feels they’re 100% ready the best course of action? Or would trading away veterans sooner be a wise move, given that a little shove or two could be enough to net the Rays a top-10 pick? There are defensible cases to be made on both sides of each of these discussions.

Here’s what we do know: The Rays remain in good shape long-term. Unlike the crippling multi-year deals and lost draft picks that turned the Hit Show into catastrophe for the old regime, Manny and Damon were short-term gambles that only had downside for one year. In Manny’s case, the team even recovers his modest $2 million salary due to his retirement. The Rays have just $16 million in salary obligations for 2012, plus seven arbitration-eligible players (five of those seven, including B.J. Upton, may well be gone by next year). They own 12 of the top 89 picks in this year’s draft, with an extra $2 million suddenly in their pockets to pay top dollar for elite prospects. Longoria still has the most team-friendly contract in all of baseball. An entirely homegrown starting pitching staff should be very productive, and very cheap, for years to come, with Wade Davis‘ recent contract extension only adding to that optimism. As long as the current management team and the army of excellent talent evaluators throughout the organization remain in place, the Rays can contend with their richer divisional foes.

But it sure as hell won’t be easy. While it’s great that MLB has progressed to the point that 1.8 million butts in the seats are perceived as a big problem, the Rays might come in well below that much-maligned figure this year if the team struggles to win games. Last year’s #5 local TV ratings could similarly take a hit, and sidetrack much of the momentum gained in 2010. The local economy remains in rough shape, and corporate support for the team in the form of season tickets and sponsorships remains a going concern.

Tampa Bay was always going to face an uphill climb to remain an elite ballclub, given the many factors working against them. Manny Ramirez‘s retirement by itself doesn’t materially change the team’s outlook. But combined with all the other challenges the Rays will face, it does set the team back considerably in the here and now.

The Rays will rise again. It just might take a while.




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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.


135 Responses to “Manny Ramirez’s Legacy, and the Fate of the Rays”

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  1. You’d hate to see a team go for 2012 a week into the season, but the tea leaves certainly do not look good right now. The fact Kotchman was recalled rather than Jennings seems to point where they’re going, IMO. Carrying both Kotchman and Johnson on the same roster is puzzling when they could have upgraded the defense by moving Damon to DH and Jennings to left field or recalling Chirinos to catch to improve the run defense more.

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  2. Beau says:

    The Keri Curse grows stronger.

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  3. Xutz says:

    “Counting stats loved him too: 14th all-time in HR, 18th in RBI, 13th in extra-base hits, and about a dozen other eye-popping rankings. Hank Aaron, Rogers, Willie Mays, and Jimmie Foxx were clearly superior hitters. ”

    …who’s Rogers?? You mean Ruth? What the hell?

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    • dfan says:

      Hornsby, I imagine.

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    • Raf says:

      Ruth was a LH batter

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      • Choo says:

        Also, you can’t just say “Hornsby” because 99.7% of the population would assume you were talking about Bruce Hornsby and the Range, thus planting one of two dismal melodies in virtually everyone’s cerebrum: “Mandolin Rain” or “The Way It Is.” Exactly which song is irrelevant, because one song is the other song played backwards and both were sonically engineered drive humans to acts of extreme violence.

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      • Jimmajamma says:

        I am not trying to be contrarian at all, but I have no idea who Bruce Hornsby. I do know who Rogers Hornsby is though.

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      • Jimmajamma says:

        Oh, there is also Nick Hornby, who wrote High Fidelity, one of the rare books that made a better movie than the original text. He also wrote Fever Pitch, which I never saw and I never read, but the presence of Jimmy Fallon in the movie would strongly suggest the book was better.

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      • André says:

        Yeah. And Nick Hornby is also really good at baseball.

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        99.7% of the population doesn’t know who Bruce Hornsby is either.

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      • Choo says:

        And thank god, because if 99.7% of the population got down to Bruce Hornsby I would never, under any circumstance, leave my house. Ever.

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  4. Matt says:

    wow. i remember a day when fangraphs posters had class

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  5. Tom says:

    As a fellow Red Sox fan (or perhaps you’re a Yankee fan), I congratulate you on your penmanship after all those beers, but I have to ask you to cite some stats.

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  6. riverboatgambit says:

    They should get on the horn with Arizona to get Russell Branyan immediately.

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    • Jason B says:

      What purpose would acquiring Branyan serve? The Rays aren’t going anywhere this year. He may (*may*) make the difference between winning 76 and 78 games…

      (And the “what purpose would acquiring Branyan serve?” question could also be asked of the Dbacks, but I digress…)

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      • riverboatgambit says:

        The Rays certainly aren’t out of this race yet. We’re one week in! The Rays are a very talented team.

        Why shouldn’t they carry a RHP mashing DH that can also fill in at 1B?!?. He would be a good piece. He can surely OPS .900 at DH/1B pending health and it would cost very, very little. He would certainly be an upgrade over Kotchman for minimal cost. Why not try to field the best possible team?

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      • Jason B says:

        All depends on what the cost would be. Pretty minimal for a journeyman like Branyan, I would imagine, but pretty cheap (and unsigned throughout most of the preseason) for a reason. TTO sluggers with back problems likely don’t age too, too well.

        (Granted it wouldn’t take a whole lot to replace a light-hitting 1B like Kotchman, also a journeyman for a reason.)

        Your larger point about it being WAY too early to wave the white flag is well taken. But at the same time you have to be realistic about what to expect. This is a flawed team with a flawed lineup. Its not now, nor was it ever going to be a 90-game winner, even with pre-injury Longoria and a modestly productive Manny.

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    • Lucky Goon says:

      I agree 100 percent with this. Branyan is riding the pine in Ariz, where he has approximately zero value. Surely as a DH he could be a + player.

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  7. pressure says:

    Yeah I was wondering who Rogers is as well. Thought maybe I had just totally missed out on one of the greatest hitters ever and didn’t even know it.

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  8. Bowlby says:

    Let the Sam Fuld era begin. The new Brett Gardner.

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  9. NewCockSmell says:

    Is the 2012 draft class supposed to be terrific? How far out do these declarations get made?

    As a Yankee fan and James Shields (who looks great this year) fantasy owner, I would love to see them trade off veterens.

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  10. Austin Brancheau says:

    Is it possible to ban Buck Naked? I like to think of the FanGraphs commenting community as one of few oases left. I don’t comment much, but I enjoy reading the thoughtful responses and the seeing the tangential intelligent conversations that grow in the comments section.

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  11. Jonah Keri says:

    I got rid of the offending posts (and agree, Austin).

    My bad on 2012 draft class, that was a brain freeze in trying to bang out 1200 words in an hour while on a bus.

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      Nice article as usual Jonah.. The question I have is why not make a trade ASAP for someone like Chris Davis or Russell Branyan? I think it will help a couple of different ways: 1) It’s not too late to turn this thing around. 2) It will give the impression that Tampa is not punting the season, which could help prevent a dropoff in ticket sales.

      Now I know you’re gonna say it’s not that easy to just make a trade, but in your opinion (and its almost more than an opinion considering your “ties” to the organization) do you think Friedmann (& company) are more focused on trying to get this year’s team better or do you think their focus has already transitioned to 2012 and beyond?

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    • Patrick42 says:

      Jonah,

      Thanks again for another good article, and thank you for cleaning up the comments section as well. It’s appreciated.

      That was a lovely piece of writing, much like your book. :)

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  12. JR says:

    So Manny’s legacy is 1/3 about how he was a good hitter, and 2/3 “The Rays are awesome and totally unaffected by it.”

    Jonah, you may be in need of an intervention.

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    • Kyle says:

      I wonder if you understand how the word “and” functions in a sentence.

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    • Ryan says:

      FOr now, there’s not much to say other than he’s not going to the hall of fame under the current state of affairs. And the proceeding after the Manny eulogy didn’t seem very encouraging for the Rays.

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  13. Renegade says:

    With Longoria out and Manny gone, the Rays lineup is embarassing and easily worst in the AL East. Thankfully their starting pitching is excellent but a last place finish wouldnt surprise me.

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      I really want to argue with you but what you said is actually not that crazy… Unless Zobrist can return to what he was in 2009 the only real above average position players are Upton and Longoria (who’s out for a while). Damon is average at best at this point in his career, same goes for Dan Johnson, and the rest of the position players are full of guys who have never really proven anything at the major league level – Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, Sam Fuld, John Jaso, Reid Brignac and (now) Desmond Jennings.

      Add that to the fact that their bullpen is nothing more than a group of cast-offs/minor leaguer’s and yeah you’ve got a point: Last place in this division is not that crazy a prediction right now…

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      • Paul says:

        I actually think their biggest problem is Joe Maddon. With all the established regulars gone, he’s like a kid in a candy shop, pinch hitting Elliot Johnson for Brignac in the 5th inning, same for Lopez for Rodriguez, on and on. He reminds me of Clint Hurdle a few years ago in Colorado. They went on a run into the playoffs the prior year and he wrongly assumed it was because of all his quirky moves. He lost his clubhouse on opening day the next year when he started Stewart at 2B on opening day over Barmes, who had been named the full time second baseman. No notice, everybody was baffled. And nobody thought Stewart was anywhere near adequate over there. He was fired shortly thereafter. The over-managing must stop. Someone please slap the hell out of Joe Maddon, because I really want to root for them. I’m a couple games away from them being dead to me, and only having Balto to root for in that division.

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  14. steve says:

    Just another in a long line of recent rsn cheats. now you sawx fans can go into denial for his 8 years, and post, so did the yankees player(s).

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  15. Contraband says:

    “The Rays will rise again. It just might take a while.”
    Hopefully in time for the paperback edition.

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    • CaR says:

      Very nice Contraband.

      This sort of ‘synergy’ makes me wonder what the fascination with applying ridiculous defensive metrics to WAR numbers for a season…. Who stands to gain from the promotion of UZR as a standard measurement? I know, just science for its own sake.

      Franklin Gutierrez is =or greater in value to Albert Pujols circa 2009. Just ask fangraphs. No one would reasonably conclude this, but the data point is used in year to year comps all the time. If I need to take 3 years to even out the data, then the engine doesn’t work.

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      • GiantHusker says:

        So. your argument is, “Since there is no perfect measure of defense, defense should be ignored in evaluating players.”

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      • Bronnt says:

        Actually his argument is to build a straw man to dismember, even though it’s utterly ridiculous and nobody has ever argued that.

        He does have a point, though, in that WAR isn’t perfect since it contains UZR, which can be very noisy over 150 games. It’s sometime you have to remind yourself whenever you look at WAR leaderboards-guys who are .3 WAR apart over a full season are well within the margin of error.

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      • CaR says:

        Defense shouldn’t be ignored, only scored separately year to year. There has already been a bunch of dumb, selective analysis done using year to year UZR totals. I ask again, who stands to gain with its promotion? By all accounts its mechanisms are proprietary, subjective, and obviously vary wildly on the subjective whims of the graders. Hardly qualifies as hard science on its face. Yet, as contradictory as it seems, fangraphs will adjust many stats to allow for it. Seems strange. Not unlike the constant crowing regarding a certain saber-darling team coinciding with adding an author who amazingly is nearly ready to role out a book about the same.

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  16. Hank says:

    Remember when this signing(and Damon) were lauded as great pickups… well I think we see one of the downside risks. 2mil wasn’t a bad shot in the dark, but even if this hadn’t happened there’s a good chance Manny would’ve got disgruntled by midseason if they weren’t close in the standings.

    I don’t think this hurts them very much… it gives them a chance to take the glove out of Damon’s hand (even if short term they might not do that). That lineup was a bat or two short (with a healthy Longoria) and wasn’t going to cut it with or without Manny.

    Manny as a DH might have put up 2 wins? So assuming the player they plug in isn’t 0 WAR this might cost them a win this year… but it may provide some cover (PR wise) if they seriously underperform expectations this year.

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    • Roger Workman says:

      You remember when people could predict the future accurately 100% of the time? …oh wait

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    • B N says:

      With that said, since he’s retiring, I assume that the Rays don’t have to pay Manny for anything more than his playing time so far. So it’s not like they’re losing anything, no?

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  17. joe says:

    Unless the Rays are going to play with a 24 man roster, they have to pay someone at least league minimum ( 400+K) in Manny’s place.

    This doesn’t save the Rays the full 2mil as advertised, it saves them ~1.5-1.6mil (or less if they bring in someone at above league minimum)

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  18. TK says:

    When Klaassen discussed Manny, Vlad, and Branyon, he choose Manny, seemingly ignoring who Manny Ramirez is. This is not a surprise. He’s been the same dude for 15 years. I love advanced statistics, but this should reflect poorly on the much-loved Rays. If you take a flyer on an old slugger, pick one that isn’t crazy. It’s not rocket science.

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    • DonCoburleone says:

      Good point TK. All too often the human element is never considered on this site…

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      • Paul says:

        Our tiny brains and “sensory system” are not capable of multiple regression! : ).

        Actually, they are, but that’s besides the point…

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    • GiantHusker says:

      So, your argument is, “The Rays gambled on a player and lost, so statistics should be ignored.”

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      • Matt Goldfarb says:

        You’re going out on a limb by saying that TK’s post provides any argument whatsoever; here is why using 4 facts and 2 assumptions:

        Facts
        1: The Rays signed Manny Ramirez to a $2,000,000.00/1YR contract.

        2: Manny was under contract for $100,000.00 in ticket sales.

        If anything should be critiqued about the rays off-season it should be the Damon signing (could cost up to ~$6,000,000.00) and NOT the signing of Manny Ramriez.

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      • Matt Goldfarb says:

        Um, not what I wrote..
        2: Manny was under contract for less than 9 days of the regular season
        3: The Major League Baseball regular-season must be at least 178 days long and no more than 183 days long.
        4: The Orioles agreed to terms with Vlad for approximately 4x as much money as the Rays agreed to pay Manny.

        Two assumptions:
        1: When a player retires they are no longer entitled to their salary as dictated in their contract (See: Gill Meche & Royals).
        2: MLB players are entitled to payment from their organization ONLY during the regular season.

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      • Matt Goldfarb says:

        CONCLUSION:
        Manny went 1-17 with no walks for the Rays; however, the Rays will pay less than $100,000.00 for this PEDestrian (see how funny I am?) performance.

        Let’s not forget that it is possible that the late (off-season) signing of Manny & Damon generated > $100,000.00 in ticket sales.

        If anything should be critiqued about the rays off-season it should be the Damon signing (could cost up to ~$6,000,000.00) and NOT the signing of Manny Ramriez.

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    • theonemephisto says:

      On the other hand, if you’re going to take a flyer on an old slugger, picking one of the best RHH in history isn’t a bad idea.

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  19. bookbook says:

    The human element is important.

    However, when you’re taking a flyer, aren’t you by definition angling for high-risk/high-reward?

    Manny was the only one who might have just gone on a crazy tear and carried the Rays to the playoffs, despite the 2 200-million goliaths in their division.

    It was a gamble, sure, but if you’re rolling the dice at least make sure a potential jackpot is in the offing, or don’t bother.

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    • Barkey Walker says:

      I agree that it was a good acquisition even thought it was terrible ex post. But, I do think these PED power players are not going to age as well as pre-juice players did, so I highly doubt an unjuiced Manny could have done much given his history. But that is why the price was so low.

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      • Nacho Grammerman says:

        This relies on the false assumption that they aren’t still juicing. While Manny got caught, I’d bet that says more about his laziness to take the right stuff at the right times to ensure not getting caught, then the actual effectiveness of the testing program.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        Are the testing dates announced or random? Are they just during the season?

        Add to the possibility of timing that undetectable PED are always out there… until they find a way to detect them.

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  20. Jimbo says:

    Right now the system favors cash-heavy teams in terms of trades. In the last few years more and more organizations have started to understand the value of new blood getting into their farm systems.

    MLB needs to allow trading of draft picks.

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  21. mmoritz22 says:

    It’s the Keri-Curse!

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  22. CircleChange11 says:

    I forget what website did the analysis, but in analyzing thousands of swings, they concluded that Manny Ramirez took the highest percentage of “perfect swings”, genereally characterized as being able to “stay back” for the longest period of time and striking the ball well.

    This is what happens to teams like the Rays … Many things have to “go right” or it can get bad in a hurry. Quality players leave and they have to be replaced by similar production, and they must avoid injuries. Bringing in high-dollar stars just isn’t an option (yet). The same thing happened to Oak, when Tejada and Giambi left.

    The front office cannot continually be “that much” smarter than everyone else to provide such depth to overcome the vacancies and injuries.

    Even if Manny was crushing the ball, they need Evan and Ben to be huge WAR surpluses at their positions. TB had about as bad of an offseason and start of 2011 as can be imagined.

    Be interesting to see what their FO can do. A last place finish in their division is certainly possible.

    Manny retiring to avoid a second suspension (if accurate) is ridiculous. C’mon Manny. Interesting that both events occurred “after” The Steroid Era. Makes you wonder about the 1994-2004 years.

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  23. MikeS says:

    I think Manny’s legacy will be steroids. He is one of the biggest names to be causght and serve a lengthy suspension while playing. I can’t think of a bigger name to be caught twice. Although I am sure he will try to spin it as a guy just doing whatever he could to hang on and stay competitive at the end of his career, you really ahve to wonder just how early in his career he started. Testing wasn’t very aggressive for the first 10 or 14 years he was in the league. If voters are going to hold PED’s against anybody, he would seem to be an easy target.

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  24. NEPP says:

    Multiple failed drug tests AFTER they started testing…yeah, he was a POS and he wont be missed.

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  25. Barkey Walker says:

    What makes you say, “opinions will soften over PED use as time goes on.” Is there any sort of hard evidence for a trend? The fact that MLB instituted testing suggests to me that the attitudes hardened through time.

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    • Jason B says:

      That’s a good question; I think they will, too, but don’t really have any concrete evidence for that. I think it’s more just a “changing of the guard, getting the old, crusty, set-in-their-ways, see-everything-in-black-and-white, our-generation-was-perfect” old guard outta the way and infusing new and different perspectives into the voices (and eventually the HOF voters) of baseball.

      We’ve seen some anecdotal evidence of it with things like Felix winning the Cy (from a stinky team, and with so few wins!); wider understanding and usage of terms like OPS and FIP; etc etc.

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      • Al Dimond says:

        By the time the new generation is entrenched they’ll be set in their ways also. They’ll say, “Well, Manny Ramirez did teh steroids and Bonds had that cheap-ass strategy where he wore an elbow-guard and crowded teh plate (and also he did teh steroids. Nobody is teh perfect. But John Robotarms had teh robot arms! We can’t compare his robot-aided stats to teh greats! They had to expand every outfield to cut down his home runs and then all outfielders got robot legs, which caused them to break even more offensive records because power is mostly generated in teh lower body or something! It was teh totally unfair!” (this generation has officially replaced “the” with “teh”… their heyday was a real dystopia, let me tell you)

        And the generation after that will say “John Robotarms was the greatest! He was so awesome they had to change the field to stop him, like Bob Gibson! And that meant teams had to move out of cities where they couldn’t just demolish their surroundings to expand and into unincorporated exurbs where they could ruled like immortal feudal lords! It was the GOLDEN AGE OF BASEBALL, people! All hail our robot baseballing overlords! But players with wheels and robotic eyesight — that’s just going too far!” (this generation has revised the Constitution to enforce corporate feudalism and an endless sprawl mandate… they’re the greatest generation ever to live, this sentiment brought to you by the AT&T).

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    • Raf says:

      Well, you have alcoholics, cokeheads and cheaters in the baseball hall of fame, I don’t see why PED users should be left out.

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    • Milk Steak says:

      Some, like myself, believe that a large part of the steroid outrage comes from elderly writers having the players of their youth overshadowed or surpassed by modern players. When they start dying off you’ll have fewer voters who care about proving things were better back in their day.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        But don’t we know the individual voters? Can’t we just look at if older voters are more likely to vote against PED users? Looking at McGwire’s vote totals, there is no trend in total votes, but we could look at the age of the voters who vote yes.

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    • GiantHusker says:

      I personally don’t give a damn who does or does not get into the Hall of Fame, but if I were a voter, I would not take any kind of drug use into consideration.

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  26. Kool says:

    Why are steroids so bad again? I forget.

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  27. bkmoyer says:

    Not to be overly picky, but don’t you think it’s a little mis-leading to say that Jeff Bagwell never tested for anything when he only played a fraction of a season when they began testing and naming names in 2005 (.380 slg in 123 PAs)?

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    • kick me in the GO NATS says:

      no, because he was outspoken against it. plus, he was tested and passed.

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      • bkmoyer says:

        Raphael Palmeiro first shaking under oath had us convinced. Also, I think you missed my point about the .380 slg the first year of testing. Of course, that could’ve been attributed to his age, but still…

        Also, Jeff Bagwell is the man.

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  28. chris says:

    So when does Jennings get called up now that Kotchman was officially moved up? He is now 24 so its not like hes a kid anymore. I would have to imagine the Rays are waiting to hold off on Super 2 status?

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  29. pft says:

    Wow, so no reason to panic over Bostons 0-6 start, but the Rays should panic after their 0-6 start with their best player on the DL. Rays faced some pretty good pitching during the slump and scored 9 runs today (same as the Red Sox) to finally win. Longoria will be back sooner or later.

    The Rays will be saving 2 million in salary with Manny gone, and with a payroll 30 million less than last year, they could swing a trade with a team looking for a salary dump at some point.

    Rays would be making a huge mistake to give up on the same after all of 6 games. Thats just dumb.

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    • Matt Goldfarb says:

      They won’t panic (they are smart, read Jonah’s book).

      Thank you for saying most of what is on my mind.

      I’ll stop posting replies now.

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  30. Jack F says:

    Ramirez quit on:

    (1) the Red Sox,

    (2) the Dodgers, and

    (3) the Rays.

    How does he not tell the Rays when he decides to quit MLB? All reports say that MLB had to inform his employer, the Rays. Unbelievable. Right to the end, the guy was a selfish prick.

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    • Joe D says:

      Yeah, the “quit on the Red Sox” thing will always be a hilarious load of crap. It originated from the same organization and New England media outlets that blindly trashed the hell out of Boggs, Clemens, and Damon on their way out.

      Manny’s July numbers with the Red Sox: 75 at-bats, 26 hits, four homers, 16 RBI, a .473 on-base percentage and a 1.060 OPS.

      An obvious tank-job if I ever saw one, eh?

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • PL says:

        Not to mention Nomar. The Boston media is who decided that he “quit” on them, not Manny.

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      • NEPP says:

        But but but Peter Gammons told me he did. Its not like Gammons would make something up to make the RedSox look good.

        ~loves Gammons for everything else he’s done and knows he’s a great writer who has done a ton for the game~

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      • B N says:

        I’ve gone over this topic 100 times, but apparently there is an inexhaustible supply of people who insist on assuming things about Boston players while lacking any actually knowledge of the issues. Firstly, yes- the Red Sox have a serious media engine. It’s done serious slander jobs, but you are definitely out of the loop about which ones were justified and which weren’t:

        Unjustified:
        ————————–
        Nomar: There was a major hatchet-job on Nomar, especially. He was injured, he clearly wanted to come back, and he couldn’t. Anyone who said otherwise was a liar. Most knowledgeable Boston fans were aware of this and felt bad about it, hence his extremely warm reception when he returned.

        Damon: Admittedly, ANY media market will slam a guy for leaving to a rival team. But the Damon thing was stupid. The Red Sox got him because he bailed on the Royals… to get more money. Why was anyone acting surprised when he left to get even more money? With that said, most Red Sox fans DID fall for this one. Oh well.

        Justified:
        ————————————-
        Manny: Yes, Manny. Firstly, you are 100% right that Manny was doing GREAT before he was traded. Secondly, he was still dogging it. That is correct. Manny was good enough to simultaneously be the best player on the team, while also not running out fly balls and being almost flippant in the field. Did you know that on July 10, 2008- he walked into the Green Monster to make a phone call during a pitching change? No joke. I mean, even if your bat is producing, there is only so much unprofessionalism that you can allow before Kevin Youkilis eventually explodes and kills you where you stand. Manny deserved to be slammed for his behavior and he had to be traded, if only for his own safety.

        Clemens: Again, a situation where the best player on the team was the worst behaved. Clemens had issues with management, which were well known. Through his last couple of years, he seemed to basically resolve himself to do JUST enough to be the best starter on the team. That way, he could still be the ace, but without all that… you know, commitment and extra effort. And it worked quite well. But how would you feel if you knew the best pitcher on your team could probably be the best pitcher in baseball, but didn’t want to bother? Because that’s exactly what happened when he left for Toronto- he cared again and worked hard again. He finally got back in shape and was dominant.

        So I donno, maybe you can’t see that in the numbers. Maybe it’s impossible to consider that the best player on a team can still be underperforming. But hey, maybe you can actually learn something.

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      • Quitter says:

        Manny did quit on the Sox. Statistics don’t tell the story. He was missing games for no legitimate reason and then there was the infamous AB against Mariano Rivera where in a key situation he just stood in the box with the bat on his shoulder and took three strikes as an apparent “FU” to the front office.

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      • B N says:

        And if that description is not enough to be aware that Manny had checked out, here’s a partial list of incidents with him during that season:

        Spring Training – Manny has a $25m team option that he wants to know if the team will exercise or if the team is not resigning him. The Red Sox refuse to address this until next off season. (It’s pretty likely the Red Sox won’t resign him)

        May 16 – Manny high fives a fan during a catch (which admitedly, was kind of awesome, but almost endangered what should have been a sure double-play)

        June 5 – Manny takes a swing at Youkilis, a combination of Youk being a hothead and Manny being Manny.

        July 1 – Manny pushes over a 64 year old secretary

        July 25 – Manny pulls himself from the lineup on game-day, due to an undisclosed knee issue. MRIs come up clean, but he misses a second game before having to be threatened with suspension unless he plays in the next game against the Yankees (which was very important to their playoff chances). He goes on to play 29 games for the Dodgers in August, after having played only 26, 26, and 22 games in the preceding 3 months with the Red Sox.

        July 28 – About being traded, Manny states: “I’m tired of them. They’re tired of me.”

        This isn’t even including some of the day to day persistent issues that Manny was well known for (not running out likely outs, defensive inattention and indifference). I mean, Manny never did these things consistently. But when the game was on the line, he DID actually exert the effort to run out a grounder or two. In the last month and a half with the Red Sox, that extra gear seemed to have disappeared. Again, it seemed to magically “reappear” when he went to the Dodgers. Could it have been the result of a lingering knee issue over 2 months, that miraculously improved with the LA air? Sure. But unlikely.

        So we have… an aging slugger who has a very generous $25m option that would be very beneficial to have extended. This same slugger has asked to be traded no less than 3 times during his tenure with the club. His behavior and observed level of effort undergoes a significant dip during this season, getting progressively worse as they approach the trade deadline.

        This slugger is then traded for an inferior player who plays the same position, on a club that is fighting for a playoff spot. It’s not like the Red Sox got any gain for losing him midseason. As you aptly observed, his overall numbers were solid. He was clearly dropped due to malaise and some pretty terrible behavior (2 fights in half a season?). I don’t think you need a media engine as strong as the Sox to be able to villify a guy like that, to be honest.

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      • B N says:

        @Quitter: I actually am not so sure on that one. It might have been a protest AB, but having seen the video and knowing how good Mariano is, I could imagine that being a legitimate strike out.

        Since I never saw another case where Manny showed bad effort in the batting box, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He seemed like a guy that legitimately takes personal pride and enjoyment out of hitting. But apparently, less enjoyment out of the “running” part.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • B N says:

        @Joe D: Also, as a small rhetoric lesson, the problem with your argument is that it is a “False Dichotomy.” Manny was able to hit AND to quit, due to his tremendous natural talent. There is no conflict between these assertions. (Hence, explaining how Manny was able to “hit it and quit it” with Boston, and get the Dodgers to pick up his big option as part of the trade)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. everdiso says:

    Anyone else think that Jennings not being called up has little to do with service time, and more to do with the fact that he’s been very mediocre in AAA?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jonah Keri says:

      “Anyone else think that Jennings not being called up has little to do with service time, and more to do with the fact that he’s been very mediocre in AAA?”

      Yup. Rays tend to call up prospects after they’re proven themselves in the high minors, not before.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. Patrick says:

    I really enjoy your website & find it most enlightening, but this article is ridiculous!!! Only 7 games into the season and the white flag is being raised? Are you kidding me? Is this an April fools joke played six days to late?
    Manny’s “retirement” opens the door to return to the basics.(Speed, defence, intelligent players) Now Damon can be the full time DH, which will drastically improve the outfield’s defence. It also give opportunities to Fuld/Joyce to play everyday or give Leslie Anderson/Justin Ruggiono a chance to play in the SHOW.
    It is WAY TO EARLY to throw in the towel. You really jumped the gun in publishing this article. This story is better suited for mid-June, when the Rays are at or below .500.
    This is a sad day in Fangraphs.com history.
    Thank you for your time,
    Patrick

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jason B says:

      That’s a fair point, for both the Rays and BoSox – not to overreact to the poor play of the first week (and has been covered ad nauseum in Boston’s case). Still, TB does have to be realistic about the challenges that they may have this year, and the fact that it’s pretty unlikely that they will contend for a playoff berth.

      I dunno what their playoff odds would be if plugged into a season simulator (couldn’t find the link to one) but I’m guessing its pretty slim. No sense jettisoning promising young talent or bloating the payroll for something that, in a sober analysis, is pretty unlikely to happen.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Barkey Walker says:

      Not sure you are going to get very far criticizing Jonah for his overly negative view of the Rays.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  33. Bill says:

    Is this “Choo” guy a Cistulli gimmick? God, stop trying so hard.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. db says:

    On the best right-handed hitters argument, I think you are giving Frank Thomas too much credit. See Example 2 below.

    http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/06/a_lifetime_on_t.php

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NEPP says:

      OPS+ accounts for home park and it likes Thomas quite a bit more than those other fine gentlemen. All players tend to do a bit better in their home parks outside of extreme ones (Petco basically). Its much the same as most players hitting better with RISP. Its not this amazing secret or anything.

      Thomas was one of the best RH hitters in recent memory. He had a 182 OPS+ from Age 22 – 29. For reference, Pujols posted an OPS+ of 172 through his Age 29 season.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  35. PL says:

    Jonah, this has been the most well-thought out and well-written piece on Manny’s retirement I’ve read so far. It lacks all the gross sensationalism and badmouthing going on with all the major writers (who should be using this piece as the bar for all writing). Kudos.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. Bad Bill says:

    I must confess to puzzlement that a guy with a .312/.411/.585 career line is viewed as “right there with” another from the same era whose line is .331/.425/.623. Lance Berkman is more “right there with” Ramirez than Ramirez is with that other guy, and you don’t see people writing panegyrics to Berkman as “one of the greatest hitters to ever walk the face of the Earth.” Still, you’re basically right: Ramirez has first-ballot HoF credentials … or would have before this.

    A question. I don’t understand completely how the Joint Drug Prevention/Treatment Program works. He was suspended the first time for a banned drug that was in the performance-enhancing category, for its masking potential if not for its own alleged performance-enhancing qualities. Does that mean that _this_ suspension would also have to be for PED use? Or was he now susceptible to getting banned for a drug of abuse (cocaine, etc.)?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  37. Dan G says:

    Joe D,

    You are 100% correct that is was not an obvious tank job by Manny. Manny is much more clever than most give him credit for. The tanking was in May and June – July was to reassure the rest of MLB that he could still hit if he wanted to. The plan worked financially for he and Scott Boras. At the risk of being accused of reheating a hilarious bowl of crap – below is what I wrote in response to the Tampa Bay preview.

    “I defended Manny pretty much to the end – but this is one story that you really have to look at both the batting numbers and the salary numbers.

    Manny didn’t want the Sox to pick up his ’09 (and ’10) options at $20,000,000/yr. He thought he could do better on the open market and he was right in that he ended up signing a 2 yr $45,000,000 deal with the Dodgers (he and Boras probably wanted more). Manny is not dumb, he managed to infuriate the Sox to the point that they wanted to trade him (and his potent bat) and drop the options thus making him a free agent, but he was productive enough that other teams were willing to step in and give him more. The die was cast in May and June .228/.328/.386 and .286/.394/.536 and the July numbers that Bob cited were put up when it was clear that: 1) Manny wanted out of town but needed to show that he could still hit and that 2) the Sox has no real choice but to move him for what they can get.

    Manny’s actions in 2008 were not illegal, but I would call them dishonorable. With a 1-year deal, Manny will be playing for next year’s contract and will play hard.”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  38. Dan G says:

    PL -

    What about Nomar? He turned down 4 yr @ 15 million/yr with the Red Sox. That is his right and choice. It didn’t work out for him; it worked out fine for the Red Sox who won 2 World Series in those 4 years.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  39. Dan G says:

    Correction – 2 World Series titles after Nomar left.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  40. asusundevils says:

    Two positive steroid tests puts his career numbers in question. His “eye popping” stats, were they a result of him being a great player or was he a good/decent player aided by steroids? Sad conclusion to his career and he will be remembered for his positive testing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  41. Thomas H says:

    @ BadBill, yes they are seperate tests for peds and rec drugs but he also would now be subjected to annual rec drug screenings as well in addition to PED testing

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  42. Bobobot says:

    So I am confused, he was a great hitter because for 99% of his numbers where generated when there was no steroid test? As far as I can tell his entire stat sheet is garbage.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  43. Matt Goldfarb says:

    @Jonah:
    1.) Change the blurb, your book has been released (maybe just on Kindle?)

    2.) Great job with the book, I read it within 2-3 days of it’s Kindle release and have been promoting it to friends, family, and even casual acquaintances since then.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  44. Max G says:

    This is sad, because when the game was on the line, he really did have a knack for turning it up a notch in the post-season, and not everyone who was an elite juicer was able to do that. This leads me to believe he did have incredible talent, and was legitimately clutch, but it will be forever lost in the haze of Manny-moments and female fertility drugs.

    Personally, I feel his blatant lack of hustle and complete disregard for fielding the batted ball were greater crimes than his PED use. The core of his peak playing days came at a time when most of the elite-level competition was also using. He took PEDs to compete. Because he is an idiot, Manny continued to take them in the post-2003 testing environment, likely to maintain a high-level bat speed.

    Is the fact that Manny was stupid enough to get caught twice morally worse than the undetected player who juices up in a contract year, but stops roiding afterward? A complicated question for the baseball gods, and one that I don’t know the answer to.

    And a final note on steroids and effect on performance:

    Steroids do make all-stars become superheroes (Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens, A-Rod, etc.)

    But steroids don’t automatically make average ballplayers become all-stars (GlenAllen Hill, Jeremy Giambi, Jason Grimsley, Bobby Estalella and many others are testament to this)

    That is why the steroid era is so murky to dissect accurately. Steroid intake clearly has different results for different players, and there is no way to know when they started using. PEDs also muddy the line between how much production is related to skill and how much is related to drugs. There is just no way to know.

    Poor Manny. To think what might have been if he hadn’t been caught.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  45. CircleChange11 says:

    I think a lot of a player’s image comes from how the media spins it. Superstar players are often selfish, and they do tend to sulk when things don’t go their way. They are imperfect.

    I have never read anyone criticize Griffey for not working out to avoid injuries, nor does anyone say that he basically quit on the Mariners at the end.

    ——————-

    PEDs primarily aid recovery, allowing one to “be at their peak all year long (Canseco’s words).

    I have no idea what % of Manny’s consistency was due to this. But he is/was an ideal hitter. Man, those Indians teams could mash. Manny, Albert, Thome. I think we forget just how good they were.

    I also think PEDs drastically helped Ja. Giambi and Tejada, and well Bonds in his 35+ age seasons. After consecutive partial seasons, they also helped McGwire string together his 3 best seasons. I don’t think it can be argued that PEDs did not contrubut to Caminiti going from good to great.

    We could probably say the same thing about Clemens post-Bos days.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Barkey Walker says:

      You are kidding yourself. “PEDs primarily aid recovery” yeah, and hitting homers isn’t about strength. Muscle definition and overall strength are indications someone is on steroids, these are not associated with recovery but with overall strength.

      Remember Flo Jo was accused of using PED because of increased muscle definition and shaving about 4% off her personal bests–not because she had an unusually consistent year. They help you in your peak, they help you in you trough. We have no idea what any of these players would have been like without PED, when they started, or how much they took. I don’t double Manny would have been a good batter, but would he have been a power hitter? Maybe not.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  46. CircleChange11 says:

    Recovery = muscle repairs faster = builds bigger/stronger.

    You’re able to string together more intense workouts together, which adds strength and muscle.

    Puta drug-free lifter on a steroid users program and it will bury them. They won’t be able to recover.

    It’s basic physiology. When you ask “How do steroids work?” the first answer is “recovery”, which is why there are so many medical uses for them. The by-product of this when used by athletes is enhanced performance due to the combination of not breaking down as much, and strength/muscle.

    But from the physiological/medical standpoint, it’s recovery and reduced breakdown.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Barkey Walker says:

      “which is why there are so many medical uses for them.” Again, you are kidding yourself. Medical uses are, necessarily, for sick people. There is no (approved) medical treatment for the well hoping to get more from something. There has to be a problem that is being fixed.

      But I think we agree, “Recovery = muscle repairs faster =builds bigger/stronger” = you get way bigger than you would have otherwise.

      Don’t forget, workouts damage muscle and strength builds when you repair that muscle. So if that is what you mean by recovery, then, yeah, you “recover” from your workouts more and become a huge muscly person.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        That’s it … recovery, decreased muscle damage.waste. You can say “bigger muscles”, but it’s recovery first, muscles second. And it’s important. It’s not just “yeah, yeah, recovery schmecovery”.

        That’s HOW they work, and that’s their PRIMARY benefit. You can take PEDs and experience the recovery aspect without the drastic gain in muscle mass … and we can look to “weight division sports” as examples of this … especially worldwide weight-division sports, like the Olympics … where moving up one weight class might mean you have to get 15-20% stronger.

        FloJo is a sad case that drifts to the area of abuse. I fault herself and her team for basically treating her as an experiment. She wasn’t just taking PEDs but whole cocktails and combinations of things. Borderline criminal. Marion Jones and the Irish swimmer (Smith?) are two good examples of athletes using steroids, without drastic muscle change, yet improved performances.

        I doubt many are interested in the subject past the “steroids = biggermuscles” aspects, but it is (at least to me) fascinating how they work and what they really do.

        If legal, I have very little doubt that almost every dude my age (almost 37) would be taking small-moderate amounts of steroids for no other reason that just to “slow down the muscle loss” that comes with aging. We won’t be walking around 6’3 235 and ripped, but just reducing the pace of muscle breakdown associated with lower testosterone levels. “Anti-Aging” policies and clinics will likely become more prevalent.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  47. Giacomo says:

    This guy Raf is an imbecile.

    I haven’t seen him post before but I’ve already seen enough after one topic – he should be banished.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  48. riverboatgambit says:

    I bet a lot of the reasoning behind signing Manny instead of somebody like Russell Branyan to energize the fanbase. It was no coincedence that the Damon and Manny signings were announced at the same time. Everything else being equal, it would make sense to improve sales at the gate. After realize the “Extra 2%”, I realize that the Rays are very saavy about marketing and ticket sales. Unfortunately for them, the move backfired.

    25,000 Manny wigs are now in storage.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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