By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — The Cubs’ signing of Manny Ramirez stunned the baseball world on Sunday, as they announced that the former All-Star was signed as a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa. The history between president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and Ramirez has been a roller coaster ride of emotions over the years.
In checking with baseball sources on this curious move, more than one hitting instructor said that Ramirez, despite all of his past transgressions, was a fine student of the art of hitting.
Ramirez had been known to quit on games and at-bats throughout the end of his career. It’s clear that the Cubs believe he can be a positive influence on highly touted infielder Javier Baez, who is going through the finishing stages of development at Iowa. If Ramirez has transformed into a baseball evangelist, then maybe it will be a stroke of genius. Epstein could prove himself one more time as the smartest man in the room.
The initial PR reaction has been mostly negative. This is a franchise that has been made to look like a bully in their dispute with rooftop partners on the rehab issues at Wrigley Field. It’s also a curious sign considering Ramirez is not a candidate for a 25-man roster spot with the Cubs. A veteran run producer is exactly what they need to help with an offense that has been deficient since trading Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees last July.
Few want to go on the record about the Cubs’ signing of the iconic and ironic former star.
“I need to stay away from that one,” current Cleveland and former Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I have my hands full managing this club. I don’t need to be the GM of another team. I did exchange a couple of texts with Theo yesterday in fun. He was probably funnier than I was. Again, I don’t need to be the GM of another team.”
If Ramirez can resurrect his career or help Cubs hitters get better, this will be viewed in a favored light. One thing Epstein isn’t is timid; he has an aggressive approach to the job.