Monday, April 13, 2009

The return of Manny and Thome?

It's not hard to imagine the cringing that went on in the Indians' offices Monday by Tribe officials over the story in USA Today in which Manny Ramirez was quoted as saying what a great idea it would be for him and Jim Thome to finish their careers in Cleveland. With all the problems the Indians have had getting out of the gate in the 2009 season, the last thing Tribe officials need is to have to react to a hot button issue such as this.

On the surface, bringing back Ramirez and Thome, both of whom could coneivably be free agents following the 2009 season, would undoubtedly be a wildly popular move among Tribe fans. Thome (334) and Ramirez (236) rank 1 and 3 respectively (separated by Albert Belle) on the Indians' all-time list for career home runs. Both are also 500-homer sluggers. The 38-year-old Thome ranks 14th on baseball's all-time list with 543 career home runs. Ramirez, 37, ranks 17th, with 527.

Imagine how formidable the first six spots in the Indians' lineup could look:

Grady Sizemore
Shin-Soo Cho
Victor Martinez
Manny Ramirez
Jim Thome
Jhonny Peralta
Travis Hafner

Of course there's just one minor detail. Where would everyone play? Hafner is the Indians' designated hitter. Thome is a designated hitter, and Ramirez SHOULD be a designated hitter. There's also the small matter of money. Ramirez's salary this year with the Dodgers is $25 million. Thome is being paid $13 million by the White Sox. In other words, Ramirez and Thome combined are making about half of what the Indians are paying their entire roster this year. Both players would have to give the Indians mammoth "home town'' discounts for the Indians to even consider signing them.

And even that wouldn't be enough to convince Tribe officials to grant Manny's apparent dream of him and Thome returning to Cleveland. Emotion has no part in the decision making process of General Manager Mark Shapiro and his assistant Chris Antonetti. Indians fans, without question, would react emotionally to the notion of Ramirez and Thome returning to Cleveland. It's fun to think about it and dream about it. But it has no chance of happening, because it's unrealistic on numerous fronts: logistically, economically, and socially.

That's right, socially. Manny being Manny, and all the separate rules and special treatment that frequently entails, is not, for that very reason, an Eric Wedge-type player. Thome being Thome is never a problem for a manager. Manny being Manny frequently is.

Still, the image of Thome and Ramirez in the Indians' lineup once again is one that would give any Indians fan pause. You're talking, after all, about two future Hall of Famers, a combined 1,070 home runs, and off-the-charts star power.

Delicious to contemplate? You bet. Realistically do-able? Not hardly.


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