|Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez works in the batting cage during baseball spring training camp Monday, Feb. 22, 2010, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)|
Manny Ramirez says this is his final season in LA
GLENDALE, Ariz.—Manny Ramirez is known for saying some curious things. This is his latest pronouncement: The Dodgers star insists his days in LA are numbered. "I know I'm not going to be here next year," Ramirez said Monday.
Ramirez's contract expires after this season. Why is he so certain he won't get an extension?
"I don't know," he said. "I just know I'm not going to be here."
At 37, Ramirez is heading into his 17th major league season. The former World Series MVP served a 50-game drug suspension last year and, for him, was hardly a force -- .290, 19 home runs, 63 RBIs.
Ramirez threw out the possibility that he could retire after 2010.
"What I can do is to just wait and at the end of the season I can say to myself if I want to do this, if I want to play," Ramirez said. "That's where I'm at. I think I have to wait until the season ends and see where my family's at and make a choice."
Asked if he can see a scenario where Ramirez might be pursued in the offseason, general manager Ned Colletti wasn't in the mood to look into the future.
"I'm worried about this season, that's where my focus is," Colletti said. "If that is accurate (that Ramirez won't return to the Dodgers) and he still wants to play after this year, I hope that he's the premier free agent on the market. That would mean he had a great year for the Dodgers."
Ramirez knows the business of baseball. He knows that if he struggles, the Dodgers probably wouldn't want him back. He's also aware that if he returns to being a dominating offensive force, the Dodgers, with their uncertain financial situation, likely would not be in a position to re-sign him.
Ramirez can often be a bundle of contradictions and Monday was no different. He said he has accomplished everything he wanted to in the game. Yet, he said he worked harder this offseason than ever.
"My whole career I never hit (during the winter) but after this year I needed to figure out some stuff, so that's what I did," said Ramirez, who has been in Arizona a full week before position players are required to report.
A late arrival to spring training in 2009 as his contract was being negotiated, Ramirez started the season batting .348 with six home runs and 20 RBI over the first 27 games.
On May 7, though, he was suspended for violating baseball's drug policy. He returned to bat .278 in July and .301 in August, but hit just .218 from Sept. 1 until the end of the season.
A big turning point was a July 22 game against Cincinnati when he was hit on the wrist by a pitch from Homer Bailey. Despite hitting for average over the next month, Ramirez struggled with pitches on the inner half of the plate the remainder of the season.
The Dodgers have made the playoffs in both years Ramirez was on the team.
"I know he wasn't happy with the way things went on here (last season) and the way he struggled," manager Joe Torre said. "He was determined to get that thing straightened out. He watched a lot of video, did some work this winter and feels pretty good about where he is now."
Torre isn't about to buy into the idea that Ramirez won't play after 2010.
"I think it will depend on whether it continues to be fun for him," Torre said. "I'm sure there are things he wants to accomplish statistically. And just knowing Manny over the last 15 years or so, if it's not fun for him, he will have trouble going out there doing it as a job. But I'd like to believe he will play longer than this year."
Ramirez said he appreciated the support Dodgers fans have given him.
"It's been great," he said. "I wish I could have been there a long time ago. It's a great city and I had a blast there. I'm just happy the way they received me out there. It was unbelievable."