Tampa Bay Rays make big splash in American League East pond: Sign Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon

The Tampa Bay Rays finished last season with the second best record in baseball.  They ended up losing to the Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.  In a season which everyone thought might be their best chance to win a World Series, the Rays fell well short of their goal.

Despite their successful regular season, attendance suffered.  Ownership made no secret about its plans to slash payroll.  Fans and players alike knew the team that took the field in 2011 would have an entirely different look.  They just didn’t realize they would have that much more hair.

Enter Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.

The acquisitions of Damon (37) and Ramirez (38) have already caused quite a stir in the bay area.  Tampa has gone from a city that feared the upcoming season to one that is now counting down the days for spring training.

Ramirez and Damon were two of the more charismatic characters, not to mention clutch hitters, on the first Red Sox team to win a World Series in eighty years.  While that was seven years ago, Rays ownership is banking on the fact that the potentially washed up, yet possibly explosive, bats can rekindle some of that Boston magic… and fill some seats in the process.

The move might seem like a publicity stunt but it’s actually quite shrewd.

Attendance was an albatross for the Rays last season.  They finished 22nd in the league, drawing well under two millions fans.  Any way you slice it, turnstile dollars are still ownership’s bottom line, so much so that Damon has an attendance incentive in his contract.

If anything, last year proved wins don’t translate into revenue.  Landing Damon and Ramirez is a no-lose situation for Tampa Bay.  They signed them both for just over seven million dollars, landing panache for pennies on the dollar, something this team sorely lacked last season.  That might not guarantee wins but it should provide a return on their investment.

In a division where the Yankees and Red Sox once again reloaded, the Rays landed two players who used to terrorize the American League East, albeit years ago.  Aside from filling seats, Ramirez and Damon should provide All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria with protection in a Rays lineup that has suffered from inconsistency.

The 2011 Rays will be a tough team to figure out.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they only won sixty games.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if they won ninety.  Either way, ownership has already won half the battle.  They have the area abuzz about its baseball team.  They’re hoping that will translate into box office dollars.  Wins will just be the icing on the cake.


44 thoughts on “Tampa Bay Rays make big splash in American League East pond: Sign Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon

  1. Chris

    This isn’t a big splash but simply another way for Sternberg/Friedman to pour salt into the wound because come the start of the season the team will struggle to make its way in the AL East . See my own post on this very subject .

    They’re beginning to make Naimoli seem almost humanitarian and somewhat of a philanthropist. They need a major cash infusion along the lines of what Ryan and Greenberg were able to do with the Texas Rangers even if it means selling a stake in the team . Otherwise they will be back to being cellar dwellers within the division.

    tophatal …………….

  2. My flabber is gasted. When I heard the news I blurted out, much too loudly, holy sh_t!
    I don’t know if this move will help attendance, but I do know that it has got me looking forward to the baseball season.

  3. WOW! two lightening rods for the Rays, huh? I’m still mad at Johnny Damon for cutting his hair & leaving the Red Sox for the Yankees (not in that order). Can Manny still play like he did w/the BoSox? Either way, yr right Sportschump… the Rays bought themselves some headlines & renewed interest by bringing those bay boys to Tpa Bay.
    All we need now is Yaz to do some coaching? 🙂

  4. Sure it is, Al. The Rays needed some pop in their lineup. They didn’t have it last season.

    At worst, Manny and Damon will bring some excitement to the area that was upset about losing Crawford, Pena and half it’s bullpen. Nobody expects them to hit 40 homers but if they can keep pitchers honest against Longoria, he could have an MVP-type season. You heard it here first.

    You know it’s a business and the Rays were losing money. They need fans. This is a move to get them in the building.

  5. Chris

    This more a ‘PR stunt’ than anything else do you honestly believe with the addition of Man Ram and Damon this team has become better considering what they’ve given up by way of trades and players who left via free agency ? Damon can barely hit his body weight much less play above average defense. And Man-Ram is but a psychotic moment away from another meltdown of seismic proportions.

    Sternberg is now making Naimoli seem like a damn major philanthropist the way he’s slashed payroll ! The Trop will soon become an elephants’ graveyard if it’s not that already ? .

    My earlier comment with regard to Ryan and the Rangers . They’ve got several billionaires on their board and not only that they got themselves a lucrative broadcast deal that will net them in excess of $150 million a year for the next two decades. Remember I told you Sternberg has no business acumen ? Well something like this simply reiterates that completely ! He’s no real head for business playing with the big boys ……… he’s merely a minnow in a lake filled with ‘gators !

    The team —- offensively will be average at best and I doubt much better defensively either !

    tophatal ……………

  6. Ask around, Al.

    Look at Aer’s and M’s comments above. That’s two-for-two on fans who are now looking forward to the season more than they were.

    Is it gimmicky? Perhaps. But they landed two big names who have experience within the division and they didn’t pay a damn thing for ’em.. They’ll get fired up to play the Sox and Yanks and that’s what you want from your clubhouse.

    The Rays had to do something to replace Crawford’s and Pena’s bats, Al. There wasn’t really anyone else out there that fit the bill.

    Even if they crap the bed, they’ll still bring fans to the Trop.

  7. This makes sense…lots of old people go to Florida to retire. That’s why Stewie Griffin calls it “God’s Waiting Room.”

  8. M…

    The reason there’s some skepticism surrounding the move (see Al’s comments) is that both players are well past their prime.

    They’re not going to be able to do what they did in Boston but in my opinion, even if they get some of that production, this move was win-win.

  9. This one it tough to figure out, but it was a hell of a deal on the $$ front. It’s going to be tough having Damon replace Craford in the outfield, that’s already about 25 more hits that fall in…

    I wish the Rays luck, because I’d love to see them make it over the Yankees or Red Sox, but it’s tough for me to believe they will…

  10. Nobody expects Damon to be Crawford, Chap, either at the plate or in the field.

    It’s too bad though, because this was a pretty solid defensive team last year and they’re gonna lose some of that.

    But exactly, for the price, this was a steal. Remember, it’s not all about wins for this team. It’s about attendance.

    With daily talk about moving the team, ownership has to bring in some dollars.

    I think they’ll do just fine.

  11. CH,

    They shudda thrown in Elijah Dukes to help keep him outta the can.

    Total PR joke. You really believe that signing these to dinasaurs will bring folks to the Trop? After each has an extended DL trip, the wolves will be howling.

  12. The votes don’t lie, Ron. 7 to 2 in favor of.

    Look, they had to do something to account for the loss of Crawford. And they weren’t going to spend money to do so.

    Every Rays fan I’ve talked to is for the move and is looking forward to see what they can do.

    Maybe we can rename the Trop Jurassic Park, huh?

  13. LOL, Jurassic Park.

    I guess the smell of the Grapefruit League kinda spurns optimism. Damon will be a fan favorite if healthy. Manny just being Manny won’t cut it your way. DHing I hope? Probably one of the top 100 worse gloves in the history of BB.

    Take care

  14. Ron…

    I’m thinking I should go ahead and copyright that, huh?

    Look, man. Pena led the team in homers last year (28) but he didn’t hit his weight, actually finishing BELOW the Mendoza line.

    Damon and Ramirez can’t possibly do worse than that, can they?

    I would imagine Manny will spend most of his time DHing and we will have a full season complaining about Damon’s arm strength… but at least there’ll be fans in the building to do so.

    I’ll bet ya’ they reach two million fans this year, which would be quite the accomplishment.

  15. I hope for their sake they do get fans in the seats, and eclipse that 2M mark. I’m hoping the same will happen for the A’s after making quite a few offseason moves. It sure has made me want to make the trip up there for the opening weekend double header, and RICKEY HENDERSON bobble head day. (He was my favorite player growing up).

  16. Rickey was a good favorite player to have.

    Plus he always referred to himself in the third person.

    Listen, when they have Mark McGwire bobblehead day, will they have the tall skinny, pock-faced Big Mac or the the juiced up, roided-out, even more pock-faced Mac.

  17. Yeah, Rickey thinks the Rickey bobblehead looks like him.

    Hmmm, I’d say pre-steroid Big Mac. They have an MC Hammer bobble head day this year. I’m wondering if they are going to have him in A’s gear or in the classic hammer pants!?!

  18. Oh, the marketing possibilities for MC Hammer bobble head night.

    I think I’d probably have to go with the “Come to the ballpark and help give Hammer a home” slogan.

  19. Chris

    Once the season starts and the Rays more likely than not find themselves at least 10 – 15 game back of the pack ——- you’ll be seeing more empty seats there than we’re all usually accustomed to !

    See my comments on my piece on concerning Sternberg ……… you know what I’m saying is true . Sooner rather than later one of two things will happen he’ll either sell the team or he’ll uproot and move out of the state altogether even it brings down the wrath of the city of St Pete.

    The ownership group has struck out twice in the last two seasons and they’re about to do so again . The area simply has no real interest in the game other than when they Red Sox and Yankees are in town. It’s fact and there’s no way anyone can deny it ! They can’t continue to live on a meager fanbase of 10,000-15,000 people at best it’s not financially feasible and it will bring about their ultimate downfall if they don’t do something . This isn’t it by bringing in two over the hill players. It’s like putting a band-aid on gunshot wound to the abdomen the bleeding will still continue ! Pie in the sky dreams Chris ……… pie in the sky dreams !

    tophatal ……

    tophatal ………….

  20. Okay, Al. You have yourself a wager.

    I’ll bet you the 2011 Rays outdraw the 2010 Rays. I’m not saying the team will finish with a better RECORD but I still think they’ll compete in a pretty tough division.

    Remember, you were skeptical last season and they continued to prove you wrong, finishing with the best record in the AL and besting the Sox and Yanks for the Eastern crown.

    Also remember, last season the area was stuck in a NASTY economy. Hopefully, within the next half year, things will pick up for the area financially.

    When you say ownership ‘struck out,’ I’m not sure exactly what it is you mean. This team was in the World Series not long ago and won their division last year. They put forth a solid product. They just can’t sell out. That’s not ownership’s fault, it’s their problem.

    Perhaps a more aggressive marketing campaign is in order as there’s nothing they can do about the location of the stadium right now.

    And I still think the Rays will stay in the area and build a new crib before they leave the state.

  21. Chris

    The team was in the World Series and how did they fare ? Didn’t exactly set the world alight did they ? Went out like a damp firework squib ! Substance over style Chris don’t be so easily duped by one brief momentary foray amongst the big boys . Consistency is the key and when I say consistency not merely two years out of the past decade and everyone thinks that they’re now here for the long haul .

    Are you prepared to see your tax and services fees be raised because if the state doesn’t pony up that’s what’ll have to happen in order for them to have a new crib ?

    Everyone is using the economy as a fail safe but prior to 2006 was there anyone filling the Trop to begin with ? So don’t use that as a crutch to explain the situation because it’s not valid . Fans weren’t going then and they’re not going now unless it’s Red Sox , Yankees or some rock ensemble that past their prime when there’s a concert thrown in !

    tophatal …………..

  22. Chris

    Postseason 2010 and yet again they lay a goose egg . OK by perception alone one could say they’re heading in the right direction but what is this maneuver meant to do exactly ? Put butts in the seats and that’s it ? Because in essence that’s all it’s going to do and you know that to be true . But that’s doesn’t help the situation when the team itself will have regressed now does it ? The team will be lucky if ekes out more than 75 wins at best and that’s not going to get them in the postseason that’s for sure.

    So at the end of it all it’ll be back to cost cutting and more excuses from the front office ! Is Sternberg that stubborn that he doesn’t want another partner with deeper pockets ?

    It seems to have helped the Rangers no end having several billionaires on their board and now with that big _ss tv contract . So why can’t Sternberg and his minions go that route ? Explain that to me Chris ?

  23. Al…

    It seems like decades ago that the Rays were in the World Series. They were tremendously unprepared and went against a franchise that had been there before and a team that was due to win. The Phillies were simply better that year.

    Many might argue that last year’s Rays team was better than the one that made it deep into October in 2008.

    Re: moving the team, Al, I think you’re underestimating one city’s efforts to keep the Rays in town, and that’s Tampa’s. They might leave St Petersburg but I think Tampa will do everything in its powers to keep that team here.

    I DON’T think that they’ll be able to justify public funding for a new stadium but there should be enough private spending somewhere, particularly at a discounted rate, to invest in boxes over the next few decades.

    Or we could always sell the team to the Chinese as we apparently owe them a little bit of cash these days.

  24. We both know baseball is a business, Al, and this was strictly a business decision. If the Rays are in the red, ownership is going to make what they consider to be shrewd business decisions to get back in the black.

    If that means buying discount, veteran, popular players that will attract fans, then so be it. If that means bringing Vanilla Ice to play on Saturday nights after the game, then that’s what they’ll do too.

    From the Rays fans I’ve talked to about the signings, most consider it a plus. None are naive enough to not see it as a publicity stunt but they also recognize that ownership needed to do something and are hoping Damon and ManRam have something, anything left in the tank. They’re only one year deals, not long-term investments.

    We knew the team wasn’t going to be able to afford keeping Crawford or Pena. Pena was worthless anyway. We also knew Garza was likely to be traded.

    Landing the former BoSox is not only a cheap way to bring people to the stands, it’s also a healthy EFF YOU to their division rivals. And as I suggested in the piece, if they can win some ballgames in the process, then they’re all the better for it.

  25. Chris

    Where’s the money allegedly going to come from within Hillsborough or the state when both have tremendous deficits ? Governor Rick Scott still hasn’t figured out what he believes to be an essential need for the state and you’re suggesting that Iorio and her minions do ? Especially given the fact that they’re already cutting essential services . C’mon now Chris you know better than that.

    As a bye note how is it financially feasible to exist on the bare bones of a fan base of 15,000 fans ? That’s been the main reason why the Rays have continually lost money . And by the way in your piece as such nowhere have you stated the allegiances of the vast majority of fans who attend the games. More often than not many are those who are transplants who as such come to cheer on their home teams or the more curious amongst them who are merely there to attend a game.

    Were you aware that the two St Pete shot to death along with the wounded US Marshall the accomplice in question is the elder brother of local boxer and former champion Jeff Lacy ?

    tophatal …….

  26. Hold on, Al, we’re getting off topic here.

    This community will not pay for a new stadium. That we can agree on.

    All I’m suggesting is that signing Damon and ManRam was a good move as opposed to a bad one. I’m not saying they’ll be better than they were last year. They likely won’t. I AM saying that this has already created some excitement and that should translate, ownership is hoping, into ticket sales.

    Aside from Longo, Crawford, Price and Garza, I’m not sure the average fan could pick any other Ray out of a lineup.

    That should change now. Call it gimmicky or what you will, I think it’ll work and it was certainly better than the alternative which was waving the white flag.

    Their payroll will be 1/3 to 1/4 that of Boston and New York’s this year. They had to do something.

  27. Pingback: Obligations of Office …………….. « Tophatal's Blog

  28. I like it! I expect nothing less from Damon than at least one world series two-base steal for the Rays. Maybe he should play infield though so he might actually be able to throw all the way to home plate?

  29. Saulie…

    You’re getting bitter in your old age. When did this happen?

    You’re right though. Damon’s never been known for his arm strength.

    We’ll check out a ball game next time you’re down.

    By the way, it was 80 here the other day. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  30. No not bitter — just kidding. I like Damon, and I’m looking forward to seeing him with the Rays.. hopefully hitting well off both of his old teams in the AL East.

    I can’t wait to get down there and catch a game asap! We just got 24 hours straight of rain and snow with 19 inches of snow piling up overnight.. so Florida is sounding mighty fine about now.

  31. We did get hit with some nasty rain/tornado warnings the other day which kind of cooled things down this week, but prior to that we did have some nice glimpses of sunshine.

    The Damon/Ramirez signings are big news down here. Everyone I’ve talked to, and who I’ve heard mention the move on local sports radio, agree that it’s essentially a no-lose situation.

    Again, they had to do something to shore up that lineup and make up for the losses of CC and Pena. This lineup needed some pop. I think adding these two should provide that.

  32. Chris

    I’m not against the Rays doing something but let’s not go overboard and at the same time Friedman needs to show common sense and not continue to make those broad based asinine statements .

    He comes off looking as if he’s just escaped from a psych ward !

    If I donate $3 million to my alma mater am I entitled to ask for it back if I’m not consulted on who the AD ought to interview for coaching vacancy ? Because that’s what’s now happening up in Storrs , Connecticut concerning Pasqualoni’s hiring as the football coach .

    Thank God at LSE and UCL they weren’t really that into sports !

    tophatal ………………

  33. Chris

    I hope you don’t mind me using that pic of you ’cause I couldn’t find any that’d really entice a female to proffer up some meaningful commentary . I guess that’s why we’re not about to see you in a mankini like Borat ?

    tophatal ………….

  34. Iorio’s out, Al, so that’s not gonna happen. I wonder if bringing the Rays to Tampa will be a hot topic in the mayoral race. I haven’t heard much about it yet. Maybe they don’t want to step on St Pete’s toes but I would think it’s bound to come up.

    That stadium will be corporate financed, Al. There’s no other way.

    Did you hear they’re laying down turf at the Trop?

  35. I actually thought the Paul Pasqualoni hire was a good fit, Al. I don’t know what that booster is bitching about unless one of his own boys wasn’t hired.

    Funny. All this hubbub about 3 mil. Bull Gators donate three mil annually and are lucky to get a parking space by the Swamp.

  36. Chris, put me down as 1 more Rays fan (and season ticket holder) who thinks Dam Ram will be a good fit and definitely sell more tickets.

    Al seems hung up on 15K while you stated the real number of 23K in your article. Facts are facts.

    I really think Johnny D. is going to energize this team. He is a veteran and a hustler and that is what this team needs. Crawford never made any attempt to be a leader and you can be sure JD will. Read the comments from fans in other cities about JD. They all wish him well and know he will shine for the Rays.

    Te Rays are projecting him at leadoff right now and that would be great. It would be one less position for JoMa to screw with. He can LH DH and play 1B too.

    Manny can hit 280 in his sleep and if he can replace Pena’s production Andrew will be a genius. I can see him acting up a little given that he is getting 9M a year from LA whether he plays or not. But the Rays have shown that they will just cut you or trade you if you act up. 15HRs, 70RBI behind Longo would be great, especially in Fenway and Yankee Stadium.

    I can’t wait to see Francoma’s bitter beer face when JD and Manny both hit one out against the Beaners in September. Priceless.

  37. Dam Ram, very nice, Dave. Come clean. Did you come up with that yourself or is that some old school Red Sox shit I hadn’t yet heard.

    I hate to prove Top Hat Al wrong but our SportsChump poll agrees with me and you, and disagrees with him by a number of 12 to 3. Signing these guys was the right thing to do.

    I’ve also heard the speculation that Damon will lead off but I’m not quite sure he has the wheels for that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits elsewhere in the lineup.

    And replacing Pena’s production (.198 BA, 28 HRs) really shouldn’t be all that difficult.

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