He once was a fan favorite who had one of the largest fanbases in baseball wrapped around his finger. He once was a goofy and lovably dim-witted hitting savant whose silly antics routinely entertained his Red Sox teammates and adoring fans. His jersey could once be seen all over Massachusetts and wherever else Red Sox fans could be found. His name was Manny Ramirez, and for a few years with the Red Sox he could do no wrong. However, he managed to throw this all away at the end of his contract, pushing the adoration of his many fans to the limit. By mid 2008, he had successfully ensured that he not only was thoroughly despised by Red Sox nation, but also forced the Red Sox into trading him out of town. For a very brief period, he met the same idolization in southern California, which for a time was affectionately renamed Mannywood. Mannywood tee shirts and fake dreadlocks that looked just like the slugger's real ones flew off the shelves and everything was going swell. Unlike in Boston, it didn't take ManRam eight years to get himself out of town in LA. After just two seasons with the Dodgers, they let him go as a free agent and he was practically an untouchable in the free agent caste system. That attitude has carried over into the season, as Manny managed just one hit in five games and has been booed by his own team's fans.
Fast forward to the 2011 regular season and he's got a job splitting time with Johnny Damon at DH for the Tampa Bay Rays. After his power-outage last year and his abysmal start to this season (.059 avg, 0 HR, 1 RBI) many have suspected that he was off the performance-enhancers for good (if you don't recall he was busted while with the Dodgers taking a fertility drug commonly used to cycle off of steroids). As it turns out, Manny Ramirez has duped baseball fans again. The aged slugger was informed of a vague "issue" with the league's drug program and instead of cooperating, which would essentially mean a 100 game suspension, Ramirez decided to call it quits. Hate to kick a guy while he's down, especially a guy I've been a huge fan of, but this marks the third time that ManRam has quit on a team willing to devote their resources to him. First the Red Sox, then the Dodgers, and now finally, the Rays. It's just more Manny being Manny, but not so fast. If you halfway expect him to just wait a few months or a year or so to come back out of retirement and avoid the suspension like I did, think again. MLB has already established that the slugger won't be reinstated by the league unless/until he completes the punishment for his latest drug policy violation.
Because this is still a very fresh news story, it hasn't been reflected in ManRam's fantasy ownership. He's still owned in just over 90% of ESPN leagues, although that should change quickly as more people learn about the story. On the other hand, this should open up the DH spot to be Johnny Damon's on a full-time basis. Damon has been struggling himself this spring, although once he busts out of his slump he could be a valuable free agent find. Damon is owned in 41% of ESPN leagues and being a defensive liability, I see no reason for him to be the regular left fielder with Ramirez now out of the picture. Pure speculation on my part, but if they decide to make Damon the regular DH, this opens a hole in left field. Fantasy baseball sleeper candidate Desmond Jennings, a 24 year old prospect who has been billed as the next Carl Crawford, may be given a chance to take over left as he's got nothing left to prove at Triple-A. Jennings is owned in less than one percent of fantasy leagues, and given his plus bat and blinding speed, he's worth monitoring should he be promoted in the near future. After their nasty start to the season, the Rays lineup needs any spark it can get, and Jennings may just be the guy who can provide it.