Few players fell faster in the new era of Performance Enhancing Drugs than one Manny Ramirez. The multi-time All-Star outfielder went from the top of the perch in the league to a pariah thanks to his run-ins with PED tests.
Just how far has the now 44-year-old fallen? After 19 years in Major League Baseball and last playing baseball in Taiwan back in 2013, Ramirez is apparently returning to the field in Japan for this upcoming season.
No, we aren’t talking about him going the Cecil Fielder route or Bobby Valentine as manager route and taking on the Nippon League. Instead, Ramirez has signed for the mighty Kochi Fighting Dogs of Japan’s independent Shikoku Island League.
Yes, the mighty independent leagues of Japan, folks. No, not the big island leagues either. Instead, Ramirez’s new baseball home is part of the league of the smallest of Japan’s major islands.
Ramirez’s return to playing baseball shouldn’t be all that surprising though, as he spoke to Sports Illustrated back in 2014 about a potential return to MLB. That was after his 2013 season in Taiwan, where he hit .352 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs.
MLB teams wanted nothing to do with the aging and PED-riddled former superstar though and he has been out of the game for the better part of three years now. With a 19-year career in MLB, Ramirez put up some impressive numbers — hitting .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs.
Unfortunately, like many in his era, there will always be a cloud of suspicion over those numbers. That’s especially true since Ramirez was popped twice for positive PED tests back in 2009 and then retired to avoid a 100-game suspension while with the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2011.
He was last seen toiling here in North America as part of the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliates in 2012 and 2013 respectively. But, with his power numbers diminishing, Ramirez never earned a call-up and only appeared in 17 games for the A’s affiliate and 30 games for the Rangers’ affiliate.
We’re guessing Ramirez is going to put up some pretty crazy numbers, even at the age of 44. After all, this is independent league baseball in Japan, not even the United States.
Clearly Ramirez has the burning desire to play baseball, but it is also sad to see the guy not understand that his days of playing for anything but the love of the game are over. Hopefully he hasn’t been juicing up to face the incredible pitching of the Shikoku Island League.