REMADE IN TAIWAN: Manny Ramirez's Season Abroad
Two years after he retired from baseball in disgrace, one of the greatest sluggers of his generation wound up playing on the other side of the world, the unlikely savior of a league whose reputation is as complicated as his own. And with a major league comeback possibly imminent, a half a season in Taiwan may have saved Manny Ramirez, too.
Subject: Manny is leaving Taiwan Hello All, It has been confirmed by the press release from EDA Rhinos, that Manny Ramirez will leave Taiwan on the 21st of June and has been removed from active roster as of today. Manny's stats at CPBL is as followed: Games 49 PA 206 AB 182 RBI 43 Hits 64 Doubles 13 HRs 8 BB 23 SO 21 OBP 0.422 SLG 0.555 BA 0.352 Best Wishes, Richard.It turned out that Manny opted out of his contract in hopes of playing in America again. And, at least for now, the Rhinos, and the CPBL, seem to be doing fine. The Rhinos went on to win five of their next six, averaging seven runs per game, and clinching a playoff spot. Over those games, average attendance was 6,000, still more than double last year's average. (Although, as Brandon DuBreuil, the astute blogger behind MannyDoesTaiwan.com, pointed out, this could very well be due to the fact that so many fans bought tickets before they found out about Manny's departure.) Jason "Giambi" Pan, the writer, still seems optimistic about the league's future in the wake of Manny's exit. "The CPBL, the clubs, and the fans, now realize that baseball can become a big business," he writes in an email. "With Manny boosting the box office and media coverage, and bringing in much commercial and merchandising benefits, the CPBL will be more willing to sign big names. A lot of people will have fond memories of the three months that he played baseball in our ballparks. People will definitely say, 'I saw Manny hit that home run at so-and-so park, I was there!'" Pan goes on to say that talks to bring over pitcher Dontrelle Willis broke down over money, but that other ex-big leaguers such as Roger Clemens, Pudge Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Sammy Sosa and even Jason Giambi have all been mentioned as possibilities. To me, the news that Manny was leaving the Rhinos came as a total shock. Perhaps I should have been paying closer attention. Manny seemed to be at peace in Taiwan, but there was a level of determination in his workouts that might have tipped me off to his higher ambitions. While all of his teammates were hanging out in the clubhouse and jamming to Macklemore as the opposing team took the field for batting practice, Manny isolated himself in the weight room, surrounded by mirrors, practicing his swing and reading the Bible on his iPad. On our last day in Taiwan, Chris and I stop by the weight room and interrupt Manny to say good-bye. He seems eager to get back to his workout, but is gracious. I mention that the video of the homer I saw him hit had gone viral due to Hsu's "ex-girlfriend" call, which seems to amuse him. I add that the first time I saw him play, in his debut game for the Sox at Fenway, I'd seen him take the very first pitch he got over the Green Monster. I don't, however, mention that this is a highlight of my life, a permanent chapter in my personal folklore, and that the Taiwan home run felt divinely connected to this one. He politely demurs. "I got lucky." He gives us both a fist bump, and, assuming I still live in Boston, tells me to "Say hello to David [Ortiz]." He'd been following his old teammate's brilliant season with enthusiasm, and there seems to be wistfulness in his expression when we discuss Ortiz's recent walk-off three-run homer. "One more question," I say on my way out. "What do you think you'll do when you're done with baseball?" "When that time comes," he says, "I'll know."
CORRECTION: The Rhinos employee who acts as Manny's translator is named Ray Shieh. An earlier version of this item misspelled his name. (7/14/13)