Monday, Aug. 30, 2010
Updated 4:40 PM
By Chuck Garfien
When I asked White Sox general manager Kenny Williams on Friday if he was any closer to acquiring a certain dreadlocked slugger, he coyly replied, its going to be an interesting weekend. Get ready, because this White Sox season, already loaded with interest and intrigue, has the potential to explode through your television set.
Manny Ramirez is coming to the South Side.
The White Sox and Dodgers finalized the deal on Monday, with the Sox picking up Ramirez and the 3.8 million remaining on his contract.
Once the trade was made, Williams spoke by phone with Ramirez, who will make his White Sox debut Tuesday night in Cleveland on Comcast SportsNet at 6pm.
Hes excited, Williams said. Hes a funny guy too, and really wanted to get going and show that hes still one of the premier hitters around. What better way to do it than to come to a club thats competing for a championship and help us along the way.
Yes, Williams doesnt have his sights set on just winning the AL Central. Hes thinking bigger, and believes that once you get into the post-season, having a special bat like Mannys is critical for success.
We not only want to get into the playoffs, but once we get into the playoffs, we want the chance to do something special, and there are some teams that have some good pitching, and you need a hitter that can not only hit good pitching, but can hit good pitching in the clutch, and this guy has been there and done that in the past.
Want proof? Check out Ramirez career numbers against some of the American Leagues top pitchers, some of whom the White Sox might face in the days and weeks ahead:
John Lackey: .429 5 HR 12 RBI
CC Sabathia: .583 4 HR 8 RBIs
Cliff Lee: .429 2 HR 6 RBIs
Andy Pettitte: .405 5 HR 20 RBIs
Dan Haren: .514 3 HR 6 RBIs
Matt Garza: .455
A.J. Burnett: .500
The White Sox are known for their firework shows. With Manny, they get a player who comes to town with his own pyrotechnics. Williams is hoping that a change of scenery will suddenly light Mannys fuse, and add some spark in the process.
Whats wrong with a little flare, whats wrong with a little character and have a little fun in the process, Williams said. As long as he plays hard and goes about his business as a pro, there will be no issues here. Weve got a lot of personalities around here if you havent noticed.
Williams certainly noticed what Ramirez can do late in the season in the right situation. Just see the Dodgers in 2008.
Los Angeles acquired Ramirez from the Red Sox, and he produced two of the greatest months of offense in Dodgers history, hitting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in August and September, almost single-handedly guiding Los Angeles into the playoffs, and past the Cubs in the first round.
But that was 36-year-old, pre 50-game drug suspension Manny. Now at 38, we are left to wonder how much he has left in the tank.
For the season, Ramirez is hitting .311 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 66 games. Not jaw-dropping numbers, but keep in mind, they occurred from April through June. The Sox got Ramirez for September and October, otherwise known as Manny Time.
One of the most clutch hitters over the last 20 years, Ramirez is legendary for seizing the moment. Hes hit 93 career home runs in September and October. With the bases loaded, hes a career .332 hitter (with 21 homers and 252 RBIs). With runners in scoring position, hes batting .328. With 2 outs, its .311.
Hes hit 55 home runs in the eighth inning, 31 homers in the ninth.
And against the Minnesota Twins?
Hes a lifetime .331 hitter with 39 doubles, 29 homers, and 114 RBIs. Dont think the White Sox havent checked.
When Ramirez became a target for the White Sox last month, Williams said he didnt need to do much to convince Jerry Reinsdorf. The Chairman, who is a savvy baseball man, was in from the beginning.
A lot of people dont know this, but (Reinsdorf) is ultra competitive, so my selling job didnt have to be me pounding the table, Williams said. He wants to win just as much as I do. Hes not adverse to taking a shot, taking a chance.
When I asked CSN analyst Bill Melton on Sunday what made Frank Thomas such a special hitter, he said When you were leaving the ballpark whether the White Sox were winning or losing, he was the type of hitter where fans would actually stop in the middle of the aisles and say, Lets watch Frank hit one more time.
Ramirez is the same way.
Youll love him. Youll hate him. But one thing is for sure, youll watch him. You cant help it.
And now, hes headed to the White Sox. Right in the heat of a pennant race and in the middle of a KennyOzzie love triangle.
One thing is for sure: fireworks are coming, either on the field or off it.