On Wednesday, Iowa Cubs fans received news they had been waiting for some time to hear. 2004 World Series MVP and 12-time all-star Manny Ramirez will be joining the Iowa Cubs as a player/coach beginning on Thursday when the Cubs play on the road against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Ramirez signed with the Cubs on May 25 and has been in extended spring training in Arizona ever since, working on getting in playing shape. Barring injury, Ramirez is highly unlikely to be an everyday player. He will primarily be used as a pinch-hitter and get an occasional start in left field.
Iowa will hold a press conference on Monday when the Cubs return from Colorado Springs and open up a brief five-game, four-day homestand against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Tickets will likely be scarce for the series which includes the annual July 4 fireworks extravaganza (actually on July 3 as the team will be out of town on July 4).
Ramirez is sure to add more buzz to a team that is already experiencing a larger than normal amount of publicity. Iowa boasts the top two prospects in the Chicago Cubs organization in Javier Baez and Kris Bryant. Bryant was recently promoted from the double-A Tennessee Smokies and has homered five times in his six games played with Iowa.
Despite two drug suspensions and some strange behavior that became known simply as “Manny being Manny,” Ramirez has always been a tremendous hitter. Ramirez has a career batting average of .312 in over 8,000 at-bats to go along with 555 career home runs and is considered one of the best right-handed hitters of his generation.
It remains to be seen how the signing will work out. What Ramirez does on the field is irrelevant. His job is clearly to prepare the younger players for life in the big-leagues. Baez, Bryant, and Arismendy Alcantara are expected to be important parts of turning around a team that perennially loses into a team that contends every year. If Ramirez can help the younger players succeed at the next level, the signing will be an overwhelming success.
NOTES: To make room for Ramirez on the roster, Casper Wells was released on Wednesday. Wells struggled with Iowa after being added from extended spring training. Wells hit .197 in 61 at-bats before being released.