Commentary

Yankees need to sign Manny -- now!

Originally Published: December 23, 2008
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPN.com

The last time the New York Yankees won a World Series, Bill Clinton was president, nobody outside Chicago knew of Barack Obama, the Boston Red Sox were considered a cursed franchise and then-Yankees manager Joe Torre had a full head of hair.

I think!

A lot of things have changed since this millennium began, but the Yankees have been fairly consistent. Basically, winning around 97 games per season, spending significant chunks of money to do it, making annual visits to the postseason -- before departing without the world championship most presumed they'd already bought and paid for.

Over … and over … and over again.

From losses to Anaheim, Boston and Detroit in the playoffs, to more losses at the hands of Arizona and Florida in the World Series, many native New Yorkers -- of which I am one -- wouldn't hesitate to admit those defeats are entirely too painful, too vivid, to recall or discuss.

Well, here's a thought: Maybe this championship futility will change if the Yankees come to their senses and sign Manny Ramirez.

It's no secret the Yankees went out and spent $246 million on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. And now that they've reportedly added another $180 million over the next eight years to their payroll to keep Mark Teixeira away from the Red Sox, the catcalls of "Enough is enough" will come screeching through the franchise's ears.

But since the Yankees don't know how to win unless they spend money, that's just not an option.

Yes, Teixeira's in New York. Yes, he can hit. Yes, he's an upgrade from Jason Giambi. But he's not Manny Ramirez.

Besides, the Yankees never worried about dollars before, so there's no need to have an attack of conscience now.

It's bad enough there hasn't been a title in the Bronx or an October Broadway ticker tape parade since 2000. But the fact that Boston has celebrated two world titles in that span, erasing an 86-year curse in the process, is downright blasphemous and needs to be addressed. Particularly since the first of those championships came courtesy of a historic Yankees collapse.

So desperate times call for desperate measures. In this case, "desperate" could be defined as bringing aboard a deplorable outfielder with a suspect work ethic.

To that, I say, let's watch Ramirez saunter into the new Yankee Stadium and smack 50 home runs in the cleanup spot. Then come tell me what issues New Yorkers should have with a combustible attitude that, quite frankly, mirrors their own.

[+] EnlargeManny Ramirez
Harry How/Getty ImagesEven with all the antics that come along with Manny Ramirez, the Yankees should absolutely sign him.
ESPN's own Buster Olney's usual crack reporting on all things baseball has determined there's no truth to rumors that the Yankees have entertained pursuing Ramirez at a price tag of three years for $75 million.

Meanwhile, venom is being aimed at anyone publicly advocating investing in Ramirez, treating him like he's taboo, persona non grata.

Call the Yankees flat-out fools if they pay a speck of attention to a word of this nonsense.

This is about winning, folks! And I'm not talking about the stretch of seasons from 2001 to 2007 when the Yankees won a minimum of 94 games, before settling for 89 wins this past fall. I'm talking about the world championships those Red Sox captured this decade. The titles they would not have captured were it not for a few of those 274 homers Ramirez hit for them over the course of his eight seasons in Boston.

If Ramirez's production after being traded to the Dodgers on July 31 -- .396 batting average, 17 homers, 53 RBIs and .743 slugging percentage in 53 games -- wasn't enough, perhaps it's worth paying attention to what the Yankees' offensive output was this past season.

They were 10th in the majors in runs scored (4.87 per game), tied for ninth in homers (180) and tied for sixth in batting average (.271). And they missed the postseason for the first time since 1996.

Now, imagine if Ramirez and his .314 lifetime batting average were lumped into that lineup. Backing up Alex Rodriguez. Acting as a catalyst for Robinson Cano. And Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Imagine, for a moment, the run production. The fear it would instill.

And before anyone even thinks about it, let it be said that defense, for once, is not paramount in this equation -- even with the potential of Ramirez in left field and Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady and their water-pistol arms making up the rest of the outfield.

The Yankees just went out and got aces CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to assist Chien-Ming Wang and buffer the rotation. And they didn't do it just to move Joba Chamberlain back to the bullpen to set up Mariano Rivera.

Well, here's a thought: Maybe this championship futility will change if the Yankees come to their senses and sign Manny Ramirez.

They did it to improve on being ranked 15th in baseball in ERA (4.28) and 13th in runs allowed per game (4.49). They did it to place themselves in position to compete with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and anyone else Boston throws at them.

And speaking of those characters, think of how the Red Sox might perform if they had one of their own to deal with and a crown on the line. Someone menacing and prolific at familiar Fenway? With big-time attitude to boot?

You think Ramirez needs motivation to play against the Red Sox 19 times a season? Or face them in the postseason? Anyone who thinks for a second that Ramirez hasn't paid attention to all the vitriol spewing out of the Red Sox organization -- specifically, the mouth of manager Terry Francona, no matter how laid-back he wants everyone to believe he is -- is living on Fantasy Island.

Stars respond to this kind of insidious criticism, especially when it's costing them money in the free-agent market the way it's costing Ramirez.

Regardless of his trifling behavior, tardiness and inexcusable nonchalance regarding basic sportsmanship -- I'm specifically thinking of Ramirez's refusal to play against the Yankees because of a knee injury that never showed up on an MRI -- Manny will have no problem finding his focus.

He's arguably the greatest right-handed hitter in the game today.

He's motivated, so much so that he might even sign an incentive-laden contract.

So damn it, sign the man.

Now, please!

Bring the George Washington High School star back home. Dare him to fail. And use the Red Sox as your ultimate bargaining chip.

I'm betting he'll produce big time, hit his 700th career home run before he hangs up his pinstripes and bring a World Series title back to New York in the process.

Who knows? He'll probably help A-Rod show up in October, too.

Now that's a merry Christmas wish!

Stephen A. Smith is a columnist for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, a co-host on First Take" and a regular on "SportsCenter."

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