By Joe McDonald at 21 June, 2013, 1:50 am
Just three months after he joined Taiwan’s EDA Rhinos, Manny Ramirez announced he will quit playing for the Chinese Professional Baseball League.
The 12-time MLB all-star is the highest paid player in the CPBL, has scored the second most season home runs of any player in the season, and has helped boost game attendance.
Despite these achievements and efforts by the Rhinos to keep Ramirez in Taiwan, he has decided to take advantage of a clause in his contract that allows him to stop playing after just three months. In a statement, the team said, “Ramirez told EDA Rhinos his decision today. We’ve tried everything we could to see if he would like to change his mind.” The Dominican-American player reportedly told his teammates he didn’t like playing so far away from his home and family.
The MLB legend was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 World Series, where he helped the Red Sox earn their first MLB championship since 1918.
However, Ramirez ran into trouble later in his career in a string of doping scandals. In 2009, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games as a result of performance-enhancing drugs scandal. In 2011 he retired from playing for the MLB after he tested positive for banned substances.
Short Taiwan Baseball Career
The 41-year-old started playing for the EDA Rhinos in March to much fanfare. High expectations were placed on the most famous player to ever enter the struggling league.
Ramirez quickly proved himself worthy of his publicity. In his short stay with the team, he hit eight home runs, second only to Lin Yi-chuan, who scored 12. His batting average was 0.352, which placed him in a tie for second with EDA Rhinos left fielder Kao Kuo-hui.
A recent surge in ticket sales was credited to an American all-star joining the league. Games in Ramirez’s first two months playing drew more than 7,600 fans on average, breaking a record set in 1992.
Ramirez’s departure is disappointing for a league that is working hard to recover from a string of corruption scandals. In 2009, twenty-six former and active players and coaches in the CPBL were involved in a match fixing scheme. Two star players involved in scandal, Cao Jinhi and Chen Zhiyuan, were forbidden from ever playing the league again. The situation got so bad, it inspired protests from sports fans who insisted that the government take action to fix the beloved sport.
Match fixing, a practice where one team intentionally loses in order to make money in sports gambling, is endemic in leagues where pay is relatively low. Officials have made several measures to restore the Taiwanense Baseball’s respectability, including recruiting Ramirez. Many are worried that the star player’s departure will hurt any progress that was made to improve the league’s image.
Manny Being Manny
While his team will miss Ramirez’s performance on the field, many of the player’s fans are no doubt also saddened they won’t see any more of his signature antics. In one publicized incident, the Word Series Champion moonwalked out of the batter’s box before stepping to the plate. He was also seen in a much-circulated photo showed him wearing an Incredible Hulk suit while riding the subway. And of course there is the incident when a home run by Ramirez inspired a lovelorn announcer to call it by saying “This ball is long gone, just like the ex-girlfriend who will never return. Home Run!”
The Future Of The League
With Manny’s departure, the future of the league remains uncertain. League officials promise they will strive to keep the fans who initially came to see Ramirez play. Spokesman Chen Chun-chih said, “We must remember to work harder to provide a better service, like recruiting better players and improving the facilities of baseball stadiums, or risk being ditched by the fans again.” Perhaps the struggling league will try to fill the gap left by Ramirez with another fan favorite American all-star.
This is a guest post from Logan Strain, a Southern California-based blogger. Check out his company on LinkedIn.