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Help or hinder? Ramirez joins White Sox

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Associated Press
August 31, 2010
— Manny Ramirez will have to follow two nonnegotiable rules if he’s going to play for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

No. 1: Stretch with your teammates.


No. 2: Be on the field for the national anthem.


That’s it. Well, he may have to trim the dreadlocks. But that’s about it.


“I want him to feel comfortable here,” Guillen said Monday. “I want him to like it here. I want him to have fun, and I want him to be Manny.”


Back to frighten pitchers who haven’t seen him regularly in a few years, Ramirez will try to get Chicago back to the AL playoffs.


As expected, the White Sox claimed the unpredictable but productive 12-time All-Star slugger on waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers, counting on his powerful bat, full of so many October swings and homers, to help them make a postseason push.


“Hopefully, he can come in here and give us some help,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. “We need to make up some ground. There’s no doubt Manny can hit. He makes any team better.”


Chicago began a key 10-game trip to Cleveland, Boston and Detroit on Monday night, although Ramirez is not expected to join the White Sox, his fourth major league team, until today. They began the day


42 games behind first-place Minnesota in the AL Central.


The 38-year-old Ramirez returns to the AL after spending parts of three seasons in Los Angeles, a stay that ended on a somewhat sour note. He batted .311 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 66 games with the Dodgers this season, but was on the disabled list from July 20 to Aug. 20 with a right calf strain and missed 33 games.


Guillen said it’s possible Ramirez could play today if he feels up to it. Guillen plans to use Ramirez primarily as a designated hitter and will bat him fifth.


The White Sox are trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That year, they traded for Ken Griffey Jr. before the July 31 deadline, but he had little impact down the stretch or in the postseason.


Griffey and Ramirez certainly were different characters.


Guillen feels Ramirez is misunderstood. He doesn’t anticipate having any trouble with him, and he’s confident the enigmatic superstar will be easily accepted in Chicago’s clubhouse.


“People have the wrong idea about Manny,” he said. “I don’t think Manny is a bad guy or a pain in the butt. It’s funny how people say Manny is being Manny. Manny is being real. I never see anyone on his team get mad at him because he goes about his business.”


White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said he consulted with his staff before pursuing Ramirez.


In the end, it was an easy call.


“If I felt that this was something that was going to be disruptive, then obviously we wouldn’t have done it,” Williams said. “But I think this is something we need in order to help us achieve our goals this year. It’s not just about adding another bat, it’s adding a bat that can do damage against the league’s very best pitchers, and there is a difference.”


His first appearance for Chicago will come against the lowly Indians, the team that drafted him and enjoyed his production for eight seasons. He’ll then head to Fenway Park, where he was adored by Boston fans before he was traded to the Dodgers in 2008.


That summer, he hit .396 with 17 homers, propelling LA to a postseason berth.


The White Sox can’t expect that, but that’s why they got him.


“That’s the reason we made the move,” Guillen said. “He’s not going to be a savior. He will help us, but he can’t save us. We need to get all our guys as a group to play better.”


Although Guillen doesn’t have many rules, the White Sox will require Ramirez to abide by their appearance clause, which maintains players keep their hair neat. Ramirez will have to cut his dreadlocks, which currently flow to the middle of his back.


Williams expects Ramirez to comply with the club policy established by owner Jerry Reinsdorf.


“From my understanding it is not going to be an issue and he is going to make an adjustment and conform to how we like to have our players represented out there,” Williams said.


Guillen made it clear that he won’t tell Ramirez anything other than where he’s hitting.


“If Jerry has any problem with his hair or the way he wears his uniform, they got to go directly to him,” Guillen said, pretending to wash his hands. “That’s not my department. Guys can go out there buck naked, and if they win games for me, I’m happy.”


Ramirez had early success with the Dodgers, but the last two years haven’t gone as well. He was slapped with a 50-game suspension after a failed drug test last year. This season, he has been slowed by leg injuries, which led to the Dodgers deciding to part ways with him for nothing in return.


Ramirez’s salary is $20 million in the final season of a two-year contract, but only $5 million is due this year, with the rest to be paid over the next three years.


The White Sox were awarded a waiver claim on Ramirez last week, giving them until 1:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to complete a trade with the Dodgers.


In Guillen’s lineup, Ramirez and his 554 career homers will fit nicely into a batting order that already has Konerko, Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin.


“He’s a Hall of Fame hitter,” Konerko said. “But just because we have him, we can’t ignore the other aspects of the game. We’ve got to play defense, we’ve got to pitch. He’s a great piece to have but we can’t let down anywhere else.”


White Sox infielder Omar Vizquel was thrilled to be reunited with Ramirez. They were teammates on two Cleveland teams that made the World Series.


“It’s going to be a lot of fun to be around Manny again,” Vizquel said. “He’s still a great hitter and can help us. He can swing the bat and no doubt he keeps everybody loose with his jokes. It’s nice to have a guy who can change the outcome with one swing.”


A fan favorite when he arrived in Los Angeles, Ramirez left with little fanfare. His last start was Wednesday at Milwaukee. And in his final game with the Dodgers, he was ejected as a pinch-hitter after arguing a called strike on the only pitch he saw.


Ramirez’s reputation for being unpredictable made him an instant celebrity in the land of celebrities. He had a section of seats named in his honor at Dodger Stadium, where wigs imitating his hairstyle became fashionable.


“Mannywood” was the place to be, and the star attraction put on a show.


He’s taken it to Chicago.


For the White Sox, who finished third in their division last year, Ramirez is a low-risk gamble with a potentially high reward. If Manny is no longer Manny, they can simply let him go as a free agent at the end of the season.


“If he hits we’ll be better,” Williams said. “If he doesn’t we won’t be better.”



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