On this date a mere four years ago, Manny Ramirez suddenly announced his retirement following the announcement that he had been suspended for 100 games for PED usage for the 2nd time.
The news came as a punch to the gut for Rays fans, who were already dealing with an atrocious start to the season, while Evan Longoria had been placed on the disabled list. Ramirez was expected to fill Longo's void in the lineup, but the Rays lost their two biggest power threats in just the first week of the season.
The Road to Retirement
After the final out of the dramatic 2010 ALDS, the Rays division winning season was over.
During the off-season, the team underwent a significant change as many of team's top players had either become free agents and signed elsewhere or had been traded for future talent. Players such as Rafael Soriano, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, and Matt Garza were out the door.
If that hadn't inspired confidence, the Rays began re-building with a surprising and unique move that inspired optimism, signing prominent hitters Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez in one fell swoop. They held a joint press conference, in which they joked around about the upcoming season. The combo had taken what appeared to be "less money" with Ramirez agreeing to a $2M contract to facilitate the joint-move between friends to the small-market Rays.
As spring training winded down, the Rays were embracing their new power hitting left fielder Ramirez, even assigning a promotion during the season in which they'd give up replica dreadlocks. During the last game of spring training though, Manny Ramirez didn't play, due to personal reasons.
Once the regular season began, Ramirez didn't start out very hot, going 1 for 17 at the plate. The Rays had started of the season with a six game losing streak and had also lost their All-Star third baseman.
As the team prepared to fly to Chicago, Ramirez didn't make the trip, once again disappearing for 'family matters'. We learned the next day that he had tested positive for a PED and would face a 100 game suspension, so rather than face the punishment, Ramirez abruptly retired.
The Magic of Kotch
To fill the void left by Ramirez's sudden departure, the Rays called up Casey Kotchman, whom they signed to a minor league deal in the off-season.
Kotchman had a blistering spring in which he hit .354, but no one expected for him to be a piece of the major league squad, let alone one of the team's best hitters to help guide them to one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. He ended up playing in 146 games and slashed .306/.378/.422 with 10 homers and total accumulation of 3.6 WAR.
Ramirez meanwhile has attempted several comebacks over the years with various teams, including playing over in the KBO and leaving abruptly when his fame was high.
During spring training this year, he served as a hitting consultant for the Chicago Cubs, reuniting him with Joe Maddon, the manager of the 2011 Rays.