DES MOINES, Iowa — What is 42-year-old Manny Ramirez doing here?
Let’s just cut right to the chase.
Yeah, this guy claims to be reborn, forged in the cauldron of Jesus Christ, mature, full of the desire to help and to teach and, as he said just a few minutes ago in his little media session at Principal Park — at the same time tornado warnings were going out across the blackened land — ‘‘Some people mature early; some people, it takes a long time.’’
Like 42 years.
Like too long.
Like, for God’s sake, Theo Epstein, this is something you thought would be a good idea for Cubdom?
To bring back an inveterate cheater — one of those me-only guys who was so selfish and devoid of ethics that he didn’t get caught just once, not twice, but three times for using performance-enhancing drugs in his career.
Well, OK, the first of those times was when he allegedly tested positive for PEDs in 2003, along with a hundred or so other major-leaguers. Those guys were warned, not busted. But the other times were for real, and when he chose to retire in 2011 rather than face a 100-game ban for his most recent doping, most of us thought we’d heard the last of the dreadlocked slugger who did lots of weird things.
But late in 2011, he declared he wasn’t ready to graze in the pasture, and that if no major-league team would claim him, he’d ‘‘play in Japan or some other place.’’
Guess what, Cubs fans? That other place is Des Moines. With the Class AAA Iowa Cubs.
This is what Ramirez is: a man who knows very little about anything but hitting a baseball hard, who never planned for anything past hitting the ball hard, and when nobody needed him to do that task anymore, he could not bring himself to think it was over or that his jerky-ness of the past mattered.
And apparently it doesn’t matter to Boston-saturated Epstein, for whom Manny (and likely his ’roids) won two World Series, in 2004 and 2007.
Indeed, Ramirez, with something resembling an unkempt Mohawk and sporting a blue Iowa Cubs T-shirt with ‘‘99’’ on it, acknowledged that he and Epstein are real-life pals:
‘‘Theo was very honest with me. He said, ‘We don’t got a spot for you in the big leagues. You’re gonna be playing maybe once a week, but we got some young guys we want you to help.’ ’’
Playing in the big leagues? Helping young guys? Who’s Theo going to resurrect next: Ted Williams’ head from its cryonic tube?
This Manny thing is so tone-deaf that no one who actually lives in Chicago could have thought of it. I guess Theo lives in Chicago — well, I know he does. But he must have left his brain under the Green Monster.
Poor Javy Baez and Kris Bryant, the hitters Ramirez allegedly will help prepare for the big-city Cubs. They had to answer questions as to Manny’s qualifications to be their instructor/role model. Awkward?
‘‘He’s a great teammate,’’ Baez said. Yep, Manny has been here five whole days. ‘‘He talks to everybody on the team.’’
‘‘I sometimes think he went the wrong way on the field,’’ said Bryant, the surprisingly tall and slender third baseman who’s tearing up the minors with big hits. ‘‘But he likes to have fun. And he’s a hard worker.’’
Will you excuse me if I don’t care?
Arrogant, narcissistic athletes — and humans, generally — often get reborn or rewired once they no longer have anything of great value to offer the world.
‘‘Sometimes we take everything for granted,’’ Ramirez said as though he’s the first person to think of this. ‘‘And we don’t know what we have until we lose it.’’
Like 1998 and 1999, when Ramirez had 310 RBI. Like 2008, when he had 121 RBI, at 36. Like his 555 career home runs.
And he still wants to play in the majors, as his goatee begins to go gray. As if.
He was the DH Monday against the aptly named Omaha Storm Chasers and their sweetly named starter, Sugar Ray Marimon.
Bryant singled to start the second inning. And with the 22-year-old perched on first, Ramirez came to the plate to a nice hand from the sparse crowd. He promptly popped up to the second baseman, and two unusual things happened. He ran hard toward first. And he trotted back swiftly to the dugout when called out.
A new, hustling Manny!
He even got a single in the fifth, and then — ta-da! — a home run in the seventh, driving in Bryant.
Too little, too late, too bad.
There’s nothing wrong with rebirth. Not at all. In fact, it’s one of the good parts of life.
It just should be carried out in private.
And maybe with a crewcut.