Denying media reports that former Major League Baseball slugger Manny Ramirez is ending his baseball sojourn in Taiwan to play for a Japanese team, his uncle, who came to Taiwan with Ramirez three months ago, said yesterday that the player is leaving simply because of homesickness.
Speculation has been rife about the slugger’s reason for leaving since he notified the EDA Rhinos a day earlier of his decision to leave Taiwan before completing his contract, which runs until June 30.
Local media reported that the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League were offering a monthly salary of ￥22.5 million (US$236,854) to add Ramirez to its lineup, but his uncle denied the existence of any such offer.
“Right now, they don’t have any offers for baseball in Japan,” he said, despite admitting that he and Ramirez would be travelling to Japan after leaving Taiwan “probably tomorrow.”
In addition to reports of Ramirez playing in Japan, US media are reporting that his decision to leave is prompted by his desire to return to the major leagues.
“The reason he decided not to return for the second half was to free himself to be available to play in the United States,” Barry Praver, Ramirez’s agent, told FOXSports.com Wednesday.
“Manny was so invigorated by his play there that he wants to return to the majors,” Praver said.
“Manny would be interested in returning to the majors in any role, including that of a pinch hitter,” he said.
Dominican-born Ramirez, 41, last played in the majors with the Tampa Bay Rays on April 6, 2011, before his second suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He then played for Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate last season before being released.
Ramirez, who came to Taiwan in March hoping to earn another shot at the US major leagues, has hit .352 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs in 49 games with the EDA Rhinos.
He is being paid about US$25,000 per month to play in Taiwan, but would definitely receive far more in either Japan or the US.
Despite his brief stay, Ramirez has greatly benefited Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), which has seen average gates of 7,333 so far this season, three times last season’s average of 2,433.
Peng Cheng-min of the Brother Elephants, one of the highest-paid players in the CPBL, said that Ramirez’s popularity is “irreplaceable,” but he added that the CPBL, its four teams and the players need to work hard together to continue to attract fans, because “the CPBL can’t solely rely on Manny.”
Ramirez’s sudden exit caught many of his Taiwanese fans by surprise. An employee of the E-United Group, the club’s parent company, regretted not going to a Rhinos game while the former major league slugger was still playing because he had been too busy to go, despite receiving free tickets as an employee.