Manny Ramirez is returning to the field at the age of 44. The Kochi Fighting Dogs of the independent Shikoku Island League Plus in Japan have announced an agreement with Ramirez, whose last major league at-bat came in 2011. Ramirez’s latest action came in 2014, when he played in the Dominican Winter League and with Triple-A Iowa.
The mercurial Ramirez debuted in the majors in 1993 and ultimately became one of the most terrifying offensive forces in the history of the sport. In a combined 9,774 plate appearances with the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays, the outfielder slashed .312/.411/.585 with 555 home runs – which ranks 15th all-time. He also earned 12 All-Star nods and helped the Red Sox to two World Series championships, including their 2004 triumph that broke an 86-year drought. Ramirez dominated during that run en route to World Series MVP honors, and he generally thrived in the postseason with a .285/.394/.544 line in 493 career PAs.
Ramirez is currently on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, but it’s possible his controversial past will prevent him from ever gaining enshrinement. Major League Baseball hit Ramirez with two suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs during his career, the second of which – a 100-game ban – came in 2011. Ramirez hasn’t played in the majors since amassing 17 PAs that year with the Rays, though he did make comeback attempts with the Athletics and Rangers before joining the Cubs as a player-coach with Iowa in 2014. That led to the Cubs hiring him as a batting consultant a year later in 2015.
Ramirez will now head to Asia for the second time, having previously played in Taiwan as a member of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 2013. His new league includes just four teams and has no connection to Nippon Professional Baseball.