NEYER: What Manny Ramirez's Loss Means To Rays

The latest news about Manny Ramirez doesn't really impact his legacy so much as it impacts the Tampa Bay Rays' 2011 season. And not in a good way.

Ramirez's legacy was already pretty well set: Great hitter, lousy outfielder, Manny being Manny, just another drug-fueled slugger who will take his place in the Hall of Fame line behind a great number of other drug-fueled sluggers. Considering the number of them, Ramirez figures to get mostly lost in the shuffle, especially considering his lack of major awards or "black ink."

Considering his inability to stay in the lineup in recent seasons, it seemed exceptionally unlikely that Ramirez would have changed one word in that last paragraph, playing this season for the Rays.

On the other hand, he might have changed something for them.

Given the losses of Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, and (essentially) their entire shut-them-down relief corps, this year's Rays never figured to win their third division title in four seasons. But this season didn't seem hopeless, either. The club seemed to have capable replacements for Pena, Crawford and Garza. Rebuilding the bullpen wouldn't be easy, but wasn't like the organization had never rebuilt a bullpen before, or that manager Joe Maddon doesn't know how to handle one. And this team did win 96 games just one year ago.

So there was hope. Or there should have been.

The margin for error was not large, though. Some things were sure to go wrong -- some things always go wrong -- but too many things couldn't go wrong and more things would have to go right.

Well, just look. They've opened the season with six straight losses. They've lost Evan Longoria, easily their best player, for at least a month. And now they've lost Manny Ramirez, who was supposed to replace some of the run production lost with the departure of Crawford, for the entire season.

Granted, that's only three things that have gone wrong. But it's the 8th of April. There will be more. And the Rays may well shift into rebuilding mode a lot sooner than anyone expected.

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