“A modest thing, but thine own,” as Vin Scully might say. A five-run eighth inning, capped by Casey Blake‘s grand slam, propelled the Dodgers to their latest victory Friday and more visions of grand pennant-race comebacks. Los Angeles has caught Colorado, finds the other three National League wild-card contenders considerably more in reach and considerably more mortal in appearance, and only has that nagging Manny Ramirez question to deal with.
The Chicago White Sox reportedly claimed Ramirez successfully on waivers, giving the Dodgers three options: let him go for cash savings, trade him for prospects or keep his aching body as part of the playoff bid cavalry.
It’s not an easy decision, not the least because this week’s “thine own” represents only about a third of what the Dodgers need for the playoffs. Maybe even less. They need to keep winning to continue the march up the standings, then win some more after that to keep from sliding back down. Not impossible, especially if Rafael Furcal and Vicente Padilla make it back, but still an underdog’s game.
So it comes back to what the Dodgers would get from the Pale Hose. If they take the cash or prospects, that’s purely a play for 2011, and other moves with tradeable veterans should be made accordingly.
There’s still sense in a seller’s pose, but I imagine competitive juices and dreams of unexpected history are making such deals harder for Ned Colletti to stomach by the day. If nothing else, “thine own” will give Colletti more backbone in considering parting with Ramirez.
The four wins have been a bit of a revelation, the first indication in months that the team was capable of such a thing. Hard not to wallow in such a forgotten pleasure. The biggest twist – and this really deserves a headline all its own – is that ever since the titular demotion of Jonathan Broxton as closer, Joe Torre has used his bullpen closer to how it should be, and that’s according to situation and matchup rather than hoary notions of role. Everyone is, more or less, given their best chance to make a difference. Broxton certainly has seen no shortage of critical situations, but so have his colleagues, and questions of mental makeup for any of them now seem less relevant than ever. It’s not perfect, but I tend to believe that the Dodgers are benefiting from the bullpen freedom they stumbled into. (By the way, though I qualify this by saying that I couldn’t watch Friday’s game, has a manager made a worse decision against the Dodgers this year than Jim Tracy leaving Ubaldo Jimenez in to face Andre Ethier with the tying run on in Friday’s eighth inning and more than 120 pitches behind him?)
And so we move into the next 24-48 hours of grand precipice. The funny thing is, decisions will be made, games will be won or lost, we’ll all think we know more than we did – and then we’ll still be blindsided by something new, as Dodger fans always have been.