Aug 25

As Manny nears the exit …


Adam Davis/Icon SMIManny Ramirez at bat for the first time after coming off the disabled list Saturday.

Manny Ramirez has been placed on waivers and could soon be on the move from the Dodgers, if (1) he goes unclaimed on waivers and is traded or (2) if he is claimed on waivers and the Dodgers work out a deal with that team. Ramirez can be moved anytime before the season is over, but the deal must be done by Aug. 31 if he is to have postseason eligibility with that team.

For all his faults, Ramirez — at least the good, healthy Ramirez — has truly been missed by the Dodgers, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com wrote earlier this week. Maybe it’s correlation that the team slumped offensively once Ramirez stopped being a regular part of the lineup at the end of June — maybe Ramirez would have been just another piece of a miserable pie — but let’s just say that it would have been nice to see what the parallel universe with a healthy Ramirez in the lineup would have looked like.

His hitless return since Saturday hasn’t helped matters, but I’ve been wondering if Ramirez’s prolonged absence this summer redeemed any of his value in the eyes of his detractors, similar to how the Dodgers’ recent struggles at catcher (pre-Rod Barajas) might have compelled people to look at the bright side of Russell Martin. Probably not, I suppose. Ramirez, who was an unqualified success from his July 2008 acquisition until his May 2009 suspension, has become a fan punching bag (one of many) in the past year.

It didn’t take long for the zeitgeist to zip from Mannywood to Anyone but Manny. Juan Pierre’s brief hot streak that spring certainly fueled some of that transition, along with general disgust toward Ramirez’s transgression. When Ramirez came back last summer, there was the Bobbleslam, but that was a last bit of fireworks in a fizzling of popular opinion after he turned out not to be the magical hitter he had been.

The depth of the souring on Manny became even more apparent when people actually got angry after Ramirez stated what couldn’t have been more obvious — that after his Dodgers contract expired this season, he would be taking his aging body elsewhere. It was no more a statement of disloyalty than a second-term president acknowledging the 22nd amendment — and of course, no one’s raising any loyalty issues against the Dodgers for now possibly unloading him to another team — but it somehow became another bullet in the chamber against Ramirez’s reputation. Thereafter, Ramirez stopped talking to the press, which was of no moment except that it ticked off the press.

In any event, the season began, and it became clear that Ramirez was a different sort of hitter than he had been — still an effective hitter, but one for whom the long ball was an increasing rarity. Joe Torre rested him to protect his legs, but it didn’t help, not enough, anyway. Ramirez was a top that had been spinning a long time, and was wobbling, and finally, as summer came, fell down.

And like him or not, the Dodgers needed that top to keep spinning.

The lingering issue is whether Ramirez essentially took himself out of the game — whether he bailed on the team. I don’t happen to think that’s the case. I think Ramirez had plenty of personal incentive to get himself back in the lineup — with each passing week on the disabled list, his value in 2011 declined, and it’s not as if Ramirez is wholly lacking in professional pride. The guy’s legs have stopped working.

Maybe Ramirez will announce his retirement at the end of the season, and people will go back and determine that he had mentally checked out months earlier. I doubt it. Ramirez is, for all his eccentricities, an athlete, one who was working out in Arizona and not just because he enjoys life amid the cacti.

It might be days or even weeks too early to talk about Ramirez’s Dodgers legacy — I’m not gonna have much left to say when his time is actually up — but unless destiny exercises its prerogative to change its mind on this meandering season, we’re close to being able to render a final judgment. Ramirez was unbelievable in 2008 for the Dodgers, a freight train at the plate. That he couldn’t live up to that performance in the next two years wasn’t surprising, but it doesn’t take away from what he did. And for whatever crimes he did, he did the time. I, for one, choose not to throw back the Dodgers’ 2008 and 2009 National League Championship Series appearances.

Ramirez was a vital part of the Los Angeles Dodgers the past 2 1/2 seasons, both in his presence and in his absence. His career faded at the end, but outside of Sandy Koufax, outside of someone retiring in his prime, is that in any way unusual? Anyone remember how Kirk Gibson’s final year in a Dodgers uniform went?

Manny Ramirez was mortal, unforgettably so. I only wish we had more of him, not less.

Aug 21

Welcome back, Manny – for the last time?

We had a yard sale today, putting out all our wares that we’ve outgrown at discount prices.

In related news, the Dodgers have activated Manny Ramirez and inserted him into tonight’s starting lineup. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

The Dodgers haven’t actually outgrown Ramirez – they need anything resembling a bat, however antique (as Jay Gibbons batting cleanup today tells us) – but we’re certainly watching to see if this is a prelude to a parting. Or a final trip to the disabled list, if Ramirez can’t stay healthy.

Juan Castro was designated for assignment – but the fates might allow him to be around with the Dodgers come September. We’ll see if the same holds true for Manny.

* * *

Jackson reported after Friday’s game that Scott Elbert, whose personal problems earlier this year have not been clarified for the public, is dealing with shoulder soreness.

Aug 17

Kershaw LXXVI: Kershawnna Karenina

Manny Ramirez is alive! He took batting practice at Dodger Stadium tonight and is close to a rehab assignment. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Rafael Furcal felt tightness and will be held back from starting a rehab assignment for at least a couple more days.

* * *

Question: Are the Rockies more disappointing than the Dodgers this season, less or the same?

Related: Bob Timmermann explores “The Dodgers in 2010: The Year of Crabbiness” at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.

* * *

Elsewhere …

  • Zach Lee is expected to make an appearance at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, the team said.
  • Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), reports Alan Schwarz in a fascinating New York Times article.
  • Josh Wilker has a fine piece about Mickey Rivers today at Cardboard Gods.
  • Remember Brent Mayne, he of the last Dodger catching tandem that couldn’t hit straight before this one? Mayne has a blog and an interesting post about ballplayers as social misfits. (via Hardball Talk).
  • If it’s an upset that the Padres are in first place and the Dodgers are in fourth, it’s another upset that the Dodgers had a more satisfying 2010 draft than the Padres did. Paul DePodesta tells the story of what happened to leave San Diego’s front office disappointed at It Might Be Dangerous … You Go First.
  • Claudio Vargas has been granted his release by Albuquerque, the Isotopes said.
  • Former Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo has had his second setback of 2010 — a shoulder injury, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Sweet-hitting pitcher Micah Owings, whose career ERA and slugging percentage each start with the number five, has been designated for assignment by Cincinnati.
Aug 02

Manny, Andruw and the Juan


US Presswire, AP PhotosMurderers r’oh!

I’m hoping I’m the first one to point this out, but in any case, if the Dodgers’ tailspin continues and they unload their current high-paid outfielder to the White Sox, as has been rumored, we’d have the potential of seeing Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones in the same Chicago starting lineup. (I won’t dare dream they’d actually play in the outfield together).

In the meantime, if he avoids any immediate setbacks, it appears Ramirez will start his latest minor-league rehab assignment this week.

* * *

The Dodger coaching staff is great at pointing fingers, except at themselves, writes Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.

… The coaches will yell and scream about wanting to win, and so will Ned Colletti, but when it comes time to committing to winning, they refuse to do it. From Garret Anderson to George Sherrill to Ronnie Belliard, the Dodgers front office and coaching staff have always refused to shed dead weight because it would hurt the feelings of veteran players.

Instead of doing anything to win like they tell their players to do, the powers that be simply talk a good game and nothing more. They talk about how they want to win at all costs, about how the players should want to do the same, and they talk about a sense of urgency. However, when it comes time to actually take the very actions that will help the Dodgers win, it’s all bark and no bite. …

* * *

  • The Irony Committee approves this Ned Colletti quote on 710 AM ESPN (via True Blue L.A.) “You watch Ryan Theriot play, it’s going to remind you of Blake DeWitt and how hard he plays.”
  • From Dodger Thoughts commenter Nsxtasy1, in response to my  “A Team of Garret Andersons” post: During the same period, Garret Anderson has a .222 BA and .300 OBP. That’s right, the team is doing so poorly since the break that Garret Anderson is outhitting the rest of the team. Yes, Garret Anderson.”
  • The Dodgers are going with a less showy Matt Kemp poster at Friday’s giveaway, writes Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
Jul 20

Manny Ramirez hits the DL trifecta


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesManny Ramirez looks on from the dugout at St. Louis on Sunday.

The news has finally come back on Manny Ramirez, and it’s not good.

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Tuesday that they have placed Manny Ramirez on the disabled list for the third time this season, and have activated Brad Ausmus from the 60-day disabled list to take his roster spot.

Ramirez suffered a right calf strain Friday in the first inning of his second game since being activated from the DL following a right hamstring injury.

A right calf malady also sidelined Ramirez from April 23 through May 7.

Ramirez has a .409 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage for the Dodgers this season, but has been held to 220 plate appearances — four in July.

Xavier Paul, Garret Anderson and utilityman Jamey Carroll are rotating in left field for the Dodgers in Ramirez’s absence. Paul is in the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s game against Tim Lincecum and San Francisco.

The activation of Ausmus, who had four plate appearances in 2010 before going on the disabled list with back trouble, gives the Dodgers three catchers on the roster for the time being, along with Russell Martin and A.J. Ellis. But with Reed Johnson already on the DL, Los Angeles had only one other outfield option on the 40-man roster: Double-A outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Martin has also been nursing a thumb injury, though he returned Monday and had three hits against the Giants.

Update: Joe Torre told the media today that Ramirez’s strain was significant, and that he is expected to remain sidelined for three weeks.

Torre also said that the Dodgers will return to having two catchers as soon as Wednesday. Robinson is not a possibility for a callup, but the team is considering purchasing the contract of Jay Gibbons, who has a .915 OPS for Albuquerque.

Ramirez was placed on the disabled list retroactive to July 17, which would mean he could come off the disabled list August 1 at the earliest. However, because Ramirez would certainly clear waivers because of the size of his contract, the Dodgers could still trade him after the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Jul 16

Manny Ramirez injured again

Manny Ramirez left tonight’s Dodger game in the first inning with right calf tightness. We don’t know yet if it’s serious enough to send him back to the disabled list, but if it is, the Dodgers face an interesting roster quandary.

With Reed Johnson already on the disabled list, the Dodgers have only one other outfielder on the 40-man roster: 22-year-old AA outfielder Trayvon Robinson. For that matter, the only other available infielder on the 40-man that’s healthy is 23-year-old Ivan DeJesus, Jr. They could activate Brad Ausmus and carry three catchers, or they could purchase the contract of someone like Jay Gibbons or John Lindsey.

Hopefully, Ramirez will only be out a short time.

Jul 15

Kershaw LXX: Kershawt Tub Time Machine

What a matchup we have for you tonight, sports fans. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Carpenter in caliente conditions. Lots of good hard-c sounds there.

To make room for Manny Ramirez’s return from the disabled list, Reed Johnson was placed on the disabled list with back trouble, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Johnson last played on July 8, so he would presumably be eligible to come off the disabled list July 24. Xavier Paul and Garret Anderson get to co-exist for a little while longer.

If the Dodgers make it through tonight’s game without any injuries, it will be the second day all season that they have had a healthy top-eight starting position players, top-four starting pitchers and top-two relievers (Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo) at the same time all season. The only other time was June 28 in San Francisco, the day Chad Billingsley was activated from the DL and the day before Ramirez hurt himself in the first inning.

* * *

  • James McDonald is the scheduled starter for Albuquerque on Friday, so if he’s scratched from that start or only works for a couple innings, we should have our biggest hint yet about whether he’ll be called up to start for the Dodgers on Monday.
  • The U.S. Postal service is releasing a Negro Leagues baseball series of stamps.

* * *

Update: George Sherrill talked to David Lassen of the Press-Enterprise. Sherrill confirmed that he was placed on waivers and said he wasn’t sure what would happen next.

… ” If I go down and I’m doing OK, then I’m just kind of stuck. If I go down and look like I’ve figured it out, I could still be stuck, because you go down, and say the club rattles off like eight in a row. George who, you know?

“So you’ve got to make sure every T is crossed, I guess, and make sure everything is right for the club but also everything is right for me and and my family.”

If he clears waivers, Sherrill will have the choice of accepting a minor-league assignment, refusing it, or declaring himself a free agent. Only in the last scenario would he forfeit the remainder of this year’s $4.5 million salary.

“I’ve got to talk to my agent and just make sure what’s what and see what options we do have,” Sherrill said. “… I don’t really fully understand it. That’s kind of why you sort of have an agent, to protect us on stuff that we have no idea what’s happening. So it’s just a matter of talking to him and ironing everything out and having him talk to them and see what’s what.” …

Jul 13

Another Yankee titan passes

Farewell, George Steinbrenner. Friday at Yankee Stadium, they’ll be mourning both Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. That’s going to be quite a night.

The great Alex Belth has a remembrance of George Steinbrenner at SI.com.

* * *

  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the fun story of Hong-Chih Kuo interviewing All-Star Dodgers about Hong-Chih Kuo.
  • Manny Ramirez went 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in three rehab games with Inland Empire, but hey …
  • Joe Torre on Matt Kemp, to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus: “Everyone thought I was punishing Matt, but it was just clear to me that he was pressing and needed to take a few days to clear his head and get his confidence back. There are no statistics to tell you how a guy is feeling on the inside, but I don’t think there was any question that Matt wasn’t in the right frame of mind. We all want to be perfect, and sometimes Matt has a hard time coming to grips with the fact that nobody is perfect. He holds everything inside and always tells you everything is all right, but it can’t always be all right and it wasn’t all right with him. However, I see him being back to the old Matt Kemp now. He’s playing with confidence again and that’s only going to make us an even better team for the second half of the season.”
  • The trade market for starting pitching gets a thorough analysis from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. The options probably won’t bowl you over. Meanwhile, I contributed a very short, on-the-fly comment about Ted Lilly to View From the Bleachers, saying that I wouldn’t want the Dodgers to give up much for him.
  • Baseball-Reference.com looks at the Hall of Fame case for Kevin Brown. The ultimate conclusion seems to be “no,” but the “yes” case might surprise you.

Update: Meant to mention this above: Alex Rodriguez has an acting role in the upcoming Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake film, “Friends With Benefits,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety. My understanding is that he’s not playing himself.

Jul 03

Manny Ramirez to DL, Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque

The Dodgers not only placed Manny Ramirez on the disabled list and called up Xavier Paul, they also optioned Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque and called up Travis Schlichting.

The first move was expected, and the second move isn’t too much of a surprise considering that Troncoso has seemed in need of a breather for a while now. Troncoso pitched two shutout innings Friday (32 pitches) and has not been scored upon in his past three appearances, so his being optioned might have more to do with providing a fresh arm to the bullpen following Hiroki Kuroda’s early exit.

George Sherrill and Justin Miller, who have performed worse, remain on the team for now, because Troncoso has options and they don’t.

* * *

  • Claudio Vargas pitched six shutout innings for Albuquerque against Pacific Coast League South Division leader Oklahoma City on Friday, allowing two baserunners and striking out seven batters in a row at one point.
  • Blake Smith, a 22-year-old right fielder, went 4 for 6 with six RBI and one of the Loons’ four homers in Great Lakes’ 13-3 victory. Smith has an .858 OPS on the season. Catcher J.T. Wise, 24, had four hits and a walk. Josh Wall struck out 10 in seven innings.
  • Minor-league reliever Hyang-Nam Choi, 39, was released from the Albuquerque roster last weekend, according to the Isotope press notes.
  • Pinch-hitter in the making? Josh Lindblom is 6 for 14 at the plate this season for Albuquerque and 10 for 25 over the past two seasons with a walk and five strikeouts.
Jul 02

Wait-and-see game with Ramirez to continue through weekend

Manny Ramirez probably isn’t available as a pinch-hitter during this weekend’s series with Arizona, Joe Torre told reporters today, but the Dodgers continue planning to play a man down rather than commit to placing him on the disabled list. Xavier Paul was set to hit leadoff tonight for Albuquerque.

Scroll down this Baseball America prospect report to see how many Dodger farmhands have been put on the minor-leagues’ seven-day disabled list. I wonder if anyone has ever thought about reducing the minimum stay on the major-league disabled list by a few days, say to 11. That would still be long enough to fulfill its purpose, but give clubs fewer instances of having to carry an injured player.

* * *

  • Earlier this week, AZ Snakepit was trying to determine the Diamondbacks’ Loss of the Year (yes, we know it’s only midseason), and the Dodgers provided two of the seven candidates. The May 31 balk-off finished a close second to a June 28 collapse against the Cardinals.
  • AZ Snakepit also says that Arizona will have played 42 consecutive games against teams with winning records by the end of this weekend’s series.
  • Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has transcripts of this morning’s press conferences from Arizona president/COO Derrick Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick.
  • From the Dodger press notes: “Spanish-language broadcast engineer Mike Noto worked his 2,634th consecutive game on Wednesday and earlier this week surpassed Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak (2,632). Noto is now in his 20th season and has missed just one game during that time, when he worked a Stanley Cup Finals game for the Kings in 1993. However, Noto has a way to go to catch the Hall of Famer in his booth, Jaime Jarrin, who once called close to 4,000 consecutive games spanning 22 seasons.”
  • Also from the press notes: “The Dodgers have signed left-handed pitcher Adam Dedeaux to a minor league contract and he’ll start his career in the Arizona League. Adam is the grandson of former Dodger Rod Dedeaux (1935), who went on to become the winningest coach in college baseball history while at USC.”
Jun 30

Manny Ramirez to get MRI

Manny Ramirez is scheduled for an MRI in Arizona on Thursday, the Dodgers announced, saying that it hasn’t been determined whether he will go on the disabled list.

Garret Anderson, who turns 38 today, is starting in left field, while Reed Johnson is giving Andre Ethier a rest in right field.

* * *

  • From the Elias Sports Bureau: “John Ely got the win in his 12th start, an unusually high total at this point in the season for a rookie under Joe Torre. Since Torre returned to the dugout with the Yankees in 1996, only two rookie pitchers started at least 12 games by the end of June: Ted Lilly (2001 Yankees) and Hiroki Kuroda, technically a rookie at age 33 for the Dodgers in 2008. Besides Kuroda, the only rookie pitcher to start 30 or more games in any of Torre’s 29 seasons as a major-league manager was Craig McMurtry for the Braves in 1983 (35 GS, 15–9, 3.08 ERA).”
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus on Dodger prospect Jerry Sands: “When Sands was demolishing the Midwest League to the tune of .333/.432/.646, it was easy to take it with a grain of salt, as he was a 22-year-old beating up on a level he had no right to be in. Moved up two levels to the Southern League, he’s now bashed four home runs in five games, and we don’t have that grain of salt anymore. He’s a bad outfielder and even worse first baseman, so he has to keep mashing. But just one week against more reasonable competition has done wonders for his prospect status.”
  • Adrian Beltre is the subject of an appreciation by David Golebiewski of Fangraphs.
Jun 29

Manny Ramirez gets Matt Kemp back on the field … by getting hurt


Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJoe Torre leaves the field with Manny Ramirez after the outfielder’s injury.

Manny Ramirez injured his right hamstring on a freak slide (some would say that’s an appropriate term) back into second base in the first inning tonight – forcing Matt Kemp into the lineup after all of today’s commmotion. From The Associated Press:

Ramirez was initially listed as day to day, but there was no immediate word as to the nature or severity of the injury.

Ramirez, who had singled up the middle with two outs, went to second on a subsequent single by James Loney that scored Andre Ethier from third. But Ramirez then inexplicably rounded second base and wandered three or four feet toward third even as the throw from Giants right fielder Aubrey Huff came to shortstop Edgar Renteria, who was standing on the second base bag.

Ramirez then made a feeble attempt to get back as Renteria applied the tag, but the ball popped out of Renteria’s glove as second base umpire Ron Kulpa was calling Ramirez out, causing Kulpa to change his call.

Ramirez was on the disabled list earlier this season with a calf strain in the same leg. Xavier Paul, who had a .328 on-base percentage and .404 slugging percentage when called up earlier this season, has continued his banner season with Albuquerque (.402/.633).

Jun 18

Oh, Manny … that would have been something


Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Manny Ramirez is rendered powerless by the final pitch of the game.

Down 10-3 after five innings, the Dodgers actually found themselves not only they poised to send the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning at Fenway Park on Friday, but a tying run in the person of Manny Ramirez.

With two on and one out and Ramirez on deck, eyeing a grand slam that would tie the game at 10-10, a highlight that would have rivaled or even surpassed 2009′s Bobbleslam for radioactivity, the Dodgers suffered a blow when Andre Ethier’s hard grounder was turned into an out by Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youklis.

And then Ramirez, who had made good contact his first three times up this evening, was frozen on a 2-2 slider from Boston reliever Daniel Bard, taking a called game-ending strike that sealed the Dodgers 10-6 defeat.

The end delighted the Fenway Park crowd, which all in all treated Ramirez fairly enough. Maybe more than half booed, but there were plenty of cheers and no significant viciousness.

As badly as Carlos Monasterios pitched today – and he was fooling next to no one, allowing eight hits and in four innings, including two home runs (one by David Ortiz to deadest center, one off the top of the Green Monster by J.D. Drew that was approved via instant replay) – the Dodgers still had chances to wrestle this game away. After rallying from an initial 3-0 deficit to tie the game, Monasterios finally got the hook when he gave up the go-ahead run on a single, walk and double to start the bottom of the fifth.

Ramon Troncoso relieved Monasterios, and everything that has gone wrong for Troncoso this season seemed to crystallize in his five-batter outing. Darnell McDonald singled in two runs, and then Adrian Beltre slugged a two-run homer from his knees. Jason Varitek then doubled and Mike Cameron singled before Troncoso hit Daniel Nava with a 2-2 pitch.

Two so-called productive outs off Travis Schlichting scored the remaining Troncoso baserunners, inflating the beleaguered reliever’s ERA to 5.81 this season. The Dodgers are certainly revisiting some starting pitching worries this week – Ned Colletti is definitely targeting an acquisition at the trade deadline, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com – but Troncoso is a nagging concern. Worse ideas than giving him 15 days of time off continue to occur to me.

But like I said, there were bright spots for the Dodgers – Matt Kemp’s triple to right-center on a 2-for-5 night being one of them. Garret Anderson had a home run in the ninth inning. And the team continued to battle. Aside from the ninth inning, the team’s best look at the game after the Red Sox’ seven-run fifth inning came immediately thereafter, when they scored two runs with none out in the sixth. But Anderson and Jamey Carroll struck out, and Kemp grounded out.

The one player who didn’t reach base for the Dodgers on Friday: Ethier, who went 0 for 5.

* * *

Kemp thinks he has solved his basestealing problems, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“I saw that I was raising up instead of leaning toward the next base,” said Kemp. “You wouldn’t think that raising up would get you out of whack, but it did. And I need to get bigger leads. I know I’m better than this.

“I ain’t going to lie — I know you’re not supposed to think like this, but you get caught nine times, you start wondering if you shouldn’t go. I’ve got to get back to stealing bags and get into scoring position for Andre [Ethier] and Manny [Ramirez]. I haven’t even tried to steal third base. I’ve got to be aggressive.”

Jun 18

Manny Ramirez, the pinata that keeps on giving, returns to Boston


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Manny Ramirez has a .430 on-base percentage and .585 slugging percentage as a Dodger. His OPS with the team is higher than it was with the Red Sox.

Think back to what the expectations were that summer day in 2008 when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Manny Ramirez. Think back to the fears.

That’s the standard Ramirez had to meet to be a success. And by that standard, that’s exactly what Ramirez has been.

As Ramirez was leaving the Boston Red Sox, the shout could be heard from coast to coast: “GOOD RIDDANCE!” He was 36 years old, objectively past his athletic prime and subjectively a cancer. For a Dodgers team saddled with its own nightmare in Andruw Jones (without the benefit of that nightmare having led the team to any World Series titles just a few years before), for a Dodgers team spinning its wheels with a 54-54 record, Ramirez was a calculated risk, potentially a waste of time and potentially a disaster. But instead of relying on the sub-.700 OPS Juan Pierre and Delwyn Young to fill out their outfield, the Dodgers gave up their third baseman of the future, Andy LaRoche, and first-round draft choice Bryan Morris, in the hopes that Ramirez would provide a jolt and not an electrocution.

That trade, in and of itself, can only be seen right now as a complete success. A spectacular one. Ramirez put together one of the most pyrotechnic hitting performances in Dodger history – an on-base percentage of .489 and slugging percentage of .743, 17 homers in 53 games – to lead the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series for the first time in 20 years. LaRoche, endorsed in this space repeatedly as the real deal, has fallen into a utility role with the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates at age 26, while the 23-year-old Morris is in the minors trying to come back from arm trouble. Both are young enough to change the scorecard, but I’m not sure anyone’s expecting the scales of that trade ever to be balanced.

If Ramirez’s accomplishments then seem tainted by his 2009 suspension now, the stain would only be darker on the Red Sox’s titles.

Then came the 2008-09 offseason, with the Dodgers talking Ramirez agent Scott Boras down from his histrionic expectation of a six-year megadeal – a request blindly endorsed by many in the media – to a two-year contract (including Ramirez’s option for the second year). Through May 6, 2009, the performance remained stratospheric: Ramirez on-based .492 and slugged .641. Then came his 50-game suspension.

That Ramirez broke the rules was distasteful. That he missed 50-plus games in his age-37 season is simply something anyone could see was possible. It was part of the risk; it was part of the reason that Ramirez and Boras got a contract that was only a third as long as they wanted. The May suspension and then a July hand injury accelerated Ramirez’s decline. The out-of-this-world player from late 2008 had left this world in 2009. By Ramirez standards, he was down.

Ben Liebenberg/US Presswire
Ramirez has a .622 slugging percentage in June.

Funny thing, though. By Dodger standards, he was still nothing less than great.  For the year, Ramirez had a .418 on-base percentage and .531 slugging percentage in 104 games. His adjusted OPS of 155 was the highest by a Dodger (minimum 100 games) since Adrian Beltre in 2004.

Because Juan Pierre played above his own head for the month of May and pieces of April and August, Ramirez was considered a flop. Countless wanted him benched, claiming Pierre was the team’s MVP. Yet Ramirez was, quite simply, the better player. (His Wins Above Replacement figure of 2.6, according to Fangraphs, was nearly 50 percent higher than Pierre’s 1.8.) Ramirez did more to boost the Dodgers to their second consecutive NLCS appearance.  Of course, Pierre gets more respect for his character, but tellingly, you don’t hear Pierre’s name mentioned in Los Angeles anymore, not with his OPS down to .588 this season in Chicago. No one’s busting Frank McCourt’s chops for failing to sign Gandhi and Mother Teresa to multiyear contracts.

This season, Ramirez has been inconsistent. He’s looked feeble in the outfield. He’s also been withdrawn from the media – a fact that seems to matter greatly to the media and not at all to anyone else. And yet, as he heads to Boston for the first time since his acrimonious departure, look where his numbers are: .386 on-base percentage, .517 slugging. Of late he has heated up, with an OPS of nearly 1.000 in June. The Manny Ramirez who will be cascaded with boos this weekend is a Manny Ramirez who is still one of the bigger offensive cogs in baseball.

Amid all the concerns swirling around Dodger ownership today, it’s quaint now to look at Ramirez’s $45 million price tag and debate whether the McCourts were overspending. You can look at the list of 2008-09 free agents and find a better way to spend $45 million – if you look long and hard enough. Mostly, what you’ll find is a host of players who, with a lot less grief, have done noticeably worse than the war-torn Ramirez.

If you compare Ramirez to the player he was in September 2008, if you hold him to a standard so unreasonable only he could have set it, then he’s a disappointment. But if you compare him to the player he was in July 2008, the player many people reasonably feared he might become in 2009 and 2010 – in other words, if you make a sane comparison – he still looks rather remarkable. Ramirez has few to blame but himself for becoming a fan and media pinata, but those smashing might pause for a moment to note all the candy that has been pouring out of it.

Jun 17

Report: Manny Ramirez sought drug exemption in ’09, Dodgers deny involvement

The New York Times has a story today, anonymously sourced, stating that representatives for Manny Ramirez in 2009 explored seeking an exemption to baseball’s drug policy (link via L.A. Observed).

Around the time Major League Baseball suspended Manny Ramirez for violating its drug program last season, his representatives told officials in the commissioner’s office that they planned to file for permission to use a banned drug that would boost his testosterone levels.

Ramirez’s representatives, including his agent, Scott Boras, decided not to file for the exemption then, but the idea of seeking one was resurrected in September, two months after Ramirez returned to the field, though he ultimately never received one.

The second time the idea came up, the Dodgers were in a close race in the National League West and Ramirez was struggling at the plate. In that instance, high-ranking Dodgers personnel, including General Manager Ned Colletti, discussed how they could help Ramirez and whether he had enough of a medical problem to obtain an exemption for a testosterone-boosting drug.

Baseball’s independent drug-testing administrator granted 115 exemptions last season to players who proved a medical need to use a banned substance. All but seven of the players received a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Two players received exemptions for drugs to boost their testosterone levels.

The accounts of the discussions about Ramirez’s obtaining an exemption were based on interviews with three people in baseball who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing medical and drug testing matters.

A spokesman for the Dodgers, Josh Rawitch, said team officials did not look into getting Ramirez an exemption. He declined further comment. …