Dodgers Need Manny To Be Manny
The key to the Dodgers’ chances in the playoffs is for the guy in left field to be Manny Ramirez, not the imposter who’s been there this season.
They need the dynamic leader who led them to a first round playoff sweep of the Cubs last year, not the confused batter who struck out frequently in recent weeks.
But which Manny will we see?
After the Dodgers clinched their division championship Saturday night and celebrated in the clubhouse and then on the field as they saluted adoring fans, Ramirez recognized his contribution.
"I celebrated by getting a hit," he said with a sheepish grin.
Ramirez was emphasizing that he’s been in a dreadful slump.
Now, as the Dodgers face the St. Louis Cardinals it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers advancing without Ramirez snapping out of it.
The Manny of last season not only produced big hits but made teammates better by his mere presence in the lineup. They got better pitches to hit and sometimes he drew walks to provide a baserunner for others to drive in.
But that hitter wasn't seen nearly as often this season. His timing was off and fastballs frequently overpowered him.
"I'll know he's coming out of it when he uses the whole field," said Manager Joe Torre several times in September. "Right now he's trying to pull everything."
It wasn't until the Dodgers lost five straight games at a time when one win would have clinched the division title that Ramirez went with outside pitches and indicated he was back on track.
He had only one single in the Saturday night 5-0 win over Colorado that produced the celebration but he hit the ball hard to right field a couple of times -- just what Torre was waiting to see.
Now come the better opponents, playoff foes and superior pitching and the Dodgers need Manny to lead them.
If he leads they're likely to follow because the young guys are growing up. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp had results this season to match their potential. Clayton Kershaw had 10 strikeouts in five innings in the clincher against the Rockies.
And an improved bench corps of older players made a difference too as Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta and Ronnie Belliard made solid contributions.
The Dodgers led the National League in wins with 94 and became division champs two straight times for the first time since 1977 and '78.
They've made the playoffs three times in the first four years Ned Colletti has been general manager.
Some media folks expressed concern when Frank McCourt became the Dodgers' owner, some even speculating he would replace Dodger Stadium and use the land for real estate purposes.
Instead, the Dodgers have thrived under the leadership pf Frank and Jamie McCourt. The team's payroll has allowed for division championship rosters and improvements have been made to the stadium.
McCourt thanks the Southern California fans.
"It says a lot that we could lead the major leagues in attendance in a difficult economy," he said.
The Dodgers drew 3,761,000, their second highest total ever.
The Dodgers haven't won a World Series since 1988, but McCourt says the Dodgers are back to having a contending team every season.
I agree, but they need Manny to be Manny in order to contend for a World Series berth.