Three years ago the Los Angeles Dodgers made headlines when they acquired Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline, and everyone sat back in awe at the best pure hitter to wear a Dodgers uniform since Mike Piazza. Now, as the erratic left fielder is on his way to the Chicago White Sox, everyone is sitting back and thinking that the regular season cannot end soon enough.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox agreed on a waivers claim that will send Ramirez, his dreadlocks and his 554 career homeruns to Chicago for the remainder of the season. The Dodgers receive no player in return, but the White Sox will pay the remainder of Ramirez’s contract, which is roughly 3.8 million dollars.
The move seemed to be expected. After acquiring Scott Podsednik at the trade deadline, it was clear that the Dodgers were uncertain of Ramirez’s involvement in this season’s home stretch to try and make the playoffs. Podsednik is a player who can play everyday and also fill the leadoff position as Rafael Furcal continues fighting injuries.
To be fair, it must be said that a post-season trip for this year’s Dodgers team was highly unlikely as they are currently sitting 9 games behind the division leading San Diego Padres and 7.5 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League Wild Card.
Coming into the season there were doubts that faced all MLB teams, and the Dodgers were no different.
Everyone questioned whether young pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley could eventually mature and evolve into the leaders of the staff. Fans also speculated whether Blake DeWitt could be an everyday second baseman filling the hole that 2009 All-Star Orlando Hudson vacated before the season started. Lastly, there were those who asked the Manny question. Will the team trade him? Can he return to the form that helped carry the team to two consecutive NLCS?
The answers came.
Kershaw and Billingsley are both at least a year or two away from being the pitchers that the organization imagines them to be, even though both have shown flashes of potential this season. Blake DeWitt is playing second base everyday; it just so happens that he is wearing a Chicago Cubs hat. DeWitt was traded at the trade deadline in a deal for starting pitcher Ted Lilly and second baseman Ryan Theriot.
The answer to the Manny questions came in a much more drawn out fashion, as if Dodgers General Manager Ned Coletti refused to accept them.
Ramirez could not stay healthy, and when he was healthy he played in only 66 games, and while he did hit a respectable .311, he only had 8 homeruns and 40 RBI. At this point of the season, Podsednik is the right choice for the Dodgers everyday left fielder, and it can easily be understood why the organization made the move, but it does not mean trading the face of the franchise and a future Hall of Famer will not take some time to get used to.
If Ramirez was just another player who was in the last few years of his career that was traded to dump salary, this whole event would be “swallow-able.” However, this is not a typical player, who was just a left fielder for his team and his fans. This was Manny.
After being traded to the Dodgers, his tear in the second half of the season was so impressive he put his name into the NL MVP debate, and rightfully so. He was the missing bat to a line up filled with young contact hitters that had potential through the roof. Ramirez was able to carry a team with little to no starting pitching into the NLCS two years in a row. He was arguably one of the top five players in baseball, and top three hitters since being traded to the Dodgers prior to his 50 game suspension for PEDs. Since returning after his suspension he has looked slow, out of shape and never had the same excitement at the plate. In a town that plays host to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant, it’s hard for other teams to get their recognition and stardom. Manny was able to do that for the Dodgers. There should be no hard feelings between fans and Ramirez; he performed as most people thought he would. Ramirez was electric and inspiring at times, but also lazy and excuse ridden at others.
So what do Dodgers fans do now? To start, anyone who bought the ridiculous “Manny wigs” should bury them in the closet. Do not throw them away, but do not wear them, they can be treated as a reminder of better times. More importantly than discarding jerseys or hats, fans should realize that this was the right decision for many reasons. Scott Podsednik is a more than competent left fielder and leadoff hitter. The franchise is struggling financially due to the McCourt divorce, so saving nearly four million dollars is definitely just cause.
In the end, the Manny Ramirez days are over in Los Angeles, and instead of renaming “Mannywood” to “Podsednik-ville,” or after any other player to inspire the fans, perhaps a section called “Splittsville” might inspire ownership.