Off Base
The Trial of the Century

August 30, 2010, 6:35 p.m. They tried Manny Ramirez, all right. They gave him two years, and guess who served the sentence. The citizens of Los Angeles, is who.

And tell me it isn't fitting that the day Manny's trial ends, a trial for "stewardship" of the Dodgers begins. Tell me that isn't exactly perfect.

I'm not a fan of Manny Ramirez, OK. In fact, I think he's a jackass. Yes, I bought into 2008 like the rest of you. And yes, of course those first two and a half months were wonderful.

Of course, I enjoyed the run to the 2008 National League Championship Series. I love the NLCS – I've been to nine of them, and I love the NLCS! – and I loved the Dodgers being in one for the first time in 20 years. Of course, I can credit Ramirez for that.

But in the grand scheme of things, what did Manny really bring Los Angeles in 2008? What was the payoff, really and truly? Four playoff wins, when 11 are required to take home the ring.

Four October victories. BFD. There was no ticket-tape parade, no World Series victory, and no pennant.

And he was cheating at the time. Repeat: he was cheating at the time. So the success of that remarkable first run is tainted. It's tainted, along with at least the early part of 2009. If there isn't an asterisk applied to both seasons in the history books, forever and always, there should be.

The Dodgers won more games in 2008 and 2009 than they would have otherwise. Reason? Their best player was cheating. Meanwhile, Los Angeles sinks to the level of San Francisco.

Fine, not quite the exact same level, because the Giants knew about Barry Bonds, and allowed him to do this thing for several years, whereas the Dodgers didn't know at first about Manny, but allowed him to do his thing for a year and a half once they did.

In exchange for two trips to the NLCS, and two losses once there. With a disaster of a 2010 campaign as a follow-up. Do we really need to rehash Manny's "contributions" to this year's Dodgers, people? Was his ejection yesterday not as poetic an exit as can possibly be? C'mon.

My conscience is clear. Has been since the day of the PED suspension, when I suggested Manny's unceremonial adiosing from the squad. Here's a bit of what I said, May 7, 2009, in Manny Being Barry.

"The club should release their best player. Over and done with. Remember the “character” thing from a couple of years ago? Well, this is a character issue, if ever there was one, so let’s have at it, and right now.

Ramirez should be gone, and without a penny of what’s left on his deal in the offing. The damage he’s done to the club is incalculable. Let Scott Boras and the player’s union go ape-wire all they want. Let them scream from the high-heavens. Let them file lawsuits up the yin yang. “Knock yourselves out,” the Dodgers should say. “Bite me,” the Dodgers should say. “We’ll see you in court, bleepers,” the Dodgers should say.

Manny is scum until we hear otherwise. Guilty until proven innocent. Close “The Dodgers Way to Play Baseball” book and throw it at him. Better yet, have Jonathan Broxton throw it at him.

Ramirez cheated, he did it on purpose, with full knowledge of what he was doing and what it could mean to the big picture, he was incredibly stupid in doing so, and selfish in the extreme. There are zero excuses."

Admittedly, my feelings were raw at the time, so I hope you'll read the follow-up piece, What Would Tommy Do, as well. It's a shame we never got to hear Lasorda's take. Perhaps we will at some point in the near future.

Had the Dodgers released Manny during or immediately after his suspension, they likely would have thrown the better part of $45 million in the trash, along with their left fielder, who certainly belongs there. As it is, with the Chisox picking up about ten percent of the tab, L.A. wasted just 40 million of their hard-earned dollars.

Sure, had the Dodgers 86d 99 in '09, they might have finished second or third in the West, coming nowhere close to an encore disappointment in the NLCS. But there's no telling. Maybe their "kids" would have matured into winners by September of last year, or by July of this year. Maybe we'd be in a pennant race now.

And maybe just maybe, Manny could have been replaced last May, June or July, or perhaps during the offseason this past winter. Maybe the Dodgers prepare for what might come in 2010, by acquiring another left fielder, instead of being left in the lurch. Maybe they get Aubrey Huff or Jermaine Dye, or God forbid, maybe they keep Juan Pierre. Perhaps they do any one of a hundred things, rather than rely on a man either unwilling or incapable of staying on the field for anywhere near half a season.

In the end, Ramirez is every bit the villain as Barry Bonds, very much the same, if not worse than Alex Rodriguez, maybe a little more or less so than Mark McGwire. Manny used in 2008, he used in 2003, and I can't fathom a reason to give him the benefit of the doubt for any other time in the decade.

I'm proud to say I've been consistent on the Manny topic since May of 2008. I'm proud to have questioned the Dodgers for their employment of players involved in the drug scandal, and for their failure to lead, or even to attempt to lead.

And I'm glad Manny's gone, never to sully the Dodger name again. Be bye, cheater, douche bag. Do let the door hit you on the way out. Douche bag…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Prediction: Manny goes to Chicago, where he'll be welcomed with open arms. September will be his most productive month of the season, in which he gives the doubling of his home run total from eight to 16 a run for its money.

Probably a bridge burning sentence or two about L.A., with the obligatory "that's in the past" slash "I'm here to talk about the future" line.

A little excitement on the Southside, a few wins for the White Sox, along with a little run. But they'll fall short, and perhaps well short, to the better club – the more likable club – the Minnesota Twins. No division, no Wild Card, no postseason baseball for the Windy City. Free agency the first chance he gets, precisely 15 days after the conclusion of the World Series…

Dodgers Doings: Well, with your Manny, your actual court trial, and your team playing out the string, what else is there really? Not a lot, actually, but I do wonder about one thing. I wonder what was going through Andre Ethier's mind, as he watched Carlos Gonzalez' home runs sail well past him and into the Coors Field stands Sunday afternoon.

Left-handed hitting Gonzalez, beautifully and easily striking balls thrown by left-hander Ted Lilly, like it was nary a challenge at all. I wonder if Ethier was thinking, "I'm going get me a bleepload of videotapes, I'm going to study that guy Gonzalez, and I'm coming in next spring just as capable. Maybe a private batting coach to help me get there." Wouldn't that be nice?

And finally, what a breath of fresh air that Rod Barajas is. Here's a guy, just itching to put on the Dodger uniform, and hitting .462 in his first few games in blue. A Southern California boy, coming home to make good, as giddy as can be to play for Los Angeles, and not afraid to say so.

Obviously, he's no Manny Ramirez, and perhaps no Russell Martin, but Barajas is a man I can root for. Go get em, Rod…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….


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