Because We Haven’t Talked About Manny Enough…

O.K., so, first things first.  A friend of mine, who has a partial season ticket package, happened to invite me to a game a few months ago, as a get together, and the one that I picked just happened to be on August 1st.  It was picked by me in a totally random fashion.

Damn… I’m good, aren’t I?

So I head to the stadium and, let me tell you, the place was completely rocking and it was as loud as I’ve ever seen it.  In some ways, the game ALMOST became secondary, as everyone just wanted to see Manny.  If he moved, he would get loudly applauded and, when he finally did come up to the plate, he got an awesome ovation, with fans chanting “MAN-NY, MAN-NY!”  All of this was common the whole night.  Of course, so were the annoying idiots who were more interested in tossing beach balls around and, thus, should be devoured by Andruw Jones, but I digress…

Sadly, Manny couldn’t finish it off with a story book ending in the 9th and, sadly, like Rob at 6-4-2, I also called the double play.  It’s just so Dodger-like for that to happen and, alas, it did.

So, I promised you a trade analysis, didn’t I?

You see, I intentionally held off posting a reaction, mainly because I knew the giddiness of the fact that Manny freaking Ramirez is a freaking Dodger would get the best of me.  It still has, but I should be good.

So, after taking almost 48 hours to digest all of this, let’s break down the trade, shall we?

When I posted my analysis on the Casey Blake trade, I began it by posting the good and mainly using it to say that, while I objected strongly to the trade (and still do), Blake is still a good player.  Now, it seems almost silly to do this with Manny Ramirez.  Is it even necessary to post statistics in this case?  You know who he is, you know he’s a first ballot Hall Of Famer, one of the greatest hitters of his generation, key component in Boston’s last two World Series titles, one time World Series MVP, and, now, a Dodger.

He’s Manny freaking Ramirez.

Granted, he’s no longer the Manny from 1999-2006; that Manny is gone.  He is a hitter that is in the beginning of his decline, but he is such a good hitter that even Manny 2008 is hitting .301/.399/.528, with 20 HR’s, and a 140 OPS+ to still make him one of the very best hitters in the game.  Those numbers in the middle of the lineup will give the Dodgers something they have rarely had and haven’t had since Adrian Beltre in 2004: a feared power hitter.  Putting him in the middle of the order will certainly be a great boost to the lineup and that I cannot complain about at all.

In fact, there’s a lot to like with this deal.  For starters, even if Manny is declining, he’s likely only going to be here until the end of the season, so that wipes out.  Also, even if Manny decides to turn back into the douchebag he became during the final two weeks in Boston, again, we won’t have to deal with him come hopefully late, late October.  But I doubt that will happen.  Manny is looking for one last big contract and, after the way things ended in Boston, he needs to repair his image a little bit.  So expect to see fun Manny… happy Manny.  Also, what’s great about it is that, outside of what’s reported to be a $1 million relocation fee, Manny costs us nothing in terms of cash, as Boston was able to pay the remaining $7 million of Manny’s contract and, by the Dodgers voiding the final two option years left in his contract, chances are, they will get two draft picks after he leaves.

So, really… awesome.

But, of course, there are downsides.

The downside, of course, is losing Andy LaRoche, and this really should be emphasized.  While we should be thrilled that Matt Kemp is still in a Dodgers uniform, I think, because of that, it’s been interesting to read how some people feel the Dodgers gave up “nobody” to get Manny.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Dodgers traded away arguably their best hitting prospect and someone who has been a stud third baseman throughout his entire minor league career.  Instead of rehashing the stats, I’ll reference you to an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago, arguing why LaRoche should start. The truth is, Andy LaRoche got what I hereby call the L.A. Screw Job.  The way that our upper management and our manager screwed him around was shameful.  This season, he never had an opportunity and the most games he started consecutively were four, and that didn’t come until a month and a half after he was called up or, to put it another way, a week before he was traded.  The Dodgers threw every road block at him that they could and, for some reason, didn’t want him to start.  Perhaps this was due to lingering injury concerns or other factors, that we don’t know, but they should have treated him much better than they did.  Maybe that was one of the downsides to Blake DeWitt’s hot start, now that I think about it.  That fluky first month and a half caused Torre to fall in love so much with DeWitt that it seemed to give them even more reason to make LaRoche expandable.

In any event, because of the fact that Andy had no future here, he was likely to be traded, anyways.  And if you had to trade him for one player, you can’t argue it being Manny Ramirez.  Granted, it’s a shame that we almost have to excuse front office incompetency and stupidity as a reason to trade him, but that’s the situation.  Admittedly, my knowledge of Bryan Morris, the other guy included in the deal, is low, other than I know he was classified as a very good prospect, although coming off of Tommy John surgery and seemed to be low on the depth chart.

Although I hate losing LaRoche, even I have to say, and these are words I thought I’d never say, but: Ned didn’t get hosed.  At all.  This trade, in a vacuum, is great and does deserve some A ranking and is arguably Ned’s best deal (not that there’s much to compare to, granted…).  Losing LaRoche stings, but if he was the centerpiece for Manny, I can live with it, especially with the circumstances.  I suppose it’s a move the Dodgers had to make.  Of course, we can thank Manny’s douchebaggery the past couple of weeks for why that was the package.  However, for as nice as the deal seems to be, judging the trade’s success isn’t as simple as that, though.

This deal’s success is contingent on two factors:

1.  How far we make it in the playoffs:

No question, this move, along with the Casey Blake trade, was a blatant “go for it now” type of deal.  Therefore, considering the chances of Manny being a Dodger next year are about .0000001%, the Dodgers have to, at the very least, go deep into the postseason.  If we get swept in the NLDS, yet again, or, even worse, we miss the playoffs altogether, then this trade is a complete disaster, especially for the future, as you’ll now have to fill the spot in LF, as well as 2B, SS, and 3B, with Kent retiring, and Furcal and Blake likely gone. And it proceeds to become even MORE of a disaster if LaRoche goes on to become a successful third baseman.

But with keeping just 2008 in mind, by adding Manny Ramirez, we obviously become an improved team, this season.  Even with that said, though, the ultimate question is, of course, how much? If you play the obvious setup of Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier, then this team improves their chances a bit and do become the favorites to win the NL West.  Still, not by a lopsided margin, mind you, but they do become the favorites.  However, if you’re going to start either Pierre or Jones, then all you’ve done is just rearrange the chairs of the Titanic and, in the process, traded your best hitting prospect (LaRoche, along with pitcher Morris) and two quality prospects (Santana, Meloan in the Blake deal) for absolutely nothing and, thus, hurt your chances for 2009 and beyond.  Again, disastrous.

Finally, since this trade was made for the present, it also heavily relies on the following:

2.  Joe Torre not fucking it up.

For as much as we get on old, crusty, way overpaid veterans who are past their prime, I think we always forget to put our manager near or at the top of this list.  Let’s face it, he’s been disastrous as a manager this year and he’s rarely shown a penchant for doing the right thing.  Which brings us to the outfield situation:

We’ve beaten the outfield situation to death probably since this blog’s inception, but, with the addition of Manny, now we have 527 outfielders.  In order for this trade to work to its best possible success, then the Dodgers HAVE to go with an outfield of Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier. There is no alternative.  It would be completely pointless to start Jones because the whole point of getting Manny was to replace him.  Sure, if by divine intervention Jones found his stroke again, I think all Dodgers’ fans would cream themselves at the possibility of how our lineup would stack.  But it’s not happening.  It’s criminal that they’ve stuck with him this long.  Bench him, DFA him, pay him $25 million to retire… I don’t care, get him out of there.

Secondly, you can’t go with the outfield of Ramirez/Pierre/Kemp.  Besides the fact that Pierre, well, sucks at the plate, it would be utterly comical to put him back in center field with Manny in left. The Dodgers already took him out of CF once… to put him back there would be beyond idiotic and if you thought Chris Burke’s triple last night was an aberration, wait until you see even more runners running on our outfield.

The point is… starting both Pierre and Jones mitigates the deal, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint.

This should be so obvious to see, right?

The sad, and yet highly predictable, part is, the Dodgers are opting for the latter.  Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe wrote yesterday how Theo Epstein originally wanted Ethier, and centered the deal on him, but Colletti and McCourt refused to give him up.  Sounds good, right?  I mean, if you refused to deal him then that means he should likely start… right?  Well, Joe Torre, last night

Dodgers manager Joe Torre on Friday laid out which two outfielders will get the shortest end of the Manny Ramirez acquisition: Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones. Torre said Ramirez will be the starting left fielder, Matt Kemp the starting right fielder and Juan Pierre will see most of the playing time in center field.

It gets better…

Pierre’s ability to lead off seems to be the main reason for Torre’s decision.

“To me, Juan certainly deserves the right to play,” Torre said. “At this point in time, his experience, his consistency, the way he goes about his business. When [Rafael] Furcal went down, he’s meant so much to the club. He brings another dimension, his basestealing ability. He gives a professional at-bat on a regular basis. He’s done it [leading off] longer than Matt. He’s willing to take pitches.

“Manny hasn’t played right field in a long time and we’re not going to push that. That being the case, I think we’ll look at Juan in center field.”

What else can you say, really?

Joe Torre has just completely lost his mind, at this point.  How does experience, going about their business and playing longer make up for utter crapulence?  If professional at-bats only land you a .327 OBP, which I’d imagine is one of the very few things consistent about Pierre, then screw professional at-bats and give me Matt Kemp’s “unprofessional at-bats” that have netted him a 19 game hitting streak and a .402 OBP in the leadoff spot.  Why should how many years in the league matter?  Kemp is the BETTER MLB player in 2008.  How hard is that to get through Torre’s thick head?!  By his logic, why not bring back RIckey Henderson?  He’s been doing it even longer than Pierre and looked quite limber in today’s Old Timers Game! Hell, even 44 year old Rickey Henderson in his stint with us had a better OPS+ than Pierre.

And now Andre Ethier continues to be the recipient of another L.A. Screw Job.  If his role is going to be on the bench, why not send him to Pittsburgh in the originally proposed deal, instead of LaRoche?  What’s the point of keeping him if you’re just going to dick him around like LaRoche?  Ethier has gotten screwed on epic levels.  First, he’s told that he’d be given the chance to earn the LF job outright in Spring Training, to which he outhits nearly the entire NL to do it.  Then, once Furcal goes down, his playing time gets cut because we need some pointless “speed” at the top of the order.  Once God finally came in and said: “Enough is enough!” and sent Dodgers’ July MVP, Erick Aybar, to sit on Pierre’s knee, Ethier goes on to become the second leading HR hitter on a team that BADLY needs offense and, in particular, power.

Yet once the little virus comes back, Ethier gets benched again for a man who hit his last HR in what seems like before the fucking Nuremburg Trials, and also gets benched for a guy who is in the midst of the worst offensive season in HISTORY.

And yet he’s asked to show patience.

THEN you get Manny Ramirez who, while one of the greatest hitters ever, is way below average defensively.  So, how do you fix this?  Do you put the very capable Matt Kemp in center field?  No… you put Pierre, who is less competent in center field than a one armed, one legged amputee, BACK there and then stick him back in the leadoff spot for utterly deranged reasons.

Good God, Randle P. McMurphy after his lobotomy had more brain power than this.

You see, folks, this is why I really hate Joe Torre.  The Dodgers could not have chosen a worse manager.  He is completely inept, his veteran love runs even deeper than Grady Little, and he’s about ready to screw up the greatest deadline acquisition in franchise history.  Because of Juan fucking Pierre.

This is why more than a few Dodgers fans literally have to sometimes hope for Juan Pierre to get injured in order for “roster justice” to be served.  Nothing against the guy personally, but when your management is such a freaking joke, what else can you hope for?  And to be clear, no, I don’t hope for a career threatening injury.  Maybe just a really, really, ripping case of anal fissure or something. I don’t know, I don’t care… as long as he’s not starting over the players who give the team the best chance to win.

So my overall assessment?  Great to have you, Manny, you’re going to be awesome and I’m going to get a real kick out of watching you hit.  And with the right outfield, this team as a whole definitely improves.  Pity your brain dead manager will do everything he can to mitigate that.

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

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