I can’t possibly talk about yet another game where the Dodger offense failed spectacularly, so let’s talk about something else: Manny Ramirez is about to be activated from the disabled list. It’ll most likely happen on Tuesday, with a slight chance it happens this weekend, but that’s not really the point. The point is, it’ll happen, and soon.
Not soon enough for me, though. Even if the club won’t admit it, the season is over, and has been for some time. All that matters right now is August 31, the last day you can try to move some pieces to contenders. Really, Manny ought to be activated immediately to get that process started, since he can’t be placed on waivers while on the disabled list. If he comes back too soon and he gets hurt again, well, who cares? It’s now or never.
When he returns, there’s the question of how he’ll fit into what’s suddenly an overcrowded outfield. Every decision right now should be made with the future in mind, since there’s no difference between winning 82 games or 85 games this year. If you want to get any value out of trading Manny in the next nine days, you need to play him as much as you can, because he needs to show he’s healthy and productive – and quickly – to make a deal work. Any game where he’s on the roster and he’s not playing in front of Scott Podsednik, Reed Johnson, or anyone else is actively hurting the team’s future. Should he still be with the team in September, my position on that will probably change, but for now he needs to be showcased as much as possible.
Of course, it’s not hard to predict that Joe Torre’s not on board with that, since he doesn’t care about the future as much as we do. As Tony Jackson points out…
Meanwhile, Torre said he wasn’t sure how the outfield will shake up when Ramirez returns. Since Ramirez suffered a strained right calf July 17, the Dodgers have acquired Scott Podsednik from the Kansas City Royals, and he began Friday hitting .302 with a .368 on-base percentage since that trade.
Torre talked about some kind of an outfield rotation, which seems logical given Ramirez probably won’t play day games after night games. Podsednik also could occasionally play center in place of Matt Kemp, especially if Kemp continues to struggle.
Though Podsednik hasn’t been awful, this is a symptom of a larger problem – namely, how Torre insists on batting Podsednik & Ryan Theriot 1-2 every single night despite the offense performing worse than ever since they arrived. I’ve said my piece on Podsednik playing over Kemp and Theriot batting higher than Jamey Carroll already, so I’ll focus on what’s relevant here, and that’s Torre’s suggestion that Ramirez wouldn’t play day games after nights games.
Oh yeah? Let’s say that instead of being activated today or tomorrow like he ought to be, they really do hold back on Manny until Tuesday in Milwaukee. Of the seven available games left in August (I’m not counting the Aug. 31 game, since if Manny’s playing in a game that starts at 10pm EST on the deadline, it’s likely too late), two of them are day games following night games, Thursday in Milwaukee and Sunday in Colorado.
If that’s the plan, that leaves just five games for Manny to prove he’s healthy and hitting, which is hardly enough. It also means that of the nine games between now and that Aug. 31 game with Philadelphia, the team would be choosing to hold Manny back in nearly half of them, if he’s not getting activated today and won’t play in day games. That helps his trade value, and therefore the team, how exactly?
Speaking of Manny’s trade value, I want to make it clear that getting something for him rather than playing out the string is a lost season is all I care about here. You’ll read a ton of comments from misguided fans saying they want him gone because “he doesn’t play as hard as Scott Podsednik, OMG!” or “he’s a lazy cheater” or any number of inane reasons. There’s no question that when healthy, Manny helps the offense more than Podsednik or just about anyone else the Dodgers have; their putrid offensive performance since he’s gone proves that. But since he’s gone next year, and this year is over, getting any sort of salary relief and/or prospects for him is the best value he can offer this team right now.
Of course, someone has to go when Manny is activated, and Jackson takes a look at how that might work. He’s correct when he points out that it’s unlikely the team drops down to 11 pitchers, and that there’s no backup fielders who have options, meaning someone will have to be DFA’d. Jackson suggests that Jay Gibbons is the likely target, given that the club would have six outfielders otherwise, with Manny back in the fold.
I don’t disagree with Jackson that it probably would be Gibbons, but it shouldn’t be. No, I’m not really going to shed any tears should Gibbons be lost; 33-year-old outfielders with 16 MLB at-bats in the last three seasons aren’t worth it. However, the last six weeks of the season ought to be used to start making some decisions about 2011. Gibbons might be worthy of a spot on next year’s bench as a lefty bat who can play 1B or the outfield, and cutting him doesn’t help figure that out.
No, what you need to do is cut the most worthless Dodger of all: Juan Castro, whose presence on this team is kind of a sick joke in the first place. Remember, rosters expand to 40 in nine days. You can live with one backup infielder – Ronnie Belliard – for a week, and even though Belliard can’t play shortstop should something happen to Jamey Carroll, don’t forget that Theriot spent the bulk of his career at short. It’s only a week, and a week that doesn’t really matter anyway. You’ll almost certainly make it through without a problem, and even if the worst happens, then you can always call up an Ivan DeJesus from ABQ for a few days.
Do the right thing, Dodgers. Play Manny now, and move him as soon as you can get anything worthwhile.