Don't let it be said the 2009 Dodgers don't do things dramatically. In the midst of a historic thirteen-game home winning streak, we learn that Manny Ramirez is to be suspended immediately for 50 games due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Regardless of what the substance is and how Manny got it, this revelation is every bit as deflating as the Dodgers' hot start is inspiring.
As we await the inevitable accusations, apologies and recriminations, let's take a look at how this news affects the Dodgers on a practical level. (After all, the winning streak is still intact...at least for a few more hours.) Firstly, how do you try to replace Manny's production? From Ken Gurnick at Dodgers.com:
Juan Pierre would be the immediate replacement for Ramirez in left field, while the Dodgers are expected to promote rookie Xavier Paul from Triple-A Albuqueruque to replace Ramirez on the active roster.
While Manny's bat will definitely be missed, much has been made of the Dodgers' well-rounded effort during their winning streak. Manny has six home runs, but so does Andre Ethier. Ethier leads the team with 27 RBIs, and James Loney is tied with Manny with 20. Now is the time to see if Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin and Casey Blake can fill the void.
Financially, this is somewhat of a windfall for the Dodgers. From the LA Times:
The suspension will cost Ramirez $7.7 million, or roughly 31% of his $25-million salary. Players in violation of baseball's drug policy are not paid during suspensions.
Is that the sound of Pedro Martinez upping his price tag?
But the most important ramification of the Ramirez suspension is how this team responds to adversity. Everything is all beer and Skittles when you're beating up on sub-.500 teams, but what happens when a bombshell falls on the party tent? The Dodgers are about to begin a stretch in which they play the Phillies, Marlins, Mets and Angels. (Great timing, Manny.) We're about to learn if this team is for real.