Sunday, May 10, 2009

Everything's Gonna Be All Right

The revelation this week that Manny Ramirez had taken PEDs and was going to be suspended for 50 games has led to a real soul-searching period for many Dodger fans, let alone the team. Fully collapsing from a six-run lead in Thursday's game against the Nationals, the Dodgers proceeded to go dormant the following night against the arch-rival Giants, and all one could hear and see in the sports media were tales of the Dodgers' death spiral without Manny.

Then came Saturday's 8-0 whupping behind unlikely heroes Eric Stults and Ramirez replacement Juan Pierre. In a game where Juan Castro played well in place of Rafael Furcal (Castro went 3-for-4 with 2RBI), and even recent call-up Xavier Paul got some PT under the afternoon sun, it seemed like the Dodgers might be okay after all. Better yet, all those stories about the Dodgers' crumbling had to be shelved, at least for another day or two. This team still has some fire in the belly. And for 48 more games, there's still a great deal of hope that everything is going to be all right.

Sure, there's still some pain and anger and emotion about all of this. Since August of last year, we've been acting as if we've been dating the prom queen, and on Thursday we found out we've got chlamydia. But it's okay. There's antibiotics for this as we recuperate and abstain for a little while. And we'll be back at full strength in no time.

Meanwhile, even in suspension, Manny Ramirez is making national headlines. Sunday's New York Times features an article on how the Dodgers' marketing plans with Manny positioned at the fulcrum may have subsided a bit, but Dodger fans are still largely supportive of both Ramirez and most certainly their team:

The Dodgers insist their mess can be mopped away, mostly by doing nothing at all. They may serve as a case-study for how to handle, or not, a premier player caught in the web of the league’s drug crackdown. While expressing disappointment in Ramirez, they did not distance themselves from him. The forgiving and forgetting will commence as soon as public sentiment allows. The Dodgers continue to sell his merchandise and use him in advertising campaigns. A Ramirez bobblehead promotion is still scheduled for July 22. He could return to the lineup July 3.

“You’re thrilled to have a Manny Ramirez,” said Charles Steinberg, the team’s executive vice president who oversees a wide range of the marketing. “And we’re still thrilled to have a Manny Ramirez.”

The Dodgers sold 30,000 tickets the day after Ramirez arrived from Boston in a trade, the highest 24-hour period in franchise history. At Dodger Stadium this year, they have sold 850 of his jerseys and 5,000 Ramirez T-shirts, the team said.

The impetus to act is being left largely to the fans.

“We’ll continue to sell Manny product,” Mannion said. “It will be a supply-and-demand situation.”

No one canceled season tickets after the suspension was announced, he said. About a dozen of the 3,100 people with future seats in Mannywood asked for a refund, according to the team, and no corporate sponsors backed out of agreements.


Before his suspension, Ramirez batted .348 with 6 home runs and 20 runs batted in. He has long been a supremely talented baseball misfit who drove his employers crazy. His antics, from dropped fly balls to mood swings, were dismissed as “Manny being Manny.”

But he immediately fit Southern California. He was a real-life character in a region that invents them.

“He was a gift from the baseball gods,” said Ray Mehlbaum, who has season tickets in the third row of the left-field bleachers. “That’s how people here viewed him.”

Tuesday was Cinco de Mayo, and several women in bright Mexican dresses danced in the stands. Ramirez playfully danced alone in the outfield. Nowhere is his allure stronger than with the estimated 40 percent of fans who are Hispanic.

“The difference between a Manny home run and any other player’s home run is his charisma,” said Mario Flores of Sportivo, a Los Angeles-based sports public-relations firm specializing in the Latino market. “You always see him laughing with the fans out on the field. He obviously loves what he’s doing. He loves the attention and the energy and the crowd.”

Somehow, the fact that he was caught did little to damper the enthusiasm, at least inside Dodger Stadium.

Some suggested that it was more palatable because Ramirez will serve a tangible penalty, unlike other stars whose alleged use of steroids was clouded in accusations and innuendo. (He will lose about $7.7 million of his $25 million salary this season because of the suspension.) Most are worried about how the team will fare until his return. [...]

Broader concerns over Ramirez’s Hall of Fame chances or his decreased value as a pitchman were left mostly to angry people on the airwaves and the Internet.

The Dodgers will “have to just endure what we have to endure,” as Manager Joe Torre said, and see what happens when Ramirez returns. But in this land of make-believe, it is easy to imagine the sequel to Mannywood.

Way to show some resilience, Dodger fans. While we're right in the spotlight of all the naysaying east coast biased reporters, who are looking for us to be rolling over on the ground after being kicked in the nuts, we're winning on the field and keeping positive in the stands. No matter how you feel about Manny, though, it's up to us to keep supporting the rest of our Dodgersm, during this critical period. But if we can stay positive--everything's going to be okay.

Go Blue!


Dusty Baker's Toothpick said...

Thanks Saxie, I'm feeling everything will turn out fine. Thursday night's loss was imminent. The bullpen can't be automatic for 162 games. Games like that will happen, I expect a few more like that this season.

Stults was THE MAN on Saturday, OMG!!! Anyone notice this guy is 4-1 on the year?

I'm coming to terms with the Manny thing. He's still a member of the Dodger family and has my 100% support. I need him to talk to his teammates, though. That would mean a lot to me.

Rock on, and happy Mutha's Day