After the Dodgers clinched their division championship Saturday night and celebrated in the clubhouse, and then on the field as they saluted adoring fans; Manny Ramirez recognized his contribution.
“I celebrated by getting a hit,” he said with a sheepish grin
Ramirez was emphasizing that he was in a slump and had struck out frequently in recent games.
Now, as the Dodgers face the St. Louis Cardinals in the first playoff round they wonder which Manny they’ll see — the one who so magnificently led the team last season or the one who has floundered this season after returning from a 50-game suspension.
Which Manny they’ll see will probably determine if they win at least one round, as they did last year by sweeping the Cubs, or not.
And, of course, if Manny gets hot more success could be possible, even the chance the Dodgers could play the Angels in the World Series.
The Manny of last season not only produced big hits but made teammates better by his mere presence in the lineup. They got better pitches to hit and sometimes he drew walks to provide a base runner for others to drive in.
But that hitter wasn’t seen nearly as often this season. His timing was off and fastballs frequently overpowered him.
“I’ll know he’s coming out of it when he uses the whole field,” said Manager Joe Torre several times in September. “Right now he’s trying to pull everything.”
It wasn’t until the Dodgers lost five straight games when they needed just one win to clinch the division when Ramirez went with outside pitches and indicated he was back on track.
He had only single in the Saturday night win 5-0 win over Colorado that produced the celebration but he hit the ball hard to right field a couple of times — just what Torre was waiting to see.
Now, the better opponents come along, playoff foes and superior pitching and the Dodgers need Manny to lead them.
If he leads they’re likely to follow because the young guys are growing up. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp with results this season to match their potential, Clayton Kershaw with 10 strikeouts in five innings in the clincher against the Rockies.
And an improved bench corps of older players — Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta and Ronnie Belliard.
The Dodgers led the National League in wins with 94 and became division champs two straight times for the first time since 1977 and ’78.
They’ve made the playoffs three times in the first four years Ned Colletti has been general manager.
Some media folks expressed concern when Frank McCourt became the Dodgers’ owner, some even speculating he would replace Dodger Stadium and use the land for real estate purposes.
Instead, the Dodgers have thrived under the leadership of Frank and Jamie McCourt. The team’s payroll has allowed for division championship rosters and improvements have been made to the stadium.
McCourt thanks the Southern California fans.
“It says a lot that we could lead the league in attendance in a difficult economy,” he said.
The Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, but McCourt says the Dodgers are back to having a contending team every season.