Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Updated: October 16, 6:40 PM ET
By Scoop Jackson
No, not him. Anybody but him.
You can already hear it. Welcome to late September.
There it goes: "Manny Aristides Ramirez, the 2008 NL MVP." That's a hard one to absorb, ain't it? Maybe too big a blue pill to swallow. Especially if you live outside the 323 area code. "That dude being honored as the MVP? Over our dead bodies." Let the church say, Amen!
According to the Book of Torreians, the audacity of Manny Ramirez winning the MVP award is not as insane as some people think the man himself is. Even though there's a better chance of Sarah Silverman getting an Emmy (oops, it happened!), for Manny, it actually should happen. Actually, if this were an episode of "Boston Legal" and William Shatner and James Spader were Manny's legal team handling his case for MVP, they'd both be on the office balcony with celebratory stogies wearing No. 99 Dodger jerseys and blue caps with faux dreads.
The case should be closed.
But since it's not, let's crunch some numbers of the players mentioned most often as MVP candidates:
• Ryan Howard: .245 BA/46 HR/141 RBI/.334 OBP/.529 SLG/.863 OPS
• Carlos Delgado: .273 BA/37 HR/110 RBI/.355 OBP/.521 SLG/.875 OPS
• Albert Pujols: .348 BA/34 HR/106 RBI/.453 OBP/.631 SLG/1.084 OPS
All three front-running candidates for NL MVP have offensive numbers that extend over the entire season, not just the 48 games Ramirez has played since he slipped on Lasorda blue.
But without even getting caught up in the .399 batting average, the 16 home runs and 49 RBIs he's put up since his Red Sox divorce -- or the .493 on-base percentage, .751 slugging percentage and 1.243 OPS -- his season-long numbers provide a part of the story that most are missing (Fox's Mark Kriegel made a similar argument).
• Manny Ramirez: .331 BA/36 HR/117 RBI/.429 OBP/.600 SLG/1.030 OPS
When compared to Pujols, it's like trying to tell the difference between Henry Paulsen and Arthur Slugworth.
Then there's that small thing called "impact." Some call it "making the players around you better"; others say "making your team better." Of all the aforementioned MVP candidates listed, none has impacted their team the way Manny has the Dodgers. This is the one factor that sets him apart from all the other pretenders in this year's race.
True, it's only been 48 games of impact, but he's done more for one team in 48 games than any of the others have done (with possible the exception of Pujols) over the season.
6: Number of games the Dodgers have played over .500 since Manny arrived.
.500: Dodgers winning percentage before Manny joined the team.
.519: Dodgers winning percentage today.
2: Number of games the Dodgers were out of first place when Manny got there.
2: Number of games they now lead the NL West.
.274: Andre Ethier's batting average July 31.
.361: Andre Ethier's batting average since Manny joined the lineup (of late, Ethier has been hitting second, Ramirez third).
16-5: Dodgers' record since Jeff Kent was injured Aug. 29.
25: The number Andruw Jones wears for the Dodgers that Manny has mercifully made you forget.
Ramirez himself told the Los Angeles Times, "It's nice that some people think I deserve [the MVP]. I'd like to win it, but I have to be realistic. Someone who was only here for two months doesn't deserve it. It should go to someone who played the six months of the season."
Gotta love political correctness. But Manny himself is wrong in his episode of humility. He has played all six months; it just hasn't been with the same team or in the same league. He's produced. Plain and simp. He's put up the numbers over the course of the entire season (148 games played and counting) that are on par with if not superior to any player up for the honor.
Plus, he's done the one thing that seemed impossible when this season began: He made the Dodgers relevant again. When owner Frank McCourt and GM Ned Colletti brought Joe Torre to Los Angeles, they figured Torre's name and cachet would be enough to get the people in La-La Land to care about the Dodgers. That didn't necessarily happen (in fact, Dodgers attendance has spiked since the Ramirez trade). Then the Andruw Jones move blew up worse than Barry Zito in Frisco. And to top it all off, the Dodgers weren't even the best team in the weakest division in baseball.
Then he came. And all of a sudden everything changed. With an extremely heavy emphasis on the word "everything."
And here's one more number to think about:
You can't see it, can you? It's there. It's that invisible, impossible-to-define-or-determine number that represents the intangible. That invisible number that changes the culture of a team inside a clubhouse and spreads itself over an entire city. It's that number that helps makes major league baseball better and so interesting. Look at the All-Stars Ryan Howard has on his roster; look at the superstars Carlos Delgado has on the Mets; true, Pujols has carried the Cards, but they are in fourth place and the unwritten rule in sports is that the MVP award usually goes to a player on a playoff contender. But Manny Ramirez, in two months, resurrected one of the most important and storied franchises in baseball.
For that unseeable, intangible number, Manny Ramirez deserves the NL MVP. Will it happen? It doesn't help his case when even he doesn't believe it will happen. Or that he doesn't feel he deserves it.
At the beginning of the season, all Manny Ramirez said he wanted was to win a Gold Glove. That was just MBM: Manny Being Manny, again. Little did he -- or rest of us -- know that this year there'd be something so much bigger in store for him.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.