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Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Updated: March 5, 9:07 PM ET
Manny makes Dodgers team to beat in NL West

ESPN.com

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Manny Ramirez just made the Dodgers the team to beat in the NL West.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON

By Eric Young, ESPN

The Dodgers' re-signing of Manny Ramirez pretty much locks up the NL West for Los Angeles and vaults them into the small group of elite teams in the National League. The main reason isn't just the production he brings to the table or even the lightness he brings to the clubhouse. It's the swagger and confidence he brings to the table.

A perfect example is the pitching staff, which could be the Achilles' heel of the Dodgers. This is a starting rotation that has some holes in it and that would have a much smaller margin of error if not for the presence of Manny. Now, instead of going into every game thinking they have to throw their best stuff, these guys know they can relax because they will get run support. Trust me, a pitcher who is relaxed and confident is a guy who's going to get the job done for your team.

Now, contrast that with teams within the Dodgers' division such as the Padres, Giants and Diamondbacks who might have better all-around pitching staffs but don't have that kind of confidence in their lineup. Constantly having to reach back and give their all early in the season will catch up to these teams later in the year.

Manny gives the Dodgers a great balance offensively. They now have four good hitting righty hitters (Casey Blake, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and Manny), two lefty starters (Andre Ethier and James Loney) and two switch-hitters (Orlando Hudson and Rafael Furcal). That will make it much more difficult for opposing managers to decide which relievers to bring in late in the game.

Also, Manny's presence means that manager Joe Torre can do a lot of different things with this lineup. Juan Pierre is now coming off the bench and bringing speed and a decent lefty bat along with fellow lefty hitter Blake DeWitt.

Barring major injuries, this team very well could be playing well into October with Manny in the middle of the order.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: March 3 | March 2 | March 1

BEST OF THE BLOGS

Each day, ESPN.com's contributors offer a wide array of thoughts and analysis in their blogs. Today, Peter Gammons offers his thoughts on the Manny deal and how he thinks both Ramirez and the Dodgers came out as winners:

We know what Manny Ramirez means to the Dodgers beyond the half-run per game they added to their offense after he created his opt-out and left Boston last season. We know about the Manny wigs; we know that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt inherited a mediocre television deal and relies on attendance and the benefits of parking, concessions, etc., at Dodger Stadium.

In the end, as McCourt, Ramirez, general manager Ned Colletti, manager Joe Torre and Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, watched the sun rise Wednesday morning from McCourt's Malibu, Calif., home, this four-month saga concluded near where it began: somewhere close to $45 million for two years.

Ramirez is happy because he loves playing in Los Angeles. The Dodgers' other players are happy because Ramirez makes them better and gives them a far better chance to win … and make more money. McCourt is happy because Ramirez is a cash cow.

When Ramirez left Boston, he told teammates he'd get either a four-year, $100 million contract or a six-year deal worth $150 million. And in November, Boras said he believed it would be a four-year deal. McCourt wouldn't go there.

He and Colletti did make concessions. Oh, there were silly mistakes made with some PR releases that embarrassed the club, but everyone moved on. Boras and Ramirez conceded to deferrals in the contract.

The November offer included a club option for a third year, and if the Dodgers declined and did a buyout, the contract would have had an annual average value of $20 million, which was what Ramirez had in Boston. This deal has a player option, which means Ramirez can play in 2009 for $24.3 million, then -- if he has a big season and the economy turns around -- he can parlay it into free agency or a threat that could get him another multiyear deal. The November deal did not include a no-trade provision; this one does, giving Ramirez more leverage.

For the rest of this entry from Peter Gammons' blog, click here.


Rob Neyer weighs in, taking a look at how the Dodgers' lineup shapes up with the re-addition of Manny:

With the big guy finally in the fold, Jon Weisman looks at the lineup and likes what he sees:

Gosh, that's an impressive lineup. The No. 6 hitter is going to hit 20 homers and steal 30 bases this season. The No. 7 hitter is a Gold Glove second baseman who's been a better-than-average National League hitter in each of the past three seasons. And the No. 8 hitter is a pretty solid bet for 20 home runs.

For the rest of this entry from Rob Neyer's blog, click here.

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THE WORLD OF MANNY

BASEBALL TONIGHT MAILBAG

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DODGERS WELCOME BACK MANNY

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he ventures into … you guessed it, the Manny Ramirez signing:

Manny Ramirez (career among active players)
BA .314 6th
HR 527 4th
RBI 1,725 2nd
SLG pct. .593 2nd

WEDNESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Kerry Wood• You mean, aside from the fact that this Manny Ramirez saga is, at long last, over? OK, then, there is the news that Kerry Wood's back felt fine after he threw batting practice Wednesday. For Wood, injury news always seems to be a part of spring.
WORST
Justin DuchschererKerry Wood got good news. Justin Duchscherer can only hope for the same. The A's pitcher is scheduled to get a second opinion on his sore right elbow. "His Opening Day start is definitely in jeopardy," Oakland manager Bob Geren said.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Cole Hamels has established himself as the Philadelphia Phillies' ace and one of the best pitchers in the National League after winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards last season. Expect this to continue because his peripheral numbers suggest he'll have sustained success:

Cole Hamels
2007-2008 Hamels NL Avg.
Swing-and-miss pct. 25.0 19.8
BB pct. of PA 5.8 8.6
Chase pct. 28.7 23.1
OBP when ahead in count .192 .217

Hamels gets batters to swing and miss at a rate higher than the league average while allowing walks at a rate substantially lower than average. Those are two indicators of sustained success going forward. He also gets hitters to chase bad pitches and keeps them off base when he has the advantage in the count.

-- ESPN Stats and Information

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