Manny madness: Let the hype begin

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Manny Ramirez isn’t eligible to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers until
July 3, but the hype is already kicking into high gear as the tainted
slugger begins his minor league warm-up on Tuesday in Albuquerque.

No matter what you think of the slugger and his pending return, you’re bound to have an opinion about it. Everyone does.

One writer thinks it’s a sham
that he gets to play in the minors before his 50-game suspension for
failing a drug test has been completed. Another scribe wonders why that’s even an issue.
It’s not like he’s getting special treatment. All suspended players are
allowed to find their rhythm in the minors before their eligible to
return.

And for what it’s worth, my Uncle Frank thinks Ramirez, and anyone else
caught doping, should be sent somewhere far, far away. Like Mars,
maybe. I have a feeling many people feel the same way.

Regardless of where you fall on the Ramirez issue, it will be hard
not to follow his movements over the next week or so. Whether you’re
thrilled or disgusted, you won’t be able to turn your eyes away.

As one fan said “He’s a cheater, but I still want to see him play.” He’s not alone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, who average 7,000 fans per game, have already sold an extra 11,000 tickets in two days.

And the San Bernardino 66ers — a single-A Dodgers farm team — have already sold out Sunday’s game, even though the Dodgers have yet to even confirm Ramirez will play there.

Fans can watch Ramirez play on Tuesday – for a fee – as the game will be broadcast on MiLB.TV.

And if you’re expecting the slugger to need some time to shake off
the rust, you might be surprised. The man who’s been throwing him
batting practice says Ramirez is already locked in.

“I can tell just by watching how the balls carry,” said Flippo. “You
can tell — the way his rhythm is going when he has it together. You
can tell if he looks comfortable. You can tell when a guy is fighting
it. Everything is looking easy for him, as easy as when he came to us.

“One thing I can tell, when I throw a good pitch down the middle, I
expect that to be hit. With him, even when I don’t give him a good
pitch, he still drives it. In Spring Training, if he got one of those
bad pitches, he didn’t hit it that good. Last year, when he joined us,
no matter where the pitch was, he hit it hard. And right now, it’s the
same thing with him.”

Let the hype begin.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.