The Week Ahead: Manny hits Big Apple

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Manny Ramirez’s return from a 50-game suspension this past week was met
with a mixed reaction, helped no doubt by the games being played in
“Mannywood South”, also known as San Diego’s PETCO Park.

But this week, Manny and the Dodgers head to New York for a
three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. Will Ramirez’s
reception be any different? Will the boo birds come out in force, or
will it be more of the rainbows and puppy dogs we saw in San Diego?

Ramirez’s reception so far has been fascinating to watch, a mix of boos and cheers, with the booing seemingly half-hearted. (Video, here)

Can you imagine Barry Bonds receiving that kind of treatment anywhere outside of San Francisco?

Stephanie Armijo, 27, fell into the category of indecisive fans who
don’t hold an opinion concerning Ramirez. She brought along three
friends, all San Diego residents, and made creative signs in the hopes
of finding tickets to Friday’s sold-out game.

“Baseball is entertainment,” she said. “Manny is just being Manny.”

Ahhh! Manny being Manny. I guess that’s the difference. Very few
ever found “Barry being Barry” to be particularly charming. But if you
wear dreadlocks, smile a lot and appear to float through life on a
childlike cloud of indifference, they cut you some slack.

It will be interesting to see if New Yorkers treat Manny any
differently. It seems to me he deserves at least as much scorn as Bonds
received. For all his faults, at least Bonds never failed a drug test,
as Ramirez did. At least Bonds was never suspended by baseball, as
Ramirez was.

But Manny wasn’t caught with a steroid, you say? It was only a female fertility drug?

My answer then, is this: Why was this substance banned by baseball
in May of 2008? Why are they testing for it? Why, if you are caught
with it, does it result in a 50-game suspension?

The N.Y. Daily News sheds some light on these questions:

While it’s not technically a steroid (a point Ramirez strove to make
early on) hCG is well-known to bodybuilders, who use it as an adjunct
to their testosterone regimens, according to experts interviewed by the
Daily News.

“Every steroid dealer carries hCG because he knows his customers
will use it,” says Anthony Roberts, a trainer, blogger and steroid
expert who has written two anabolic reference books. “That indicates he
was a longtime user and that he knew what he was doing. The fact that
he was using hCG is as damning as a positive drug test to me.”

Manny being Manny? Not so charming now is it?

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

**Rangers at Angels, July 6-8: The Rangers enter the week
on a four-game winning streak, while the Angels have won their last
two. Oh, and they’re tied atop the AL West. The Rangers took two of
three from the Angels last week.

**Giants at Marlins, July 6-8: Two surprising second-place
teams go at it in Miami. The Giants have managed just enough offense to
back a great pitching staff, while the Marlins have been boosted by the
return to form of starter Ricky Nolasco, who struck out 12 in eight
scoreless innings on Sunday.

**Cardinals at Brewers, July 7-9: The top two teams in the
NL Central battle this week, although no one seems able to run away
from this division. Even the last-place Pirates are only seven games
out of first.

**Dodgers at Brewers, July 10-12: After Manny braves New York, he and the Dodgers head to Milwaukee. Should be a welcome reprieve … or will it be?

**Yankees at Angels, July 10-12: The red-hot Yankees enter
the week having won nine of their last 10. After a series against
Toronto, they head to Anaheim. Should be a good test.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Braves at Cubs (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Mets (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Dodgers at Brewers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.