I wrote yesterday about how silly it is for mainstream media members to act as if Manny Ramirez is no longer a good player despite his owning the fourth-best OPS in the entire league and the Dodgers having a significantly better record when he was in the lineup.
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote a column about Ramirez today and it includes exactly the sort of “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” approach that I was talking about. Here’s an excerpt:
With the exception of an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat, he departed the Dodgers the moment he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat. How do you say goodbye to someone who has been gone for 16 months?
“Man ain’t the same since he’s been off his medicine,” one of the Dodgers told me late last season.
Man lost faith in his drug-free swing. Man lost the swag in his clubhouse swagger. Man wasn’t Manny again, really, until last weekend. That was when he officially quit.
According to Plaschke he “lost faith in his drug-free swing” and “has been gone for 16 months” except for “an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat.” That all sounds good until you actually try to match up Plaschke’s statements with facts.
Since “he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat” Ramirez has batted .287 with a .396 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 143 games. That works out to an .896 OPS, which is the best on the Dodgers during that time and ranks 12th in the entire National League, directly behind Adrian Gonzalez (.916) and Ryan Howard (.903) and right ahead of Hanley Ramirez (.877) and Ryan Braun (.865).
I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone has to overlook Ramirez’s many faults, but why does pointing out his flaws have to include ignoring or even distorting his strengths to fit into a certain storyline? Since returning from his 50-game suspension Ramirez has been the best hitter on the Dodgers and one of the dozen best hitters in the entire league, yet from reading the many articles like Plaschke’s you’d think he was batting .190.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.