Manny Ramirez was benched in favor of Scott Podsednik, claimed off waivers and let go just to save money, and ended his Dodgers career by getting ejected in the middle of an at-bat yesterday, so the number of articles being written with the premise that he’s a useless bum is at an all-time high.
Before buying into those arguments, here are some counter-arguments I hope you’ll at least consider …
First and foremost Ramirez is hitting .311/.405/.510 this season, which is good for a .915 OPS that ranks as the fourth-highest in the league among all hitters with at least 200 plate appearances:
Joey Votto 1.023
Albert Pujols 1.019
Carlos Gonzalez .955
MANNY RAMIREZ .915
Adrian Gonzalez .909
Now, to me that alone would be enough to suggest that Ramirez is still pretty damn good, but the above numbers don’t seem to have had the same impact on many mainstream writers. So, take a look at this, which is the Dodgers’ scoring and record with and without Ramirez in the lineup this season:
With Ramirez 5.1 32-22
Without Ramirez 3.7 35-42
When the Dodgers have started Ramirez this season they’ve scored 5.1 runs per game and have a 32-22 record. When the Dodgers haven’t started Ramirez this season they’ve scored 3.7 runs per game and have a 35-42 record.
So, the guy ranks fourth in the league with a .915 OPS, his team has scored 38 percent more runs per game with him in the lineup, and they have a .593 winning percentage with him compared to a .455 winning percentage without him. I realize he has plenty of faults, has missed time with injuries, and can be a pain in the ass, but can we at least stop this charade about him no longer being a really, really, really good hitter?
When sportswriters (and fans, too) like a player personally they naturally tend to overstate his ability and value (see: Eckstein, David), but as we’re seeing now the opposite is certainly true about Ramirez. Based on the hundreds of mainstream articles written about him during the past couple weeks you’d assume he was hitting .225 and the Dodgers were thriving without him, when in reality that’s far from the case.
Manny Ramirez is a lot of things, but a bad hitter still isn’t one of them.
This definitely qualifies as more “interesting” than “significant” but Carl Crawford hit his 100th career homer last night to become just the eighth player in baseball history with 100 homers, 100 triples, and 400 steals.
The other guys in the 400-100-100 club: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Lou Brock, Frankie Frisch, Kenny Lofton, Paul Molitor, and Tim Raines. All but Raines and Lofton are in the Hall of Fame, and Raines is deserving of a spot in Cooperstown even though he’ll probably never get voted in (and a decent argument can perhaps be made for Lofton too).
Not bad company, especially since Crawford just turned 29 years old earlier this month. He has a chance to crack 20 homers for the first time this season, and since debuting in mid-2002 his 100 triples are the most in baseball and he has more steals (403) than everyone but Juan Pierre (457).
Joel Zumaya amazingly never ceased being the hardest-thrower in baseball even while battling all kinds of arm injuries over the past few years, averaging 99.3 miles per hour with his fastball both this season and last season.
However, now that Zumaya is sidelined while recovering from July elbow surgery the “hardest-thrower” title is vacant and R.J. Anderson of Fan Graphs writes that Angels rookie reliever Jordan Walden may be ready to claim it.
Called up last week, Walden has made three appearances, faced 13 batters, and thrown a total of 50 pitches. Of those 50 pitches 36 have been fastballs and they’ve clocked in at an average of 98.9 miles per hour. I watched in awe as he repeatedly cracked triple-digits in his big-league debut against my beloved Twins last week, but was surprised to find that his minor-league numbers aren’t nearly as jaw-dropping.
He moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, posting a 3.44 ERA, .277 opponents’ batting average, and 41/24 K/BB ratio in 50 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before the call-up. Those certainly aren’t terrible numbers, but managing just 41 strikeouts in 50 innings while opponents bat .277 sure seems odd given his incredible fastball velocity and seemingly solid slider.
Consistently throwing strikes appears to be Walden’s biggest issue, but if he can harness his raw stuff while continuing to pump 99-mph heat at hitters from a low arm angle he sure looks like a potentially dominant late-inning reliever. And he may just be the hardest-thrower in baseball, at least until Aroldis Chapman and his mythical 105-mph fastball arrive in Cincinnati later this week.
Colby Rasmus hasn’t started a game in two weeks, in part because of a calf injury and in part because of what appears to be an increasingly sour relationship with manager Tony La Russa.
Rasmus made it clear that he was healthy enough to play over the weekend and he was initially in yesterday’s posted lineup, but was removed just minutes before the first pitch. La Russa made no mention of the decision during his pregame media briefing and after the game said: “When a guy’s ready, you give him one more day just to have that peace of mind.”
Which doesn’t sound weird, except for the part about Rasmus being in the original lineup that was posted for two hours. Rasmus didn’t make it an issue after the game, but reading between the lines most writers covering the Cardinals seem convinced that his relationship with La Russa has gotten very bad.
La Russa has said some things negatively comparing Rasmus to Jon Jay and reportedly doesn’t like that Rasmus’ father gives him hitting coaching. Officially the explanation given for Rasmus being scratched from yesterday’s lineup was simply “non-medical reasons,” but St. Louis Post Dispatch beat writer Joe Strauss described that as “for the Kool-Aid set” and later wrote that “it’s a fair guess either La Russa or Rasmus is gone from St. Louis before the 2011 season.”
Those are pretty strong words coming from a beat writer and Strauss is one of the best in the business, so I tend to think there’s plenty of fire behind the smoke. Beyond that, yesterday veteran Post Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz tweeted: “I have no idea what’s going on between La Russa and Rasmus, but this is very strange, and it must end.”
La Russa has feuded with players before and in some cases those players have left town because of it, but in this case the 23-year-old Rasmus is seemingly more important to the Cardinals’ future than their 65-year-old manager. After a solid rookie season he’s emerged as one of the game’s top all-around talents this year, playing good defense in center field while hitting .268/.352/.501 to rank second among all MLB center fielders with an .853 OPS.
If it’s true that St. Louis isn’t big enough for the both of them, the Cardinals better think long and hard about whether keeping La Russa is worth giving up a 23-year-old stud center fielder.