How Hanley Ramirez Can Have Bigger Impact Than Manny Ramirez for L.A. Dodgers

Richard LeivenbergContributor IIIAugust 3, 2012

LOS ANGELES - JULY 31:  Hanley Ramirez #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on July 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers hope that the only thing Hanley Ramirez and Manny Ramirez have in common is their last name.

Well, maybe not the only thing, since Manny was one helluva slugger, perhaps one of the great RBI men of all time.  And, he showed his stuff in that first half-season with the Dodgers in 2008 when he batted .396 with a slugging percentage of .743.

In fact, a very real case can be made that Manny single-handedly pushed the underachieving Dodgers into the playoffs, during which he hit .520 with four home runs, two doubles, 11 walks and 10 RBI.

With 37 home runs and 121 RBI, he finished fourth in MVP balloting.

He also turned out to be a huge blemish on the hugely blemished face of baseball, and the Dodgers.

After signing a two-year contract for $45 million, Manny was suspended for 50 games for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program established by MLB and the MLB Players Association in 2004.  He had been using a women's fertility drug utilized by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle.

The New York Times then reported that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during Major League Baseball's 2003 survey testing.  He was one of 104 major leaguers listed for steroid use.

By 2010, he was off the Dodgers.

Manny was 36 when he came to Los Angeles, and his best years were behind him.  Despite having a career that is worthy of the Hall of Fame, Manny tainted his legacy.

Hanley comes to Los Angeles during what should be his peak years.  He is 28 years old, has a career batting average of .300, has been a batting champion and was Rookie of the Year in 2006 after being traded from Boston to the Marlins.

He is most definitely a five-tool player, with 148 home runs and 230 stolen bases to his name.  While not considered a great fielder, he has made the All-Star Game three times as a shortstop.  In fantasy leagues, he is often times rated as the No. 1 shortstop, ahead of Troy Tulowitski.

OK, so this isn't a fantasy, although it may seem like one to Dodger fans.  Who would have thought that the weak-hitting Dodgers would be able to pick up Hanley Ramirez and have him bat next to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier?  This may be the best offensive threesome in the league.

Like Manny, Hanley has the chance to elevate the Dodgers into the playoffs.  Although the team lost three recent games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, they also won three straight against the division-leading San Francisco Giants.

Hanley hit a game-winning home run in one of those games and had seven RBI in his first five games.  That is the kind of power the Dodgers have been lacking even with Kemp and Ethier in the lineup.

Hanley most certainly does not possess Manny's pizzazz, crazy personality, knack for drama and wild dreadlocks that were marketing gold.

But, he has longevity on his side.  He has many good years ahead and can be the Dodger third baseman for years to come.  Although the Marlins did many things to bolster their roster this year, Hanley comes to a Dodger team with new management committed to getting to the World Series.

Manny's impact was short and powerful, like his swing.  Hanley's can be immediate and historic.  The Dodgers haven't had a good-hitting third baseman since Adrian Beltre, and have gone through way too many to count.

Before Hanley came to the team, the Dodgers were winning on a wish and a prayer.  Kemp missed a ton of the season on the DL; Ethier would go there too and the team was made up of a lot of guys no one had heard of, or everyone had forgotten.

Like Kemp, Hanley can win a game with his speed and his power.  It is rare to have two such players on the same team, and his bat makes it more difficult for pitchers to get through the lineup.

Like Manny, that is where Hanley's impact will be felt most, but unlike his namesake, Hanley has a chance to turn L.A. into Dodgertown for a long time to come.