No Manny? No Problem: Dodger Domination in the West

Derek HartCorrespondent IJune 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 03:  Closer Jonathan Broxton #51 and pitcher Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 3, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  Broxton pickup up his 13th save as the Dodgers won 1-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

When superstar Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating the drug policy, pundits and experts stated that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be fine.

As it turned out, they were absolutely right, and then some. 

And it makes this longtime Dodger fan SO glad about the team's performance to date:

Not only have the Dodgers kept the best record in baseball at 37-18 (going into tonight) since Manny's suspension, they have increased their lead in the National League West to 9 1/2 games, and are a threat to run away with that division.

A big factor in all of this is the maturing of their young players.

First baseman James Loney is on a pace to drive in 123 runs and is leading the team with 41 RBIs. Centerfielder Matt Kemp is coming into his own with a .310 average, as are rightfielder Andre Ethier and catcher Russell Martin.

On the mound, Chad Billingsley is settling down as the dependable workhorse that the Dodgers so desperately needed, and closer Jonathan Broxton has done a tremendous job, getting his 13th save last night in a 1-0 win over Arizona, lowering his ERA to a tiny 1.33.

But the MVP of this team (so far), in my book, is someone who I was completely mistaken about.

At the beginning of this season, I stated that Juan Pierre should be traded to San Diego for Jake Peavy to shore up L.A's starting rotation and to give Pierre a chance to play every day.

Now I have no qualms whatsoever about stating how wrong I was for advocating that move, and how glad I am that that trade didn't happen, because in filling in for Manny, Pierre has been absolutely brilliant. 

He has performed beautifully in left field, batting .371 and being a complete spark plug at the top of the lineup for Joe Torre. In my view, he's the number one reason that the Dodgers are where they are right now.

Conventional thinking says that if they are doing this well without Manny's presence in the lineup, they should be nearly unbeatable when he returns on July 3.

However, one must keep in mind that the National League West ought to be regarded as the National League Worst again this year.

And the Dodgers have not been truly tested yet.

Part of that test will come this weekend, as the Philadelphia Phillies come into Dodger Stadium for a four-game set.

If the Dodgers can get, at minimum, a split against the Phillies, and continue to win series, they should be more than OK.

Indeed, there is cause for excitement in L.A. this year, but let's just see how things continue to go.


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