Manny Ramirez Is Almost Back. Who Knew?

Teddy MitrosilisAnalyst IJune 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers on base against the Colorado Rockies during the game at Dodger Stadium on April 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I thought time only flies when you are having fun, but apparently that beauty of an adage isn’t entirely true.

As it turns out, time also flies when you don’t care. Seriously.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Manny Ramirez is tentatively scheduled to join the Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, next Tuesday for the beginning of a four-game series. According to the report, Ramirez will then play a three-game series with Los Angeles’ Single A Inland Empire club before being set to rejoin the Dodgers Jul. 3 in San Diego.

Over the last two years, I have developed a conveniently dark, comfy place for baseball’s steroid users in my heart, one that is more suited for REM than RBI.

True, I have to confront sleep apnea in my personal defense cocoon, but at least I don’t have to pay any attention to reports (Mitchell), lists (the infamous 102 remaining names), and prescriptions (pick one).

So, naturally, I dealt with this week’s New York Times report claiming Sammy Sosa tested positive in 2003 for performance-enhancers—wow, a shocker—the same way I have handled Manny’s absence from Los Angeles.

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…“

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And let me tell you something. If you haven’t tried this tactic, you are missing out. It’s great!

Sure, it is going to be fun to see Ramirez back in the lineup and his dreds frolicking through the leftfield air as he skips, turns, twists, and hopscotches his way to a fly ball, but only because he is an entertaining baseball player, not because he is coming back from a suspension.

Heck, I may even make my way down to San Diego to watch it all happen. You never know.

Manny has been relegated to this type of minimal importance in my baseball life, and I’m better for it. Why? Because I actually got to open my eyes to the rest of the Dodgers' roster in his absence, and follow some guys who are truly entertaining to watch, without being pricked with a dirty needle.

Since Manny got bounced by Commissioner Selig’s drug testing policy in early May, the Dodgers have the best record in the National League (23-15) and have increased their lead in the National League West from 6.5 games to nine games over the second-place San Francisco Giants.

How has it happened?

Lets just call it a collective effort.

And for the record, all stats from here on out are from May 7 to the present, or what I like to refer as Great Lent for the Dodgers, i.e. their official fast from Lord Manny.

Orlando Hudson still looks like the best signing the Dodgers made last offseason, gobbling up any ground ball hit to second base and strolling the dugout like he’s continuously connected to a special Red Bull IV drip. He’s hitting .284, and continues to find himself on base and in the middle of seemingly every late-inning rally.

He has grown on me thicker than Jonathan Broxton’s sideburns, and has become my favorite Dodgers player to watch.

I thought Dodgers GM Ned Colletti overvalued Casey Blake at last year’s trade deadline, giving up a potential star in catcher Carlos Santana as part of the package sent to the Cleveland Indians, but I have it to give it to Colletti for pulling the trigger at the deadline and for Blake pulling the trigger at the plate.

Blake is hitting .364 with five homers and 1.020 OPS, and the Dodgers aren’t nearly the same club without him.

If you haven’t noticed him, don’t feel bad. The only thing that really stands out about him is his beard. But that’s a good thing. For once, Hollywood is putting substance above style.

James Loney? He’s hitting .285 and playing a solid first base, although his .384 SLG is disappointing. The Dodgers have expected more power than that from him, but hitting coach Don Mattingly still believes it is going to come for Loney, so that’s good enough for me.

Matt Kemp is teasing all of L.A. with his .338 batting average and .391 OBP while roaming centerfield. Kemp is the Dodgers’ version of Adam Jones, but he just hasn’t broken out yet with such flair.

See all the fun we are having sans Manny? And that’s just the hitters.

(I didn’t forget Andre Ethier or Rafael Furcal; it’s just that their bats have been tanning in Malibu during Manny’s absence.)

Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf have been the stucco of the Dodgers pitching staff that leads the National League in ERA (3.57). Hiroki Kuroda is working himself back into the mix after missing more than a month with a left oblique strain.

Clayton Kershaw continues to take steps forward in his development, while Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario do the heavy lifting in the bullpen leading up to Broxton in the ninth inning.

Earlier in the season, I openly wondered whether the pitching staff could hold up, or if the mirrors would eventually shatter into a million pieces. It's still early, but the pitching staff has exceeded my expectations.

And that’s the beautiful thing about finding the necessity to move on from fallen stars and fake heroes. Your world is opened up to good players who can entertain in their own right, and the emotional burden is nil.

That doesn’t mean not caring as a fan whether your team wins or loses. It means being able to eat dinner and sleep comfortably after your team is cold-cocked by the PED. You wake up fresh the next morning, ready for another ballgame.

My dad mentioned to me the other night that Manny may come back and he went on a tear because the Dodgers have taken the pressure off him by winning in his absence. Manny is not coming back to a house full of smoke and looking to be the extinguisher. 

I hope he comes back and goes on a tear, simply because he has cheated the fans out of 50 games of fun and his teammates out of 50 games of production.

“But, really,” I said to my dad, “Manny could come back and hit 40 homers, and I wouldn’t really care, or he could come back and stink, and I wouldn’t really care. It’s the same to me.”

And that’s only because the fan in me has moved on to bigger and better things.

I want Manny to come back, shut up, and hit. I’m not interested in fake press conferences and vague answers. Answer with the bat.

That way, he will fit in with the rest of his teammates, who have been winners in the wake of his destruction.

But, either way, I won’t be coherent during the circus that accompanies his arrival. The Dodgers and the game can do without it.

Just wake me up when Manny starts putting balls in the gaps.

You can reach Teddy Mitrosilis at tm4000@yahoo.com.