Archive for Sunday, September 14, 2008

Commentary: Sabathia, Ramirez merit attention

September 14, 2008


The Yankees have been so bad lately that no one even cares anymore whether Alex Rodriguez is getting a divorce or has front row seats at Madonna's latest concert. They'll soon say goodbye to Yankee Stadium in an otherwise meaningless game against the Baltimore Orioles rather than the seventh game of a World Series.

The first postseason without the crew in pinstripes in what seems like forever leaves a void that even the possibility of an all-Chicago World Series can't fill. Meanwhile, the division races are mostly ho hum and this is one season the wild card isn't so wild in either league.

We don't even have Barry Bonds to kick around anymore.

Still, there are some intriguing developments in the National League that merit discussion around the office water cooler as the season limps to a close.

Who would have thought two rent-a-players who began the year in the American League actually have an outside shot at the biggest postseason awards in the senior circuit?

That, of course, would be CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez, who need no introduction to baseball writers who will make the picks once the season officially ends.

The same writers awarded Sabathia the Cy Young in the American League last year when he won 19 games for the Cleveland Indians. They haven't been as generous to Ramirez over the years, but what he's done for the Los Angeles Dodgers should get their attention.

Sabathia's name has been thrown around recently as a Cy Young candidate, mainly because he keeps winning for the Milwaukee Brewers. To win, he would probably have to capture his remaining starts and hope that Brandon Webb and Tim Lincecum split the remainder of the vote, but he's certainly in the mix. But how about Ramirez winning the MVP while only playing a third of his games in the league?

It may seem silly at first glance, especially with Albert Pujols putting up his usual big numbers in St. Louis and Ryan Howard hitting for power in a hitter's park in Philadelphia. But the definition of MVP isn't always how good a player's numbers are, rather what impact he has on his team's fortunes.

By that criteria, Ramirez wins going away.

The left fielder didn't just rescue a moribund Dodger team upon his arrival from the Red Sox, though the Dodgers were stuck at .500 and going nowhere. He re-energized an entire city that had long since become apathetic about a team that had lacked any real sense of purpose.

Look around Dodger Stadium these days and you'll see fans wearing fake dreadlocks in his honor. They stand and cheer every time Ramirez comes to bat, and many of them are even forgoing their usual seventh inning exit in hopes of seeing Manny at the plate one more time.

The record isn't spectacular, just 22-17 going into Saturday night's game since his arrival. But Ramirez has been, particularly against Arizona, a team the Dodgers swept last weekend to move into first place and finally give the NL West a team that looked worthy of winning its division.

The other night in San Diego he hit two home runs to right center field that right handers never hit out of Petco Park. And, surprisingly enough, he's been a role model for the younger players on the Dodgers who never could bond with Jeff Kent.


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