Los Angeles is full of stars. Its prized MLB franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers are no different. It’s that star-power that keeps the Blue Crew at the front of professional baseball news… win or lose.
So far this season, the Dodgers have done only slightly more winning than losing and find themselves toiling seven games behind the NL West leading, San Francisco Giants.
There doesn’t seem to be the amount of panic as there was this time last season though. The Dodgers were in far worse shape in the standings and their manager Don Mattingly probably would have been canned, had an obvious replacement been on hand.
The saving grace last year came in the form of a polarizing super talent named Yasiel Puig. Puig ignited the Dodgers upon his arrival last season and nearly rode the wave all the way to the World Series had it not been for a late season showing of some of the most horrendous looking strike outs ever seen in pro baseball.
The second year player, however, has silenced his critics thus far this campaign by adjusting to major league pitching and showing an amount of maturity that is catching up to his raw ability. Puig is undoubtedly the future of the Dodgers if not the entire MLB.
With Puig firmly in place for years to come for Los Angeles, as is its ace Clayton Kershaw, the front office in Dodgertown must not only keep up with the Joneses, but remain ahead of them–especially for what they’re spending to BE the Joneses, and keep a consistent roster in tact.
Outside of the overcrowded and overpriced outfield currently wearing the Dodger uniform, this begins with shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez, whose contract runs out at the end of the 2014 season is a fan favorite since his arrival via trade two seasons ago and admittedly loves playing in Chavez Ravine. Outside of a long stint on the DL to open the 2013 season thanks to a broken hand suffered in the World Baseball Classic, Ramirez has been a rock for the Dodgers.
While many point to the arrival of Puig last spring as the spark that started the fire for L.A., Ramirez was just as effective—only outside of the spotlight.
Ramirez played in exactly half of the Dodgers games last season and still managed to pop 20 home runs. He also scored early and often in Mattingly’s line-up, plating 57 runs while batting, a way above career average, .345.
This year, Ramirez hasn’t gotten off to a tremendously blazing start, but he is showing signs of heating up. In his last ten games he is hitting .333 with 11 RBI. Despite a calf injury earlier in the week that seemed like it could linger and set him back, the infielder shook it off after only missing two games and has come back showing no ill effects.
He had possibly his best offensive night as a pro Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates going 4-4 with two home runs and five RBI.
Ramirez’ bat, nor his gamesmanship, have ever really been the question, however. Now at 30 years old, he may have worn out his welcome a bit as a top defensive shortstop, but it’s not like he’s hurting the Dodger defense.
His range may have shrunken, but his arm is still there making him a viable candidate to take over third base if L.A. could find a better defensive option at short for a couple of seasons. The Dodgers haven’t had a consistent third baseman since Adrian Beltre left town a decade ago.
This, of course, is only an option with L.A.’s top prospect at short, Corey Seager, only at Single-A and still a couple of years away. It basically all points to L.A. not detouring from inking the former All-Star to a three to four year extension because… because… well, there really is no reason for them not to.
Mattingly has spoken glowingly of Ramirez, obviously tossing his hat in the ring to keep the shortstop in Dodger blue. The manager, who himself signed an extension this year riding last season’s resurgence, is aware of all the qualities Ramirez brings to his team. Leadership, confidence, knowledge and that silly, fake-eye-glasses thing he does with his hands around his eyes after a hit back to his mates in the dugout.
Beyond the offensive numbers, Han-Ram brings some swagger of his own. It’s a perfect sideshow in Tinsletown, where Puig has unseated Matt Kemp as the unquestioned star in the city of stars.