I don't know about you, but I'm taking in this Manny Ramirez renaissance with equal parts awe and annoyance. Probably a touch more of the former, which I suspect puts me in the distinct minority around here.
Overall this season, Manny's now hitting .325, with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in 134 games. His OPS+ is 161, a nice bit of symmetry considering that is his exact adjusted OPS from the '01 season, his first with the Sox.
So . . . can someone please tell me exactly what's happening here? Is it purely a salary drive? Is he feasting on the Quadruple A pitching of the National League? Is he trying to stick it to Theo Epstein and the front office that never really wanted him? Does he look at Nomar and D-Lowe and think this is 2003?
I thought Manny would hit in LA - we all figured he would to some degree - but I never saw this coming. He's 36 years old, and in his last season or so in Boston, he struggled to turn around good fastballs.
A year ago, he batted .296 with 20 homers and 88 RBIs, pedestrian numbers for a hitter of his accomplishments. The evidence suggested he was slipping into the winter of his Hall of Fame career.
And now he's his old self? I hate to use the word "tanking" . . . but maybe last season's statistical slippage had at least something to do with disinterest on Manny's part. He did find his fearsome form in October, after all. And we know how his last days in Boston played out; isn't it curious how his trick knee miraculously healed as soon as he boarded that westbound plane?
I'm not here today to debate whether the Sox should have waited out the storm with Manny. We've all moved on. Everyone adores the aw-shucks new guy, Jason Bay, and the Sox have legitimate championship aspirations. It's a bright new day.
Coincidentally enough, because of Manny, they feel exactly the same way in LA. The Dodgers have won nine of 10, surging to a 3 1/2-game lead over Arizona in the NL West. He has played 38 games in Dodger blue, not even a quarter of the full schedule, and he's a legitimate top-five Most Valuable Player candidate. There's no denying it: He's the driving force who rescued their season.
We all knew Manny was capable of a lot of things. But who knew he was still capable of this?
The way Manny's going, October might just bring us the ultimate Hollywood ending.
Sox-Dodgers World Series, anyone?
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As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Man, I wish the Blue Jays had nine of him in the lineup tonight.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.