Dodgers show they're more than Manny
Total team effort lifts LA to best record in NL in 2009
In 2009, Manny returned. Then he left. Then he returned. Then he wasn't the same.
But the outcome for the Dodgers in 2009 was the same as in '08. Another National League West title, another first-round playoff sweep, another five-game elimination from the National League Championship Series at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies.
While the focus seems to be on Manny Ramirez no matter what he does, it took a team effort for the Dodgers to post the best record in the NL, especially with Ramirez having to serve a 50-game drug suspension.
It marked the third trip to the playoffs for the Dodgers in the four-year tenure of general manager Ned Colletti, who was rewarded with a contract extension despite a dispute in ownership that resulted from the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt.
On the field and off, it was a typical Dodgers roller-coaster. What follows is a month-by-month review of the season.
Andruw Jones was bought out of the final year of his two-year contract. Free agents Claudio Vargas, Guillermo Mota and Brad Ausmus signed one-year contracts. Jeff Kent retired.
Randy Wolf, Jeff Weaver, Orlando Hudson and Will Ohman signed contracts. Camelback Ranch opened.
Ivan DeJesus broke his leg. Ramirez was re-signed to a two-year contract. Hiroki Kuroda was named Opening Day starter. Eric Collins was hired as a broadcaster.
The Dodgers finished the inaugural month of the season with a record of 15-8 and a perfect 7-0 mark at home. In his first game at Dodger Stadium, Hudson became the first Dodger to hit for the cycle in the ballpark's history and ended up leading the team in hits (32) while batting .337 during the month. Ramirez led the team with a .372 batting average, a .500 on-base percentage, and was tied for the team lead with five home runs. Right fielder Andre Ethier led the team with 22 RBIs, and center fielder Matt Kemp began the season with a 14-game hitting streak while batting .325 with 16 RBIs. On the mound, Chad Billingsley led the staff with a 4-0 record and 2.14 ERA. Out of the bullpen, Ramon Troncoso posted a 1.38 ERA while closer Jonathan Broxton was 7-for-8 in save opportunities with a dominating 0.82 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 11 innings. Broxton held the opposition to a .057 batting average.
Despite the 50-game drug suspension for Ramirez announced on May 7, the Dodgers turned it up a notch, finishing the month with a 20-9 mark that tied the Texas Rangers for the best in the Major Leagues. The club finished May with an overall record of 35-17, which was the best in baseball. At home, the Dodgers continued where they left off in April by winning their first six games to start the season 13-0 at Dodger Stadium, establishing a modern-day Major League Baseball record. Outfielder Juan Pierre posted a team-best .369 average while filling in for Ramirez. Third baseman Casey Blake provided the power at the plate by hitting a team-high four home runs while batting .353. Hudson hit safely in a career-high 17 straight games, while batting .328 with a team-leading 10 doubles for the month. First baseman James Loney was the team's leading run producer, as he collected 22 RBIs. Young left-hander Clayton Kershaw was tied with the team lead with three wins and posted a 2.57 ERA. Out of the bullpen, Ronald Belisario remained solid with a team leading 1.15 ERA (two earned runs in 15 2/3 innings). Broxton dominated with three wins, four saves, and 20 strikeouts in just 14 innings.
The Dodgers completed their first winning June since '03 at 14-12 and held onto the best record in the Majors at 49-29. Ethier's memorable month included three walk-off hits while leading the team with nine home runs and 22 RBIs. Kemp led the team with a .305 batting average and tied Pierre with a team-high 29 hits. Billingsley remained the staff's ace and workhouse by leading the team in wins (three), innings pitched (38 1/3), and strikeouts (34). The Dodgers' bullpen continued to dominate with the help of Mota, who allowed only one run in 16 innings (0.56 ERA). Broxton struck out 21 batters in only 11 2/3 innings out of the bullpen to compile a team-leading seven saves.
The Dodgers put together their fourth consecutive winning month, posting a 15-10 record and remaining atop the Majors with a 64-39 record. Kemp continued to dominate at the plate, putting together a team-high .344 batting average while also leading the way in RBIs (18), on-base percentage (.423) and stolen bases (three). Rafael Furcal provided the spark at the top of the lineup by leading the team with 37 hits. Slugger Ramirez returned to the field July 3 from his suspension and was second on the team with five home runs, behind only fellow outfielder Ethier, who hit six. Kershaw was simply dominant on the hill, going 3-0 while leading the other two Triple Crown categories with a staggering 0.71 ERA (three earned runs in 38 innings) and 34 strikeouts. Troncoso remained a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen, appearing in a team-high 13 games with a 2.19 ERA. On July 30, the Dodgers traded for left-handed reliever George Sherrill.
The Dodgers suffered their first month with a losing record and their third straight losing August with a record of 14-15, but remained the Senior Circuit's best at 78-54. Ethier's career year continued as he led the team with a .333 batting average (38-for-114). His outfield counterpart Kemp led the club with nine homers, 27 RBIs, and 22 runs scored. The emerging Wolf led the club with four wins while leading Dodger starters with a 2.76 ERA (15 earned runs in 49 innings) in seven starts. The Major League's best bullpen (3.22 ERA) was led by Sherrill, who posted a bullpen-best 0.63 ERA (one earned run in 14 1/3 innings) in 14 appearances. Kuroda narrowly escaped serious injury when drilled off the head by a line drive. Free-agent pitcher Vicente Padilla was signed Aug. 19, second baseman Ronnie Belliard was acquired Aug. 30 and Jon Garland and Jim Thome were obtained Aug. 31.
September/October (regular season)
The Dodgers finished the last two months of the regular season as the NL West champions for the second straight year and with the best record in the NL. Furcal came on strong at the end of the season and led the team with a .330 batting average (21-for-37) along with 37 hits. The trio of newly acquired Dodgers -- Belliard, Garland and Padilla -- was instrumental in the team's pennant run, while Kemp and Ethier reached the 100-RBI plateau. Belliard posted a .356 batting average (26-for-73) while hitting four home runs to tie him for the team lead with Ethier, Kemp, Loney, and Ramirez. Garland had three wins with a 2.72 ERA (11 earned runs in 36 1/3 innings), and Padilla had two wins with a 3.38 ERA (11 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings). Sherrill and Belisario continued to shore up the strong bullpen, each with a 0.73 ERA. Kershaw pitched the division clincher.
Kuroda was knocked out of the first round of the postseason with a herniated disk in his neck. The Dodgers swept the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs. The bullpen won Game 1. Matt Holliday dropped Loney's line drive, and the Dodgers came off the deck on Mark Loretta's walk-off hit in a Game 2 comeback. Padilla pitched a clinching masterpiece in Game 3. Frank and Jamie McCourt announced their separation on the eve of the NLCS. In the NLCS against Philadelphia, Kershaw drew the Game 1 start and was defeated. Another Padilla masterpiece for a Game 2 win got the Dodgers even. But Kuroda returned from his injury and didn't look right, getting shelled in the Game 3 loss. Colletti received a contract extension. Broxton suffered a blown save as Game 4 got away. Padilla was drubbed in the Game 5 elimination. Jamie McCourt was dismissed as CEO.
Ohman was bought out of his 2010 option. Padilla shot himself in the leg in Panama. Garland's option was declined. They are two of 15 Dodgers to file for free agency. Kemp and Hudson won Gold Gloves. Ethier and Kemp won Silver Sluggers. DeJesus, Kenley Jansen, Luis Guerra and Trayvon Robinson were added to the 40-man roster.
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully announced he's returning for 2010. Club president Dennis Mannion's duties expanded to include baseball operations. Carlos Monasterios and Armando Zerpa were taken in the Rule 5 Draft, while Jamie Hoffmann was lost. Pierre was traded to the White Sox for pitchers John Ely and Jon Link. Free-agent infielder Jamey Carroll was signed to a two-year contract.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.