03/04/09 8:25 PM EST
Shockwaves across NL West
Ramirez's return to LA gains notice of division rivals
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Even though Manny Ramirez didn't don a Dodgers uniform until last year's Trade Deadline, he was there long enough to make his presence felt. He batted .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBIs in 229 plate appearances over 53 games, sparked the team to a division title and first-round postseason upset of the team with the best record in the NL, the Chicago Cubs, and had Dodger Stadium partying like it was 1988.
A seemingly endless negotiation process and $45 million has bought the Dodgers at least one more year of Manny and the rest of the division's pitchers another year or two of headaches.
Still, immediate comments regarding Ramirez's re-upping showed that the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres seem to settle on one collective and competitive reaction: He's a great player, but bring him on.
"I really don't care," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "It's really not a concern of ours. They are the defending champs and until you knock them off, to me, they're always the favorite."
Melvin might not have had Ramirez's 2008 stats against the Diamondbacks in front of him when making that statement -- Ramirez was 20-for-32 against Arizona with five homers and 12 RBIs. He also conveniently didn't mention that Arizona went 2-7 against the Dodgers after Ramirez's arrival, losing a two-game division lead and eventually finishing two games behind Los Angeles in the standings.
But Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes and pitcher Doug Davis were willing to attest to Ramirez's potential impact.
"Obviously, he changed the race last year and hopefully we do a better job of getting him out," Byrnes said. "As great as he is, we have had some really good hitters in our division. Hopefully, we fare better. He wore us out last year."
"They have a great lineup as it is right now, but you put Manny in there, they definitely have the best one possibly in baseball," Davis added. "He makes everyone else better around the lineup. We'd rather he not be in the division, but whatever. It is what it is."
The Giants are the Dodgers' biggest historical rival, and they've beefed up their pitching rotation and lineup. They also were minor players for Ramirez's services before the slugger re-signed Wednesday.
Veteran infielder Rich Aurilia took both sides of the argument in his reaction.
Manny Ramirez's career stats
|A look at Manny Ramirez's career numbers from his playing days with the Indians, Red Sox and Dodgers:|
"You saw what the Dodgers were before they got Manny last year and what they were after they got Manny," Aurilia said, adding, "This team just needs to concentrate on what we need to do to win games, not watching Manny. What he does over there doesn't affect us over here. Indirectly it might. But it doesn't affect how we play the game, unless we're playing them."
Other Giants said they didn't think it made a difference at all.
"The old adage 'good pitching beats good hitting' comes into play," lefty Jack Taschner said. "And when you play us, it's not going to be a slugfest, because you have to face [Tim] Lincecum, [Matt] Cain, [Barry] Zito and [Randy] Johnson."
Added starter Barry Zito: "We're not worried about being counted out and people overlooking us. We're all here. Why not go ahead and play the games?"
Meanwhile, there were mixed reactions from the Rockies and Padres.
Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba took the tack of preferring to keep the focus in-house, saying, "Now that he signed with the Dodgers, blah-blah-blah-blah. Guess what? We still have to play our game. Obviously, they're going to have a better lineup than they already have. But I think we've got enough pitching to do the job."
Outfielder Brad Hawpe chose to hype up his own team's lineup against that of the Dodgers, even with Manny.
"I don't think there's any better hitter in our division than our left-right combination of Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins," Hawpe said.
Manny Ramirez's 2008 Dodgers stats
|A look at how Manny Ramirez did upon joining the Dodgers at last season's Trade Deadline:|
"They're two of the most professional hitters in our division. Troy Tulowitzki had the best rookie year in our division two years ago. Chris Iannetta and [Dodgers catcher] Russell Martin were very similar players last year. Martin gets a lot of praise, deservedly so, but Iannetta is right there with him. So we'll just play."
But Iannetta admitted he was surprised at how much of a difference Manny made in late '08.
"I didn't think one guy was going to be able to do that much," Iannetta said. "He proved me wrong. He did a ton for them. They did a lot better. He put them over the top."
As for the Padres, their last-place finish has them concentrating on improving their own game before worrying about what Ramirez might be doing. But that doesn't mean the Padres players weren't impressed by what they saw while playing the Dodgers last year.
Ramirez batted .276 in the nine games -- seven of them Dodgers wins -- against the Padres after his NL debut, with five of his nine hits being homers and 14 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .828. He also hit two homers to right-center field at PETCO on Sept. 10, an unheard-of feat of opposite-field strength in a pitcher's paradise of a ballpark.
"He makes it tough on you," Padres catcher Nick Hundley said. "He is patient enough to wait for a mistake and confident enough to know he's going to get one. He's not going to chase a whole lot of pitches. And when he gets that pitch, he's going to punish it."
Outfielder Chase Headley summed up the thoughts of much of the division with his comments.
"He's one of the best players in the league," Headley said. "But we can't do anything about it."
Doug Miller is reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.