08/01/08 12:15 AM ET
Manny may bring Freeway Series to LA
Dodgers and Angels could be poised for title showdown
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com
Take your pick as the Dodgers launched a major volley cross town on Thursday by acquiring Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox in a three-team deal that also sent Jason Bay to Boston and Andy LaRoche to Pittsburgh.
If the Dodgers had appeared as a team with a little bit of momentum given their positive stretch in July, they now look like a team that is clearly motoring and the destination is straight to October.
It also may be a direct I-5 route to a head-on collision with the Angels, a team that had made a habit of stealing the baseball-related headlines in Southern California.
Just days ago, the Halos fired their own salvo by getting Mark Teixeira, a move that was seen by many as the last piece for a return trip to the World Series.
Now, the Dodgers have their own power bat and one that is capable of taking any lineup from average to productive. It came hastily packaged in a down-to-the-wire Deadline deal and was dropped into the framework of a Dodgers' batting order that is looking for any excuse to gel.
"Managers will tell you when he comes to the plate that they hold their breath and that is going to be the case here," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
Holding one's breath could also be advice for general managers, owners and fans who are tested by a unique perspective on life that has its own mantra -- Manny being Manny.
But the exhale is equally expressive and often is punctuated by the thrill of a decisive homer or a high-five-the-fan catch in the outfield.
"I guess we'll find out," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who has taken his share of criticism for expensive yet unproductive free agent signings like Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt. "Manny being Manny could also mean he is going to hit a lot of home runs and drive in a lot of runs."
One thing for certain, Ramirez is pure theater and he just landed in the nation's entertainment capital.
"There aren't many hitters like Manny," said the Halos' Chone Figgins from the visiting clubhouse in Yankee Stadium.
The Angels have no reason to sink into a puddle of insecurity.
They own the best record in Major League Baseball, and have the largest advantage among all six division leaders.
Their starters rank second in the American League in ERA, a rotation that also leads the league in wins. No starter has fewer than nine victories and they have the Major League saves leader, Francisco Rodriguez, to handle the ninth. He has 44 saves in 47 opportunities.
They also flexed some muscle recently with two three-game sweeps of the Red Sox this month.
But a lineup that features Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson in the middle and added Torii Hunter this past offseason has seemingly run out of gas in their last three trips to the postseason.
Last year in Boston, the Angels managed just four runs while the Red Sox plated 19 in a three-game sweep. In 2004, the Angels were also swept out of the playoffs by the Red Sox.
In both years, Boston won the World Series and each time the Angels could have used a power bat to protect Guerrero, et al, in the middle of the lineup.
Unable or unwilling to land that piece in past years, Angels general manager Tony Reagins swung the deal for Teixeira on Tuesday that cost him first baseman Casey Kotchman and Minor League pitcher Stephen Marek.
Teixeira was the key piece in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal last year when he left Texas for Atlanta in a seven-player deal. Fewer personnel were involved this time, but the Angels are looking for similar results. Teixeira hit 17 homers and drove in 56 runs after joining the Braves last July.
Ramirez has been everyone's favorite Deadline deal. Rumored to be going to the Angels or Phillies the last few seasons, he appeared to be headed to Florida this week but the details fell flat.
Enter the Dodgers in a deal that Colletti said was completed with a minute to spare. Torre said earlier in the week he'd like to worry about pitching to Teixeira because that meant his club would be in the World Series.
The Angels would also like a shot at the Series and are well acquainted with Ramirez's ability to swing the bat.
"Manny's a guy who definitely has hurt us and was one of a one-two tandem that was one of the best ever in the game with David Ortiz," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Ramirez has played all of his 16 seasons in the AL, hitting 510 career homers with a .312 batting average, a .409 on-base percentage and a .590 slugging percentage.
He also presents a problem in finding playing time for an outfield that now has Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Jones and Ramirez. Colletti said a move was likely.
But don't look for Ramirez to spend much time in a platoon. He was brought in to play, and specifically, to push the team past the Diamondbacks in the NL West and into the postseason.
With Rafael Furcal sidelined with a bad back since early May, the Dodgers have struggled to find offensive consistency, if not an identity. In Ramirez, they now have both.
"He is one of, if not the best in baseball," Kemp said. "Anything to help this team to the playoffs and win games, I'm happy for it."
Teixeira and Ramirez will both be free agents at year's end.
The Dodgers' financial risk was much less -- the Red Sox picked up the $7 million remaining on Ramirez's contract and both option years were voided. They also were not forced to deal a much-coveted player like Kemp.
The Angels lost a valuable piece in Kotchman and still must face the task of re-signing Teixeira, who is expected to command a nine-figure deal.
But the focus in each deal was far more short-sighted with only the fall in mind and a Freeway Series could be the result.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.