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Dodgers can use money for Manny more wisely

BILL PLASCHKE

November 16, 2008|BILL PLASCHKE
  • Manny Ramirez, photographed before a game against the Giants, led the Dodgers to a 34-28 record, including the playoffs.
Manny Ramirez, photographed before a game against the Giants, led the Dodgers… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Scott Boras was right, the Dodgers failed to make Manny Ramirez a "serious financial offer."

They made him a nutty, philanthropic offer.

Two years, $45 million for a guy who, despite having two of the most amazing hitting months in baseball history, still only led the team to a 34-28 record, including the playoffs?

A guy who will be 38 years old in the final year of that deal?

A guy who has proven he will turn into a dog the first time somebody guarantees to scratch his belly?

Ramirez should thankfully take this offer, play two years in the only place where fans will still cut him slack, then finish his career for equally big money in the American League.

And if he doesn't, well, then it is Dodgers fans who should be thankful.

Contrary to the esteemed opinion of grown men dressed in fake dreadlocks, there is life after Manny.

The Boston Red Sox advanced to within one game of the World Series in their first months without Manny.

The Cleveland Indians won 91 games and their division title in their first season without Manny.

If the Dodgers do it right, using the Manny Money for more important pursuits, they can make even bigger hits.

Say, like, advancing to their first World Series in 21 years.

If Manny Ramirez couldn't carry this current team to that final lap during a postseason in which he hit .520, what makes you think he could ever do it?

For the Dodgers, life after Manny can mean more pitching, more depth, more future.

Nobody wants to believe it now, but, if planned correctly, life after Manny could mean even more curtain calls and man crushes.

Here's how:

Ink an ace.

The lack of a true No. 1 starting pitcher was the reason the Dodgers lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, and even a lineup full of Mannies won't change this.

No, Chad Billingsley isn't that guy yet.

Yes, CC Sabathia would be that guy, and here's guessing he would walk away from the prospect of New York Yankees riches to pitch in an easier league for a more laid-back crowd within driving distance of his Bay Area hometown.

Sabathia has struggled in the postseason, but he's always been overworked by the time his teams arrived there. Joe Torre would keep him fresh, and Dodger Stadium would make him shine.

The same applies to someone like San Diego's Jake Peavy, who is available and worth the prospects required to obtain him.

In a post-Manny world, the Dodgers have to chase an ace, and chase him hard.

One year, Big Unit.

Randy Johnson is offering himself at half price -- about $6 million -- for a chance to win at least five more games and reach the historic 300 mark.

He's old, he's curmudgeonly, but, as a fifth starter, he can still win games and occasionally even strike fear.

Gamble with Raffy.

When healthy, Rafael Furcal is the most invaluable piece of the Dodgers offense. There are no minor leaguers ready to take his place. There are no current Dodgers who can do what he does.

Give him a three-year deal, cross your fingers, and tell yourself you don't have a choice, because you don't.

Trade for Belly.

Bring Adrian Beltre home from Seattle, with his career average of 25 homers and 89 runs batted in, with his shiny Gold Gloves.

It's the final year of his contract. The Mariners will trade him, and the clubhouse would embrace him.

If not Beltre, then find some other power-hitting third baseman, because there needs to be more pop in the Dodgers infield, and this is the only place to find it.

Count on the kids.

It's interesting how some of the same people who have been applauding the club's youth movement have also insisted on re-signing Ramirez.

Um, that's why they call it a youth "movement." The kids are moving up. They are getting better.

Ramirez taught them about pressure baseball. Let them show what they've learned.

Last season, Andre Ethier improved his on-base percentage by 25 points. Matt Kemp hit .299 after the All-Star break. James Loney is on a pace to eventually become an 100-RBI guy.

"Our six or seven young players are still the key to this club," said Ned Colletti, Dodgers general manager. "Manny was tremendous, but this is not tennis, one player does not make a difference."

March on Atlanta.

The Dodgers have hired a personal trainer to work with bulging bust Andruw Jones at his Georgia home.

"Every time we talk to the trainer, he says Andruw is working," Colletti said.

Keep the pressure on Jones, maybe he can reshape his body to hit again in the post-steroids era. Other have done it. For $22.5 million, the Dodgers have to at least watch Jones try.

Wait for July.

After what happened last year, no Dodgers fan can fairly judge this team's personnel until after the trading deadline.

Next summer, with the economic woes certain to affect big-spending, low-producing teams, there will be bargains everywhere.

If the Dodgers still need a big hitter, chances are there will be one available.

He won't be another Manny. But if the Dodgers plan right, they won't need one.

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bill.plaschke@latimes.com.

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