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BILL PLASCHKE

Manny excuses for absence in the ninth just don't watch

Ramirez says he was showering and missed the Dodgers' late collapse in Game 3. He should have been in the dugout, period.

October 21, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

FROM PHILADELPHIA — Jonathan Broxton was sweating. Russell Martin was fearing. Joe Torre was grumbling.

The Dodgers hanging on the dugout rail were clenching. The Dodgers fans watching at home were dying.

Manny Ramirez?

He was bathing.

While the Dodgers were taking on the brunt of postseason pressure in the ninth inning here Monday night, their star was taking a shower.

While his teammates were wilting under the spotlight, their leader was relaxing under the spray.

By the time the Dodgers had finished staining themselves with a ninth-inning collapse in a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, Ramirez was just scrubbing clean.

"I come out of the game early, I take a shower," he said Tuesday, his feet propped up in front of his locker at Citizens Bank Park before an off-day workout.

So you never saw Broxton give up the ninth-inning, two-out, two-run double to Jimmy Rollins?

"No, I was in the shower," he repeated.

So you didn't see one pitch in what became the most important moment of the season? You didn't stick around the dugout to offer one word of encouragement? You couldn't leave Mannywood long enough to become part of, you know, the Dodgers?

"I caught the highlights," he said.

You caught the highlights?

The truck driver who has to work at 5 a.m. the next day, he catches the highlights. The mom who has to put her kids to bed during the ninth inning, she catches the highlights.

Manny Ramirez is supposed to be the highlights. October baseball is supposed to be about the team. Players routinely shower during the middle of regular-season games, but the playoffs are supposed to be different.

Every voice is needed. Every bit of wisdom is wanted. Everybody chips in.

Everybody plays 27 outs, not only on the field but also in the dugout. Even replaced relievers requiring ice often return to the bench later to cheer.

Juan Pierre had just replaced Ramirez in left field at the start of the ninth inning. The dude couldn't stick around to encourage or enlighten his teammates for even five minutes?

Does he have any words of encouragement now?

"The Philadelphia Phillies are playing better, what can you do?" Ramirez said. "Jimmy Rollins is one of my favorite players. I love him. He's small, but he can play. I'm not surprised he was the one who got it done."

That's just what a team trailing three games to one needs to hear. That the other guys are playing better and there's nothing they can do.

On second thought, maybe it's better that our fertility drug fatale wasn't anywhere near the dugout.

"I think the way it turned out, it probably doesn't look good," said Manager Joe Torre. "But it's nothing different than he has done before."

That is true. During his parts of two seasons with the Dodgers, Ramirez has consistently showered and changed into street clothes immediately after coming out of the game.

He never leaves the clubhouse until the game is over, but he also never sticks around the dugout to watch and cheer.

"He's a cool customer," said Torre.

But shouldn't Monday night have been different? And doesn't this reflect on the sort of selfishness that kept Ramirez out of the lineup for 50 games during this year's drug policy suspension?

At least he's producing on the field.

Um, check that. He's batting only .276 this postseason with one homer and four runs batted in in 29 at-bats.

With only four extra-base hits, he no longer has the bat speed to get around on a fastball. With just one walk and a measly on-base percentage of .300, he no longer has the patience to make the pitcher work.

And, oh yeah, baseball's most feared man last October has not been intentionally walked once.

In the field, well, did you see him give less than full effort on Shane Victorino's line drive into the left-field corner in the sixth inning Monday? Ramirez allowed Victorino to turn a double into a triple, and later score a run that would not have happened if Victorino had stayed on second base.

I know, I know, I'm a Manny hater, I should be fired immediately for dogging the Dodgers fans' favorite, blah, blah, blah.

But frankly, I'm surprised that even Ramirez's biggest fans aren't at the end of their soap on a rope.

"As we say, Manny is Manny," said Torre.

Such a tired cliche. Just for tonight, how about adding a twist? How about letting Juan be Juan?

This will never happen, but wouldn't it be nice if tonight, facing their toughest nine innings of the season against Phillies lefty ace Cole Hamels, the Dodgers could turn to the guy who helped lead them through their toughest two months?

Juan Pierre, you will remember, hit .318 with 21 runs batted in and 21 stolen bases while starting each of the 50 games during Ramirez's suspension.

The team was 46-30 when he was in the starting lineup. He has a .320 average against left-handers. He could get things jumping on the bases.

He was voted their most inspirational player, so, for one night, why not let him inspire?

Hey, Ramirez will be fine. He can come off the bench to provide some late dramatics. Torre can turn to him like Tom Lasorda once turned to Kirk Gibson in the ninth inning and . . .

Um, Manny? Manny?

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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