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T.J. SIMERS

Manny Ramirez's bat goes silent, but we can wait it out

As long as the slugger heats up for the playoffs all will be well. Plus, it might allow the Dodgers to clinch the division title with Vin Scully behind the mike.

September 26, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

from pittsburgh

Colorado and I are doing our parts to put Vin Scully behind the microphone in San Diego for the historic clinching call, but I worry now Manny Ramirez is not going to hit his weight when the games really count.

And the Dodgers say Manny weighs 200.

Ramirez has been hitting the last two months like someone who should be playing for Pittsburgh, .256 in his last 55 games, and this from the magic man who hit .396 in 53 games with the Dodgers a year ago.

The Dodgers fell Friday to a team that had lost 23 of its last 26 games, a team that ran out a spring training lineup of five relief pitchers, Ramirez going 0 for 4, including a double play in the eighth inning.

Game over, and he hits me with a sweatband, "the only thing you hit all night," comes the obvious retort.

I start chatting with Casey Blake, and Ramirez wants to know why I would spend time with someone who hasn't even played in the game.

"You had the same amount of hits as he did tonight," like every pitcher in baseball now -- feeling free to challenge him.

He has eight home runs since his pinch-hit grand slam into Mannywood -- Scully, by the way, at his best that night.

Manny has only 24 runs batted in since July 24; a year ago he hit 17 home runs in almost as many games and drove in 53.

"It's not fair to compare him to last year; he was super-human," says Manager Joe Torre, while adding, "He's a much better hitter than he's showing. That's not blaming him, or anything, just reality."

Fine by me against Pittsburgh, the Dodgers needing to tank so we don't get TV broadcaster Eric Collins putting the exclamation point on this solid season. What a sacrilege that would be.

The magic number remains four, Colorado beating St. Louis, and the Dodgers have three more games here. It just won't seem right pressing the mute button if they clinch here.

The Dodgers are sitting on something special, the best record in the National League and a chance to win back-to-back division titles for the first time since 1977 and 1978, and Scully is Dodgers history.

Mickey Mouse is Mickey Mouse and will always be there, but how much longer will we have Scully?

Now I've taken a scolding the last few days, Bob Daley e-mailing to say, "you have damaged the granddaughter for life," CathyEarl Chappell writing, "ditch your granddaughter for a baseball game!!!" while Mary Kriener put it this way, "You actually told your granddaughter you couldn't take her to Disneyland? Something she wanted to do with only you?"

Hey, I bought the kid everything Barbie I could find, and there was still a slim chance the Dodgers might beat the Pirates two in a row and the Cardinals, using their two top pitchers, might beat the Rockies twice.

Scully, his grandson born the same day as the 7-Eleven Kid, would understand. That would put me on an early Sunday morning flight, back in time to take her to Disneyland and still get a refund on the Barbies.

"That's why you're really mad at me," says Manny. "I took Disneyland away from you."

"You're Manny Ramirez and you're hitting .256."

"I'm hitting good," he protests, the laughter not bothering him at all. "I hit the ball hard right at people. You want me to go move the fielders?"

He hit the ball hard once, some Pirates player getting his first major league win, and most folks never hearing of the other guys who got him out.

He no longer answers the challenge when challenged.

"What's wrong with hitting (.295)?" he says. "When I go home at the end of the season, that's what I will look at, the whole season. And that would be good."

Now I figure I'll pass the time in Pittsburgh trying to think of a way the Dodgers might win the World Series.

I think they have the bullpen to shorten a game, and a return of the offense early in the season, especially now that Rafael Furcal is hot, might make up for their five-inning starters.

I run the theory past Larry Bowa and Torre, a big part of it hinging on how Manny is hitting. And he isn't.

"I think he's fighting it and he's going to make you feel everything is fine," Torre says.

It's what makes Manny so good, and so frustrating at the same time. Everything is good in Manny's world even when it isn't, baseball not an end-all for him, so why is everyone getting so uptight? Tough to find him in poor spirits.

It's also what makes him so likable, bouncing back the way few others can in a game that demands it.

"I'm so relaxed at the plate I almost look drunk," he jokes when asked if he's pressing.

"You wait, I'll be there when it counts in the playoffs."

I call it "bravado," and he says, "no way."

"You won't admit you aren't the same hitter," and he says, "Sometimes they get me.

"But I think I'm still the best."

Time to show it, but just not here. Save it for Scully and San Diego -- now that there's no getting to Disneyland or giving the Barbies back.

THE CITY of Pittsburgh was shut down for the G-20 summit, the National Guard in place, riot police dressed in full gear, police from all across the country stationed on every bridge and street corner downtown.

On Thursday night the cops were on high alert, every scenario addressed save one -- fireworks over PNC Park catching the city by surprise because a Pirate hit a home run. No one saw that coming.

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Gary Ellis:

"I spent 14 years as a sportswriter and even wrote a weekly column -- never once writing about my wife, kids, sons, daughters-in-law or a Disneyland trip."

Had you mentioned them, maybe you'd still have that bowling column.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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