What Manny’s suspension means to the NL West…
That will depend on how the Dodgers players themselves will react to it on the field. I’m gonna guess that maybe for the first week or so the Dodgers will go into a mini slump. Because for the next few days all of the players will be asked repeatedly about Ramirez’ suspension and whether or not they knew anything. And what will happen is that this will begin to get in their heads. Now if Dodgers management from the GM down to Joe Torre can manage to field the majority of the questions about Manny more than the players themselves then I don’t believe it will be damaging to what happens on the field for the Dodgers. Staying focused on what they’ve achieved so far this season, will do the Dodgers more good than harm.
As for the rest of the division is concerned, facing the Dodgers lineup just got easier over the next 50 games. Having to face Juan Pierre is nowhere near as fearful as facing Manny Ramirez, performance enhacing drugs or not. Andre Ethier will now become the team’s biggest hitter, but he still doesn’t gain the respect or the attention that having Ramirez in the lineup does. The Dodgers will certainly miss Ramirez in the fact that the Dodgers are a looser team with Manny’s character. I don’t know if the Dodgers can remain a loose team going forward for the next 50 games, because the bullseye on the Dodgers just got a whole lot bigger, because the rest of the division sees increased hope in catching them.
Can the overachieving San Franciso Giants at 13-13 close the gap, at 6 1/2 games back of the Dodgers? Maybe. Before last night’s loss to the Rockies, their pitching has been mostly why they have been above .500.
The Padres are slumping right now having won 1 out of their last 6 games and looking at their schedule over the next 45 days I don’t figure them to gain any ground in that span.
The D’backs are one of those teams where you are not really sure of what they can do. Pitching has average at best without Brandon Webb, despite Dan Haren who is 3-3 on the season. And their offense doesn’t score enough runs win or lose, to make them much better than where they are right now in the standings in third place. It doesn’t mean they’re not capable of making a run at the Dodgers, but pitching has to get better first and maybe when Webb returns that might happen.
The absence of Manny looks to possibly benefit the Rockies more than any other team in the NL West. I say that because the Rockies are swinging a set of hot bats in the lineup right now. Todd Helton is leading the team right now with an average of .360. Hawpe is second at .324 and is leading the team in slugging with .581. Tulo’s batting slump is not totally over, but he is beginning to show more consistency of getting out of it. The Rockies pitching has turned the corner with Ubaldo’s outstanding effort last night for his 2nd win this season and Jason Marquis leading the team in wins with 4 and ERA (3.31). Cook has been solid, but for lack of run support his record isn’t really as bad as it looks. Jason Hammel has too been solid and should only get better. The Rox have the best chance of catching the Dodgers simply because of the talent alone. Once the pitching and hitting become in sync on a daily basis, they will make strides. The one downfall could be the bullpen as to why the Rockies may not catch the Dodgers over the next 50 games. But what ultimately happens in the NL West over the next 50 games all begins with how the Dodgers management handles the reaction to Ramirez’ suspension.