The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off taking two of three from the Central-leading Reds and moving back into a first place tie in the NL West with San Diego. Earlier in the week, the Dodgers placed hurler Chad Billingsley on the 15-day DL with a groin injury just as fellow starter Vicente Padilla was ready to come back from his stint on the shelf. The team will also be without speedy shortstop Rafael Furcal, who will spend the next couple days on the bereavement list. All of those stories, however, pale in comparison to the headline of the weekend.
Manny Ramirez is coming back to Boston.
For the first time since his much bally-hooed exile from Boston to L.A. a couple years ago, the former Red Sox leftfielder and MVP of the first Boston World Series win in 84 years will be stepping foot on the grass of Fenway Park. He’ll embrace his former tag team partner, David “Big Papi” Ortiz. He’ll laugh and joke with some of his old teammates. He’ll shake hands with old manager Terry Francona.
Then, the pleasantries will end.
Ramirez’s return to Fenway will be met with as much warmth by Red Sox Nation as a December night in Serbia. After all, Ramirez did everything short of stand on top of the Green Monster burning a Larry Bird jersey to get himself kicked out of Beantown. Another thing that won’t help Manny’s cause will be the large navy blue lettering that reads “Los Angeles” across Man-Ram’s double-barrelled chest less than 24 hours after Beantown’s Celtics lost a heartbreaking Game 7 in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. If the bullseye on Ramirez’s dreadlock-adorned dome wasn’t large enough, it just amplified.
Ramirez’s return to Boston is the sizzle. The Dodgers have to be the steak. They have to ignore the hoopla that will surround their controversial leftfielder(although Manny will be DH for most, if not all, of the three-game series, which is probably wise given the temperature of Sox fans right now). Boston is 3rd in the AL in batting average, 2nd in homers, and 1st in runs batted in and hits. The Dodgers will be facing that potent Sox offense without their two studs at the front of the rotation. Instead, they’ll open things up with a battle of two potential unknowns: Carlos Monasterios(3-1, 2.98 ERA) vs the debuting Felix Doubront. After that, Vicente Padilla, who hasn’t pitched since late April and has given up less than four runs just once this season(it should also be noted that Padilla is coming off giving up six runs on eight hits on 5 2/3 innings of work in his final Triple-A start in Albuquerque on Sunday. This should be fun), will make his triumphant return against 600-year old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Then, once-solid starter Hiroki Kuroda will do battle with red-hot young stud Clay Buchholz for all the world to see on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
It will be Boston’s big bats against the bottom of the Dodgers’ rotation, with Manny Ramirez’s return setting the backdrop and Boston’s endless hatred for L.A. fueling the flames. The Dodgers have been an up-and-down all season so, while all signs point to them getting clobbered this weekend, it wouldn’t shock me if Ramirez shows his ’04 form and sticks it to his old mates just for spite. After all, Ramirez is a man of tremendous pride. He’s not going to let himself get embarrassed by a decent-but not-dominant Red Sox team.
The rest of the Dodgers should follow his lead.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.