Manny, how I love ya, how I love ya, my dear ol’ Manny …
Oh, wait. That was then. This is now, which is another entire planet for Manny Ramirez.
On this planet, circa 2011, he is a man without a job, and few if any prospects.
It was only two years ago that Manny was the toast of the town. The man who electrified Dodger Stadium. Who helped lead them back into the playoffs, where they actually won a series. And who parlayed that almost magical two months into a two-year, $45-million contract.
Alas, the next two years seldom resembled those previous two months. A drug suspension, injuries, a decline in power, a mysterious boycott of the media, remarkable hair growth.
He was ultimately waived in August and picked up by the White Sox, where he bombed.
Now is there any club willing to take a chance on the 38-year-old?
So far, that’s a big zilch.
Spring training starts in six weeks. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (insider status required) said team executives are now questioning whether he’ll be signed by anyone.
His options look increasingly slim. After watching him struggle defensively in left field for the Dodgers last season, it’s unlikely any National League team wants to take a flier on him. Manny, infamously, announced his future was as a designated hitter the first day of the Dodgers’ camp last February. Which was a day before he stopped talking.
American League clubs in need of a DH, however, are hardly bountiful. Tim Dierkes of MLBtraderumors.com went down the list and determined that the only real logical matches were the Rays and Rangers.
Of course, Vladimir Guerrero remains available to DH again in Texas. Yahoo.sports thinks Manny could be left with the Rays and Orioles, but notes that with Jim Thome, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Guerrero still available, there are other options out there with far less baggage.
The risk-reward factor with Manny exceeds all others. He is clearly getting up there in years, and if his power has waned, still had a highly productive bat for the Dodgers (.915 on-base, plus slugging percentage) before his leg injuries. Of course, then there is his surprising off-season groin surgery.
His agent is Scott Boras, who is on what you might call something of a good run (see: Jayson Werth, Adrian Beltre), so it is best not to figure no deal will be uncovered.
Manny, however, is a prideful man, so taking one of baseball’s greatest pay cuts might also prove an issue. It’s been projected that it will take $5 million to sign him. At best, he’s a DH; at worst a part-time player, so that’s still some serious dough for that role.
When players start reporting to camp, if Manny is still unsigned, he could be looking at even less guaranteed money and an incentive-laden contract. And for Manny, that’s another planet.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue
Manny, how I love ya, how I love ya, my dear ol’ Manny …
And now on to Plan B … or is that Plan Z?
The most deserted place on Earth?
Left-field for the Dodgers.
Doesn’t anyone who can actually hit a baseball want to play there? One who bats right-handed?
The Dodgers have been busy stockpiling their pitching staff, but their daily lineup has been improved only at second base with the addition of Juan Uribe.
They currently have no left-field starter and lost out on another prime candidate Friday when Bill Hall signed with the Astros to play second base.
It’s not like Hall was going to be a major acquisition, but at least he was right-handed and offered some pop (18 home runs in 382 at-bats for Boston last season).
But according to Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, Hall just signed a one-year deal with Houston for approximately $3 million.
Which leaves the Dodgers where, besides with a black hole in their lineup?
The pickings are growing slim. This week Magglio Ordonez signed with the Tigers, Xavier Nady with the Diamondbacks and the A’s traded for Josh Willingham. Previously Matt Diaz signed with the Pirates, Pat Burrell with the Giants, and of course, Jayson Werth to those loony Nationals.
What’s left? No free agents to set the heart a-flutter. Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge, Marcus Thames, Jermaine Dye?
Somebody has to go out there, and the in-house gang -- Jay Gibbons, Xavier Paul, Tony Gwynn Jr. -- all hit left-handed. Trayvon Robinson, who played at class-AA Chattanooga last season, is a switch-hitter with minimal power.
Someone has to share time, presumably with Gibbons. Regulars Andre Either and James Loney are left-handed. The Dodgers might have been better off signing Hall to play second, moving Uribe to third and letting Casey Blake platoon with Gibbons in left. Something, other than where they currently are.
With a hole in left, and options to fill it dwindling. First they lose out on Diaz, and now Hall. Manny Ramirez, of course, remains available.
-- Steve Dilbeck
When word reached the Dodgers that Manny Ramirez underwent surgery this off-season, club officials were surprised, saying they knew nothing of a groin injury that the aging outfielder claimed he had for most of the year.
Well, according to his agent, Ramirez didn’t know about it, either.
But, curiously, it still affected him.
“We found out that Manny had some medical maladies that had to be surgically repaired in the off-season,” Scott Boras said. “It had a pretty big impact on his performance.”
Then why didn’t Ramirez say anything about the injury?
“I’m not sure Manny knew about it,” Boras said. “In fact, I know he didn’t know about it because we were all surprised.”
How did Ramirez say the injury affected him?
“Well, I don’t think Manny felt anything affected him during the season,” Boras said. “It’s just the fact that when you find out you’ve got a situation where you’ve got to have surgery for a hernia-like situation, you obviously know it’s impactful.”
Ramirez, 38, hit .298 with nine home runs and 42 runs batted in over a combined 90 games with the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. He hit .261 and drove in two runs with the White Sox, who claimed him off waivers in August.
Boras said Ramirez, who is looking for a one-year contract from an American League team to be a designated hitter, is fully recovered from his surgery and has been working out for five weeks.
Boras described the market as “good.”
“It’s multiple teams,” Boras said.
-- Dylan Hernandez in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Photo: Manny Ramirez. Credit:Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
I wasn’t the first person to suggest the Dodgers should take a look a signing infielder Juan Uribe, and I certainly won’t be the last.
Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal makes his case for the Boys in Blue coming to terms with Uribe.
Rosenthal admits Uribe’s career .300 on-base percentage makes him something less than an elite hitter. But he did have a career-high 24 home runs and 85 runs batted in last season for the San Francisco Giants.
And signing Uribe, 31, would mean taking 24 home runs and 85 RBIs away from the Giants. Uribe could play third base or likely second base, and could back up Rafael Furcal at shortstop.
[Updated at 5:43 p.m.: Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick reports the Dodgers are targeting Uribe, with the intention of playing him at second.]
Also on the web:
-- Yahoosports.com’s Jeff Passan likes the way the signing of Jon Garland completes the Dodgers rotation, but still gives the rotation edge to the Giants.
-- MLB.com’s Peter Gammons tweets the Dodgers are one of nine teams interested in signing right-handed reliever Jesse Crain, who had a 3.04 earned-run average in 71 games for the Minnesota Twins last season.
-- ESPN.com’s Buster Olney polled unnamed scouts and general managers on the prospects of Manny Ramirez signing. No surprise, most gave him a small window.
-- Foxsports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi writes that the Boston Red Sox, who lost out on Victor Martinez, are considering going after catcher Rod Barajas.
-- Paul Oberjuerge finds himself pleasantly surprised by the Dodgers’ off-season moves at Oberjuerge.com.
-- In the wake of the Dodgers signing Garland, TrueBlueLA.com’s Eric Stephen takes a look at Dodgers rotations since 2000 and how many members made at least 30 starts.
-- ESPN/LA.com’s Jon Weisman picks up on Stephen’s report, for his view on how many times the Dodgers appeared to have a better rotation starting a season.
-- Steve Dilbeck
RONNIE BELLIARD, 35, infielder
Final 2010 stats: .216 batting average, two home runs, 19 RBI, 10 doubles, .295 on-base percentage, .327 slugging percentage in 162 at-bats.
Contract status: Free agent.
The good: Alas, his season peaked in the third game, at Pittsburgh, when he went 3-for-5 with a double, triple and home run. At least he started like he might pick up where he left off last season, hitting .289 in April. Defensively played first, second and third base.
The bad: After May 21, he was trapped in Nowhere Land, batting just .183 (19 for 104) with one home run. He no longer resembled the infielder the Dodgers had acquired at the trading deadline in 2009 and hit so well that he supplanted Orlando Hudson as the starting second baseman down the stretch and into the playoffs.
The right-handed hitter batted only .167 against left-handers and .184 at Dodger Stadium. With two outs and runner in scoring position, went 3-for-19 (.158).
What’s next: Zippo as a Dodger.
The take: Though he performed well in the fall of 2009, you always had the feeling he was largely kept around because he was buddies with Manny Ramirez. A few days after Manny was claimed by the White Sox, the Dodgers waived Belliard and then released him when he went unclaimed.
It didn’t help his cause that Jamey Carroll, a utility infielder, was also signed, but Carroll stepped up and Belliard did not. He probably needed more consistent playing time to perform at the expected level, but it’s not like he earned it.
He’s probably looking at being invited to someone’s camp -- probably as a non-roster invitee -- but can’t imagine him returning to the Dodgers. Some will always have Paris, Belliard will always have his September-October of ’09.
-- Steve Dilbeck
SCOTT PODSEDNIK, 34, outfielder
Final 2010 stats: .297 batting average, six home runs, 51 RBI, 35 stolen bases, .342 on-base percentage, .383 slugging percentage in 595 at-bats.
Contract status: Free agent.
The good: Hit .300 with a .496 slugging percentage against right-handers, not so bad for a slap hitter. Thirty-five overall stolen bases easily highest on the team. Hit .317 with runners in scoring position. Can play all three outfield positions. Hit .310 in first 95 games with the Royals. Hit .304 in August for the Dodgers.
The bad: After collecting only three hits in 26 September at-bats (.115), he was shut down for the rest of the season with plantar fasciitis. Last seen in a walking boot. Was disappointing defensively, which is not to say he wasn’t a huge improvement over Manny Ramirez in left field. Overall batting average as a Dodger was .262, with a .313 on-base percentage. Different guy in the clubhouse. Very serious, keeps mostly to himself.
What’s next: Finished the season with enough at-bats to qualify for a mutual option, which he must have been pretty happy about. The Dodgers agreed to take on his $2-million salary for 2011, but Podsednik took a pass and declared free agency. Now he’s anybody’s baby.
The take: If the Dodgers could have kept Podsednik as a speedy, reserve outfielder at $2 million next season, that would have been a solid, reasonable addition.
If they wanted to make him their everyday left fielder, that would have worked about as well as Bristol Palin in the finals of a national dance show. Of course, at the moment, they have no regular left fielder, just an unattractive collection of all sorts (Xavier Paul, Trayvon Robinson, Trent Oeltjen, Russell Mitchell, Jay Gibbons).
Podsednik is gambling that his season earned him a better deal than one year at $2 mil. Risky, since he’ll be 35 in March and is coming off what can be a nagging foot injury.
That’s not to say he still couldn’t yet return to the Dodgers. Apparently, however, he has understandable ambitions about being an everyday player. Last off-season, he found few takers before signing with the Royals (that’s a team in Kansas City). Should he find his way back to L.A., however, that would only magnify the team’s lack of power if he’s presented as the starting left fielder. Like Gibbons, he bats left, so there’s no platoon there.
-- Steve Dilbeck
That prospect has been advanced from more than one circle, though it normally doesn’t come attached with who the Dodgers’ new first baseman would be.
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, one of baseball most respected national writers, is the latest to suggest that James Loney’s future may entail the trade market.
Most of the offseason attention understandably goes to the big names and top free agents. But Verducci put together a seven-man list of players on the secondary market who could have the biggest impact on the 2011 season, and there was Loney.
And Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi identified Loney as "the position player the Dodgers are most willing to move, according to major-league sources."
Loney is a moderate lightning rod among team followers. Praised by some for his smooth defensive play and consistent RBIs, and loathed by others who constantly lament his lack of power and signs of improvement.
He is arbitration eligible this offseason, and with another year of arbitration still ahead. Verducci estimates that Loney could command about $6 million in arbitration this year.
So the thinking is, Loney is just pricey enough that the Dodgers would consider moving him if it means solving a problem elsewhere.
Sure, but are you really going to be able to deal Loney for a power bat? If it’s just a matter of producing runs, he’s averaged 90 RBI the last three seasons.
Verducci argues Loney is a chance for another team to buy low on a player who is still only 26:
Here's what [sic] so encouraging about the thought of getting Loney out of Dodger Stadium and experiencing a breakout season: He hit 41 doubles last year and has been a much better hitter in his career on the road (.307 with a .854 OPS) than at home (.268 with a .711 OPS). He should interest the Rays, Jays, Nationals and Diamondbacks.
Even if the market is there, trading him naturally leaves another position hole for the Dodgers to fill.
Also on the Web:
-- The Times' Bill Shaikin spoke to Manny Ramirez agent Scott Boras, and the former Dodgers outfielder is finding slim pickings in the free-agent market.
-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick spoke to Rick Rhoden, the ex-Dodgers pitcher who became a professional golfer and would now like to become a minor-league pitching coach.
Rhoden spent the last month at the Dodgers’ Arizona instructional league in something of a trial coaching run. The Dodgers have yet to announce their coaching staffs at the major- or minor-league level.
-- MikeSciosciasTragicIllness.com’s Mike Petriello thinks the Braves got second baseman Dan Uggla cheap and wonders where the Dodgers where in these trade talks.
-- ESPN/LA.com’s Jon Weisman takes a look at the impact of deferred contracts in the wake of signing Hiroki Kuroda.
-- TrueBlueLA.com’s Eric Stephen doesn’t seem all that impressed that after the Dodgers sent James McDonald (and Andrew Lambo) to the Pirates for Octavio Dotel, they flipped Dotel to the Rockies six weeks later for a player to be named.
He was named Monday, and it’s Anthony Jackson, a 26-year-old outfielder who’s never played above Class AA.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Scott Podsednik, Dodger.
Contain your enthusiasm, might be time to get used to it.
The Dodgers exercised their half of a mutual option for the 2011 season on Podsednik Tuesday. He has until Thursday to decline or exercise his side of the option.
Podsednik came to the Dodgers in a late July trade from the Royals, essentially to be their backup outfielder. Only leg injuries to Manny Ramirez, and then his trade the next month, turned Podsednik into the regular left fielder.
Which is not the best of ideas.
Hopefully, the Dodgers have returned to looking at Podsednik as a backup, because if they’re planning on starting him, that’s trouble.
Podsednik will be 35 going into spring training, has no power, showed surprising awkwardness defensively and missed the final few weeks of the season with plantar fasciitis.
He is, however, reasonably priced. The option for next season is $2 million.
On the season, Podsednik hit .297 with 35 stolen bases and 63 runs in 595 at-bats. For the Dodgers, however, he slid. He hit .262 with five stolen bases and 17 runs in 149 at-bats. When Rafael Furcal was out injured, Podsednik hit in the leadoff spot but had only a .313 on-base percentage as a Dodger.
A Dodgers lineup with both Podsednik and Ryan Theriot (.321 OBP) struggled to score runs. And, of course, the last time we saw Podsednik he was in a walking boot.
If the Dodgers want to use the stoic Podsednik as a fourth outfielder, however, he certainly has uses. They can’t platoon him in left with Jay Gibbons, both being left-handed. They could with Casey Blake, should they acquire a third baseman, hopefully with some pop.
As a speedy, veteran backup and occasional spot starter in the outfield, he’s a positive addition. The Dodgers, however, need to add some power to their lineup, and at the moment, left field is the clearly open spot.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Dodgers' Web doings: Brooklyn burger joint being sued over Dodgers' trademark infringement [Updated]
A sub-.500 team, ownership in the courts, team executives getting canned … that doesn’t mean the Dodgers can't somehow get involved in the trivial.
Such as a trademark suit filed against Brooklyn Burger for using the team’s familiar cursive style "Brooklyn" in the company's logo.
[Updated at 1:04 p.m. The Dodgers said they did not actually file the complaint, but that it came from Major League Baseball, which typically monitors when another entity is using a team's trademarked property.
MLB spokesman Matt Bourne confirmed the trademark violation was not filed by the Dodgers, as the New York Daily News had reported.
"We filed the complaint on behalf of the Dodgers,'' Bourne said. "As MLB, we are obligated by law to protect our trademarks or we are at risk of losing them. We filed the notice of opposition with the trademark office in order to keep our options open. We are continuing to examine the situation.'']
You can probably imagine, however, how all this has gone over in Brooklyn, which holds to a long and painful memory of the Dodgers exiting the New York borough for Los Angeles over 50 years ago.
Brooklynites can’t curse the O’Malley family for this one, but they’ll make do. Brooklyn Burger owner Alex Buxbaum is what you might call furious.
"There is no Brooklyn Dodgers. They don't exist anymore. They left Brooklyn," fumed the 56-year-old Buxbaum to the New York Daily News. "You can't keep everything forever."
Buxbaux said he was approved for a trademark in April. And was going swell until the complaint was filed last week with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"People who see [Buxbaum's logo] in Brooklyn aren't going to think the Brooklyn Dodgers are selling hamburgers," said lawyer Robert Maldonado. "It's crazy for the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim exclusive rights to the word `Brooklyn’ when they left Brooklyn 50 years ago."
Maldonado said the Dodgers’ trademark covers apparel not food.
If the Dodgers really want to stop every company from using their stylized Brooklyn, they’ll have to get busy. Several other establishments also use the cursive Brooklyn.
Lindi's Pork Store has been family run since 1958, manager John Lindi Jr. told The Daily News there's no way he would change the store's design, which also invokes the classic cursive "Brooklyn."
"Oh, [the heck with] them! What do they have to do with Brooklyn?" said Lindi, 41. "They left Brooklyn years ago. We don't let nobody push us around. Change our logo? Oh, fuhgeddaboudit. Tell them to come down here, we'll straighten it all out."
Thanks to VinScullyismyhomeboy.com for picking up the story.
Also on the Web:
-- What’s happened to Jamie Enterprises, the company founded by Jamie McCourt that had something vague to do with sports?
If you click on its website, Jamieenterprises.net, you get a message saying it is currently unavailable due to problems with the account.
Maybe those $637,000 a month alimony payments don’t go as far as they used to.
-- Manny Ramirez told ESPN.com’s Enrique Rojas he had hernia surgery two weeks ago, was never 100% last season and would love to play for new Blue Jays Manager John Farrell. The story is in Spanish.
-- Truebluela.com's Brandon Lennox offers an update on Dodgers players participating in fall and winter league ball.
-- ESPN/LA.com’s Jon Weisman talks to shortstop prospect Dee Gordon about his hot start in Puerto Rico.
-- MikeSciosciastragicillness.com’s Mike Petriello makes a case for the Dodgers giving Ivan DeJesus a real opportunity to win the everyday second base job next season.
-- If Carl Crawford is on the Dodgers’ free agent radar, here’s a small bit of encouraging news from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. He said Crawford’s years of playing in Tampa Bay and developing a competitive animosity against the Yankees and Red Sox will make it more difficult for the two cash-rich northeast clubs to sign him.
-- Steve Dilbeck
When your season has been a crashing disappointment, it’s not like you need offseason reminders.
Alas, that’s part of the deal. A not-so-sweet package. Darts and barbs and cynicism everywhere. Constant reminders of failures and shortcomings, from media and fans.
And did I mention … Major League Baseball?
Yep, good ol' MLB has given the Boys in Blue one little extra slap in the kisser.
Not intentionally, of course, but with the release of its This Year in Baseball Awards, the Dodgers have taken yet another blow.
This is the ninth year it’s sponsored a polling of fans to determine winners in 19 different categories. Because, you know, there can just never be enough fan-driven awards.
There are 10 nominations in each category -- which besides best hitter and closer, include such nifty awards as X-factor and oddity -- meaning, there are 190 nominations in all.
And out of 190 nominations, there is exactly one current Dodger nominated. Unless you count the ball boy who was nominated for best fan moment. Still awaiting word on whether the Dodgers are going to pick up his option.
The Dodgers received three total nominations, including Hong-Chih Kuo for best setup man, ex-Dodger Ronnie Belliard for best play and ball boy Francisco Herrera for best fan moment.
I’m pretty sure Dennis Mannion was going to nab a nomination for executive of the year, until Frank McCourt let it slip he was canning the team president. Sadly for McCourt, whom you may have heard also suffered a rough season, there is no award for owner of the year. I mean, they’d probably just have to name it after him anyway.
This Internet poll does earn a following. MLB claims more than 12 million people voted last season.
Kuo won the setup man award in 2008 and had an even better 2010, though the Dodgers are sort of fudging to nominate him here since he spent almost the final two months as their closer.
Belliard was nominated for making a play May 2 against Pittsburgh. Playing third base he made a running, over-the-shoulder catch in left field of a Bobby Crosby popup, then spun and made a strong throw to first baseman James Loney, who stretched out to make the catch and double up Andy LaRoche.
Otherwise, Belliard hit .216 and was released by the Dodgers Sept. 7.
Somehow four ball boys were nominated for best fan moment, including the Dodgers’ Herrera. Sitting in foul territory outside left field, he made a terrific backhanded catch of a slicing drive into the stands by Met Ike Davis. Then he handed the ball to a toddler.
And you thought the Dodgers had no highlights in 2010. Forgot all about the ball boy, and probably Belliard.
Nineteen different awards, 190 nominations, and that’s the best the Dodgers could do. If MLB was just a bit more creative, maybe the Dodgers could have scored a few more nominations.
Best first six weeks of the season (Andre Ethier), most creative hair use (Manny Ramirez), most creative use of a hair product (Vicente Padilla), best performance by a really small person (Jamey Carroll), best Matthew McConaughey look-a-like (John Ely), best performance by a 300-pound reliever, first-half division (Jonathan Broxton).
As it is, the award nominations are what they are, much like the Dodgers’ season.
-- Steve Dilbeck