Over the last two seasons and through the first few weeks of 2015, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has faced the challenge of juggling a crowded outfield. While it has come with its share of difficult decisions and moments, it may pale in comparison to what his mentor, friend and predecessor Joe Torre dealt with during his three seasons as manager of the Dodgers.
Torre took command in 2008 and inherited a team that won 82 games the previous season, but finished fourth in the National League West division and 7.5 games back of the Colorado Rockies for the Wild Card spot. With the Dodgers in the thick of a division race, they acquired Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox in July 2008 as part of a three-team trade that included the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ramirez’s time in Los Angeles was filled with the peaks and valleys that he similarly experienced in Boston. The Dodgers reached the postseason that year, sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS before being eliminated by the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 of the NLCS.
However, Ramirez was suspended 50 games in 2009 for PED use, which was linked to a fertility drug he was prescribed, he was then placed on waivers the following season and traded to the Chicago White Sox.
Known as a slugger no matter which pitcher he faced or ballpark he hit in, Ramirez slashed .322/.433/.580 with 44 home runs and 156 RBIs in 223 games with the Dodgers. When speaking recently about his own success after a rocky offseason, Andre Ethier inadvertently landed on the subject of Ramirez’s time in Los Angeles.
“I can’t remember other than Manny Ramirez hitting the ball out that many times back in 2008 and 2009,” Ethier said when discussing the Dodgers’ identity thus far as being a home-run hitting team. When reminded of the help Ramirez received, Ethier quipped, “Oh, yeah. I was hitting in front of him and Kemp was hitting behind him. That’s why he had help.”
In 2008 Ethier spent the majority of his time batting second in the lineup (81 games) and 21 games batting third. In 2009 he spent 46 games batting third and 42 games in the cleanup spot. Comparatively, Ramirez was fourth on the lineup card for 122 games in 2008, but that number dropped to 26 in 2009. He batted third 28 games in 2008 and 73 the following season.
Ethier this season has been placed at various spots in the order and seemingly contributed regardless of where he’s slotted. Heading into Friday he’s slashing .317/.407/.550 with six home runs and 19 RBIs over 43 games (140 plate appearances).
While Ethier has benefitted from Yasiel Puig missing time with a left hamstring strain, he’s also made the most of his opportunity after putting on a strong showing in Spring Training. The six home runs surpass his total from 2014 (four) and he appears to be well on his way to also driving in more than 42 runs he did last season.