Manny receives hero's welcome
Ramirez did his 50 games, took a $7 million hit, kept silent for the most part and he is home free. He will not be called in front of Congress or the commissioner. We still don't know why he had an elevated level of testosterone or a female fertility drug in his system, whether he was a serial steroid user or had the unbelievably bad luck of getting caught the first time he sought help for his little "medical issue." We're still waiting for the first big league player to use his "mistake" as an opportunity to speak out for a drug-free game.
It won't be Ramirez. The road is clear ahead for him now. All the media talk about the "distractions" in the Dodger clubhouse is outdated nonsense, the walking-on-eggshells environment around the Giants with
It's on to just baseball now for Ramirez, and that success could take time. He looked different Friday night. His hair was longer, he appeared heavier, he wasn't wearing his mouthpiece and his swing was rustier. Ramirez missed pitches that in a week or two he should be crushing.
Will Ramirez, now busted, act more like his baseball age? Or will he continue to be a hitting savant bucking the trend of baseball skewing younger? We just don't know, in part because even with a failed test, we don't know the extent of Ramirez's PED use. On Friday night, and for the foreseeable future, most people didn't care, either.
"On counts like 2-0, 3-1, you're less likely to just zone in on one spot to really turn on something," Wright said.
It's the Petco Park effect all over: you can hit a ball square and it still might not go out, so why bother trying? "So you'll take your line drives in those situations and use the field," Wright said. "The outfield is so big you can drop hits in front of outfielders and balls in the gap are more likely to be doubles and triples."
Wright has three home runs at home and two on the road.
• Of the 75 teams holding at least a share of a playoff spot, 42 actually made the playoffs, a 56 percent conversion rate, and that's after seven of eight leaders converted last year. Looking at 2000-08 division leaders only, they were slightly better: 65 percent.
• Since 2000, every franchise has held a playoff spot on the Fourth of July except four: the Orioles, Marlins, Astros and Pirates.
• Now the flip side: huge comebacks after the Fourth of July are rare. Only three teams, all of them from the AL, have been more than six games out of playoff spot on the Fourth and wound up in the postseason: the 2006 Twins (nine games out of the Central), the 2007 Yankees (eight out of the wild card) and the 2001 Athletics (eight out of the wild card).
The bottom line: the adage doesn't work as well any more. The races are still very much up for grabs among 23 of the 30 teams. Only the Orioles, Royals, Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Padres and Diamondbacks (all of whom are more than six games out of a spot) are essentially done. We've played half a season to eliminate just seven teams. It's a happy Fourth of July for almost every club in baseball.