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Hanley Ramirez Sparks Dodgers' Resurgence

Evan Budrovich |
July 9, 2013 | 4:28 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The good times are rolling for Ramirez since his 2013 debut (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
The good times are rolling for Ramirez since his 2013 debut (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
The Los Angeles Dodgers have resurrected their season. It seems cliché or overblown, but their recent winning ways have actually given the Dodgers a fighter's chance of making the postseason as they head into the All-Star break. When the season took a turn for the worst after two months, with over $70 million dollars in players on the disabled list, general manager Ned Colletti preached patience during a troubling time.

That patience is finally paying off for the Dodgers (43-45), as the pitching staff is four-deep with strong arms, the bullpen has found their closer in Kenley Jansen, while the stagnant offense is finally coming alive.

Suddenly healthy for the fist time all year, L.A. has won 13 of their last 17 games. They've almost, just almost, overcome the adversity faced by a struggle of a first few months.

It all began when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier struggled out the gate, leading to a well-documented slow start for the boys in blue. Matters only got worse for the Dodgers' anemic offense with Hanley Ramirez starting the season on the disabled list following an injury suffered in the World Baseball Classic.

On the mound, Zack Greinke went down with an injury following the infamous brawl with Carlos Quentin, while Chad Billingsley is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2013 season. In the bullpen, Brandon League regressed this season, forcing Mattingly’s hand to make a major switch at the back end.

The month of June could not come fast enough, with the Dodgers sitting at the bottom of the National League West. A struggling offense combined with a decimated pitching staff opened up the flood gates for Don Mattingly’s job and the complete dismantling of an organization that promised fans success following its lucrative spending over the offseason.

In the suddenly crowded NL West race for mediocrity, the Dodgers top-ranked payroll of $220 million is clicking. Entering the lineup during an early June series against the San Diego Padres, both Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez arrived in Los Angeles in grand fashion.

Puig has been capturing the headlines, batting .409 with a major league-best 54 hits since making his major league debut on June 3. That being said, Hanley Ramirez's second return from the disabled list has really brought a winning culture back.

The Dodgers' starting shortstop has been equally, if not more impressive than Puig. Following a 3-for-5 performance on Monday that extended his hitting streak to 19 games, Ramirez is batting .419 since his return.

Puigmania is sweeping the league for his Bo Jackson-like combination of raw power and speed. Denying the importance of his impact would be foolish, but overlooking the impact Ramirez has provided at the shortstop position is just as mistaken.

Take the impact Hanley Ramirez has played just by reasserting himself at his position. Luis Cruz, Dee Gordon, Nick Punto and Justin Sellers platooned the shortstop position with little success this season.

Now playing with the New York Yankees following 45 games in Los Angeles, Cruz struggled mightily to start the year. After an impressive .297 campaign and 2.2 WAR in the second half of last season, Cruz floundered as a full-fledged member of the infield, slugging .193 while recording only 15 hits with the Dodgers.

Gordon was one of the Dodgers' most exciting prospects, but exhibited major deficiencies defensively and was quickly sent down to AAA Albuquerque following a serious wrist injury. Justin Sellers showed promise, but hit only .188 in his 27 games of action in Gordon’s place. Both players exhibit different skill sets, both that need to develop more precisely at the minor league level.

Ramirez stepped his defensive abilities in order to keep his position (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Ramirez stepped his defensive abilities in order to keep his position (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Now back in the middle of the Dodgers order, Hanley Ramirez is hitting the baseball at a prolific pace. Ramirez’s recent emergence, blasting seven home runs, nine doubles and two triples (both against SF this week), adds a major power threat to the middle of the order.

What has changed with the new-look Hanley Ramirez?

Simply, he wants to win again and is starting to act like it. He got himself into better shape last offseason after the Dodgers forced him to quicken his defensive skills in order to remain at shortstop

This from the player who dominated the landscape with the Marlins from 2006 to 2009, posting seasons with 30-plus home runs, 50-plus stolen bases, and impressive WAR numbers before getting traded to Los Angeles.

The Dodgers are seeing the Marlins version of Ramirez, one who wants to bring winning back to the ball club. Fans see a winning mentality when Hanley expresses frustration after failing to move a runner, when he delivers energy to the club with a critical base hit, or when his expertise is offered on a consoling trip to the mound.

Puig has been an instant sparkplug for the city of Los Angeles, bringing the buzz to baseball in a town where the star power of Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul dominates the headlines. But while Puig may own the talk of Los Angeles, Ramirez is the real main reason for the Dodgers offensive surge

Don’t look now, but the Dodgers' recent 13-4 stretch has put the Arizona Diamondbacks and first place in the NL West in their sights. During this run, Ramirez is hitting .500 while belting five home runs and 13 RBI. This is beyond an upgrade after the previous tenants at shortstop batted under .200.

As the All-Star game quickly approaches, and as chatter fills with discussions of the NL Final Vote between Freddie Freeman and Yasiel Puig, the Los Angeles Dodgers are starting to work out something special.

Reach Staff Writer Evan Budrovich here or follow him on Twitter.



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