Reflections on the Trade

So the Dodgers have picked up the estimable Manny Ramirez, crazy hairdo, agent Scott Boras and assorted other baggage as well. The price in terms of players was not high. The price in dollars was not high as the Red Sox, eager to rid themselves of Manny, will pay the rest of this season's salary and then he will be gone to free agency.

Manny comes from a hitters park to a pitchers park. It is unknown whether he bothered to pack a fielder's glove. If he plays in left - the only place he has played - he will follow Luis Gonzalez and Juan Pierre in a succession of lousy fielding left fielders.

The Dodgers owner loves ex-Red Sox players even more than the Dodgers GM loves ex-SF Giant players. That pair of propensities has so far turned out to be a pair of loaded dice, loaded against the house.

Senior manager Joe Torre has largely snoozed through the first four months of the season. Now, with Manny, we will find out how good Torre is - or is not.

Manny will initially be blessed with the laid back beneficence of the West Coast press corps.

But even as a two month rental, the deal does have its shortcomings.

Baseball's defense starts up the middle - catcher, the shortstop-second base duo, and center field. The Dodgers are short in this department and haven't gotten better.

While catcher Russ Martin is a marvel, his throwing out runners stat has actually gotten worse. The second baseman has no mobility. The best shortstop they have is unable more often than not to take the field. The shortstop they are paying the most is gone for the season and maybe forever.

The center fielder, once baseball's best, looks for all the world like he has eaten his way out of the sport.

Maybe Manny offers enough offense that the Dodgers can call up the slick fielding shortstop Chin-Lung Hu (who had seven hits in a row last week) and carry his lack of offense.

In Manny and Casey Blake, the Dodgers did not add a dime to payroll.

But neither did much to add to the team's speed or defense either. The Dodgers clearly want to win and win now. Luckily, they have not sacrificed the best of the youth corps. The additions - Manny, Blake, Berroa and Ozuna - are all "veteran" (read that older) players.

On the bright side, the Dodgers have gotten more "name" players.

On the other and darker side, the team does seem unbalanced, a garage full of gas guzzlers and old spare parts. Kind of like a really good looking Edsel with extra wheels but still lacking a carburetor and an ignition switch.

On the same day the Dodgers picked up Manny, the Washington Nationals released both catchers Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada. Now maybe the Dodgers will pick up one of them, particularly since the Nats will be stuck for their salaries. On name and reputation, either would be an upgrade in the Dodgers backup catcher spot and Dodger fans would love to see Lo Duca back on the left coast.

The question remains -- are the Dodgers really better or simply an aging softball team masquerading as a baseball team?

Sometimes the girl who looked so good in the bar last night when you were drinking don't quite look the same in the harsh light of the morning.