Manny MVP? Torre, Gammons Agree

The thought that Manny Ramirez could be in the running for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, as put forth by LADugout.com recently, has been getting some discussion, with Dodgers manager Joe Torre and ESPN analyst Peter Gammons both agreeing on the answer.

Both of them see the importance of Manny in the Dodgers lineup and how the club would not be in the position they are today without him, but neither think it will happen. In fact, Gammons said the proposition is "silly."

Torre told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com noted that "Torre, the 1971 NL MVP, won't argue with Ramirez's impact, but doesn't consider his MVP candidacy likely because of the four months Ramirez wasn't a Dodger.

"I don't think it's going to happen. Two months is really tough," Torre said. "You look at Albert Pujols and some of the things he's done all the time. To me, it's depending on your interpretation of an MVP.

"He [Ramirez] could be considered if we go on to the postseason. Without him, it probably wouldn't happen. To that point, sure, it doesn't matter how long he's been here."

However, Torre said he remembers the controversy when he won the award playing for the second-place Cardinals over Willie Stargell, whose Pirates went on to win the World Series.

"That's part of the argument," Torre said. "I had the best year of anybody and went home. I don't disagree, if we get there, without him we wouldn't have made it. The division was so bunched up, he made the difference."

In 41 games since joining the Dodgers from the Red Sox, Ramirez is hitting .395 with 14 homers, 10 doubles and 43 RBIs. He finished in the top 10 of MVP voting in the American League eight consecutive seasons from 1998-2005, finishing as high as third twice.

In this rare case, the right coast agrees with the left coast.

Gammons, the ESPN baseball guru and often times the Boston Red Sox unofficial spokesman which makes his opinion a bit biased, said in his opinion the MVP notion is silly.

"There is little question that Ramirez has had a huge impact on the Dodgers," he pointed out, "and L.A. accepted the entire package when Manny and his agent, Scott Boras, realized that the only way to get to the 2008 free-agent market was for Manny to refuse to honor his existing contract with the Red Sox.

"But Rafael Furcal and his 1.045 OPS got the Dodgers off to a 18-14 start before he injured his back. In Ramirez's first 40 games, the Dodgers had a run differential of plus-22 and averaged 4.55 runs per game, as opposed to 4.43 through July 31."

He continued that Albert Pujols of the Cardinals Pujols has 87 runs created, 22 more than runner-up Lance Berkman; Pujols is fighting through an elbow injury that likely will require him to undergo offseason surgery, and he has kept the Cardinals afloat through a slew of injuries, and played excellent defense as well.

Then, almost in the same breath, Gammons said Dodgers have their best chance to win the World Series since the Reagan Administration.

"Let's not even think about what the Dodgers would be like if Rafael Furcal could play in the postseason. Rather, think about putting Takashi Saito at the end of one of the best bullpens in baseball.

"Think about Brad Penny in long relief with Jonathan Broxton and company, and then realize that every other National League playoff possibility other than the Cubs has some bullpen issue -- and it's worth thinking about Joe Torre getting back to the World Series. Or Ramirez getting to his fifth World Series, against perhaps the Red Sox."

In Gammons opinion, Saito makes the Dodgers' bullpen potentially overpowering, with Broxton, Hong-Chic Kuo, Joe Beimel, Cory Wade. Chad Billingsley and Derek Lowe have out-pitched the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb and Dan Haren down the stretch in his opinion. And with Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw, they have the depth in the pitching staff to win.

Gammons pointed out, the Dodgers have flaws, but the fact is that even before Ramirez was handed to them, their talented young players were already emerging.

When Torre abandoned finally benched Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, giving the playing time to Andre Ethier, the teams' best all-around player, he melded him with James Loney, Matt Kemp and Russell Martin, with Casey Blake who added veteran professionalism to the mix.

"It took Torre, Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa more than half a season to sort out this team, but they have it figured out now." Gammons continued.

"The Dodgers have the best overall team ERA in the National League. They have Ramirez hitting in the middle of Ethier, Martin, Kemp and Loney. GM Ned Colletti also didn't trade away any of their best young players except catcher Carlos Santana, who brought them Blake and saved ownership money."

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