- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"It was the first time in my career I negotiated hair length," Boras says. "They asked for 10 inches off. We came back with four. We settled on five."
"That's no problem here," Torre said.
RAMIREZ IMMEDIATELY loved L.A., an expansive city so full of stars that a dreadlocked hitting savant didn't merit extra attention when he went out for sushi, a welcome downshift for Ramirez from his fishbowl existence in baseball-mad Boston. And L.A. loved Ramirez back. His number 99 jersey flew out of the team's gift shops. Fans dressed in dreads and 'do-rags in homage to the first great slugger the franchise had seen since Mike Piazza.
Most important, the Dodgers, already well armed with pitching, became a potent offensive team. With Ramirez, they hit 25 points higher (.281 posttrade, .256 pretrade) and improved significantly in getting on base (.355 to .321) and slugging (.443 to .376). Ramirez drove in 53 runs in 53 games while hitting .396, the highest average in history for an in-season acquisition who played at least 30 games with his new team.
Ramirez also became their clubhouse talisman, whose carefree joy became contagious. The Dodgers, for instance, dropped their longstanding ban on clubhouse music simply because Ramirez starting playing it. One day, after a game in which Ramirez lost a hit to an official scorer's decision to charge a fielder with an error, hitting coach Don Mattingly approached Ramirez and said, "That should have been a hit. Do you want me to talk to the guy?"
"Nah," Ramirez said. "No big deal, papi. I'll just get three hits tomorrow."
The next day he got three hits.
Every day, including during the Division Series, Ramirez hits off a tee, but he often takes only about 25 to 30 swings. Says Mattingly, "It would make Little League coaches nervous, that he's not hitting enough. And sometimes he'll mess with his teammates. He'll take only about seven or eight swings, walk away and go, 'That's it. I'm good, papi.'"
BY THE time the Dodgers reached October, thanks to an 18--5 run that began on Aug. 30, they were a changed team. Maturing young stars such as Andre Ethier, James Loney, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp prospered knowing Ramirez was the ballast to the lineup. Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who hit .381 in April before a back injury knocked him out for nearly five months, returned to his leadoff spot. And the Los Angeles pitching staff, which had led the league in ERA, was enjoying nearly half a run per game more support with Ramirez in the lineup.