Dodgers Happy To See Manny Back

Padres fans will let Manny hear it. Manny won't care.

Friday night, not long after 7 p.m., Manny Ramirez will walk to the plate in San Diego as the regular left fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He will not feel the love. Since the Dodgers are second on the “most hated” list of Padres fans (right behind terrorists but ahead of drug dealers), Manny can expect a rude welcome in Petco Park.

Being Manny, he won’t care.

Niether will the Dodgers, who need him back. Los Angeles without Ramirez is a good team. With him it is a World Series contender.

The Dodgers went a very respectible 29-21 in the 50 games Ramirez sat out for violations of baseball’s drug policy. Juan Pierre shocked the world and hit .318 as Manny’s replacement (which could boost Pierre’s trade value as the deadline approaches and the Dodgers look for another arm).

But the Dodger bats slumped without Manny — especially the last couple weeks. Before Manny left the Dodgers averaged 5.6 runs per game, without him it dropped to 4.4. The team batting averaged dipped 18 points with Manny gone and the team slugging percentage fell off the table.

The Dodgers kept winning, but it was more like games Wednesday night, where they won 1-0 on a brilliant night of pitching. Manager Joe Torre recently called the team bullpen the MVP.

Manny isn’t returning as a relief pitcher to help out some tired arms. But his bat can cover up a mistake or two — the Dodger pitchers no longer have to be perfect to win.

And that is the kind of thing championship teams do.

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