While many know-it-all media types warned the Dodgers that Manny Ramirez would not produce in 2009 at the same level as 2008 (as though it was an earth-shattering revelation to suggest that posting an OPS+ of 221 was unsustainable) a 50 game suspension for a failed steroid test was a stunning development. Despite showing up to spring training late thanks to prolonged contract negotiations with the club Ramirez, got off to a very strong start. With Ramirez posting a line of .372/.500/.674 in April/May of 2009, the Dodgers were able to jump out to an early lead in the division which was never relinquished.
On May 7th, news broke that Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for HCG, a women's fertility drug which violates Major League Baseball's performance enhancing drug policy. Manny went down pretty quietly, which is to say he didn't put up a public fight and wasn't much heard from until he showed up Albuquerque to begin his rehab assignment. Many erroneously believe that Manny struggled after he came back from suspension, but that wasn't really the case. In nearly a full month of action in July, Ramirez posted an OPS of .931 in 91 plate apperances. The real turning point for Ramirez was not the return from suspension (and the implicit notion that Ramirez was unable to perform once he was off the "juice") but was getting hit by a Homer Bailey pitch on July 21, 2009. Despite delivering a dramatic pinch hit grand slam the following night, Ramirez's production went on a solid decline for the rest of the season. Manny posted an OPS of .881 in August and an OPS of .833 in September and October, leading me to believe that Ramirez was suffering from a lingering hand injury as the season came to an end.
On the one hand, Dodger fans should expect a bounce in the counting stats for Ramirez, as there does not figure to be another 50 game suspension (well in a worst case scenario of a 2nd test it would be a 100 game suspension anyway.) Additionally, Ramirez should get a boost if it turns out the late season struggles were the result of a hand injury that has been rested in the long offseason. On the other hand, Ramirez is entering his age 38 season, which figures to be his last in Los Angeles. Torre has indicated that Manny would get more regular rest in 2010, perhaps as often as 1 game off per week and if the Dodgers jump out to an early lead in 2010 as they did in 2009, lineups without Ramirez would be appropriate. However, Torre has shown that he is pretty quick to change his mind regarding his star outfielder, and if the Dodgers get off to a slow start it'll be interesting to see how often Ramirez sits down in favor of Reed Johnson.
My projection: .284/.380/.490
What are your community projections for Manny Ramirez?