As each of the division champions and wild-card teams are determined, Big League Stew will ask World Series hopefuls to issue a formal acceptance speech and explain why they're the team that will be hoisting The Commissioner's Trophy in late October. Next to bat are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who clinched the NL West on Thursday via second-place Arizona's 12-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Mr. Commissioner, Vin, Chairman McCourt, President McCourt, Ambassador Lasorda, General Manager Colletti, V.P. A.G.M. Ng, Manager Torre, Johnny, Ed, Fernando, the Governador, my fellow Golden Staters, Southern Californians, Greater Los Angelenos, Lesser Los Angelenos, Chavez Ravineatfreaks, Dodger Dogs, Disciples of the Big Dodger in the Sky.
Yeah, we're in the car on the Ventura Freeway. Why, did something happen? What's the score of the Diamondbacks game? We don't have Sirius in here -- it's the Voyager -- so we're not sure what's up. Listening to CDs, actually. So, we know the Cardinals had a big lead late on Arizona. Did they win? If they did, that means we clinch, and enthusiastically accept, the National League West Division title!
Hold on, we're going through drive-thru.
(Pause for lengthy order)
Ladies and gentlemen, we're proud to win this title, even though the kid on the order box poked fun at our division, just like people did all season. Hey, they had reason to. For a while, it even looked to us like no one wanted to win it. Arizona just started so well, and all the pundits said nobody in the NL was looking forward to seeing Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and the Big Unit in a playoff series ... Well, thanks to our efforts, nobody has to now.
(Pause for applause, but it's a late-arriving crowd so the big line doesn't go over that well)
The rest of the division, OK, honestly it wasn't very competitive. Kind of embarrassing, really, especially with all of the expectations we had collectively coming off last year. Some expected it to be the best division in the league, but what happened to the defending NL champs? Colorado never looked like the team that won all those games down the stretch a season ago to squeeze into the playoffs. San Diego and San Francisco played horribly, although it was fun to watch Tim Lincecum pitch. Good news, everyone. We'll miss Timmy in the NLDS!
(Pause for applause)
This is the Dodgers' third trip to the playoffs since '04 and it's coming with our third different manager. Something tells me we won't be changing skippers again real soon, though. Joe Torre doesn't swing a bat or throw pitches, and he makes a lot of interesting insurance commercials, but he reassures us and gives us confidence in hard times, and we had our share of those this season. The middle of our infield got hurt, we lost our closer for a time — as well as one of our top starters — but we didn't let down when other Dodgers teams might have. That comes from leadership. It comes from Joe Torre.
(Pause for standing ovation)
Moving on to our second biggest addition, we heard stories about this outrageous guy from Boston, a dude who listens to music while playing the field and who relieves himself inside the left-field wall and who can't be depended upon. Oh, yes, we heard stories about Manny Ramirez being Manny and how tough it was to have Manny play for your team. We heard the stories. Turns out, that's all they were. Manny is a little strange, but Manny also has been a great teammate. Hittin' about .400. Sluggin' about .750. He's been a monster, the kind of guy a team can lean on in a playoff series. Manny Ramirez has been the best hitter in the National League since Ned Colletti traded for him, and it's not a coincidence that we're heading back to the playoffs!
(Pause for loud applause usually reserved for the Lakers or Springsteen)
We came in with very good young talent in spots — Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Chad Billingsley. The right manager and the superstar slugger was all that was missing. Well, that, and a proper celebration.
Now please excuse us, because we're going to go celebrate with a sack of In 'N Out — Animal style, of course — and a few sixers from the Circle K.
But before we jet, let us just say that may God bless Tommy Lasorda.
And may God bless the Los Angeles Dodgers!
- Manny Ramirez