LOS ANGELES – Oh, the stuff Manny Ramirez will miss when he's gone, off finishing his career not in Mannywood, but in Cleveland for, like, 40 cents on the dollar.
Oh, the sights and sounds that will pass him by when he's hangin' with a 40-year-old Jim Thome, and not Andre Ethier and Orlando Hudson and Chad Billingsley, when he's sittin' by the lake and not the sea.
It's a different world here, of course. Not better or worse, just different. So much different.
For instance, two singers (one for the anthem, the other for "God Bless America") who go by one name (Charice and N'Kenge, respectively), believed to be a franchise record, Brooklyn and L.A.
Where's Manny going to get that at his next home opener?
Manny Ramirez walks to the field during opening-day ceremonies.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
For another, the Jonas Brothers behind the visitors' dugout. C'mon, the Jonas Brothers! They, like, sing, too!
Manny told USA Today that he and Thome – currently in the employ of the Chicago White Sox – talked recently about finishing their careers where they began, in Cleveland. Could it be anything like this?
He arrived for his second Dodgers season from over the left-field wall. He descended from a stairway on wheels, the kind they shove up against the side of the plane on the tarmac at Burbank Airport, waving, the last player announced, the benefits of being No. 99.
He arrived batting .286 and reaching base half the time, left batting .304 and reaching base well more than half the time.
He arrived with his dreads most of the way down his back, full-time employees apparently held to a different grooming standard than the seasonal help he was last summer. He left wheeling coach Mark Sweeney's roller luggage behind him, and in a hurry.
Oh, the stuff he would have missed Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, where his opener drew the largest crowd in the history of the 47-year-old ballpark, where Vin Scully threw out the ceremonial first pitch and then hummed into the mic, “In all these years, I have needed you a lot more than you needed me.”
How glorious is that?
The Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants, 11-1, which meant almost nothing unless you liked the looks of Billingsley, at 24, being yards better than Randy Johnson, at 45. And by “yards,” you meant the velocity and effectiveness of their fastballs, and the promise for more like it over 32 more starts.
Had Manny been able to follow his heart to Cleveland, a very decent place to live and play ball, he'd have missed Billingsley standing on the same mound he did last Oct. 15, when he fell apart, when the Dodgers followed suit, and they were all out after five games of the National League championship series.
But, apparently, Billingsley's not going to let a couple of meltdown postseason starts define him, because he's been close to unhittable in the first two starts of his fourth season. He had 11 strikeouts and no walks against the Giants, making that 15 strikeouts and four walks in two starts, which is going to go a long way in a rotation soft on the back end and now without Hiroki Kuroda for at least another couple weeks.
Manny would have missed Joe Torre say of Billingsley, “He is getting more and more mature,” and have Billingsley and his catcher, Russell Martin, insist they really had no idea what Torre was talking about.
“I don't know,” Billingsley said.
You can't get that insight in other places.
Nor, for this afternoon, the kind of at-bats he witnessed – but would have missed – from Orlando Hudson, who by the sixth inning had gone single, home run, double and triple, the 279th cycle in history. The cycle was the second ever at Dodger Stadium and – Manny undoubtedly would marvel at this coincidence had he read it in the Cleveland Plain Dealer – the other guy to hit one here was sitting in Aisle 1, Row K, Seat 1, directly behind home plate.
“You tell Hudson nice going,” said Jim Fregosi, who hit for his cycle at Dodger Stadium as an Angel (against the New York Yankees) in 1964. “Tell him he tied a helluva ballplayer.”
Fregosi laughed. He is in his ninth season as a consultant and scout for the Atlanta Braves.
The notion that 45 years would pass between cycles in the park, and that he would be sitting a couple hundred feet from home plate when it happened again, was, “Unbelievable,” Fregosi said. “Just unbelievable. Actually, I was wondering why he was running so hard on that last one.”
That was the triple, the resultant cycle being how Hudson formally introduced himself to the people of L.A. Manny certainly would recall how that would feel, considering the two knocks he had last Aug. 1 before a full ballpark of people who did not know him, only of him. He wouldn't have wanted to miss that, right?
“Thank God for it,” Hudson would say later, “and in the house that Jackie Robinson built.”
And, heck, Hudson won't even crowd him.
“I'm a country boy, man,” he said. “I'm going to stay as far from Hollywood as I can.”
All yours, Manny.
So, with the final out still warm, Manny went shooting from the clubhouse.
“I'm not talking,” he said, towing that luggage behind him. “I'm walking.”
What about Cleveland, he was asked. What about going to Cleveland?
“Naw,” he said, smiling, laughing. “We were just joking.”
Yeah, he wouldn't want to miss this. You know, what are the chances the Jonas brothers can make it to Cleveland next year?