Reputation gone but not his bat

(FOX SPORTS) Manny Ramirez lost a lot on May 7, the day his 50-game suspension was announced.

His status as a sure-fire Hall of Famer vanished. His image as a mercurial-yet-innocent slugger died. His reasonable chance at making a 12th consecutive All-Star team disappeared.

But we were reminded last week that, for Ramirez, what was true with the Cleveland Indians, what was true with the Boston Red Sox, what was true with the Los Angeles Dodgers (before the female hormones), remains true today.

When the moment is big, Manny often rises to it.

Out of the starting line-up with a tender left hand, Ramirez appeared at Joe Torre’s beckoning with the bases loaded and score tied in the sixth with the Dodgers at home against the Cincinnati Reds.

He rarely pinch hits, but, with starter Chad Billingsley due up, the stage belonged to Ramirez – on his own bobble-head night no less.

And we all know how entertaining Manny can be.

So, sure enough, he walloped Nick Masset’s first pitch, a 96-mph fastball, over the left-field wall, for a rub-your-eyes grand slam.

At the moment the ball touched down – just above the ‘Mannywood’ sign of all places – the Dodgers took a 6-2 lead over the Cincinnati Reds, who are contenders no more. And that’s how it ended, with Los Angeles winning its fourth straight game and Manny a hero again.

Didn’t we figure something like this would happen?

Chemically enhanced or not, we knew Ramirez could hit. We also knew that, when he hit, the fans at Dodger Stadium would go bonkers (which by the way has happened with some frequency during his maiden home-stand, post-suspension).

Though the after-effects of a hit-by-pitch kept him from starting, Ramirez has played well before the still-adoring home crowds over the last several days.

He is hitting .300 with two home runs and eight RBIs in seven games. Who’s going to boo production like that?

For the month, including road games, he’s slugging .688, which is even better than before the suspension. Furthermore he has already hit five home runs since coming back.

At this point, we can safely say that Ramirez seems to be making a very successful return. The Dodgers, who were admittedly doing fine without him, haven’t lost a series since he returned July 3.

At this point they’re the safest bet in baseball to make the postseason.

In this regard, at least, Ramirez is fortunate that we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society.

The suspension is in his rear-view mirror and that of the fans. All anyone is noticing now is that he has helped his team win some ballgames. Moreover he’s starting to add memorable moments to the numbers and replace jokes of his affinity for femine products with positive memories of great plays on the field.

One of those memories came not just as he hit the grand slam but in the response of local media to it.

As Ramirez rounded the bases before a roaring crowd, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully didn’t say a word on the air.

Scully waited before Ramirez descended into the dugout mob – and took a curtain call – before finding the perfect words to describe it.

‘Well,’ he started, ‘that didn’t take long.’

No, it hasn’t.

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