Just as it looked as though the Dodgers might run away with the National League West, they were hit with a bombshell Thursday, namely Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy. Leaving the specifics of his violation to the reporters, except to note that he won't be eligible to return until July 3, the question is whether his absence will put the division title back in play. The answer -- sorry, Diamondbacks fans and Manny haters -- is probably not.
Despite haggling with the Dodgers over his contract into early March and suffering a hamstring strain during his second week of spring training, Ramirez had picked up where he left off last season, with a .348 BA/.492 OBP/.641 SLG line and leading the NL in on-base percentage and walks. His performance helped power the Dodgers to the majors' best record (21-8), run differential (plus-55) and equivalent average (.286), not to mention a modern major league record 13-0 start at home. The team currently leads the Giants by 6½ games and the Diamondbacks by 8½ games.