It's illogical to pin the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2013 season on Hanley Ramirez like a boutineer. Baseball isn't a game for dictators; one man can hoard only so much power. Don Mattingly wants you to remember this.
"If Hanley goes off and nobody else does, then that doesn't work," the Dodgers' skipper says. "So it's not all on him ... but he definitely changes us."
So even if Ramirez can't "carry" the Dodgers, he can "change" them, and by doing so, change the National League West race. In a camp with a roll call of stars, he's the most critical Dodger, the one seemingly with the largest gap between what's possible and probable.
Because Ramirez spent 93 games with a .322 OBP amid the stench in Miami last season, and because his 6.3 percent walk rate and 22.1 percent strikeout rate with the Dodgers both would have ranked in the bottom quarter in baseball over a full season, his brighter days seem so long ago. But he's only 29 years old, an age when his 2009 season -- capped by a .407 wOBA and second-place finish in the NL MVP race – should still be within reach, given health and the depth of his ability.
But Ramirez fell into some bad swing habits over the last three seasons, and pitchers have altered their attack. Mattingly was asked about the latter. "Really?" he said with a laugh. "You think I'm gonna tell you how to pitch him?"
Fine, fine. We'll use the charts to compare 2009 Hanley with last season's (sprinkling in Mattingly's insights), and see how Ramirez can rebound and possibly swing the 2013 NL West race.