What a season this is becoming

I’m sitting here in the Dodger Stadium pressbox, where I’ve spent hundreds of days and nights, watching Manny Ramirez circle the bases after unloading a first-pitch grand slam — on Manny Bobblehead Night, of all nights.

Mannywood erupts in front of me. He’s second all-time to Lou Gehrig in grand slams with 21, and I doubt the Iron Horse ever made an entrance like the one Manny did when he was summoned by Joe Torre to bat for pitcher Chad Billingsley.

Manny came out to a thunderous roar and swung the lead bat seemingly for five minutes before Reds manager Dusty Baker emerged from the dugout to replace Bronson Arroyo with Nick Masset.

Moments later, Manny was at the plate, swinging a hunk of wood, the crowd going wild. And the ball was sailing into the box seats in the left field corner, Manny circling the bases like the 12-year-old kid he is at moments such as this.

And here I sit thinking that this is shaping up as one of those summers we might not forget in Southern California.

The Angels just roared from behind in Kansas City, behind mighty mites Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis and Reggie Willits, for another exciting victory, and they’re coming home on a roll. They’re doing all this winning without Torii Hunter, their best player, and without Vladimir Guerrero, their most feared hitter, and lately without Juan Rivera, who is having a tremendous season.

Mike Scioscia pushes buttons, athletes run out on the field, and the Angels win games.

I had an email from a reader the other day berating me for calling Figgins an MVP candidate. Why he was so livid about this, I have no idea. He claimed to be an Angels fan and couldn’t believe I would have the audacity to write such a thing. I was actually quoting Scioscia, but that seemed not to matter.

Well, I don’t see why Figgins can’t be an MVP candidate, just as I see no reason why Hunter, in the midst of his best season, also can’t be in the running.

I can’t see why the Angels can’t keep winning, and the Dodgers can’t keep winning, and we can have a magical summer all the way into October.

What would be better than that, an I-5 World Series, if you’re a  baseball fan in Southern California?

Funny, I was just talking about that subject tonight with Dodgers infielder Mark Loretta, who played for the Padres when they were a pretty decent team. As we were talking, Ramirez — out of the lineup after getting drilled in the hand on Tuesday night — walked by,pointed to Loretta and Ausmus, turned his hand inward toward his chest, and said, “Too much money on the bench tonight.”

Not long after that, I was sitting in the visitors’ dugout talking with Eric Davis. He was wearing a Reds uniform and looking good in it, and he was talking about how Manny had “transformed” the Dodgers the day he arrived with his personality.

“He takes everything on, and frees up everybody else to just play,” Davis said. “They watch Manny and realize that he’s just a big kid having a good time. That kind of thing has a big influence on a young team. You can see what it did for the Dodgers. It transformed them.”

Eric, one of the most talented athletes I’ve ever seen, was right. He was up in the pressbox, not far from me, when Mannywood exploded yet again. Davis was hardly surprised.

“He loves the game, everything about being a baseball player,” Davis had said as we sat in the dugout. “He is a joy to be around for teammates. Look at him out there, just a big kid having fun.”

At that moment, playing shortstop during batting practice, Ramirez hurled a baseball into the visitors’ dugout several feet away from Davis and beamed.  

Ah, yes. There’s magic in the air these days and nights. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium are wonderful places to spend a summer night. 


  1. dredleelam

    I’m not sure the ANGEL MVP has been set yet, let alone MLB.

    I agree with Lyle that FIggie and Hunter have to be considered. But where would the halos be if Kendry Morales hadn’t stepped up and filled the large void at 1st? Rob Quinlan? Brandon Wood converted? Or where would they be without Bobby Abreu? Figgie doesn’t score all those runs if Bobby A. doesn’t knock him in or over. How about Brian Fuentes? Any chance the Angels are anywhere near the top if he stinks up the joint? Leads the majors in saves. Doesn’t erase the memory of Krod but sure salves the wound.

    The guts of the season are yet ahead in baseball. Our best MVP candidate will emerge . . . we’ll have to see if any of these guys have the stats, by the end of the year, to fight off all the other worthy candidates around the league.

    I know this: I’ve already penciled in Scioscia as AL manager of the year. I know that some in texas and detroit will disagree. But no one has done as much managing under duress as has Mike this year.

  2. crzblue2

    First time reading your blog, so first time poster here. i was at the game and it was incredible the atmosphere there. I along with my brother have season tickets in the Top Deck and we sit with other season ticket holders that I call “My top Deck Family” , but the family includes people that work at the stadium. Sitting in the last row of aisle 3, we get fans standing in back of us or ushers, or workers on their break. We Hi Five’d so many people yesterday. It was just like the Back To Back to Back to Back day.
    Go Blue
    Just like the tickets from the back to back to back to back, I put those ones away! Those are keepers just like my playoffs, and world series tickets.
    Before leaving work, I posted on phasebook that I was heading to the game. A friend comments “Manny is not playing you goofy.” haha. As if Manny being out of the lineup was going to hold me back from going to our beloved Dodger Stadium.
    So good to read your postings.

  3. matthew@vagabondguru.com

    You’ve got it half-right. Manny makes the Dodgers matter in ways they haven’t since Brooklyn. This isn’t the stream of cretins in the Decades of LaSorda, who were automatic root-againsts and featured the likes of Garvey, Russell, Sutton, Hershiser, Hatcher and of course, the goat of the ’88 Playoffs who cost America the A’s/Mets…

    Mike Scioscia, who in every conceivable way is the antithesis to what Mannywood is all about. An authentic bad-guy whose faceless team is loved nowhere outside of Anaheim and has a ‘Q’ rating and charisma that linger somewhere south of South Carolina’s Senate delegation.

    Manny (and Torre) have a team that America looks at and can see itself, a star-laden place that energizes and approaches the game with a professional detachment towards their foes. An energy that says ‘Let’s play, it isn’t a fight. We’ll see who is better and party at the end’. Scioscia, like Lasorda’s teams, play with a chip on their shoulder, strut TOWARDS the other team rather than fan celebrations like Manny produces. Watch Lackey or Weaver sneer contemptously on a Mound, that’s Scioscia, and aint nobody cares for it fifty miles from Anaheim.

    Meanwhile, with Manny in LA, it is possible to walk down NYC streets and see dozens of ‘LA’ hats for the first time in my 40 years as an East Coast fan.

    What it is no longer possible to see is a Latino fan wearing a Boston Hat, which were once legion when Manny, Pedro and Papi were doing their thang and the Red was in the name, not ON the sock, or the neck.

    To summarize: Manny/Joe, good for America/MLB, Scioscia/Angels, bad for both.

  4. oldbrooklynfan

    I hope you’re half right, Lyle, there’s another team much closer to me, than the Angels, that is really starting to bring it on.
    I’d love to hang out all night next to Yankee Stadium and try to get a ticket to the World Series, better yet, they may even have a lottery, just to see my favorite team in person, the Dodgers, play the Yankees in the fall classic.
    Like old times.

  5. t_saru14@yahoo.com

    (referring to the comment above) calling scioscia and the angels bad for baseball might be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I religiously watch angels games and not once have I ever seen scioscia and the angels “strut” around (whatever that means). Also, I think you might be confusing “playing with a chip on your shoulder” with “playing with heart.” Each and every year since scioscia arrived, one could argue that the angels are the hardest working team in all of baseball. So say that you don’t like angels hard working attitude, but dont ever say that they are bad for baseball (and I’m sure MANY people feel the same way).

    as for figgy, it is absolutely reasonable to at least consider him and mvp candidate. take him away from the halos and it is hard pressed to believe that they would be in the same spot they are without him. sure maicer and aybar have good averages, but neither of them posses the baserunning ability that figgy has, meaning they probably wouldnt have as many runs scored as he does now.

    cant wait to get hunter and rivera healthy to see the true potential for these halos. great blog mr. spencer.

  6. mattwest

    Lyle, I’m a big fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog. I couldn’t agree with you more about the audacity of this so called Angel fan. I write an angel blog myself, been a life long fan for a good 25 years now. If you can, give it a read and let me know your thoughts? Any advice would be much appreciated, but I feel that I have a good feel for the team, and I don’t hold anything back. Thank you!

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