Hanley Ramirez is the key to this surge


Why no hue and cry over Hanley Ramirez and the All-Star team?

Funny how perceptions shape so much of this stuff. Yasiel Puig arrived from Double-A Chattanooga on June 3, igniting long-dormant hopes in Dodgers fans. If the season didn’t pan out, at least they’d have something exciting to watch this summer.

And Puig, of course, has done more than deliver on the dynamic reputation he built up in spring training. He has topped it, mostly because these games actually matter, batting .409 with a 1.102 OPS.

To quote Vin Scully from last night’s broadcast, “It’s not that easy to do, but he just keeps doing it.”

The day after Puig-mania began, the Dodgers made a quieter transaction, activating Ramirez from the 15-day disabled list, where he had spent all but a few games this season nursing a torn thumb ligament and a badly strained hamstring.

His aggregate numbers -- .419 batting average 1.199 OPS – are superior to Puig’s and they have played exactly the same number of games, 33. Nobody on the Dodgers is pushing Ramirez T-shirts or rolling out 24-hour campaigns to urge fans to give him their final vote for the All-Star team (he’s not even on the ballot).

The difference, of course, is that the world already knew about Ramirez. He played in three All-Star games in his best stretch, from 2008 to 2010.

Forgetting about the All-Star hype, Ramirez's impact has been at least as significant as Puig’s, probably more so. Not only because his numbers are slightly better, but because his hot hitting has given the Dodgers twin pistons in their lineup, a multiplier effect.

There’s something catalytic about a pair of dynamic power hitters in the middle of an order. When Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were in their primes in Boston, pitchers would start thinking about them even as they faced No. 8 and 9 hitters in a lineup. Think Jeff Kent would have won the 2000 MVP if Barry Bonds hadn’t had a .440 on-base percentage batting in front of him?

If Puig were doing this in a vacuum, the Dodgers offense wouldn't be working this well. The Dodgers have seen a symbiotic relationship develop between Puig and Ramirez even though Puig bats second and Ramirez fourth. You would expect their hot hitting eventually to benefit Adrian Gonzalez, who has surprisingly batted only .258 since June 4.

The other day, somebody on TV asked Ramirez whose arrival in the major leagues Puig’s instant impact reminded him of. His answer?


He could have just as easily been speaking about 2013 as 2006.