Last year at this time, the Chicago Cubs were cruising right along toward a 97-win season and home field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. They were on a collision course with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were being sparked by Manny Ramirez's .396/.489/.743/1.232 line.
And as Stat Boy will present to you, what a difference a year can make.
Manny really hasn't been Manny since being slapped with that 50-game suspension earlier this season. And when he struggles, so do the Dodgers. Specifically, right fielder Andre Ethier.
Ramirez is 4-for-25 (.160) over his last 10 games which spans his last 39 plate appearances. In the month of September he has posted a .229/.407/.486/.892 line. A far cry from the .370/.465/.753/1.218 line he posted over the last month of baseball that included 8 homers, 7 two-baggers and 28 ribbies.
As Ramirez goes, Ethier usually follows. The lefty-swinging Dodger right fielder is 2-for-32 in the last 10 games he has seen action in -- and has been held hit-less since Sept. 24. The drought spans his last seven games, 21 plate appearances. The numbers get uglier when you get closer with a magnifying glass as Ethier is struggling through a 1-for-22 slump over from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30.
This month, Ethier has batted .212/.304/.394/.698. In the final month of the 2008 baseball campaign, Ethier hit .462/.557/.692/1.249.
Ramirez continued to pummel the baseball when the Dodgers came rolling into the playoffs, posting a .500/.643/1.100/1.743 line. Along with James Loney's soul-crushing two-out, two-strike grand slam that yours truly had to witness at Wrigley Field, that's all Los Angeles would need to pull past the Cubs.
Now, I'm not one to bitch about what coulda, woulda and shoulda been. But this Manny situation has got me feeling a bit slighted. I mean, if not for Manny's torrid run with the Dodgers, they would have clearly been after thoughts in the NL West. (See: If he's not BALCO'd Up, the Dodgers are D.O.A.)
Arizona wins that division, and maybe the Cubs slip past the Diamondbacks and with home field advantage are able to get past the Phightin' Phillies. Then, possibly the Cubs, working with the momentum of finally making it past the NLCS for the first time since 1945 are able to knock off the upstart Tampa Bay
Lou Piniella won't have to call for Jim Hendry to blow up the team. Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood never leave as both would offer to play at Wrigley Field for free. Kevin Gregg never comes, and neither do Aaron Miles or Milton Bradley. Knowing Hendry's love for not changing things for the better, the Cubs would have likely fielded the exact same team in 2009 as he did in 2008.
By then, Jim Edmonds would have forgotten how to hit or field a baseball as age would have finally caught up to the aging outfielder. Aramis Ramirez would have never hurt himself trying really hard to get a ground ball down the third base line because he'd be thinking "fuck it, we won a World Series last year" as the ball trickled down into the left field corner.
It is quite likely the Cubs would have imploded again, but in a more spectacular way with it being under different circumstances and all. But I wouldn't give a damn. Because they'd have their World Series and I'd have my memories until the day I'm stricken with Alzheimer's.