MLB: You Can’t Spell Dodgers Without the Dee

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The Los Angeles Dodgers lineup is littered with stars, headlined by Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig, followed by the likes of Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. At one time, or another, these guys have carried the load for their team at the big league level. The Dodgers also have Dee Gordon, the son of former MLB pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, who presents a skill-set that separates him from the stars he follows. The Dodgers lone question mark headed into this season was who would be the starting second baseman?

That question is no longer relevant. Gordon is the starting second baseman and it appears he’s not giving it up anytime soon. Granted, we’re only 13 games into the 2014 season but Gordon has become a prized asset in this lineup of high-profile names. Gonzalez hit a home run on Sunday for the fourth consecutive game, while Gordon became the sixth Dodger in franchise history to swipe four bases in a single game. (Last Dodger with four stolen bases in a single game was Rafael Furcal; 2007). Gordon was wreaking havoc on the base paths, at one point stealing second, and then he stole third a couple of pitches later without a throw.

His speed has never been put into question, though. The struggle of hitting major league pitching has held him back from utilizing his legs. Nonetheless, through the first two weeks of the new season, Gordon is looking like a legit big league hitter. He’s keeping the ball out of the air, working counts, drawing walks (4) and spraying the ball all over the diamond (16 hits). His .400/.457/.525 split is impressive from what we’ve ever previously seen from him, and goes along with his MLB leading nine stolen bases. Manager Don Mattingly has plugged Gordon into the eighth or leadoff spot in his lineup and looks like a genius thus far.

The 2014 Dodgers lineup would also make for a superb package of Topps baseball cards. However while Gordon would likely be the least valued out of that package, that hasn’t been the case on the diamond these days. The Dodgers need Gordon in the lineup, day in and day out. This could be an overreaction to his hot start, or not, but either way Gordon’s talent will be a key to the Dodgers success this season.

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Hanley Ramirez; “I See You”

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The Los Angeles Dodgers are arguably the best team in all of baseball, at least for the moment. That’s something you couldn’t dare to say during the first half of the season, though.

Rookie sensation Yasiel Puig has accumulated most attention from around the league, which is warranted, but the recent success of the Dodgers has been triggered by the emergence of Hanley Ramirez. It was a season that began on the disabled list and seemed as if that’s where most of his time was being spent in 2013. Things have clearly changed.

On June 4th, Ramirez returned from his second stint on the DL. Since then, his .384 batting average is an MLB best. On July 11th for the first time since April 15th the Dodgers had finally climbed above the .500 mark and haven’t looked back. There’s not a doubt that Puig jump-started this engine, but Ramirez is the one keeping it on track.

The Manny Ramirez-esque easygoing attitude of Hanley has the Dodgers playing without a sense of urgency that you saw during most of the first half of the season. In 2008, Manny put up some gaudy numbers to carry the team all the way to the NLCS. This current run by Hanley has a similar feel to it, when something big always seems to happen when he’s up at the plate. Teams are slowly starting to treat him like they treated Manny back in 2008, which means avoid pitching to him when the opportunity presents itself.

He’s hitting anything and everything right now, with most of his hits getting hit harder and harder every single time. Since June 19th, Ramirez is hitting .431 (1st in MLB), with 27 RBIs (2nd in MLB) and has a .798 slugging percentage (1st in MLB). The Dodgers have gone 21-8 during that stretch and trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by just 0.5 games in the National League West division.

All of this attention placed on Puig has probably created this monster in Ramirez, who has spent most of his career in the spotlight. The pressure to carry the load is off his back and now a few bad games doesn’t collect most of the blame as it would have in his days with the Miami Marlins. Credit for a win or blame for a loss in Los Angeles these days has strictly been directed towards Puig, which has allowed Ramirez to have a carefree approach this season.

The best hitter arguably in baseball right now hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as he should, but that’s been the secret all along. So the national media can continue to keep a close eye on the rise of Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig, while Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers stealthily make their way to the top of the NL West division.

Yasiel Puig Could Save the Los Angeles Dodgers Season

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The Los Angeles Dodgers had been long awaiting the arrival of one super-prospect, 22-year-old Cuban defector Yasiel Puig. The organization finally had no other choice but to call up Puig on Monday night against the San Diego Padres, with most of the team on the disabled list these days.

Whether this move should’ve happened sooner or not, the wait to see the phenom outfielder in a Dodger uniform was finally over.

Puig delivered a major league debut that’ll be talked about for years down the road, and it wasn’t because of his bat as most people would’ve expected, after he hit over .500 in spring training for the Dodgers. Despite going for 2-4 with two singles in his debut, the big right arm of Puig’s was getting all the attention after Monday night’s game.

The Dodgers had a 2-1 lead over the Padres in the top of the ninth inning, and then the “Cuban missile” known as Puig’s right arm happened. He gathered himself underneath a fly ball at the warning track to make out number two with a runner on first, after making the catch at the track he fired an absolute perfect strike to first and doubled up Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia, ballgame. (This walk-off double play was way cooler than most walk-off home runs I’ve seen this season).

What would Puig do for an encore on Tuesday night?

He only went 3-4 with two home runs, five RBIs, two runs, while leading the Dodgers to a 9-7 win over the Padres.

The Dodgers have found the answer they’ve been looking for, and the National League West is still in definite striking distance with plenty of baseball left to play. Last season, remember when the “Anaheim” Angels started 6-14 and then called up the eventual 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout? Everything instantly turned around for the Angels. Trout’s impact alone lifted the Angels back into playoff contention for the rest of the season, only to come up short in the competitive American League West.

It’s not a stretch to say Puig could have that same impact on this Dodgers team, bringing almost the same dynamic style of play to the diamond as Trout. He probably won’t have the year Trout had last season, but that’s tough for anyone to accomplish. However, not one team is running away with the NL West anytime soon, so Puig’s impact could put the Dodgers right back into the division race in just a couple of weeks.

Puig and company look like they’ll be able to hold down the fort until Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and AJ Ellis return from the DL, which would give the Dodgers time to discuss possibly trading Andre Ethier to make Puig the everyday right fielder in Los Angeles.

Manager Don Mattingly has found the missing piece to the puzzle in Puig, and once the rest of his players get healthy he’ll finally get to piece this whole thing together. The Dodgers might have called up Puig just in time and his impact could take this team in the direction they’ve been destined for all season.