My favorite Dodger Happiness Indicator will be the sight of Ramirez back at shortstop. Florida moved him to third base because he got too bulky to cover ground and walked after balls that were still in play. Los Angeles put him back at short for 56 starts last season. Stat analysis: Ramirez might get to 70 fewer balls this season than he did at age 22 to 24. Couple that with a two-season slump (.252 average), and there may be interesting moments when Greinke, known to show up teammates such as Jerry Hairston in the 2011 NLCS, gives H-Ram the icy eyeball.
Across town, the Angels signed a $123 million diva of their own in Hamilton. The Halos ignored every aspect of his departure from Texas, the team that knew him best. Hamilton went into a funk in the AL West-deciding series against Oakland. When Manager Ron Washington called him out, Hamilton argued with him in public on the bench. After the season, the Rangers stayed so far away from offering Hamilton a market-value contract that they might as well have worn Hazmat suits to negotiation.
How will Hamilton, who missed games because he consumed so much caffeine that his tear ducts stopped working, suit no-drama Albert Pujols?
Of the slapped-together teams, only the Jays, the current Series favorite, have much chance to jell this year. With classy Jose Bautista and R.A. Dickey to set an example for maturity, Toronto may have a clubhouse that can even withstand the addition of the prima donna Reyes and PED-cheater Cabrera.
Let it be noted that, after Cabrera’s 50-game suspension last year, the Giants left him off all postseason rosters, replaced him with journeyman Gregor Blanco — and won the World Series anyway. Yes, chemistry.
Since free agency arrived in ’76, teams have tried to force baseball to yield to their wallets. By and large, it hasn’t worked. In this century, baseball continues to display remarkable parity, both in the variety of teams reaching the playoffs and in those that ultimately reach or win the World Series.
A big reason is the role of harmony, interconnectedness, resilience and the ability to learn as a group that baseball rewards over its seven-month season. That grind tears apart those who are divided among themselves and raises up those who enjoy depending on each other.
In the past dozen seasons, at least 10 eventual Series champs would be described as teams that knew each other, had risen together and valued each other as something akin to friends, as well as teammates, rather than as mere great-on-paper collections that somehow clicked. Even the Red Sox didn’t win until they finally grasped (for a while) a crazy camaraderie.
Does bonding precede, or merely accompany, victory? That may be too tough a question. But teams that already have a winning identity possess a large leg up on those who are merely trying to find it on the fly. That’s the way it works almost every year. Just watch, it probably will this time, too.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/