LOS ANGELES -- A few months ago, during the deadlocked negotiations between dreadlocked slugger Manny Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers, catcher Russell Martin boldly insisted the team could win without him if necessary.
Now, the Dodgers will get a chance to prove it.
Mannywood was rocked Thursday when the All-Star outfielder was suspended for 50 games for using a banned drug.
"Do I still think we can win without him? I think he makes us a better team when he's with us, but without him we still have a good team and we're still capable of winning us some ballgames," Martin said before Thursday night's game against Washington.
"He's one of the best hitters of all time, so it's definitely going to be tough. But what can you do? You've just got to move on and keep plugging away. You have to take it either as a challenge, and that's what we're going to do," he added.
Even before the first pitch of the game, Ramirez's penalty had a noticeable effect. The Manny-style dreadlock hats that had been on sale at the concession stands at Chavez Ravine on Wednesday night had been pulled off at least one shelf. Other Manny-related memorabilia was missing, too.
The Dodgers said there might have been a misunderstanding with the Ramirez merchandise, but that it still was for sale. But more than one vendor said they were instructed not to sell any Manny merchandise until further notice.
Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said he called Ramirez and that the 36-year-old star called him back.
"He feels very badly. Right now he's trying to gather his thoughts," Torre said. "The worst thing I think a person can be is a disappointment to somebody else, and Manny feels like a disappointment."
Juan Pierre will replace Ramirez in left field, but isn't enjoying the circumstances surrounding his chance to play regularly again.
"I'll pray for him and his family that they get through this all OK, and I wish the best for them. That's all I got," Pierre said.
The defending NL West champions held a 6½-game lead on San Francisco when the penalty was announced. Ramirez is eligible to return July 3.