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Holliday & Manny – The antihero gets the jump on the would-be hero

The man on the left is disgraced now; the man on the right was earlier in '09, in case you've forgotten All right, so my World Series pick has already busted. How was I to know that Matt Holliday would destroy any momentum his team had by dropping a ball I could have caught in left field?

Though the Cardinals and their fans – who gave Holliday a rousing ovation before Game 3 tonight – forgave the outfielder for his error, you can pinpoint that as the exact moment the wind went out of their sails. If he catches that ball, they come home tied at a game apiece with Joel Pineiro, who’d been solid all year, against Vicente Padilla.

Instead, they come home with no momentum, shell-shocked from a horrible defeat. If they won Game 3, they go back to Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright on short rest, and you’d feel good about it, but by then it was such an incredible uphill climb, as demonstrated by the lack of fight they showed in a 5-1 defeat.

So I hate to say it, but the Cardinals can look directly at Holliday for their loss in this series. Momentum is such a big part of baseball, and they had none left, while the Dodgers had tons.

Holliday will be ok – he’s set to cash in big-time on the open market after proving that he’s not just a Coors Field mirage – but one has to wonder whether this is something he’s going to take with him throughout his career. Baseball is a mental game just as much as physical, and I wouldn’t be stunned if his missed catch sticks in his head for quite some time.

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On the other side, you have lovable old Manny Ramirez beginning yet another renaissance with a wildly successful Game 3.

When I went to Citi Field to see the Mets play the Dodgers a few months ago, I was struck by one thing – nobody really viewed Manny as a villain. He was a spectacle, sure, but not any more than he was before his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

And now it’s no longer a topic. Manny is the same figure he was during last October. I’m not sure how else I would expect this to go, but it just doesn’t feel right that it’s business as usual for him. (To say nothing of Alex Rodriguez, who went from eternal postseason goat – and tremendous embarrassment — to postseason dominator in the span of one game) The truth

Meanwhile, you have Andre Ethier batting right ahead of Manny and breaking out right before our eyes, with a swing that calls to mind a young Ken Griffey Jr. But who cares when you have “Manny being Manny” – could there possibly be a more tired phrase? – in the same lineup?

The Dodgers have a real chance to win a championship this year, though I still don’t think they have the pitching to do so. Is Manny Ramirez deserving of celebrating a championship, spraying champagne everywhere, reveling with his teammates? It’s a rhetorical question.

That said, am I perhaps being too hard on him? I mean, his natural talent is likely overwhelming, though I can’t totally commit to that idea since we’ll never know how much of his talent is truly his own. What exactly do I expect? How should people discuss Manny?

No matter – sometime this October, he’ll likely pass Bernie Williams to become the all-time leader in postseason RBIs. (Manny’s four behind him) Another record down, another achievement. I do wonder how Hall of Fame voters will treat him, but it’ll be quite some time before we know.

For now, I guess it’s just status quo. Dodgers move on.

Right or wrong, Manny maintains his mystique.

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