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The way the Dodgers were put together seemed almost haphazard at the time, with the team loading up on huge salaries in a trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez and others from Boston and Ramirez from Miami. They then outbid everyone to get Puig for $42 million, signed South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin for $36 million and, for good measure, gave Zack Greinke a $147 million deal.

Now Ryu and Puig may battle it out for rookie of the year, Greinke is pitching solidly and Gonzalez is a run-producing machine. The bullpen is filled with former closers and current closer Kenley Jansen has been dominant, including a stretch from July 23 to Aug. 8 where he put down 27 consecutive batters over a 10-game stretch.

And Mattingly? He’s gone from being on the hot seat to being a new star in a town filled with them.

“It’s a lot more fun than it was a month or so ago, that’s for sure,” Mattingly said.

If only he could say the same thing about getting out of the parking lot at Dodger Stadium.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg