Fix the Goddamned Bullpen, You Idiots!!!
Another long form summation is in order since 140 characters don’t always translate to the suffering masses.
Well, after a brief flirtation that perhaps things were getting better, the always hot and painful road trip through Atlanta sadly has Dodgers fans sniping at one another and question one another’s allegiance to the blue.
For the record – again – it’s ok to criticize the team we love. If we blindly go along smiling like idiots, we’re deserving of the forced bend over we’re getting. We all have different ways of mourning. Some cry, some yell, some cry and yell at those crying and yelling. It is what it is, and don’t for a second think the new Dodgers ownership isn’t to blame.
Now while many of you will go away only recalling the “negative stuff”, I’ll say it so it’s plain for those who need it more clear – there IS hope. The team is comprised of many superstar Ferrari driving megalomaniacs, all of whom have had their days among the baseball elite. So… while perhaps unlikely, or improbable, it’s conceivable at least this group, as it’s currently assembled, could turn it on and make the NL West interesting. Could. Maybe. Perhaps. We hope?
But in my opinion that would be a nice feel-good story probably based more in fantasy than reality. Unless… unless some changes are made, and soon, and I have to think some will be. Let me explain…
As I said last time, and frequently repeat, ownership put a record-setting patch on a drained of blood Dodgers organization. The problem is ownership stated – loudly and often – this team should go to the World Series. That obviously got fans assuming the gang of bloated contracts were a great team and therefore should go to the World Series. Make sense, right?
What ownership should have said, was the truth. The truth was the team was neglected for a long time and while in need of rebuilding, at least beaten down Dodgers fans were in for the luxury of a (don’t say it!!!) “rebuild” aided by deep pockets of insurance company clients (whether they are baseball fans or not).
The “rebuild” would be easier to take since instead of lean years of crap talent like the Astros are pushing on their fans, and Pittsburgh has shoved down its fan base’s throats for 20 years or so, the Dodgers would be palatable due to the mega stars holding the fort until the real team arrived.
For those who are already lost, the real team meaning the kids that have been drafted, will be drafted, signed internationally and so forth and likely be the team we see on the field in 2015-2016, thereabouts.
So a “rebuild” with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Zach Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, etc., etc. isn’t bad. Also, it was always feasible this transition team could win a title or two just due to the talents that went into obtaining those fat cat contracts that now are funny anecdotes for me and others on twitter.
Again – ok to rebuild, necessary to rebuild, but don’t boast you plan to win with this team, and if you don’t, that it would be a disappointment. Fans are fickle creatures and they tend to get hopes up when they hear things like that. And I guess, that was the idea.
Create excitement around the transition team, get butts in the seat, chomping the resurrected Cool-A-Coos and spending their time at the park social networking courtesy of the brand new WiFi. Get that McCourt stank out of the place, spend spend spend, and all is happy in Dodgerland.
My point, as it was this past winter, and all through spring training, was creating a record payroll is ok with me, but at least don’t leave holes.
The Dodgers brain trust – owners and Stan Kasten, I assume, most prominently, added the expensive hood ornaments last summer and this winter, but didn’t construct the team properly.
Dan Evans was very successful as GM for the Dodgers during those lean Fox years because he got it. He always focused on bullpen first, and the rotation second. If you have all that pitching, you don’t need much in terms of offense. We were usually a man short back then, but nonetheless the team was pretty exciting. And a Dodgers team.
Pitching, more pitching, and defense. If the team mustered 1-2 runs, our pitching was good to hold on and win much of the time. You build from the back of the bullpen out.
Let me say that again… you build from the back of the bullpen out. You have a closer who can actually close. You get a few good setup men. You add another live arm or two before them. All of a sudden you’re built for your starters to go 6 innings and your masterful pen shuts teams down the rest of the way.
You shorten the game. (Write that down, there will be a test later)
If your pen is deep, and championship caliber teams’ pens always are, you shorten games and win games. It’s pretty simple.
So this past winter I kept bellyaching the Dodgers should forsake the draft pick and sign Soriano, who was available to close. He was out there a long time, and I spent a lot of time tweeting about it. Also, the Japanese closer Fujikawa, who still hasn’t made much noise for the Cubs, but could have, and easily may.
I mentioned Hanrahan of the Pirates, who was available, and is now hurt. Maybe that would have been a bust, or perhaps he wouldn’t have gotten hurt if he were with the Dodgers, hard to say.
Or we could have added any other live arm, or made a trade. You see where I’m going.
Instead, Kasten (blame Ned if you want, but ultimately everything goes through Kasten, good or bad) opted to resign League and assume he could be as effective as he was in a short stint last year with the blue. Ignore the fact League lost his closer’s job in Seattle – yes, the lowly Mariners – Kasten felt what he saw in a small sample size was the real deal.
Incidentally, he also ignored logic and assumed what he saw in Cruz at third base was the real deal and not an anomaly. A career minor league SHORTSTOP was suddenly a major league starter at THIRD BASE – for a $220M team, no less.
I question Kasten’s decision making. Anyway, back to the pen…
So League was anointed the closer, Kenley with his heart condition the setup man, and minor criminal Belisario the other. Those three guys – while I guess possible they could all do well – are just not the three back end of the bullpen guys for a real championship caliber team. They’re not.
Now we’re nearing the end of May and we can see the starters are mostly giving us good efforts, often very good, and the pen is throwing gasoline on a fire and costing us games. Magill has been burned twice in his young Dodgers career. Every starter probably has at this point.
So… what is Kasten going to do about it? Pretend it’s not happening? He’s done a lot of that up until this point, and it would seem his or the ownership group’s pride is keeping them from making necessary adjustments as it would be admitting mistakes had been made. Or… they feel if they keep going down the same path, their plan will eventually come into play.
Now it’s possible that League settles down, Kenley and Belisario are more consistent, Kemp and Ethier hit, etc., etc., but it’s also nearly two months into a six month season and we’re freefalling out of the race. It might be wise to at least consider options, if not make changes.
I would hope that Kasten is considering acquiring a closer soon. Of course the fact that it’s still May and with the wildcard, few teams feel the need to surrender so easily, getting that closer may be next to impossible. Right now anyway.
But assume a closer is obtained at some point. That move alone would help a lot of the Dodgers current problems. Ideally we acquire a closer and one other good reliever. But one or two, we add this guy or guys and that allows League and Kenley to move back an inning and Belisario and inning before that.
If we could get to the point where we had a reliable closer, and a setup man or two that could bridge the gap, then some live arms earlier, all of a sudden we have something.
That would mean Magill goes 6 today, strikes out 8 and hands the ball over to a better caliber reliever, and not our situational lefthander. Magill probably wins a game and the positive thing from today – a young Dodgers pitching prospect might find a home in the rotation – is the story, and not how shitty our bullpen is.
I also nagged we needed another starter, and that was evident as Kasten’s pipedream of Billingsley, Lilly and Harang imploded in our faces. But now we seem to have settled things down in the pen, thanks to some good health from Capuano and young Magill. With Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu up top, it seems the rotation is strong enough and can give us a chance to win most games – if the pen is fixed and doesn’t waste these efforts.
Shorten the game. Build from the back of the pen out. It’s not rocket science, and when you spend $220M, it’s unforgivable to forget the most important part of the team.
That’s really my point today. I think the pen is the number one problem and has been since winter shopping season. Unfortunately, while we wanted that June draft pick and didn’t spend it for Soriano, when all it would have cost was plentiful cash, NOW the price has increased.
To get a good closer in June or July, you’re going to have to break some eggs. A team willing to part with a good closer, or a top setup man is going to rightfully ask for a lot. So… would you trade Joc Pederson or someone nearly as valuable for this much-needed closer?
And will the Dodgers even need a closer by June or the end of July? If we’re 14 or so out, getting this closer would be repeating what Tommy did as GM. He dealt Paul Konerko, one of the greatest hitting prospects we’ve ever developed (and threw in Dennys Reyes), for Jeff Shaw. Shaw was ok as closer for us over the years, but at the time Tommy acquired him, we weren’t going anyplace anyway. So to deal someone valuable, unless you’re in the position of making a run, is risky. Remember Carlos Santana?
The point is, no team is going to hand over something you need, when you’re desperate, and not screw you in the process. It’s smart baseball, and how poor teams fill needs and rebuild (they don’t have the luxury of Guggenheim finances behind them).
So what would have cost us a June draft pick and cash this winter, will now cost likely good or great prospects. So – for those of you who were against losing the draft pick (and I get why), would that pick have been more valuable than Pederson, Lee, Seager, or perhaps someone like that?
Now as fans we have to see what happens. Can the Dodgers turn it around before then? Will the Dodgers be in the race come trade time? Will League, Kenley and Belisario step it up? Could the answer come from elsewhere?
Maybe the new closer is Magill, once Beckett comes back. Or perhaps some other live arm down on the farm? It wouldn’t be the first time a young closer stepped out of nowhere and with great stuff, baffled big league hitters, perhaps just mowing them down with gas.
I would say in this third week of May, it’s the easiest solution for the Dodgers. Several guys in the pen could be sent out, especially Guerra. The Dodgers could try someone else in the closer’s role, or as setup. Tinker. What could happen? We lose? We’re losing now.
The same should be said for the batting order. I get why they don’t want to give up on Kemp and Ethier – they HAVE to perform. So much money is invested in them. But is it possible to ignore contracts and superstar egos and put together the very best, most productive batting order possible any given day?
Could we bat A-Gone third, Hanley fourth and AJ fifth, moving Kemp to say second and Ethier down near the bottom? This might help the struggling guys and it would also give us a better chance to drive runners in now, rather than trotting up two clueless hitters who are near automatic outs.
I think Mattingly, or Kasten, or whoever has a say in such things, needs to start thinking outside the box. Keep the horses you have, if you must, but tweak things and see if it works. Tommy, never a great X’s and O’s manager in my opinion, was not one to shy away from trying different things. I think it’s time the current Dodgers do the same.
If Van Slyke’s able to walk tomorrow, let him play a bit more. Stick him in the heart of the lineup while that bat is hot. Let Kemp or Ethier take a day off here and there, bat higher up, lower down, just not back to back in the middle of the order, or near back to back. It’s not working.
Pride is a funny thing. I think April 19th it’s too early to admit failure. But May 19th you owe it to your paying customers to shake things up, at least to the extent you’re making every effort to win.
But, just take away this… the Dodgers will not win if the bullpen is unsuccessful. They have to get productivity out of it with these players, call up others, or trade. No championship or anything close to it will come if the bullpen is tanking every day.
And that’s why 140 characters were not enough. Viva, Azul!