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Firing On All Cylinders

July 21, 2013 Comments off

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Times are good in Dodgers land and I’m happy – we’ve suffered enough. It’s nice to see the team this close to first (at this moment, the D’Backs lead the Giants 1-0 in the 7th). The reasons for the team’s success? I’d say health, Hanley, Yasiel Puig, but most of all Stan Kasten realizing the bullpen wasn’t working.

That last thing is the most important, even if Hanley hits .500 the rest of the way. The pen giving up games was killing the team, so replacing the stinkers they could with live young arms from the system, was huge. I’d still like to see a few more of the kids get their chance, but patience will be rewarded. Unless some trade gluts the farm, we’re in a better place now than we’ve been in a while, with all sorts of young pitching – and some position players too – in the pipeline.

I want to discuss the outfield, since it’s an interesting situation, in my opinion. We have phenom Puig, whose part figured out by opposing teams and part falling into bad habits. We have Andre Ethier, who’s Mr. Reliable of the veterans, and Mr. Versatile, filling in capably wherever asked since being called out by Donnie (for Kasten and Ned) back in June.

Then you have the rest. The rest include often injured Carl Crawford, who looks today like he may have broken out of his post-DL list slump, and fan favorite supreme Matt Kemp, also of a stockpile of various injuries.

These two have been big letdowns for the team this year, but both should have been expected as such. Crawford, after all, had Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and has been a mess since signing his multi-million dollar contract. He was the pill the Dodgers had to swallow to get Adrian Gonzalez, so they did.

The nice thing about Crawford is that he’s showing that when healthy/ish he’s able to play a bit like his old self. He’s shown shades of being electrifying since donning Dodgers blue, and who knows; maybe we’re in for the best he has to offer.

Kemp is a sad situation, but after major shoulder surgery and a 2012 marred by badly injured hamstrings, it wasn’t reasonable to think he’d be himself at all in 2013.

He’s shown flashes recently, a few good games before getting hurt before the All Star break, and a nice game today after coming off the DL, only to get injured AGAIN. But you see the pattern. Hamstrings, shoulder, ankle, Kemp is not himself and unable to stay healthy. Today’s freak injury occurred because he was half assing it on a play that should have amounted to Crawford getting his 4th hit of the game, and an RBI. Instead, Kemp strolled home, didn’t hustle, didn’t slide and now has what appears to be a badly sprained ankle. We will see how that plays out.

So unless Kemp is healthy soon, the Dodgers perpetual question of “What do we do with 4 outfielders?” will again have to be put on hold. Every time the question is brought up, it’s immediately dismissed. In fact, the last time they sent Scott Van Slyke out, he was called back before reaching the airport. I think today, however, he actually made it to the airport.

So while baseball writers who barely follow the league or the Dodgers write how healthy the team is, it’s really not. Imagine the team if Crawford and Kemp were fully charged? It would be pretty sick, that’s for sure. But… while the team is not entirely healthy, there are a number of healthy parts, and a cohesive team atmosphere that make the absence of high-cost guys like Crawford and Kemp lessened.

What should the Dodgers do with the outfield? Well, fortunately there is no pressing need for a trade, so I am hoping Kasten does not move Joc Pederson especially, or even Ethier. He can move Crawford’s contract for another big contract if he wants (Cliff Lee?) but I am fine with the configuration as it is now. It gives us trade options for this winter.

As of now I hope Crawford can stay healthy, and that Kemp could manage to do the same. It would be easy enough to keep four outfielders busy, especially since two need a lot of rest, one can’t hit lefthanders, and the other is a rookie with trouble reading pitches.

Assuming though that 2013 continues as it’s gone, more than likely Crawford and Kemp are part time options and each visit the DL some more this year. If this is the case, I’d like to see Van Slyke get more chances, as he’s a better bat and glove option than the senior citizen utility infielders Donnie likes to play out there.

I’d also like to see Pederson make his debut in blue. The kid seems to have everything it takes to be a complete player, and in time I think he could be our lead-off option; maybe not right away, but soon. If Crawford and Kemp are hurt for some time again, I’d call up Pederson and utilize Van Slyke as a backup for everyone, including Gonzalez, a spot starter against tough lefties for Ethier, and a big bat off the bench.

All that said, the Dodgers are looking great and now they head into Toronto to play the underachieving Blue Jays. The Jays are in last place in the AL East and just got swept four games by the surging Rays. There’s no reason to think the Dodgers can’t continue their hot play starting tomorrow night against Josh Johnson, who’s not the same guy he once was (ERA over 5 with just 1 win in 2013).

I like what I’ve been seeing, and really like the reports that the Dodgers will go big on Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Adding a pitcher like that, without giving up a single prospect, is huge. Gonzalez can relieve for us this season and perhaps in the future, or challenge for a rotation spot in 2014. It brings back the international focus Dan Evans employed so favorably to augment the farm.

Here’s to a last couple months of winning and a bright post-season. Here’s to making East Coast focused baseball writers and journalists being forced to discuss the Dodgers. Here’s to all of us who suffered for 25 or so years and especially under the crappy ownership of both Fox and Frank McCourt. And here’s to whatever talent we acquire in July and August, or don’t. We’re actually in good shape. It’s been a long, long time since a Dodger fan who wasn’t sniffing model airplane glue (remember those?) could say that.

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Is the Wild Horse a Wild Douche Bag?

July 10, 2013 Comments off

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Haha, I couldn’t resist that title. I did however resist using Puig’s mugshot for the photo at the top of this quick longer than 140 character addition. I can be mean, but I’m not cruel! On with the show…

Puigmania is everywhere and while it appears Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman could beat him out for the fan vote All Star spot, I imagine the usual injuries leading up to the game will occur and Yasiel Puig will land on the NL team. Bud Selig is after all about squeezing every possible cent out of his product, so how can they put on an All Star game with arguably the game’s most popular player not in attendance?

Personally, as I’ve said before, I can’t stand the All Star game. That said, with it “counting” nowadays and the victor league hosting the World Series, I’m intrigued. While still under .500 as of this writing, it’s not inconceivable the Dodgers could make the post-season and with my most optimistic goggles on, represent the NL in the Fall Classic.

Puig’s presence surely would mean the NL has that much better a chance to win the All Star game and therefore – possibly – give the Dodgers home field in the World Series. Does that matter? I don’t know the stats, and am too lazy to look them up, but I think offhand it means a lot. So, any interest at all I have in the All Star game relates to that potential happening.

Since I’m here to talk about everyone’s favorite Dodger, I admit I am here to raise questions – as is my custom. I like to take the unpopular stance in things, which to me is what Dodger Therapy is all about. Any idiot (no offense to any non idiots who fall into this bucket) can sing a player or team’s praises, but it takes a real cantankerous diehard from Vienna to peel the skin off certain subjects

From the very small sample size we’ve all seen, here are some of my initial thoughts on Yasiel Puig…

Amazing talent – a little Bo Jackson, a little Roberto Clemente, a little Raul Mondesi, a little Mickey Mantle, yadda yadda yadda

IF Puig is using something chemical, or even if he’s not, he should be tested. Yes, I want a clean league and am sick of seeing fake things happen on the baseball diamond and pawned off as real. IF Puig cheats, I want to know. I’d love to hear of him being tested – and pass! – as it would mean we just have a monster talent on our hands, not another of Bud’s many pharmaceutically enhanced frauds

I find it amazing he continues to hit over .400 (down from over .500 this spring, haha) and seemingly provide some highlight reel worthy event every single night

I am concerned over some facets of his game, but in his defense he’s a baby. I imagine being that good, that young, and told so everyplace you go must be daunting. If he had his head screwed on more, it would be unnatural. I mean, all of Matt Kemp’s identical looking 18-24 brunette groupies alone have stopped by OSH to make copies of their house key for him

A few of the things that worry me about Puig are his: poor base running, poor fielding, poor discipline at the plate. All of these are apparently linked to two things – his young age; meaning he SHOULD get better, and his crazy energy level. He plays every moment of every game at a ridiculously aggressive pace. He makes Pete Rose, Kirk Gibson, Steve Sax, Jackie Robinson, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, etc. look like they were taking it easy

The base running seems to emanate from doing things – everything – too fast (note to 18-24 year old former Kemp groupies, hold on the trip to OSH?) and not being able to harness that energy. I love the hustle down the line. I love the taking the extra base. I love the notion of scoring from second on an infield hit. I don’t love running us out of innings. I don’t love being thrown out at third with plus .400 hitting Hanley Ramirez at bad. I don’t love going for second, or last night home, when the ball is there long before he is. I don’t love his apparent inability to slide – or disinterest in doing so

The sliding thing is either a fundamental problem (no one taught him to slide in his 22 years?) or more worrisome, a mental glitch. He either doesn’t know he should slide, or is too macho and doesn’t feel he needs to. Sorry, Yasiel – you’re good, maybe great, but it’s still a game with over 100 years tradition and a certain way to play it. Slide when there’s a close play at a base – unless… with the one exception… you have a chance to take out a catcher, like say some little pipsqueak with a funny name up north

Puig’s fielding should concern too. While his crazy ability to run down balls, dive, rob hits, homers, etc. is fantastic and fun to watch, his overzealousness and flawed fundamentals on certain plays is not. Again, this is what, 5-6 weeks? He could just be a wild horse, as the legend says, and being 22, will learn. I want to say I’m sure that’s the case. Unless… it’s not. Overrunning balls, wild throws over cutoff men’s heads, etc. are not smart baseball plays. While they ooh and aah the fans, baseball people in the know chalk them up to mistakes. Kevin Kennedy on Dodger Talk calls them out, so does Vin Scully (Puig delights him and you can tell at times frustrates him), and so do I (great minds!)

When a guy is hitting .400 or more, it’s hard to criticize him. I will criticize Puig’s hitting where it deserves criticism. As Vin says, the game is not this easy. In our short sample size, we’ve seen pitchers, smart ones anyway, adjust. Everyone in the park any given night knows Puig is aggressive, cocky and undisciplined. Everyone understands he will almost always swing at the first pitch. If he doesn’t, he will the second and third. That’s ok, but at some point Puig will get more of what he’s been getting on this road trip – pitches outside the strike zone. Sliders away – well away – fastballs at his eye level and above, in the dirt, whatever. Puig must learn plate discipline and I’m not talking walks, though that would be nice, I guess. I prefer to see him continue to be aggressive, but if an opposing pitcher and manager prefer to offer him nothing, not bite. Take the base and let Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley, etc. do their magic. This is a team game, not the NBA. Puig needs to lay off bad pitches and grow up at the plate. He will not continue to hit over .400 forever

Outside of the various on the field technical aspects of his game, other little things concern me with Puig. His cockiness, which is fun for Dodgers fans to watch, infuriating for other teams’ fans and players, is problematic. I want to be careful because the meat of this article is critical, but I mean it with all due respect as I love watching Puig as much as any of you. I just think in a humbling game, it’s good – as it is in life – to be a humble person. The whole burning bridges analogy

Puig is either cocky and a douche bag or just young and a bit ignorant. There’s also the dollop of being a foreigner in a new country, exposed to a large city, adoring fans, Puigmania, etc., etc. to consider. I just have seen plenty of talented players come along who have personal issues and attitude problems that derail their careers, or at best don’t help. Milton Bradley, Raul Mondesi, Albert Belle being just a few. The reported incident Monday with Luis Gonzalez trying to interview Puig – in Spanish (mentioning his own Cuban roots) – only for Puig to ignore him is telling. Perhaps Puig didn’t care about Luis Gonzalez, or maybe even know who he was. But ignoring a stranger speaking to you in your native tongue – or a 5x All Star, if he did know who Gonzalez was – shows a poor attitude. Big Mac apparently read him the riot act, having witnessed it. So in a short 5-6 week period we’ve had no less than a handful of players and coaches talk to Puig about either fundamental mistakes while playing or his attitude when not. Again, probably youthful indiscretion, but nonetheless waves a red flag

Lest this be considered a Puig bash fest, I again state I have been fascinated with the kid since I heard he was signed by Logan White. I wanted him to break camp this spring, even though I understood he really couldn’t. I lobbied for his call up when injuries mounted and the team sunk into a deep coma. I watch every at bat, everything he does, with as much interest as the 18-24 year old lookalike brunette does (though my motives are different). Puig is a beast. If he’s juiced, he’s still a beast. If he’s clean, he’s a beast beast. But he is not perfect. He has a lot to work on. Sometimes his mistakes hurt the team. He does a lot to excite and to help the team win – and I’d argue he’s the catalyst that kicked the team out of its funk (that and Hanley’s return). But we can be honest and analyze him more fully and note areas that aren’t 100% right

I just hope he’s an enthusiastic Cuban kid adapting to a very fast moving time in his life, and will make all the adjustments necessary to have a Hall of Fame career. I want to see him smile and celebrate, hoisting the World Series trophy/trophies. I can easily see this happening (I day dream a lot).

I don’t think Puig is a bad guy. It’s not a good or bad issue. He seems to be loved by his teammates and respected. That says a lot. But he needs to learn self-control and respect. Logic says he will not be the best player to have ever worn a baseball uniform, so there’s plenty of room for humility. Hell, go take a photo or two with Vin Scully. That would go miles in saying what he’s all about. Much more so than running us out of an inning or swinging at sliders two feet off the plate like a young Adrian Beltre

Puigmania is a lot of fun. It’s like Fernandomania and Nomomania or whatever Manny mania was, but with arroz con pollo and plantains. Here’s to corralling the wild horse – if only a little.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Dodgers are Finally Winning State of the Union

July 10, 2013 Comments off

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A little long form to stretch out the typing muscles and extrapolate on things I’ve been reading about lately on the tweeter…

First of all – hell yeah! Nice to see the Dodgers most imagined we’d be seeing in 2013 finally get their act together. I guess it had to do with the following things…

Yasiel Puig’s arrival – immediate production and enthusiasm, breathing life into a clubhouse that had grown accustom to losing and being miserable

Donnie and staff finally getting more of the team they imagined fielding back all at the same time – especially Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke

A bad stretch of baseball by the entire NL West, allowing for the Dodgers to at first scratch, then ultimately pound their way back into the mix (and more)

Kasten (and Ned, if you assume he’s making the decisions) finally realizing what I’ve been shouting about since winter shopping began – the bullpen is a mess and needed a facelift. And Chris Capuano is not a reliable, consistent starter on a contending ball club

Now the Dodgers have been moving in the right direction, taking 14 of the past 17, winning series, and are on the verge of sweeping the hated Diamondbacks and reaching .500 (which seemed impossible a month ago) and pulling within a game and a half of the division lead.

A few comments of note…

The Dodgers should and are making every other team in the West very nervous. While Colorado and San Diego have their moments, the realistic challenge in the division comes from Arizona and San Francisco. The Giants have proven unable – thus far – to put up a serious fight in this their paltry defense of their World Series crown.

Before I continue, let me say something I’ve mentioned in tweets – as observation, and to irritating Giants fans who boast about their team’s two recent titles…

I commend the Giants for getting it done, playing good team baseball and winning in an impressive fashion – i.e. the old-time Dodgers Way to play baseball. Pitching, defense, and timely hitting. That’s why I can respect it, but also why it’s annoying. They finally won because they used the blueprint created by our beloved blue.

That said, I would also caution any overly excited Giants fans they had an easier path to victory due to the previous ownership in LA. Frank McCourt didn’t really care about winning, and that became more and more evident as time progressed, of course. So, while the Giants achievement is noteworthy (being fair and honest here), it wouldn’t have happened – or at best been much harder – if anyone other than McCourt owned the team.

McCourt essentially took the Dodgers out of the game, much like Fox did after Kevin Malone messed things up and Fox stopped the money flow to GM Dan Evans, so the Dodgers could only go so far, unable to add pieces they needed, and worse, by starving the farm system, he cut off future help down the road.

That’s a big part of why Giants fans conceit bothers me. The other part is their reliance over the years on PED cheats. Of course this goes back to their heyday under Barry, but in particular recent cheats like Melky (Juicy) Cabrera and Guillermo Mota.

The Giants fans are delusional to think Juicy’s cheating didn’t affect their 2013 season. He carried the team on his back for the first half of the season (.353/8/44, .910 OPS and 10 stolen bases). He chipped in another 3 homers and 16 RBI before being suspended.

The baseball world (oh, baseball writers, a cowardly lot who tout unexpected performances without ever questioning how such things are possible) was ablaze with Juicy Cabrera and Giants talk. Juicy went on to represent the NL in the All Star Game, was awarded the MVP award for the game and handed the Giants home field advantage in the World Series. Also, the Giants were 11 games over .500 and in first place when Juicy was suspended for cheating.

I can understand Giants fans not wanting to focus on the negative and instead point to the performances of other players on the team, but how can you say Juicy’s contributions weren’t a large (the largest?) part of the Giants getting to the World Series?

A fan of the Giants would say Juicy wasn’t around when the Giants beat up the Tigers and won their second title in three years, and I agree – the team was playing very well and overwhelmed the slugging Tigers. But – without a PED cheater (Mota too), they may not have finished in first place at all, and certainly wouldn’t have had home field in the Series.

The Tigers had just blown through Oakland and New York and were very hot. There’s no telling how playing at home would have affected the outcome of the first two games.

That’s my analysis of Giants fans and their cockiness. If I were a Giants fan, I’d be very happy too my team won. I’d probably rub it in Dodgers fans faces. But deep down I’d know it was luck and illegal activities that helped make that second championship possible.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast…

So you have to think the teams the Dodgers should be most concerned about in the West are the Diamondbacks and Giants. The Giants, as mentioned, are reeling. Their heralded pitching has failed them. The team was built on a collection of parts that functioned well together, with a few star names mixed in (Dan Evans rosters, and later Ned’s, were like this). The pitching and defense was key – the former in particular. Without production from the starters and bullpen, the Giants are just an underpowered team. That leaves Arizona.

The Diamondbacks can’t even excite their own fan base. The first two games of this current series showcase a mostly empty Chase Field. The fans in attendance look disinterested and the ones who are animated are wearing Dodgers gear. Keep in mind, as bad as they’ve been playing, the Diamondbacks are the first place team in the West as the All Star game nears. Shouldn’t there be some interest in the hometown team?

So as a Dodgers fan you have to like where the Dodgers are on July 10th. The team is playing well, chemistry is high, the offense has been scoring, the starting pitching has been strong and the bullpen, due to the starting pitching being more consistent, is less of a factor. i.e. it enables Donnie to use his better relievers and not so much the crappy ones, of which a few are still present on the roster.

Now the twitterverse is abuzz with discussion of trades to improve the team. I read everything – from practical minded folks who want nothing, or little, done to fantasy minded individuals who insist on superstar names at every position.

Having added Ricky Nolasco to take Capuano’s rotation spot at the cost of three inconsequential minor league arms, a big part of the puzzle was addressed. Of course, this being the 2013 Dodgers, the very next day, Stephen Fife, who has been very consistent and good, joined Matt Kemp on the disabled list with shoulder tendonitis.

This essentially sends Kasten back to the drawing board as he now has about three weeks to see if another starting pitcher is needed. Hopefully Fife bounces back and we have some exceptional kids at AA as backup options (Ross Stripling, Zach Lee, Chris Reed and Rob Rasmussen). If Fife is more seriously hurt (I hate shoulder injuries!), we may have to deal for Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo (not having a very consistent season) or Phil Hughes (blech!).

I think it all depends on Fife. There’s no indication this shoulder thing is that serious, so perhaps we’re out of the woods and won’t lose precious kids for something less than exceptional in return. I would think though that if Fife is not considered healthy, too much is invested in this win-now “Frankenteam” to trust a regular slot to someone like Zach Lee at this point.

Assuming the rotation is ok, that leaves the bullpen. I like that after months of inactivity, Kasten finally got tired of watching the Dodgers bullpen implode and take wins away from the club. Imagine how demoralizing it was for two plus months to go out there and try to compete, only to see human gas cans like Brandon League, Ronald Hellisario and Matt Guerrier give up wins?

Calling up Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez was smart. I guess Kasten reads my tweets or blog entries – haha. I only complained about this situation, begging him to swap out some of the trash with live young arms from the system every single day!

Then he grabs Carlos Marmol for Guerrier, which in effect costs nothing. But if Marmol comes up to the Dodgers and does what he’s been doing in Chicago recently, it negates any improvement the bullpen may have experienced. Fortunately, it seems the Dodgers know they have a project and have sent Marmol down to A ball to work on things. Good luck on that, but mid-season fixes the Cubs couldn’t come up with sound like a Hail Mary to me.

That brings me to other possible areas of improvement people have been talking about. These notably are spoken of at third base and second base. Since Juan Uribe has shown to be an effective big league third baseman again, I think we can dismiss talk of trading for a third baseman, unless it’s a long-term solution – i.e. younger – that will help in 2014 and beyond. Second base is the area fans have been chirping about lately, while I maintain Mark Ellis is a serviceable big league infielder and a smart head’s up player.

I have stated several times that by and large the leaders of the Dodgers appear to be Mark and AJ Ellis. Both are blue collar grinders who seem to have high baseball IQ and would make fine coaches or managers someday. So as I think that, it would take a lot to convince me either should be replaced with a sexier star player.

The problem with the Dodgers – up until the recent run – has been there are few leaders and role players. The team was constructed to win now and parted together with expensive superstar talent, none of whom are known for leadership. So, the lesser paid guys who play hard and don’t appear to have egos, become de facto leaders.

Mark Ellis is a guy who fans get on for everything from inability to hit like a superstar to his fielding. I honestly have no problem with Mark Ellis being the Dodgers second baseman. That said, given his age, it’s obviously a position the team will need to address this off-season.

I hear a lot of rumors and hopes that the Dodgers get Chase Utley from Philadelphia. Now Utley is a UCLA guy, so he’s always had a sentimental place in my heart, and has had a good season, when healthy, but I wouldn’t really want to see him in Dodger blue.

I think fans don’t understand Utley beyond the few homers they’ve seen him hit, and his reputation, well earned, as an elite second baseman. The fact of the matter is Utley is a physical wreck and many speculated might retire last year due to his injuries.

Utley has chronic knee problems that not only lead to frequent DL visits but daily therapy. He’s old, and while an immediate offensive upgrade over Mark Ellis, his fielding is actually worse, due likely to his knees.

Several questions…

Do the Dodgers need an offensive upgrade at second base given a roster of superstars already?

Would dealing for Utley be worth the blue chip prospects Ruben Amaro would ask for in exchange?

If the Dodgers acquired Utley, would they then resign him? Or would they need to go in another direction anyway?

For fun, I looked at other possible second base options out there – mostly teams where prying their second baseman away might be doable. With the wildcard, most teams are contenders. Here are a handful of guys the Dodgers could get, along with their basic fielding percentage, errors, double plays turned and batting numbers. I am also putting Mark Ellis’ in there as a point of comparison.

Mark Ellis (.984 FPCT, 4 errors, 38 double plays – .251/4/22) Age 36

Brian Dozier – Twins (.995 FPCT, 2 errors, 66 double plays – .235/8/34) Age 26

Darwin Barney – Cubs (.994 FPCT, 2 errors, 41 double plays – .215/5/22) Age 28

Chase Utley – Phillies (.977 FPCT, 7 errors, 35 double plays – .276/11/30) Age 35

Rickie Weeks – Brewers (.975 FPCT, 8 errors, 43 double plays – .230/9/21) Age 31

Daniel Murphy – Mets (.975 FPCT, 9 errors, 52 double plays – .267/6/36) Age 28

Looking at these numbers, none really stand out as big upgrades over Mark Ellis. Brian Dozier is interesting due to his fielding and pop, but fans would be complaining about that low batting average.

I wouldn’t want any of the others over Mark Ellis, to be quite honest.

I think it’s a case of the grass always being greener. Mark Ellis is a decent big league second baseman. I think unless we went with a big offensive upgrade (not sure if Utley, given his health, is that) or went young with a pure fielding second baseman, what’s the point?

I think Dodgers fans need to keep themselves grounded in reality a bit more. A winning team does not need a superstar at every position. If you look at most championship teams – including the hated Giants – you’d notice that.

I think ultimately, as noted, the team will need to figure out what the plan is for 2014 and beyond. Is it an all-out assault on Robinson Cano? A winter trade with a now-contender? A promotion of a kid who is likely overmatched at the plate right now but can field well? (I like that idea myself – up the middle should be about defense first, in my opinion) An international signing?

All in all I’m pleased with the way things have been going. The kids are developing at a quick pace, we’ve had two consecutive solid drafts (with a good mix of college players, who could quickly push their way into the fold), resources being focused on international markets (please sign Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez already and add him to the staff this season), and the big league club is primed for not only first place, but possibly becoming one of the dominant teams in both leagues (wouldn’t that be nice?).

Tis the season to talk trades, so I don’t fault anyone from mentioning possibilities and even dreaming a bit, but I think as it stands, the team only needs very minor tweaks. The bullpen remains the area I’d concern myself with if I was Kasten, and rotation (only if Fife is more hurt than first indicated).

Who knows what will happen between now and the end of July? There could be widespread changes similar to what happened last season, with big name players brought in at the expense of many of our favorite prospects or current big leaguers. I hope not; I envision this “Frankenteam” doing what they were designed to do with a steady trickle of kids filtering in as the months and years progress.

Here’s to a sweep tonight of the villainous Diamondbacks and then a return home to a beat down of the Rockies. I want to look up soon and see the Dodgers in first place in the West and adding games on the positive side of .500.

Thank you for letting me pontificate. Now please, return to reading Amanda Bynes’ tweets and other important matters of the day.

Categories: Uncategorized

What Do You Bitch About When the Team is On Fire?

July 3, 2013 Comments off

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A little pre-4th holiday long form to hopefully entertain and get you thinking…

I have to be honest – it’s not as fun to write about how well the team is playing. I have been accused many times in the past of being a pessimist, which is only true for the sheer volume of my rants, as well as humor. It’s the same way the TV news doesn’t talk about heartwarming tales of puppies rolling over to have their bellies scratched, or ladybugs flying in from god knows where. Trouble and mayhem make for more tantalizing news… or as it turns out, baseball tweets and blog posts!

Anyway, it’s nice nonetheless to say the Dodgers are finally playing well and living up to some of the expectations put on them by experts and novices alike this spring. A few really nice takeaways from this recent stretch…

The team is firing on almost all cylinders (maybe even the bullpen!) without any real contribution from key players such as Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and in some ways, Zack Greinke. Think for a moment what the team would look like if Kemp were Kemp, Ethier were Ethier and well… Greinke seems to be Greinke, a guy in the right place, at the right time, not quite an ace, sort of a number 2, and a guy whose potential legend outweighs all but perhaps 1-2 of his big league seasons. Anyway, my point is, the team could be even better. That must be very frightening to other NL West teams.

After a winter of my whining, as well as spring and the first three months of 2013, Stan Kasten, the well documented genius who guided the Braves and Nationals to greatness (I can debate that, but not now), finally realized Luis Cruz is not a big leaguer and unnecessary to the current roster, and more important, that the bullpen needed a facelift.

In a whirlwind of activity last week, Kasten booted Cruz and several other slackers out and called up better options from down on the farm. I’m very happy he did, even though I would have before the season started, or for certain before the end of June with the Dodgers sulking in the cellar.

The most exciting part has been the arrival of Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez to the pen. Young guys who throw heat to replace withered and battered veterans. I’m hoping Kasten realizes there are a few other gas cans languishing out there, including Ronald Hellisario and Brandon League, but we may be stuck with them as Kasten essentially swapped out the released Matt Guerrier with seriously damaged former closer Carlos Marmol. I guess Kasten wants to keep me in material for the rest of the summer.

The plan, per rocket scientist Donnie, is to transform Marmol back into the beast he was – on the big league roster, in the middle of the summer just like they did League last year, after getting him from Seattle. The cynic in me would argue – a) why? The pen is finally shedding some of its dead weight, do we really need more? b) League may have been “fixed” last year, but he’s very broken this year and c) Marmol’s mechanics and issues are more complicated than League’s, so is this an experiment we need to have at the big league level, when we’re finally coming out of our deep hole?

I think Marmol for Guerrier and some money is ok, if you want to send him to Arizona to work out his issues or even down in AA. But potentially (probably) costing the Dodgers games here and now is a bad idea. I hope it works out – people keep reminding me what a mastermind Kasten is – but I’m a bit skeptical. Not convinced anyone can “fix” Marmol, and pretty sure it’s not a good idea on the big league dime. Can you say momentum killer?

I want to commend Kasten on realizing his mistakes and correcting the bullpen woes that have cost the Dodgers no fewer than 17 wins. I hesitate though when I see a few steps forward and then another back. Why not trade or cut Hellisario and his worse-than-Guerrier numbers and call up AA Chattanooga closer Yimi Garcia, or some other live arm on that roster? We know – all too well – what Hellisario can do. Let’s try something different.

If our kid relievers could hold the fort into July, we could always go after Matt Thornton, Steve Cishek or someone else. And who knows – perhaps our kiddie pitchers are up to the challenge and we fix the bullpen issues from within.

Anyway, I’ll end this short edition with the following…

The team is playing amazing ball right now and showing no signs of slowing down. The offense, led by Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig in particular, is lights out. Lots of contributions all around.

The starting pitching has been fantastic, especially Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Stephen Fife, who to me has solidified a rotation spot. There’s talk Ricky Nolasco will be in blue. Not sure how I feel about that. I guess if he replaces Chris Capuano, that could be seen as an upgrade. If he replaces Fife, it’s a wash or we lose in the process.

I like what I’m seeing though – the rotation clicking, seeming to want to keep the winning going, like any good rotation does in a fun competitive sense. Now if only that bullpen can get ironed out.

I honestly think, as I’ve said many times, that the pen is the only real issue with the Dodgers. Earlier it was playing a AAAA batting .100 or less at third, or suddenly thin and frail Kemp in the heart of the order, but now far and away the only question with the Dodgers is that bullpen.

I hope Kasten is as bright as people give him credit for, and if Marmol sucks, as he will (can’t fix a guy in a few outings who’s been this bad for this long with everyone and their mother trying to straighten him out), Kasten wisely cuts bait or send him to the minors to get on track.

The schedule is in our favor. The Rockies, Giants and reeling Snakes all in front of us. Is it unrealistic to think we could be in first place before the road trip is over? I don’t think so. In fact, I’ll say if we don’t keep winning and end this stretch with a losing record on the trip, it will be a big disappointment to this Dodgers fan.

I want the Dodgers to get into first, get over .500 and then go games in the black over .500. I want the idiot baseball writers to bitch and moan and point to the Dodgers payroll, even though it was always fine when the NY teams, Boston, Philly and Halos all spent. I want the Giants fans miserable. And I want to see the Dodger bury their West foes, have a winning record at home, on the road and vs. the division.

I would love to see Puig in the All-Star game – not because I like the All-Star game (I don’t), but because it would piss people off and it would give a national stage for the Cuban bombshell to level top AL pitchers. Also, it could mean an NL win, which would directly help the blue if they got to the World Series in October.

So, as you can see, I’m not always negative. I’m very positive, in fact. You don’t spend most of your life following a team if you don’t like them. I just have been lied to, kicked around and hurt time and time again and look at things with more interest perhaps than casual beach ball whacking fans do.

All this said, let’s bury the Rockies, then the Giants (let Bruce Bochy cry when Puig singlehandedly destroys his terrible pitching staff), and finally old friends Gibby and Sax in Arizona. Gibby has to be ready to kill someone after watching his two closers flip flop and fail. It looks like it’s Heath Bell’s turn again. Mr. Bell, meet Mr. Puig. Boom!

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