Stan Kasten Needs a Reality Check
There’s good news and there’s bad news…
The good news is it’s still early, the Dodgers aren’t that far behind, and were playing worse (I think) last year and look how they rebounded then.
The bad news is it’s like last year, Stan Kasten is slow to act, and there are various issues he may or may not iron out anytime soon.
While the smarty ass Saber dickheads criticize me for suggesting change, this is my blog entry and I’ll offer some suggestions. Baseball fans, with the invent of fantasy baseball and then Moneyball, all think they know more than everyone else. I don’t know more than anyone, I just tend to use common sense (what’s that?!) and am right a lot more often than I’m wrong. If I were smarter (University of Vienna degree notwithstanding), I would bet heavily due to my uncanny ability to foresee the future as it pertains to inconsequential drivel such as baseball. Anyhow, here I go…
Kasten – the stuck in quicksand President/GM of the Dodgers
Last season Kasten was insistent that nothing was wrong and let the team fester for over two months, refusing to come to terms with reality that he had a piss poor bullpen. It always amazes me when executives and managers are so out of touch with reality, or stubborn, they will let an entire organization and fan base twist on the vine just to prove their own intelligence. In the end, most of these nitwits eat crow and make adjustments, or they’re fired. Kasten, for all his daunted abilities as architect of the Braves teams of yore, is quite frequently a squeaky voiced bald man who errs on the side of contracts as opposed to what is happening on the field.
This off-season he addressed bullpen shortcomings and going into the year, the Dodgers seemed to have as deep a pen as anyone in either league. Due to Bud Selig’s asinine scheduling and other factors, weren’t adequately prepared, got hurt, or just regressed. We’re 11 days into May, and the pen is not a pretty sight. It’s full of unreliable arms that fall into the buckets just noted. It’s just 1/4 into the season, but Kasten seems to want to stay the course, while his manager, dim Donnie, isn’t helping matters by overusing and micro-managing his staff.
Since my name is not tied to the creation of this roster, I can say without shame that the pen could use some tweaks. Will Kasten adjust before June? Since that’s just a few weeks away, I’m guessing not. That means the Dodgers will lose more games they could possibly win just to save face. What would I do? I will get into some of that but suffice it to say I would make changes. I am a strange bird who wants the team to win, and feel each game is as important as the next. I don’t believe in waiting things out, unless it’s a very proven star and perhaps you need to (i.e. Hanley slumping, etc.).
From what I’ve seen of Kenley Jansen, he’s tired. From what I’ve seen of Brian Wilson, he’s tired, or hurt. Chris Perez was always hit or miss, so hard to say what he is. Brandon League is better than ever, and that’s probably an anomaly, but a nice one. Chris Withrow to me looks like the closer of the future, but that rubs Kenley fans the wrong way, and heaven forbid I do that. Paco? Sexy bastard, but in the minors. I’m sure he’ll return – and have panties thrown his way (that’s what matters in LA – and folks wonder why the city doesn’t have a football team).
There are others, but who cares? To me, as stated above, I operate on actuality. I see problems and find ways to fix them. This pisses off the geeks and bandwagon fans that purse their lips like ducks and take selfies, asking Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier to fertilize their wombs, but its how I roll.
I would make changes in the pen, just as I would the lineup, and roster, and manager, and coaching staff, and if personnel proved me wrong, I would be man enough to make the necessary changes in the other direction. My silly system would mean less free falling and probably more Ws overall.
I would play the hot hand at closer as Kenley is at minimum tired, at worst hurt. He’s on pace for 100 or so games, and that’s just irresponsible. It’s not surprising, since Donnie learned under Joe Torre, who destroyed many an arm in his day. Right now I would give Withrow some closing chances, because losing leads late should be considered a Cardinal Sin. I like Kenley, so if he looked good, I would use him, perhaps try him in setup on occasion, and definitely let him rest more – that’s why Withrow should close sometimes, it would allow Kenley to watch from his seat (and rest his wing).
I would not be married to the current bunch as Kasten is and frequently does. Just because you brought this girl to the dance, doesn’t mean you have to have every waltz with her. If there’s someone throwing well in AAA or AA, call that guy up. I watch other teams call players up from their farm systems all the time and lo and behold – use them! Kasten and the Guggenheim conglomerate paid a fortune collecting Hollywood poser pseudo celebrity superstars in order for Frank McCourt’s dry farm system to regroup. I applaud them for that – it is just what I would have done (especially the international scouting and signings; a quick way to turn a farm around). That said, when the kids are needed, and ready – as some are – it’s time to trust them. Just like other teams do. I see the Halos using kids all the time. The Cardinals pen is young. All around the league you see young faces, especially since PEDs are a bit more on the down low. With a few exceptions (Boston), the stars of this game are young players, and many names you never heard of just 2 or 3 years ago. If Joc Pederson were on another team, or Alex Guerrero, they would be starting. In LA, a team struggling to get hits, much less score runs, they’re languishing in the minors indefinitely.
I would not care one bit about egos. If a guy can’t perform, he’d be benched, set down, traded, or released. There would be no Chone Figgins on my team, and probably no Justin Turner. Joc Pederson would be in my starting outfield, and I would find a way to add Alex Guerrero’s power bat. So while Kenley is one of the league’s most dominating closers, and a cheap knockoff of Mo Riviera, he would not close every day – for his own good, and the team’s.
Kasten needs to show some of the smarts he gets credit for and make adjustments. They say a hitter and a pitcher need to make adjustments during a game, and of course throughout the season. Why is an executive, or a manager, exempt from this? Their damage is far greater than an individual player’s. They should be held accountable just as much as a player should. You can argue the bullpen is gassed, but is Kasten or Donnie or even Big Mac? What’s their excuse for not getting the job done? Too fat and too complacent. Make adjustments; every game is important.
Stockpiling celebrities and hiding the kids
As I noted earlier, the team grabbed up all the big contracts no one wanted in order to buy time for the farm to blossom. It was a brilliant strategy that served three functions – buying the time, putting star power back at the Ravine, and getting back to the post-season. But also as alluded to previously, the time has come to ask: Ok, now what?
I teased with the names Joc Pederson and Alex Guerrero, but seriously, are they not even a consideration? I know Joc is young, but so what? He’s proved he’s better than his AAA competition, hitting about .375 with 11 homers, speed and great defense. Alex Guerrero is knocking the cover off the ball while learning second for no apparent reason anymore. He is not going to replace Dee, who’s arrived and on his way to probably a Gold Glove and other accolades. I can see if the roster was full of productive players, but it’s not. This is where Kasten is disappointing. I get not wanting to rush Joc, and I get a roster full of expensive outfielders, but shouldn’t the bottom line be playing the best players at each position? Finding ways to win ball games?
In my opinion, which usually gets me into trouble, I’d go with Kemp, Joc, and Puig in the outfield and trade poor Ethier to a place more welcoming. As long as Donnie is manager, Ethier doesn’t figure to get a fair shake. It’s interesting and a bit mystifying, because while I’m not completely enamored with Ethier anymore (he sort of forgot how to hit, yet still does as good a job as most on this roster), he does seem like the most professional and consistent of the group of outfielders. But I also suspect he’s the easiest to deal (except for Puig, which would cause a chain reaction of seizures throughout the Southland). All it would take is eating some of his salary, and you could set Andre free. He could start someplace else, it would free up room for Joc, who’s arguably better than anyone not named Yasiel, and you might get a good reliever in return.
The worst case scenario is Joc struggles (so? kids struggle, deal with it) and you have to go back to playing Carl Crawford more, and Van Slyke. That’s not a big problem; none at all really. So to make it plain, you would turn Ethier’s salary into more outfield production in the form of Joc, and get a reliever or prospects in the transaction. Not a bad move, I think.
Then there’s Alex Guerrero, who I already said isn’t replacing Dee, unless Dee gets hurt. So now you have a shortstop learning second for a job that likely isn’t there. Of course the intention was good in the beginning – use Dee as a stopgap until Guerrero was ready to field the position. But now?
If Juan Uribe hits the DL with his gimpy hamstrings, what does Kasten do at third? Move Guerrero up, the guy learning second, and stick him at third? Does he keep playing Figgins and Turner? Or would he call up Guerrero, move him back to shortstop, and push Hanley over to third? That seems unlikely because Hanley wants what Hanley wants, and one just needs to harken back to his arrival – the new third baseman in town – promptly moved over to shortstop.
I think the thing with Hanley playing short is he wants to maximize his value for the next big contract. A plus hitting shortstop is more valuable than a more average third baseman. I’m not saying in any way that Hanley is average, but I am saying he’s more impressive offensively at a defensive position like short, even though he can’t play defense. So what does Kasten do? Does he insist Hanley move to third this year or next? Or does he let the inmates run the asylum? So far, it seems the latter is the nature of the business for the Dodgers. If Hanley likes shortstop, Hanley plays shortstop. But then… what of Guerrero?
Down the line third base will likely be manned by Corey Seager, who’s doing well this year at Rancho and should be in AA at some point later this summer. From AA, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to the bigs – in theory, perhaps not in Dodgers years. Anyway, with Uribe signed through next year, the plan must be for Seager to then move into third base. But again, what of Hanley?
Maybe Kasten is ok with a so-so to bad glove at short in the sake of offense. I admit when Hanley is hitting, all of this is less a problem, but for the most part, Hanley hasn’t been hitting. So one of three things happens – Hanley stays at short and is happy, Hanley is moved to third and is possibly unhappy, or Hanley is traded at some point – this year, next, in two years, and someone else plays short.
If Guerrero is going to play for the Dodgers, it needs to be soon. He’s 27, hitting the cover off the ball in AAA, and needs to either play someplace in the infield, perhaps act as bench depth for a while as Kasten contemplates his next move, or he is traded for the same sort of goods I suggested Ethier might fetch (a reliever, or prospects).
Imagine a scenario where Guerrero comes up, plays shortstop, and Hanley is dealt. I know, I know, it won’t happen. But imagine. While I don’t think Guerrero is Hanley, and he certainly doesn’t strike fear into imposing pitchers like Hanley does, it’s not inconceivable to think Guerrero would be a defensive upgrade and a pretty impressive hitter in his own right. So, if you had Guerrero at second, what could you get for Hanley – assuming, of course, he didn’t want to move to third base? I’m thinking you could get a lot for Hanley, especially if you peddled him to a team in need of some star power and offense (Yankees). Of course resigning him and moving him later, with a long-term deal down and no no-trade clause, of course, you could likely get even more. What could you get? What would the Dodgers want? I have no idea, but thinking out loud I would say more pitching and someone’s AA or AAA catching prospect, since AJ Ellis isn’t likely going to get better and the team has lost faith in Tim Federowicz. A blocked catcher who fields well and can hit and could replace AJ in a year or so wouldn’t be the worst haul.
Anyway, there you have it. Kasten needs to figure out what to do with the kids knocking on the door, and address the logjam he has in the outfield and on the left side of the infield. He has to have his plan ironed out and not be afraid to act, even if faux fans get mad, or millionaires’ egos bruised. It is important to get the ship on track as everyday things fester; the team lethargically phones in or blows another game.
I will end with the dullard Donnie, ineffective Mac scenario.
Donnie Ballgame is not a good manager and Big Mac hit a lot of his homers while on the juice
As I started this edition, which seems way too long ago, I will go with the good and the bad as it pertains to Donnie…
The good – he keeps a happy clubhouse, which is a nice thing to witness.
The bad – he’s woefully overmatched by smarter managers, makes dumb decisions, and too many of them, and his happy clubhouse could equally be seen as a country club and not a place where professionals focus on winning baseball games.
I like Donnie, I really do. Until his back went out, he was an amazing baseball player. The interesting thing about Donnie is he found a way to not win a title while playing his entire career with the Yankees. That speaks volumes and ironically says something about him as a manager. He can be handed the best (comparing Yankees tradition of winning and Dodgers star-laden, bloated payroll) and find ways, perhaps through no fault of his own (perhaps), to not taste victory.
That’s a pretty harsh statement but hey, someone has to type this crap out. I just think that Donnie backed into the job because a superstar manager handed him the keys and told him to lock up as he sailed into retirement. Donnie paid his dues as a coach, but he wasn’t ever a Dodger. While the Dodgers wanted Torre, was it necessary Torre got to select his successor? With no experience at the time, it hasn’t gotten much easier for Donnie. I mean, how hard is it to put together an effective lineup?
Donnie and Kasten made everyone uncomfortable over the winter and Donnie ultimately got his extension (yay for Donnie!) but now we’re watching more of the same. A terrible early schedule, some injuries, sure, but Donnie finds ways to fuck things up on his own. From shitty lineups to continual double switches and overusing his bullpen, Donnie infuriates everyone who reads about a game on Twitter or listens on the radio (Note to Dodgers – almost no one gets to see your shiny new TV channel – #EpicFail). My question, as I’ve asked several times here already – how long does this have to go? Is Kasten so stubborn he’ll let Donnie muddle along for the life of his new deal?
As I’ve said in recent tweets, the unfortunate thing is the team’s record really isn’t that bad. It’s not a good team, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not so dire on paper you quickly pull the plug. Due to the money spent on this team, the Dodgers can’t help but win occasionally. With Zack Greinke alone, that’s 6 wins. There are a handful of effective players and enough good starting pitching performances to have the Dodgers a hair over .500. But that is not because of Donnie’s leadership; it’s in spite of it.
Yesterday was Old Timer’s Game at Dodger Stadium. One Dusty Baker, long bitter and upset about personal issues he and the Dodgers had disagreement about, was in attendance wearing Dodger blue. Who would have thought Dodger hater Dusty Baker would ever come to such an affair, let alone wear the blue? Well, I guess another Dodger hater, Davey Lopes, did so anything’s possible.
Let me make my last point clear – I am not a Dusty Baker fan. I was a big fan when he played here, but consider him a bitter, dickish, toothpick chewing and overrated manager. I am on record someplace out there in the interwebs ether saying F no to Dusty Baker as the Dodgers manager. But that was based on two things – one, his anger and disrespect to the organization he once played and two, other options being available. Right now, in May 2014, he’s made amends with number one by showing up yesterday, and as for the second, he’s an experienced major league manager of some success and ready to work. I don’t think Dusty Baker is the long-term solution to manage the Dodgers – and he too blows out arms – but he’s better than Donnie. I also think he would act differently to the selfie taking, dugout dancing shenanigans going on night after night in Los Angeles.
I would fire Donnie and hire Dusty. There, I said it.
As part of this, or if the former is too drastic for a milquetoast like Kasten, I would insert Mickey Hatcher as the hitting coach – stat! – and let Big Mac go. Mickey did wonders with Scioscia in Anaheim and it was one of Jerry Dipoto’s many idiocies in siding with “El Hombre” (Pujols) over a respected, experienced and successful hitting coach like Mickey Hatcher.
Mickey would actually work with hitters on hitting, whereas I’m not sure what exactly Mac works with hitters on. No offense to Mac, perhaps it’s the wrong cast of millionaires Kasten has assembled, maybe they’re uncoachable, but I’m pressed to find one player who’s improved under Mac’s guidance. Dee? No, he was pretty much self-made, working hard this off-season and listening to the gospel stated by Maury Wills. Most everyone else has flat lined under Mac.
I often wondered how the Cardinals were such an impressive Swiss watch of a team when it came to timely hitting under Mac, a guy known for needles and mammoth home runs. Perhaps it was the team just consisted of a lot of smart hitters and Mac didn’t fuck things up? Regardless of Mac being good in the past or not, he isn’t today. The team is poor with the bat, strikes out way too much, and it’s some combination of bad coaching that’s unable to correct things, and massive egos that make the brew what it is. I think if nothing else, whether Donnie stays or goes, Mickey Hatcher should be the hitting coach.
I would also look at all those wonderful attendees at yesterday’s Old Timer’s festivities as if Mickey didn’t want the job, I’m sure someone else there would. I would make some changes, and if some of the things I say sound radical, so be it. I would at the bare minimum face reality and make tweaks on a game by game basis to adjust to this fact. I would not keep trotting out the same bullpen arms and hoping for different results – that’s the very definition of insanity, after all. I would not bat once mighty superstars in the heart of the lineup if they weren’t up to the challenge right now. I wouldn’t worry about everyone’s delicate ego. Perhaps a little urgency and fire underneath certain players would be a good thing.
The team needs a Kirk Gibson like wakeup call, and since Gibby is still employed in Arizona, perhaps Dusty Baker is the person up for the challenge. Or Mickey Hatcher. Or just playing guys who can actually perform here and now. Or perhaps Kasten grows a pair; because right now he has his bald head up his ass.