Put up or shut up time for 2014 Dodgers
Long-form instead of twitter approach…
The Dodgers win the West and fans are understandably giddy. A weird season wraps up with the D’Backs, one of the predicted top teams, a doormat. The Giants, another predicted top team, were hot and cold, like the Dodgers. The only difference was for most of the season the Dodgers had more starting pitching – three aces, and at times four. A season without TV coverage and greed in abundance, it’s nice the Dodgers didn’t choke and won the West, but with a record payroll as they had, it should be expected. Now the real work begins. Bring on the Cardinals – I assume, I haven’t paid too close attention to it.
The Cardinals are not what they were, though they are just a few wins behind the Dodgers. I would assume the Dodgers, with home field, will beat the Cardinals but nothing would surprise me. While fans wave their Azul and dance to stadium walk up songs and swoon over bubbles and Matt Kemp flexing his biceps, the Dodgers have a lot of faults and could easily stumble. This makes me a hater – I say it’s honesty.
The Dodgers will go as far as their starting pitching takes them, and both Kershaw and Greinke have ERAs over 4 in the post season, albeit in somewhat small sample sizes. I got beat up last winter and most of this season for saying sexually potent baby maker Kershaw has not yet proven he’s a big game pitcher. Mowing down the lowly Rockies is different than choking in a must-win Game 6 last Oct. Now is a chance for Kershaw to step up and change all that. I believe fully he’s as dominating as any pitcher in modern day baseball, but facts are facts and in the one game he had to win, he disintegrated. The Cardinals, a team that mocked and wounded the Dodgers, shoving them out of the post season while the boys in blue preferred to win standing still contests and giggle in the dugout, are now ripe for a comeuppance. Are Kershaw and the Dodgers up for the task?
Keys to the Dodgers doing well in the post season include: starting pitching not getting nervous, Ryu making a comeback, the bullpen not imploding, the offense to be more of the 10+ run variety we saw in Sept than the one that struggles for 4 scattered hits, and playing solid defense. Those under 29 or so don’t understand why defense matters, but it does – in every sport, especially in the post season. Puig overthrows or Hanley booting balls could be the difference between winning and losing. What has irked me more than anything is the Dodgers have all the pieces to be an excellent team, but due to egos and salary, opt to be pretty good, or less than that.
A lot of the outcome this Oct weighs on what collection of bodies Stan Kasten and Donnie Baseball put on the field. I imagine there will be no surprises, so superior defense that comes with Joc Pederson will not be on the post season roster, and crummy bullpen arms like Wilson and Perez will be. It is what it is, so it would be unusual to change things up now, I suppose. Let the best team win – and if it’s the Cardinals, or Nationals, or Pirates, it is to be expected. My luck, this team, of all teams the past 30+ years, will be the one that wins the World Series for the Dodgers. If so, I guess I will need to rethink where I am in life and what it means to be a baseball fan in 2014. i.e. I will need to embrace the twitter-like ways of fans and players, the slow, calculated walk up to bad music, bubbles, modeling gigs, continued PED usage and no games on TV for home fans. If the Dodgers lose, and worse, are embarrassed again, maybe Kasten and company will rethink everything from the manager who seems to enable this bunch of party animals, to said party machines who play the games (emphasis on “play”).
It’s always sad when another baseball season winds down. Sure, the whole thing is played for Oct, but to me spring training through mid-season is the most fun. I think it’s because so much baseball is left. Also, games are not turned over to Fox blowhards who over analyze every pitch and sap all the fun out of things. That may not matter this season, since Guggenheim and Time Warner got into bed, pulled the curtains, and extorted fans to change TV providers if they wanted to watch the games. Some caved, others, like me, did not. The reward (no doubt paid for by the Dodgers) of the final 6 games on TV, with endless commercials of why we should switch to TWC and even the lowest of blows, having Vin pimp for them, did not impress me. If anything, it made me ill. TWC is the devil. If you are in their area and have no choice, you got to watch the games and I guess that makes you a winner. I pity though your first call to their customer service department. I can’t imagine much changing by the time next spring training rolls around, so I hope the bean counters at Guggenheim realize that while they have succeeded in getting butts back in the seats at the Ravine, they are damaging the brand of the Dodgers and are losing more fans than they are gaining. Most in LA don’t care about the NFL returning, and I would say most won’t care if the Dodgers don’t televise games. You can only fit 50k+ into the stadium – and it’s a big city. Most don’t go to games due to the prices and lingering sting of parking lot and in-stands beat downs. If the plan is to appeal to the 50k and screw the remaining millions, it’s not a bright plan, but god bless you.
Of course it all depends on Oct but I for one hope that Donnie is fired by the time the actual Dodgers team shows up in 2016. Donnie, cut from the Joe Torre mold, likes to keep everyone happy. With this team, he’s become the classic enabler. Kirk Gibson is not a good manager, but his presence, even as a coach, might be welcome to stop some of the fun and games that happens on a nightly basis. Donnie, an old school player himself, can’t like it. He’s gone to the press multiple times, planting the seeds of why he doesn’t approve of certain players’ antics – mostly his expensive outfielders. If the Dodgers get rolled this Oct, I hope Donnie is fired, along with most of his coaches. They are a disappointing lot. Mac hasn’t helped anyone improve save for perhaps Uribe, and the team is consistently inconsistent in terms of offense. Davey Lopes was a fiery player and coach but now seems listless and I usually forget he’s even the same guy who once ran the bases like a mad man with a giant fro. Wallach seems like Donnie. Bundy is a boob. Only Honeycutt, who I am not crazy over, has a case for retaining his job. Anyway, I’m hopeful that by 2016, with the kids and new pieces in place, and many of the current cast gone, Donnie’s softness and questionable managerial skills is gone. I’d hate for the next bunch to be guided by someone as complacent, allowing them to take on the fun and games approach the current Dodgers exhibit. I know it’s out of style, but would a little urgency to what’s going on on the field really be so bad? Damned you twitter and Instagram.
Good luck to Dee, A-Gone, Uribe, CC, Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and a few others as the real games start this Friday. The microscope is on you.
Oh, and while I completely appreciate Derek Jeter’s career, impressive fuck list and pomp and circumstance of his send off, I do question the lack of appreciation for Paul Konerko. Konerko could have had those 400+ home runs and 1400+ RBI for the Dodgers had overmatched interim GM Tommy Lasorda not been a moron and dealt the kid for a closer a bad team didn’t need – not at that price anyway. Caution to idiot fans who already have labeled Joc a bust and hated Dee and made fun of him ad nauseum in recent years. Konerko was a 22 year old kid who struggled for the Dodgers in his brief audition. He did the same in Cincinnati. Sometimes prospects at that level – as Joc and Dee both were – are worthy of patience. You never know who the next Paul Konerko will be. My advice? Tweet less, Instagram less, and study up on baseball if you want to call yourself a Dodgers fan. Konerko was a beast, and I put him up there with the much more talked about Jeter. He’s a Hall of Famer in my book.