Dodgers State of the Union – 8/20/2015 Edition
Fans are still saying the bullpen will be fine and the Dodgers are doing great. I guess 15 or so games over .500 is pretty good, but it’s an interesting team that has that record and is in complete disarray at the same time. The curiosity makes you wonder what might be if management actually fielded better relief pitchers and addressed other needs. Well, the recent Dodgers have not been short on talent, just misguided by too many cooks in the kitchen – and cooks that couldn’t get their own show on the Food Network.
With this current collection of players, or maybe the ones they had before the winter shopping and suspect trades occurred, I daydream what a “real baseball guy” could have done. I see Dave Dombrowski going to reinvent the dismal Red Sox and think, “My, Dombrowski in charge of the Dodgers would have been nice.” I would prefer Dan Evans, or even accept Ned Colletti back – anyone not Friedman and Friends, essentially.
Facts are facts – the Dodgers relief pitching, which has been shaky at best for two years, is the worst in baseball since July 1st – pretty much across the board. Even Clayton Kershaw can’t help if he doesn’t go 9 – the pen can blow any game. This won’t play in October, but as it is now its no shoo in the Dodgers will be playing in October anyway.
The Giants, as they tend to be, are within striking distance with head to head games against the Dodgers still to be played (adding Marlon Byrd today, a nice pickup). If the Dodgers don’t win the West, they likely will not get a wild card berth unless the Cubs, who are surging, should collapse. The pathway to the post-season is winning the West – for both LA and SF.
With a porous bullpen, questionable 3-5 starting rotation, and anemic offense, Friedman decided the best thing to do was trade for aged UCLA alum Chase Utley. Utley, as always, is a fragile mess but has hit since coming off the DL. Can he, teamed with geriatric former teammate Jimmy Rollins provide the AARP boost that championship caliber middle infielders are known for? Perhaps his leadership and offensive upside will be an improvement but one has to wonder what the front office is thinking. Is Utley the key to turning around the .500 play the Dodgers have put forward for the past 3 months? Can he pitch? Will he increase the slow foot speed the team suffers from?
This week Farhan Zaidi said the team’s bad base running and slow team speed is troubling. Have to wonder if he had anything to do with trading Dee Gordon away if he feels this way. Dee is hitting .337 with 40 steals and Utley .217.
Abruptly the Dodgers “fired” Lorenzo Bundy (well, moved him out of his job – no one gets fired by the Dodgers; paychecks keep flowing) for no specified reason and brought in former MLB manager Ron Roenicke to coach 3rd and presumably be on hand for the inevitable termination of Donnie Baseball. I guess if Donnie is canned at season’s end he could reinvent himself as the hitting coach (something he’s better suited for anyway) or do odd jobs at Friedman’s mansion to pay off the debt. Anyway, with Zaidi’s comment and Bundy’s ouster, makes you wonder if there’s a split on base running philosophy between Friedman and Zaidi.
Some developments this season that are concerning…
- Moving Dee Gordon due to the Moneyball philosophy base stealing isn’t important, even though it created a void atop the lineup. Again, whether you value base stealing or not, there’s something to be said for speed in your lineup, disruption of pitchers’ focus and defense, as well as a consistent presence at the top of your order. The Dodgers haven’t had that, meantime Dee is having a second straight great season, proving he is not a fluke at second base.
- Moving team leader and defensive wizard Juan Uribe – along with solid relief pitcher Chris Withrow (hurt this year) for Alberto Callaspo, who was released yesterday. Uribe has been a shot in the arm for the Mets and could see October play in the Big Apple, while third base – and leadership/morale – have been issues for the Dodgers.
- The Joc/Kike/Utley thing. So apparently the Utley trade was to get a stop gap second baseman into the fold while Kendrick mends from his hamstring issue, and it would free up Kike Hernandez to play CF and allow for Joc Pederson to either go back to AAA to figure out his swing (sure won’t happen here under Big Mac) or rot away on the bench. I don’t love the deal but its possible Utley can hit for a short time, before ultimately sitting behind Kendrick. And Kike should do more on the offensive side than Joc. I just wonder why Friedman acquired the Braves best prospect – Jose Peraza, who happens to play second – and decide to keep him at AAA and get Utley instead. Wouldn’t a top prospect with speed be an answer to several problems? Is Peraza only a Dodger because he allows a blue chip for winter dealing? After all, if Friedman didn’t love Dee, why would he love Peraza, who seems to be Dee light? I also wonder why Peraza doesn’t get a chance but other contenders call up and play their top kids. To me it would be more interesting to have kept the pitching prospect and Darnell Sweeney (nice power and speed guy) and play Peraza than turn the Dodgers double play combo into extras from the movie “Cocoon.”
- Puig. Beloved by fans when he hits a homer, is he really the guy the Dodgers want to build around? Now he’s a trade-low candidate. One has to wonder what they might have gotten for Puig this off-season. Perhaps a less volatile outfielder, or an important pitcher? The former glut of Dodgers outfielders now has me wondering, “Just who should be in the Dodgers outfield in 2016?” Personally I might go with Andre Ethier and Joc (if he is able to figure out what’s gone terribly wrong with his hitting) and find a new outfielder, and move Puig and Crawford out. Should be interesting, since I don’t think you can say the outfield right now is a strength.
- What is Friedman’s philosophy on pitching? Is he “too Tampa?” It seems evident he has the feeling pitching doesn’t matter and anyone can do the job. The neglect of the pen and odd approach to the rotation are the biggest flaws of the 2015 Dodgers. With Zack Greinke certain to test the market for a large extension, what happens next? You’ll have Kershaw plus…? And a pen that is in dire need of a facelift. One has to ask a) if it will be done and b) if Friedman even understands good teams have strong pitching staffs. So far both are debatable.
- Vin Scully not sure if he’s going to come back. Personally, I feel very bad for Vin. He’s been treated poorly for quite some time – since McCourt owned the team and bounced his checks. Now a botched TV deal where fans can barely hear or see him. I think Vin should hang them up and enjoy his family. It would be interesting to see what he thinks of how the Dodgers have been run/misrun, but of course he’s too much a gentleman to ever vent. I love Vin but honestly, the “fans” nowadays don’t deserve him, nor do they care about him. They claim to love Vin but stand for everything Vin would be against. Loving executives over proven baseball traditions would not be something Vin would endorse. I think the nouveau fans would also appreciate a younger voice, perhaps someone with gauges, sleeves and a vape device. Vin, you’re the best, and always have been. It’s sad that the Dodgers have run aground and you’ve waited patiently for the blue ship to right itself. Go spend time with the grandchildren, we can suffer without you.
That’s pretty much it. Since I got lambasted for my last honest opinion, I’m sure the malcontents will heckle this article as well. That’s ok. While we claim we’re all Dodgers fans, clearly there is a divide between those who truly understand the rich tradition dating back to Brooklyn, and the young and uninformed riff raff who rose to prominence via social media bullying and fantasy baseball brainwashing.
The reality is that the Dodgers have not gotten better under the “geniuses” – Stan Kasten or Friedman. The team is not built for post-season success and unless a miracle happens, 2015 should be a repeat of the past 2 seasons. Whenever you have Kershaw and Greinke you have the “slugger’s chance” for a knockout, but as I said last time, I look around and I see problems in most every possible area of the team and don’t see any reason to believe Friedman and Friends know how to fix it. I’ll happily admit I was wrong if things should change the last handful of weeks of the season, and I hope the “haters” can do the same if they do not. As I’ve said many times, I’ve called these things well in advance, so I’m not in the least bit surprised how things have unfolded. As a lifelong fan of the Dodgers, it’s been very frustrating and quite sad.