Enough rope to hang yourself with

I wrote a post this morning, then held back publishing it because it just seemed as if there were way too many words being spent to talk about Garret Anderson, relative to his importance on the team. After mulling it over, I’ve decided to run it, but with this disclaimer: There are way too many words being spent to talk about Garret Anderson, relative to his importance on the team.

The reason I’m running it is because in the end, I do want to make this point: This semi-tradition the Dodgers have of saving a roster spot for an over-the-hill bat, just because he’s a veteran, is not a good tradition.

I made a similar point in March.

Anyway, here’s the post:

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George Sherrill struck out the only batter he faced in the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to Washington on Friday. In his past six games, Sherrill has faced 16 batters and given up only three singles and no walks. It’s his best stretch of the season since April.

Sherrill used a lot of rope to climb back to this brief stretch of effectiveness. From May 2 to July 19, according to Baseball-Reference.com, Sherrill allowed a 1.043 OPS and an ERA of 8.10, with 12 of 20 inherited runners scoring against him.

The Dodgers gave Sherrill and Garret Anderson the entire season to solve their problems, a decision based largely upon the fact that they had had past success, along with the fact that they couldn’t go to the minors. You could say largely the same for Ronnie Belliard, who started the season 11 for 26 (.423) through April 23 but is 18 for 108 with 16 walks (.513 OPS) since.

Younger players, generally, did not get the same leeway. Xavier Paul certainly didn’t do well in the majors this year, with a .591 OPS (.455 after the All-Star break), but he also didn’t get as many opportunities as Anderson and was sent back to Albuquerque three different times, the last after the Dodgers traded two minor leaguers to acquire Scott Podsednik to replace him as Manny Ramirez’s understudy.

The rationale for Paul is that he (and in turn, the Dodgers) would benefit more with him playing every day in Albuquerque than sitting on the bench in Los Angeles. It’s not a crazy rationale, though there’s a counter-argument that Paul has learned everything he can in the minors, and that what would benefit him most is major-league time, even if he’s not playing every day. Is Paul going to overcome what stymied him over the past month by playing in Triple-A?

The Dodgers were even more impatient with some of their young pitchers. John Ely, who as recently as two months ago could be credited with saving the Dodgers’ season, had five poor starts in seven tries and was not heard from again. Carlos Monasterios was yanked in and out of the rotation. While Ramon Ortiz got 30 innings to prove himself, James McDonald didn’t even get 10. While Russ Ortiz got six games, Scott Elbert got one.

You can’t say the Dodgers gave no younger players a chance, but you can say that struggling older players generally got the benefit of the doubt over struggling younger players. You can also say that benefit of the doubt was largely a waste of time, Sherrill’s recent 16 batters notwithstanding.

I’m not suggesting the Dodgers should ban old players from their clubhouse, of course – I hope that’s clear. And I understand that many of these guys weren’t here for no reason. Sherrill was outstanding in 2009. Belliard certainly hit at the end of the 2009 season. The Ortizes were mainly a product of crazy roster problems in the bullpen at the end of spring training. Extenuating circumstances abound.

But at a certain point, with some of these players, enough is enough.

There was really no excuse for Anderson to hang around this long. And maybe in 2011, the Dodgers should think twice before dedicating a roster spot to that veteran off the bench based on a track record that is no longer relevant. Maybe, just maybe, the Dodgers should try giving that last roster spot to a younger player, promise they’ll stick him through thick and thin (the way they did with Anderson), and see what happens. Give that spot to a player who, even if he doesn’t hit, can bring some speed or defense to the game. Just as an experiment.

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