The Pit of Despair


How low can they go?

The Dodgers’ current .417 winning percentage would be their worst over a full season since 1992, their second-worst since 1944.

Though it’s possible I’m just repressing it, I can’t recall ever expecting a Dodger team to be bad. There have been plenty of times when I wouldn’t have predicted them to win a title, and I was sufficiently skeptical this year, but a truly terrible record always takes me by surprise. That’s one difference I think Dodger fans – even cynical ones – have with fans in Pittsburgh or Kansas City. If you’re predicting horror in a given year, you’re probably in the minority.

The Dodgers won 86 games last year and didn’t hurt themselves in the offseason. Sure, there were weaknesses headed into 2013, but here are the 10 most prominent players the Dodgers shed from 2012: James Loney, Shane Victorino, Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu, Matt Treanor, Adam Kennedy, Joe Blanton, Nathan Eovaldi, Jamey Wright and Josh Lindblom. Be honest: How could you have expected those departures would put the Dodgers on their current 68-win pace?

That’s right: 68-94.

Here’s one for you: Forget about the playoffs for a moment. Forget about .500. The Dodgers need to play .450 ball over their remaining 90 games to reach 70 wins. Will they do it?

Yes, there have been injuries – Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp most prominently – but nearly every year has injuries. Team chemistry? The manager? People raise those red flags every time the Dodgers start losing, but are we to believe that this team really has the worst set of intangibles in two decades? You thought the Davey Johnson-Gary Sheffield-Kevin Brown teams were doing a revival of Hair? That Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta were Romeo and Juliet?

Mediocrity comes with the territory in the post-1988 era. But true awfulness has been a rare thing.

With apologies to the 99-loss season in 1992, the worst stretch of Dodger baseball in my lifetime has probably been 1986-87. That’s the only time since the 1960s that the Dodgers have had back-to-back losing seasons – identical 73-89 campaigns. I know how it began: Pedro Guerrero’s gruesome Spring Training slide into third base – but my memories of 1987, beyond the implosion of Al Campanis, are almost non-existent. Guerrero came back with a vengeance (.416 on-base percentage, .539 slugging), and Orel Hershiser and Bob Welch was steady, but the rest of the team was essentially as incompetent as this year’s.

The core of that awful team won a division title in 1985 and a World Series in 1988. Tommy Lasorda managed every year.

I don’t know when the losing is going to end for this current brand of Big Blue Wrecked Crew. I do know that in Los Angeles, things tend to reverse course in a hurry, good to bad, bad to good. We’ve really seen it all in the past 25 years – all except for a World Series.

Perhaps it will come in a year when we least expect it.

  • Anonymous

    “Perhaps it will come in a year when we least expect it.”

    Which I don’t think will be 2013.

    • SpaceDodgers

      So… you’re not expecting it, yea??

    • Anonymous

      I thought there was a decent chance, before the season began.
      Now I’m just hoping they can crawl up to .500.
      It’s one thing to be back in the standings — that could mean the other team is just soo much better. But when you are 12 games under .500 — and falling fast — that means you way below average — most teams are beating you.
      But still . . . I have hope. I must, because I’m really not a masochist, yet I continue to follow this team.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Well, I had pretty high expectations, and I’m sorely disappointed. Unlike some (Cole @ LA Weekly, cough), I’m not screeching for Mattingly’s head. I recognize the injuries have been greater than anticipated. But when you’re trotting out players like Shumaker, Punto, Herrera (Why?), and Sellers every night, and when even the replacements are going down with injuries and you’re still pretending they’re enough to win a pennant with you’re deluding yourself. This is something I don’t think Colletti understands, with his PVL-gathering each off-season.

    • Anonymous

      But everyone thought this team was enough to win the pennant in April.

      • Anonymous

        Why do some people make comments like this?

        “Everybody” did not think that. A fair number of folks were outspokenly skeptical
        about this madly and badly assembled rich-boys’ toy.

        Including me, in an uncharacteristically long piece when Linkmeister was doing yoeman’s duty (I’m guessing February – coulda been January or March) about the probability of failure for the Ds and Jays (currently over .500 with a 12 game win streak:-).

        And John: you continue to embarrass yourself with these tortured, unfunny
        Kershaw plays. They are not even adolescent. Almost as self-absorbed as the
        no-hitter nonsense…have a waffle instead.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not screeching for Mattingly’s head, but he needs to go, the sooner the better. So does Ned.

    • Anonymous

      It’s time for Mattingly to go. It’s kind of the only option. I’d rather see McGwire replaced by Mickey Hatcher, as the job should have been his in the first place, but I can’t see them firing him this soon into his tenure. I have no beef with Ned, btw.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    One of my favorite movies of all time

    We need a win today so there is still a possibility of splitting this series

    Look for me today I’ll be on the aisle right next to the camera well on the 3rd base side wearing my Ethier home jersey (chose this one because I want to be able to get to my new unsigned jersey’s quickly just in case). I might change to my road Puig jersey after the game starts

    I’ll be guarding my territory against caught foul popups in the stands

  • Anonymous

    You’re a better fan than I Jon. I’ve felt this way since mid-May. I remember Dodger teams blowing big leads after the ASG, but hopes of climbing back in seem dimmer by the hour.
    Two great movie lines come to mind:
    “Losing is a disease ……………”
    “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”

  • Anonymous

    If I thought that a better manager would make a real difference, I would want Mattingly’s head. But apropos of the aforementioned Cole, he pointed out that Mattingly now has the worst winning percentage of any manager in LA Dodger history and went back into Brooklyn to show other percentages. Casey Stengel had an approximately .450 percentage with the Dodgers, 1934-36. So, by that logic, Mattingly is a better manager than Stengel was. Is he? No. But you win or lose with the roster you have. Reading the wonderful Thomas Boswell’s books reminded me anew how Earl Weaver wanted a maneuverable 25-man roster, but he had the organizational support. Mattingly doesn’t. And anyone who thinks the general manager is just having an off-season, let’s talk about the Jason Schmidt and Juan Uribe contracts before we even get to Guerrier and League, not to mention the bench with which he saddled Mattingly.

    Another point related to Jon’s about the 1986-87 teams. I read that after the 1987 season, Hershiser went to Fred Claire and played a Q&A with him. Why was my ERA higher? Because I tried to strike out everybody. Why? Because I was afraid to let anybody hit the ball. Why? Because there was no one behind me to catch it. Some knowledgeable people think the most significant deal Claire made was not signing Gibson, but acquiring Alfredo Griffin to shore up the defense. I also think of Joe McCarthy, the great Yankee manager, telling a young announcer named Mel Allen not to believe the “Murderers Row” stuff. He said the Yankees won by having great pitching and defense that kept the other team from scoring, and they would crack under the pressure. And then there’s the Ned Colletti method of building a roster ….

    • Anonymous

      Alfredo Griffin played in just 95 games in 1988. Dave Anderson played a lot at shortstop also. The Dodgers made the most errors in 1986 (181!) and 1987, but dropped to 3rd in 1988.

      I liked Alfredo Griffin for his 3 bases loaded triples.

  • Anonymous

    I am going with injuries and bad luck (RISP). Kemp/Dre might have been able to keep us afloat (nearer .500), but that didn’t happen. With luck, we should be able to be a bit over .500 come October. 86 wins is my goal.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    The other thing about changing managers is, with whom? I haven’t noticed lots of brilliant baseball men circling major league front offices clamoring for work. Who would do a better job than Mattingly who’s available? Earl Weaver’s dead. Sparky Anderson’s dead. Lasorda’s a comic opera joke. Davey Johnson’s got a job. I’m pretty sure Bobby Cox doesn’t want to come out of retirement.

    Always think of the next step before you take the first one, I’ve been taught.

    • Anonymous

      Tim Wallach.

      • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

        Okay, but he’s just as untested in the majors as Mattingly was two-plus years ago. Why do you think he’d do a better job?

        • Anonymous

          Mattingly had zero managerial experience. Wallach managed at AAA, which counts as experience in my book.

  • Anonymous

    It pains me that exactly what I expected would happen after ownership (yes, ownership) blew up the roster with the big trade last August, has happened. A team that’s no fun to watch, and no fun to follow, and hard to root for, burdened by the expectations that come with a high-priced roster jammed full of big-name ex-All Stars. If they win? Then it’s “money can buy a championship.” If they lose? Then it’s, well, this.

    What, for almost a 162-game stretch in the latter half of 2011 and the first of 2012, was overacheiving and exhilarating to watch, is suddenly a plodding, unfocused, no-chemistry morass of two- (or in some cases, one-) tool players. I hate that this is what I expected.

    • Anonymous

      Well done. Amen.

  • Anonymous

    At some point, Ned needs to cut the cord with Luis Cruz. He can’t keep surviving like a zombie, right? And I’m a little confused as to why Herrera was called up and Castellanos sent down. Are they expecting Schu to lose his appeal so soon and have to serve two days? Herrera has no power (just like the rest of Ned’s favorites), and is a worse outfielder than Castellanos or SVS.

    As for Donny, I’m waiting to see what he does with the outfield when Kemp returns. Is he really going to go through with his plan to move Puig to LF and Andre back to RF? Is he really going to choose sustained, weaker outfield defense when Andre has already indicated a willingness to move to LF, a position he has played before?

    • Anonymous

      Interesting point, with all things being equal and everyone healthy, who would you play in say left, Eithier or Crawford?

      • Adam Luther

        Crawford. Move Ethier to the Dbacks for a minimum of Parra.

        • Anonymous

          Sounds appealing!

          • Adam Luther

            Of course there’s that little problem of a trade within the division but I’m sure there’s precedent.

  • Anonymous

    Since they started in 1884, the Dodgers have only finished last twice: in 1905 and 1992. Will 2013 be the third time?

    • Anonymous

      If so, it is definitely NOT a charm-ing concept.

  • Anonymous

    With the last 13 games before the break being within the NL West, I think our prospects by then will be crystal clear (if there is any doubt already)

  • Anonymous

    Out of the 10 prominent players, IMHO the only one we are missing is Lindblom

  • Anonymous

    My guess is 81-81, 4th place, and a miracle if we fire Mattingly

    • Anonymous

      I think you are about right. Who do you think will slip to finish behind us? (BTW – long time, no post, good to see you again)

    • Adam Luther

      Seems realistic at this stage. Not having an effective Kemp is no fault of the manager.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    I love this post.
    Not only are your words wonderful, but it captures the true, overall sentiment which so many of us Dodger fans are feeling at this point.

    I was remarking to my wife last night how we’ve watched series after series this season where the opposing team pretty much ‘chews up and spits out’ our Dodgers in such a business-like fashion.

    This year has turned from being what so many thought would be ‘The Five-Headed Monster” of Kemp, Crawford, Ethier, Gonzalez, and Ramirez….and….has turned into us pretty much just wondering what one single guy is going to do that night. And, that single guy (we all know who I’m referring to) is pretty special, especially in terms of his effort. Furthermore, he wasn’t even on the club coming out of Spring Training. It’s simply “The Summer of Puig” (for all you Seinfeld fans)

    • Anonymous

      I wasn’t so surprised to see the D-Backs, and their stupid “blow-dart” thing they did every time they reached base or knocked a run in. Hey, they exemplify the attitude of their manager. And, hence, IMHO, that’s why Upton and Young had to go. They were sure talented, which would beg the question, “Why trade them?” …. It’s all apart of liking the mental, physical, and yes… fiscal makeup of your roster.

      Why do I use the D-Backs as my example?
      Two reasons: First, they are in 1st place. Hard to argue there. But, also… they were not afraid to jettison two high-profile, under-achieving players. I suggest the Dodgers do the same. And, aside from Kid-K and Puig, is there anybody on the roster who hasn’t either chronically under-achieved or had a significant injury or two every year, missing significant time?

      Get ‘em outta here. Let them become somebody else’s ‘dead money’… IMHO.
      I’ve called for the ‘fire sale’ for the last couple of seasons… I’m calling for it again. :-)

      • Anonymous

        Withya on this. See where the Red Sox are….

  • Anonymous

    I expected the 2012 Dodgers to be bad, for the 10 reasons you cited above. I still expect this team to be good. But it seems that every time they have a supposed turnaround game, they then go out and blow two out of the next three. The comeback against the Angels. The arrival of Puig. The brawl with Arizona. None of those has proven to be a real turning point.