Sep 16

Moral of the story: You shouldn’t

Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/AP ImagesLouie De Palma

In the first season of “Taxi,” there was an episode, “Bobby’s Big Break,” where the aspiring actor played by Jeff Conaway got the big role he had been waiting for, and with a grand gesture, quit the cab-driving racket.

The job fell through, and it became clear to the conscience of the Sunshine Cab Company, Alex Reeger (Judd Hirsch), that Bobby would be crawling back to ask his dispatcher Louie (Danny De Vito) for his old job.

Louie was beside himself. He reveled in the anticipation of how he would rub his nose in Bobby’s failure. It was a bravura performance by De Vito, one of the highpoints of this classic show. Louie would be going in for the kill.

Alex urged Louie not to do it, to hire back Bobby without doing any more damage. Louie cackled. Why on earth would he ever do such a thing?

“Because,” Alex said, with dead seriousness (and nothing else to offer), “you shouldn’t.”

Louie went nuts. “I shouldn’t?  I shouldn’t?? Oh no, I shouldn’t!”  It went on and on. You’ve never seen such fine mockery of such a preposterous notion.

Bobby entered. The moment was coming.  Louie could barely contain himself, purring like a tiger poised for the pounce.

Bobby asked for his job back.

And Louie said, polite as can be, “Welcome back.”  And turned away, growling.

As far as Dodger fans are concerned, this is all we have. Despite Peter O’Malley, whom Bill Plaschke of the Times correctly describes as the conscience of the Dodger legacy, voicing what so many have been thinking – that the Dodgers don’t belong in the McCourt hands – we are at that family’s mercy, at least until the matter is resolved in the courts. And it could be a long time before that resolution comes.

The McCourts have the Dodgers, and have shown no sign they intend to get rid of them voluntarily. Everyone in that splintering family aims to keep them.

And all we can say to them is: “You shouldn’t.” And ask that they can reach the moral heights in the business world … of Louie De Palma.

Wish us good luck.

* * *

Congratulations to Russ Mitchell on his first major-league hit and home run. Giants 10, Dodgers 2.

Sep 16

Report: O’Malley says McCourt ownership needs to sell

Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, who has publicly been almost completely silent on the current ownership issues with the team, told Bill Shaikin of the Times that he believes the team should have new ownership.

He said he is not interested in returning to ownership but would be willing to smooth the transition for potential new owners on what he called a “short-term” basis.

“For many years, the Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious institutions in our city and throughout professional sports,” O’Malley said. “Sadly, that is not the case today.”

McCourt responded through a statement from his spokesman, Steve Sugerman.

“Frank has made it abundantly clear he is the long-term owner of the Dodgers,” Sugerman said, “and he looks forward to the day when his four boys own and operate the team.” …

* * *

Dodger coach Bob Schaefer had some weirdly noteworthy comments today in an interview with Jim Bowden on XM radio. Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has details.

One of them was a no-comment on Matt Kemp that was followed by a comment that indicates there is no love lost there. Another reportedly had Schaefer saying that Don Mattingly had turned down “managerial positions” to stay in Los Angeles, but I’m wondering if Schaefer really meant or said “managerial interviews.”

Also, it’s one thing for me to say the Dodgers have issues for next season, but it’s a bit unusual for a coach to say the team “will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat” to contend. Presumably, Schaefer has already plotted his own exit from the organization.

Schaefer said he doesn’t think Joe Torre will manage the Dodgers next season, but that he will stay in the game in some capacity. However, Torre told reporters that

* * *

  • David Brown has a barrel-of-fun interview with Vin Scully at Yahoo! Sports’ Big League Stew.
  • Russ Mitchell is the only Dodger since 1920 to start a game at first, third and the outfield in his first season, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
  • One of my earliest memories as a baseball fan is reading in Baseball Digest about Rennie Stennett’s 1975 7-for-7 game, in which Pittsburgh shut out Chicago, 22-0. Chris Jaffe recalls the event in The Hardball Times.
  • Howard “Howie” Levine, the longtime Grant High School boys basketball coach whom I first met more than 20 years ago as a Daily News sportswriter, has worked as a Dodger Stadium usher for 38 years. On Tuesday, the night that the Dodgers honor their employees of 25 years or more, Levine will sing the National Anthem.
Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer

Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million — a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit — committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Sep 15

Chad Billingsley, the almost-Kershaw, almost wins

The zeroes continued for the Dodgers and Giants tonight, scoreless once again into the seventh inning, before Chad Billingsley, trying to duplicate Clayton Kershaw’s majestic effort from the night before, finally succumbed on a double, a wild pitch and a soft single for a run.

A second run came across for the Giants in the eighth against Dodger relievers George Sherrill and Kenley Jansen – the latter’s wild pitch key to that score. That allowed Giants closer Brian Wilson not to fret about giving Andre Ethier a home run pitch in the ninth, and San Francisco held on for a 2-1 victory.

The Dodgers had run-saving diving plays from Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier and Jay Gibbons in the field, but the offense is 5 for 57 in the two games.

Billingsley allowed eight baserunners in seven innings, striking out seven and lowering his ERA to 3.55.

Sep 15

Tonight’s feature presentation: Obscure but memorable cleanup hitters

Jay Gibbons is batting cleanup tonight for the third time as a Dodger. That would not have seemed likely a month ago, but Gibbons is far from the most unlikely Dodger cleanup hitter of the past seven seasons. Who’s your favorite from this list?

Dodger cleanup hitters since 2004
James Loney (50 games), Matt Kemp (43), Manny Ramirez (41), Casey Blake (7), Jay Gibbons (3), Andre Ethier (2).

2009: Blake (43), Ethier (42), Kemp (27), Ramirez (26), Loney (21), Russell Martin (3).

2008: Jeff Kent (74), Loney (28), Ramirez (25), Martin (18), Blake (8), Ethier (3), Nomar Garciaparra (3), Andruw Jones (2), Mark Sweeney (1).

2007: Kent (132), Luis Gonzalez (20), Loney (6), Martin (1), Mike Lieberthal (1), Olmedo Saenz (1), Shea Hillenbrand (1)

2006: J.D. Drew (83), Kent (59), Saenz (7), Ethier (5), Garciaparra (3), Kemp (2), Loney (1), Joel Guzman (1), Ricky Ledee (1).

2005: Kent (110), Saenz (26), Ledee (10), Jason Phillips (8), Jose Cruz, Jr. (3), Jayson Werth (2), Hee-Seop Choi (1), Mike Edwards (1), Milton Bradley (1).

2004: Adrian Beltre (92), Shawn Green (63), Milton Bradley (3), Saenz (2), Juan Encarnacion (1), Robin Ventura (1).

* * *

Al LaMacchia, the 1940s major-leaguer who became a scout for six decades thereafter, finishing up with the Dodgers, has passed away at the age of 89.

Bill Plaschke of the Times shone a light on LaMacchia when he talked about the scout’s recommendation that the Dodgers acquire Andre Ethier — a column that (and I certainly mean no disrespect to LaMacchia) inspired this response from Fire Joe Morgan.

My most sincere condolences to LaMacchia’s family and friends.

* * *

Today is the 30th anniversary of Fernando Valenzuela’s major-league debut, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. The Dodgers will pay tribute to the occasion on Sunday’s game.

Sep 14

One hit, one run, one Kershaw, one shutout win over the Giants

Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe man.

Give Clayton Kershaw a hit, and he’ll take it a mile.

It wasn’t quite the same as Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, 45 years and five days ago, but it was close enough. It’ll do, pig.

Supported by exactly one hit and exactly one run from the Dodger offense, Kershaw wrote another chapter in what looks like a storybook career, pitching his first complete game and shutout to defeat San Francisco, 1-0.

Kershaw, who appeared to have perfect game stuff himself in the early going, retired the first 10 batters before allowing the first of his four hits. He struck out only four – including the game’s final batter, Aubrey Huff – but he walked none while throwing an oh-so-appropriate 111 pitches. He now has 201 strikeouts and a 2.85 ERA on the year. The Giants, essentially, couldn’t touch him.

The same was essentially true for the Dodgers against San Francisco starter Barry Zito. Matt Kemp had the game’s only hit, a second-inning single. That was preceded by a first-inning walk by Rafael Furcal. And Los Angeles did nothing else … but win the game.

The Dodgers scored their run in the following manner: With one out, Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second base by Kershaw (his league-leading 17th sacrifice hit of the season). Zito pitched around Rafael Furcal, walking him to get to Andre Ethier, who had hit into a double play and struck out against the lefty in two previous at-bats tonight. In one of the more suspenseful at-bats this doleful Dodger team has seen in a while, Ethier worked out a full-count walk.

With the bases loaded, Casey Blake hit a ball up the middle that looked like it might be a single or a double-play ball when it left the bat. It was neither. Shortstop Jose Uribe reached it but bobbled it for an error, allowing Johnson to score. And that was it. The Dodgers didn’t get another baserunner for the rest of the game.

Of course, it has only been two years since the Dodgers won with fewer hits – their hitless victory over the Angels on June 28, 2008. It was a great September game to be a part of, even for a losing team. Kershaw made it happen.

* * *

  • With a bout of plantar fasciitis, Scott Podsednik has joined Vicente Padilla on the probably-out-for-the-season list, reports Tony Jackson of Podsednik, who had a .313 on-base percentage and .338 slugging percentage with five steals in eight attempts after coming to the Dodgers in exchange for Elisaul Pimentel and Lucas May, has the option of accepting $2 million from the Dodgers for the 2011 season – if the Dodgers don’t buy out his option for $100,000 –  or becoming a free agent.
  • Given the possibility that litigation in the Dodger ownership battle could drag out for years, Bill Shaikin of the Times explores whether MLB commissioner Bud Selig will or even can intervene.
  • Travis Schlichting’s attempts to come back from injury woes are documented by David Lassen of the Press-Enterprise.
Sep 14

Kershaw LXXXI: Kershawctupus

Let me introduce you to a really cool website, (which I found via Baseball Think Factory). It offers all kinds of historic film footage — here’s a link to what comes up under a Dodgers search. For example: a quick newsreel peek at the Dodgers during Spring Training, 1953. I’ve also gotten lost looking up various old pieces of Los Angeles history.

* * *

Dodger manager Joe Torre, who has indicated he wanted to play the most competitive Dodger lineup in remaining games against contenders, chose lefty-hitting Jay Gibbons at first base over lefty-hitting James Loney against lefty San Francisco pitcher Barry Zito. Loney is 2 for 26 with no walks in his career against Zito. Gibbons is 3 for 15 with a double and two walks.

Using this criteria, Torre ran out of options somewhat quickly.

* * *

Late add: the 2011 tentative Dodger schedule. Season opener on April Fool’s Day at home against the Giants. It’s the first Friday opener for the Dodgers in 32 years, Tony Jackson writes – changes things up, but I kind of don’t mind it.

Sep 14

McDonaldmania in Pittsburgh

Kathy Kmonicek/APJames McDonald pitched eight shutout innings for the Pirates on Monday.

It’s not like he’s got the upside of Carlos Santana, but will you look at what James McDonald is doing for Pittsburgh?

McDonald has a 3.49 ERA in eight starts with the Pirates. That includes five runs he allowed in the seventh inning of a game in which Pittsburgh couldn’t come to his rescue in time; otherwise his ERA with the team would be 2.59, with more than eight strikeouts per nine innings.

The most telling stat in the above paragraph? Eight starts. That’s three more than McDonald had in his Dodger career, and they’ve all come right in a row. Even if McDonald had a disappointing start, Pittsburgh put him right out there again.

Now, perhaps that’s a luxury that the Pirates can afford that the Dodgers felt they couldn’t. And maybe McDonald needed the so-called change of scenery — although I think that’s more often a mythical benefit than a real one. Maybe this is just McDonald’s version of Elymania, a hot streak whose end is around the corner.

The fact remains, the Dodgers parted with their two-time minor league pitcher of the year and an effective member of their 2009 bullpen, earning a minimum salary, in order to acquire Octavio Dotel. They nurtured McDonald through eight years in the organization, and then gave up too soon.

* * *

Ramona Shelburne, on a roll, continues reaping the rewards of her investment of time in the Albuquerque Isotopes with this feature on Dodger managerial candidate Tim Wallach. The Wallach bandwagon has enough momentum that it’s going to be quite jarring if he doesn’t get the job.

* * *

Update: Jack Moore of Fangraphs says McDonald’s peripheral stats compare well with David Price of Tampa Bay.

Sep 13

Trivial pursuit: Driving 65 in Albuquerque

In Cogs and Dogs today, I mentioned the 42 pitchers that Albuquerque used this year. In all, the Isotopes ran through no fewer than 65 players in 143 games. Nine countries and 21 U.S. states were represented on the team, most commonly the Dominican Republic.

Jamie Hoffmann led Albuquerque in plate appearances with 608; Tim Corcoran in innings with 107.

Click the link in the first paragraph to see the whole list. It’s a trivia bonanza.

Sep 13

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 13

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJeff Weaver – middling player of a middling team.

Man, this takes a long time to do now.

9/13 8/23 8/9 7/26 7/12 High Low Player Comment
1 1 1 1 1 1 20 Clayton Kershaw Needs three strikeouts to become youngest Dodger with 200K since Ramon Martinez (1990).
2 2 3 3 5 1 5 Hiroki Kuroda Losing record (27-29) as Dodger despite 3.59 career ERA.
3 3 4 4 3 1 11 Andre Ethier .716 OPS in 380 plate appearances since return from DL May 31.
4 4 6 10 10 4 12 Chad Billingsley After decline from 9.0 K/9 in ’08 to 7.4 in ’10, this is a key stat to watch in ’11.
5 5 2 2 2 2 14 Rafael Furcal Needs to play in 15 of Dodgers’ final 19 games to reach 100.
6 6 5 7 8 6 18 Hong-Chih Kuo ERA after first outing of season: 54.00. Has improved since.
7 7 10 8 9 1 11 Matt Kemp Who are the only Dodgers besides Kemp to have 100 more K than BB? Cory Snyder and Mike Marshall.
8 8 15 16 14 8 21 Jamey Carroll Carroll, Kemp have team-high 49 walks; Ethier 48.
9 9 7 5 6 5 24 James Loney One home run in past 36 starts.
10 13 12 11 11 6 16 Casey Blake Can we find a platoon partner for him? .943 OPS vs. lefties in ’10.
11 11 9 9 7 4 13 Jonathan Broxton Since minor-league debut in 2002, has never balked.
12 12 11 6 4 3 12 Manny Ramirez Last home run was June 19.
13 17 25 NR NR 17 25 Ted Lilly Worst HR/9 rate (1.6) on Dodgers. Could become third L.A. Dodger pitcher to give up more homers than walks (min. 10 HR) after Newcombe, Mulholland.
14 14 13 14 15 2 15 Russell Martin Despite injury, still ranks second in NL in catcher assists this season (59).
15 10 8 12 17 8 25 Vicente Padilla 3.80 ERA in 151 1/3 innings as Dodger, including playoffs.
16 15 14 15 13 12 15 Blake DeWitt After good start, now in 8-for-56 slump with Cubs (three walks, one homer.)
17 18 17 13 12 5 26 John Ely Threw over 100 pitches in first three Dodger starts, then only once in past 12.
18 19 20 20 19 8 20 Reed Johnson Remains strong against lefties, except for lack of home runs against them.
19 24 26 26 NR 24 26 Kenley Jansen No walks, seven strikeouts in past four outings (four innings).
20 16 16 17 21 7 21 Carlos Monasterios Tied with Kuroda, Kershaw in race for most HR allowed by Dodger pitcher in ’10, one behind Padilla.
21 27 33 NR NR 27 33 Jay Gibbons His HR on Sunday was 17th by a Dodger cleanup hitter in 2010.
22 NR NR NR NR NR NR Rod Barajas 26th all-time in HR by L.A. Dodger catchers, one behind Navarro, Pena and Prince.
23 21 28 NR NR 21 28 Ryan Theriot In 0-for-21 slump, with three walks.
24 22 21 21 22 21 24 Travis Schlichting One of two Dodgers with 1.000 winning percentage this year.
25 20 19 18 16 15 22 Jeff Weaver Sunday outing was his first appearance in September. Has pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings since coming off DL in late August.
26 23 23 24 24 9 24 Ramon Troncoso Three HR in 82 2/3 IP last year, seven in 44 2/3 this year.
27 25 18 19 18 17 25 Ronald Belisario 24 baserunners in 12 2/3 innings since return from restricted list.
28 26 32 NR NR 26 32 Octavio Dotel Has allowed more walks than hits as a Dodger.
29 28 34 NR NR 28 34 Scott Podsednik Battling plantar fasciitis, according to Tony Jackson.
30 29 24 23 20 7 29 Ronnie Belliard Career batting average of .273, but never hit .300 in a single year.
31 30 27 25 25 23 30 Justin Miller Finished AAA season with 1.95 ERA, 9.0 K/9.
32 31 22 22 23 15 31 Xavier Paul Twelve HR with Isotopes this year, but no homers in 121 at-bats with Dodgers.
33 33 30 28 27 25 33 Jon Link One of 42 pitchers used in Albuquerque this season.
34 34 31 29 28 23 34 Brad Ausmus Will finish career seventh all-time in games caught.
35 32 29 27 26 19 32 A.J. Ellis Hasn’t homered at any level since 2008.
36 36 36 35 36 26 36 George Sherrill Still probably has a good five years or so left as a pitcher who can get out lefties.
37 37 37 31 30 17 37 Ramon Ortiz Ranks sixth all-time among Dominican-born pitchers in HR allowed (222).
38 NR NR NR NR NR NR Juan Castro Oldest Dodger to play one game for team in a year since Manny Mota in 1982.
39 NR NR NR NR NR NR Trent Oeltjen First “Oe” Dodger since Joe Oeschger in 1925.
40 NR NR NR NR NR NR John Lindsey Had .477 OBP, .719 slugging vs. lefties for Albuquerque.
41 38 38 32 31 27 38 Nick Green Has played for nine organizations in past seven years.
42 35 35 30 29 29 35 Chin-Lung Hu Career batting average dropped below .200 Sunday.
43 39 39 33 33 3 39 Charlie Haeger Bookends with Isotopes: 0.7 HR/9, 7.0 BB/9.
44 40 40 37 NR 37 40 James McDonald Take away seventh inning Aug. 27, and his Pirate ERA is 3.10 in seven starts.
45 42 42 36 35 22 42 Russ Ortiz The Russ Ortiz era
seems so long ago. Baseball has a long season, doesn’t it?
46 NR NR NR NR NR NR Russ Mitchell Of his 15 outs, 13 have been hit in the air.
47 41 41 34 34 16 41 Garret Anderson Second all-time to Ramirez in career hits for 1972-born players.
48 43 43 38 32 32 43 Scott Elbert Career minor-league K/9 is 10.4.
49 44 44 39 NR 39 44 Jack Taschner Spent eight days on active roster.
Sep 12

Welcome to the 2011 Dodgers, Jay Gibbons

Steve Campbell/APWill Jay Gibbons be receiving congratulations from fellow Dodgers in 2011?

The stories of Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas have interesting similarities – two Southern California high school grads, cast off by other teams, who have thrived in the dog days of the 2010 Dodger season.

They are also both free agents after the 2010 season. They’ll go after the best deal they can get, just as the Dodgers will go after the best players they can get. But with Gibbons hitting his fifth Dodger home run – one more than Barajas – in the Dodgers’ 7-4 loss at Houston today, it’s starting to seem destined for the parties to come together for 2011.

Neither player is going to price themselves out of the Dodgers’ budget, however limited that might be, so at a minimum, Gibbons and Barajas should have a spot carved out on next season’s bench. Barajas’ playing time depends rather specifically on what the Dodgers do with Russell Martin. The Dodgers’ third-outfielder situation is murkier; I don’t think the Dodgers are simply going to hand left field to Gibbons – especially with his defensive limitations – but he certainly looks like a guy who could get at least 250 or so plate appearances next year. The bar is not high.

By the way, as the Dodgers look for a third starting outfielder next season, don’t rule out that it could be a center fielder, with Matt Kemp moving to right field and Andre Ethier to left.

* * *

  • Carlos Monasterios exchanged four outs for four runs (three earned) in his shortest outing as a Dodger starter. This season, though not without its highlights, has obviously been a learning experience for Monasterios. Though he’ll certainly be somewhere in the Dodger organization next year after surviving an entire year in the majors as a Rule 5 draftee, I confess I have no idea of how much he’ll contribute to the 2011 Dodgers.
  • John Lindsey got his first major-league hit – a sinking drive to left field while pinch-hitting in the fifth – and a bevy of congratulations, hugs and smiles in the dugout thereafter. Matt Kemp in particular was showing Lindsey the love.
  • In the fourth inning, James Loney ran his way out of his 40th double of the season by instead extending it into his second triple. No problem, because in his next at-bat, Loney got a two-bagger. He is the fifth Dodger since 1990 to reach 40 doubles.
  • Russ Mitchell is now 0 for 14 in his major-league career, but followed Loney’s triple with what at the time was a game-tying sacrifice fly, after Gibbons’ three-run homer.
  • In his first major-league start since Oct. 4, Chin-Lung Hu made a costly throwing error in the first inning on a potential double-play ball, but also made a couple of fine plays in the field. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts at the plate.
  • Purely subjective, but Ramon Troncoso seemed to have nothing at all going for him in his two-inning relief appearance today (five hits, one walk). His arm just seemed fried to me.
Sep 12

The race wasn’t over in July

As the July 31 trading deadline approached, there was a case that the Dodgers should become sellers instead of buyers. But that case rested on what was best for the franchise long-term, not on the idea that the team had no shot of making the playoffs in 2010.

While some began pronouncing the 2010 Dodger season dead with two months to go, while I was ridiculed at times for suggesting that a three-game series in July with the Padres wasn’t a must-win, what we’ve seen again – as we’ve seen more than once in recent seasons – is that a single-digit deficit in the standings doesn’t bury a team if a third of the season is remaining.

Sure, few foresaw that the National League West-leading Padres would lose as many as 10 games in a row, but it was hardly out of the question that they would come back to earth in some fashion – say, 11 losses in 15 games or something like that. If you’re trailing but you can sniff the pennant race, you don’t need to hold your nose.

The Dodgers were seven games out the morning they traded for Ted Lilly. Insurmountable? Well, San Francisco was six games out of first place as late as August 28, and they have been playing for first place in San Diego this weekend.

Colorado was 11 games out of first place as late as August 22. The Rockies are now only 2 1/2 games out with three weeks to go.

The Padres may well prevail, but they are sweating.

With any meaningful combination of wins on and off the field over the past six weeks, the Dodgers would be in the thick of the playoff hunt today. That didn’t happen, and I suppose some people would say they knew all along it wouldn’t, but if all the wheels hadn’t come off at once, the Dodgers would still be playing important baseball. While this doesn’t tell the whole story, the 2010 Dodgers had a better record on July 31 than the playoff teams of 2008 and 2006. It wasn’t over, not at all.

The Dodgers would be better off today if they had gone into seller mode, and I would have understood it if they had – in fact, as I’ve said many times, part of me has always wished they would start an offseason in summertime. But I still think many fans are too quick to give up on a team. It’s sort of telling, really, how many people can’t wait to abandon hope.