The Dodgers season is fading fast and it looks like 2010 will provide their first absence from the playoffs since 2007. Tyson Qualls analyzes what went wrong and if Dodger fans have a glimmer of hope for the future.
|What Went Wrong?The injury bug dominated the Dodgers throughout the course of the season. Frequently injured Dodger, Rafael Furcal, had one of his best seasons as a Dodger derailed by his recurring back problems. Manny Ramirez has played a total of 61 games so far this season and Andre Ethier was on a triple crown pace before a broken pinkie disrupting his rhythm. Sprinkle in key injuries to Vicente Padilla, Russell Martin, Jeff Weaver, Reed Johnson, Chad Billingsley, and Hong Chih-Kuo and you have a squad playing at less than 70 percent during the course of the season.
Blaming injuries as the sole reason is hardly fair, however, as all MLB teams deal with hurt players on a frequent basis. The inconsistency of the bullpen also sent the Dodgers spiraling out of contention. George Sherril never regained last year’s form and Jonathan Broxton has temporarily relinqueshed his closer role. Both players contributed to arguably the best 8-9th inning duo in the league in 2009, but could not get an out during the second half of 2010.
The digression of Matt Kemp and Russell Martin weighs heavy on Dodger fans as the question now becomes similar to a Clash song, “Should They Stay or Should They Go”.
Kemp spent the better part of 2009 being hailed as a five tool, once in a decade player. This year has been different. His average slumped to .254 and he is on pace to post the lowest SB, average, RBI, and hit totals since becoming a full time starter. While it may be easy to attribute the lack of protection from an absent Ramirez as the main factor, it may be that the league has figured him out and he needs to adjust in order to save his career.
While this is Kemp’s first trip down disappointment’s path, Martin has become a regular visitor. In each of the past three seasons, Martin’s HRs, RBIs, average, OBP, BB, SB, and 2B have all decreased. The Dodgers should be looking elsewhere for a catcher if Martin cannot regain his swagger.
Wait Til Next Year
Overlooked in the drama of Frank McCourt’s ownership is the recent success of the Dodgers. While it is easy to point the finger at the divorce and blame McCourt’s penny pinching ways for this season’s failure, it should be noted that during McCourt’s tenure as owner the Dodgers have made the playoffs four out of seven seasons.
If McCourt can put the divorce behind him and show more commitment to winning,(signing prospect Zach Lee certainly helped) the future in Los Angeles may not be so bleak.
Clayton Kershaw has been giving Dodger fans a reason to go to the park throughout this season and will continue to be a force for many years to come. Kershaw’s 163 K’s have him trailing only Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, and Adam Wainwright in that category.
Manny Wood will be closed for good next season, freeing up 20 million dollars for the Dodgers payroll. Whether that goes to the team or divorce court lawyers is still up for debate. However, what it does mean is that the Dodgers won’t have to pay exhorbitant amounts for a player who appears for less than half the season.
Notes from the Dugout
Short Stop Rafael Furcal experienced a set back in his on-going attempt to return from the DL. No time table has been set for his reappearance in the starting line up.
Prospect Zach Lee will not pitch this season, but will be joining the Ogden Raptors as a spectator while they prepare to play in the post season.
Jeff Weaver is expected to return from the DL this week, while Vicente Padilla may be out for the season with a bulging disk in his neck. Travis Schlichting was called up to replace Padilla.
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Frank McCourt’s penny pinching ways are no secret heading into baseball’s trading deadline. The Dodgers post season hopes will likely rest on the shoulders of the current roster. Can the Dodgers succeed with this lineup? Tyson Qualls offers a few budget conscious suggestions to revamp the team and gear up for a pennant race.
Send Garret Anderson to the Big Baseball Diamond in the Sky:
The former Anaheim Angel has performed poorly in the role previously held by Juan Pierre. As Manny Ramirez’s replacement, the 38 year old left fielder is currently hitting at a .188 clip. He has batted in a paltry 11 runs in 128 at bats. After watching his 0-5, 4 K appearance in the final game of the Dodgers-Giants series, it became apparent that Anderson has nothing left.
The Dodgers would benefit from giving that playing time to the younger generation. Xaiver Paul would undoubtedly improve production. Anderson’s roster spot would be better utilized with a call up for Jay Gibbons, John Lindsey, Prentice Redman, or Jamie Hoffman. Each of these players would surpass Anderson’s poor production.
Explore Trade Options for Russell Martin:
Even though Martin is a fan favorite, the fact of the matter is that his production has slipped every season since 2007. The former All Star has not lived up to expectations and has continued his downward spiral in 2010.
Martin is currently batting .245, which puts him on pace for the worst offensive season of his career. The Dodgers starting catcher is slated to reel in over five million dollars this season and moving him could free up cash. There is always a market for fleet-footed catchers with upside. Martin may also benefit from a change of scenery.
Find Bullpen Help:
Bringing in a front line starter is virtually out of the question, but the Dodgers could make a move to improve the bullpen for a much lower price. George Sherrill has been a shell of his former shelf, Hong-Chih Kuo cannot pitch on consecutive days, and Ramon Troncoso was optioned to work on his mechanics. A veteran like Octavio Dotel or Will Ohman would come at a significantly cheaper cost than Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt.
Notes from the Dugout:
Rafael Furcal’s tear at the plate was finally rewarded with NL Player of the Week honors. Last week Furcal batted a remarkable .538 with nine runs scored and a .571 OBP. The short stop’s recent surge comes after losing his father to an unfortunate accident on June 20th.
Torre has stated publicly that he believes the Dodgers will get help via trade before the deadline. The Dodgers’ manager was quoted as saying “I know [general manager Ned Colletti] has been exploring, and we’ve done it the last couple years, and my guess is we’ll get some help.”
The Dodgers have regained their stride in the month of May, going 10-3 over the last two weeks. Since the return of Manny Ramirez, the team has lost one game. However, recent news of Andre Ethier’s injury and the delayed return of Rafael Furcal from the disabled list could pose a threat to their current streak. Tyson Qualls touches all the bases in the Weekend Roundup.
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The steroid controversy has continued to rage on for the better part of the last decade. Once considered the “Saviors of Baseball”, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire have been relegated to freak show outcasts. Now with the influx of new names into the despised steroid users list, an incredible phenomenon is taking place. From the ashes of the fans disgust for cheaters has raised an incredible double standard. Manny Ramirez is still enjoying the cheers from Mannywood and David Ortiz has barely experienced any backlash at all. Barry Bonds and his steroid use virtually destroyed the way he will be remembered and tainted all of his records. When Manny passed Mickey Mantle a few weeks back, barely a negative word was mentioned. Could it be that people were just looking for a reason to hate Bonds? Or has the public finally be desensitized to steroid use?
Barry Bonds is a full-fledged jackass. What if he’d had the endearing personality of Mr. Fred Rodgers? Could we really hate someone who consistently asked us if we would be his neighbors? Bonds ability to treat everyone as a lower class human is the driving force behind his demise. His unlikable personality made him an easy target for those looking to put a face on the steroid period. Mark McGwire should have had that privilege, but he did not have enough venom necessary to fill the role of the villain. Sosa could have also filled this role, but after he began being tested his skill level dropped him off the baseball radar. This left Bonds as the only hateful persona capable of carrying the burden of “pure cheater”. Bonds did nothing to negate the effects of his decisions. He simply sat back and acted exactly like Barry Bonds. It was not the cheating that made Bonds the scapegoat; it was the perfect storm of timing, personality, and necessity.
The fans of baseball have grown weary of hating. After spending the last nine years having their innocence obliterated by steroid users, a sense of desperation has set in. When news of Manny Ramirez’s use broke, the spirit to burn cheaters at the stake had abated. Ramirez’s personality also helped the ordeal blow over. That talent has not been limited just to steroids however. Ramirez spent over 7 seasons acting like a spoiled kid in Boston, but always finished his complaining with a smile. Urinating in the green monster? Manny being Manny. Cutting off a throw from his centerfielder? Manny being Manny. Complaining about his contract and saying he wants more money? Manny being Manny. When he became a free agent last year, his initial statement was “Gas prices are up and so am I.” Manny being Manny. If Bonds had made the same statement…Bonds being a dick.
The current climate is not right for bringing down the steroid users in baseball. American fans want to see success stories. In 2003 the economy was just beginning its fall, America was entering a war, and people were angry. So why not take it out on an egocentric millionaire. In fact, Bonds could very well have been responsible for 9/11. With the election of a new president, the slow but steady recovery of the economy, and a desire to move forward, social justice has taken a backseat to redemption. In a world striving for positives, no one wants to be the individual to delve on the negative aspects. Manny and Ortiz are likely going to be admitted steroid users, but who has the time and energy to turn them into villains?