The Bums Will Never Win

Nothing is f*%ked? Nothing is f*%ked?!?! The god damn plane has crashed into the mountain!!

And there you have the first two of hopefully countless Big Lebowski references on this blog.

Hey, remember those heady times of 11 days ago? The Blue had just finished taking two out of three from Philadelphia to get to 13 games over .500, the high-water mark for the season thus far. All-Star Brad Penny had moved to 11-1. The bats were coming alive, putting up 40 runs in winning 5 of the 6 games since the break. The rotation looked like it might just need tweaking, with Penny & Lowe being fantastic, Billingsley showing promise, and Wolf seeming to be just around the corner from returning. The bullpen was humming along like clockwork. Hell, even Juan Pierre was playing well! Seemed that all the Dodgers would need to do was to add a decent reliever before the deadline and hold on to those prospects as tight as possible.

Uh, yeah. About that.

Just a week and a half later, you might say things have changed. Since July 19 vs. the Mets (when Lowe gave up 10 runs in 3 innings), LA has gone 3-7 in losing series vs. the Mets, @ Houston, and @ Colorado. Penny and Lowe hurt themselves in consecutive games. Takashi Saito missed 8 games with a sore neck and shouder. Meanwhile, Arizona came out of nowhere to win 8 of 11 in the same period to pull into a tie for first. With San Diego only one-half game out and even Colorado within three and a half, this is officially a four-horse race. With the trade deadline looming, conditions are ripe for management to press the panic button and trade some of the kids for a pile of magic beans. And by ‘magic beans’, I of course mean ‘broken-down, overrated, overpaid veterans.’

What the hell is going on here? Let’s focus on the rotation. The latest update from Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times says that Lowe has “irritation in the joint of his left hip.” Meanwhile, Penny has “had a strain in the lower right part of his abdominal muscle for his last couple of starts. The Dodgers’ initial diagnosis of a cramp was made by Penny himself.” As for Wolf, Tony Jackson of the Daily News reports “Still no date set for Randy Wolf’s next rehab outing because he still has stiffness in his shoulder. Grady admitted that it can be termed a setback. No telling when this guy is going to be back.”

So the current rotation has five flawed pitchers:

-Two veterans who’ve been great but who may not be able to answer the bell (Lowe, Penny);
-One talented but maddeningly inconsistent youngster who can somehow sandwich a complete-game five hit gem directly between two starts in which he used 110+ pitches to not get past 5 innings (Billingsley);
-Two mediocre veterans who suffer from the severe afflictions of being Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko (Hendrickson, Tomko).

If either Lowe or Penny are forced to be DL’d – hell, even if they’re not – where are the reinforcements supposed to come from? Wolf clearly cannot be counted upon. Eric Stults was nice the other day, but he’s hardly a high-quality item. Outside the organization? Hah! Not only are there barely any starters available, they’re no upgrade on what’s here and they’ll cost a fortune in terms of young prospects. Seriously, who’s out there? Jason Jennings? He sure helped his case by throwing out what may be one of the worst starts in MLB history today (0.2 IP, 11 ER on 8 hits and 3 BB). Livian Hernandez? Gave up 8 runs in 4 IP today, not that the D-backs would send a starter to a division rival.

Looks like we’re stuck with what we see today. At least, I hope. If I wake up and see that Kemp and Loney are on their way to Chicago for Jose Contreras, then this blog might be short-lived – I hear they don’t give you much internet access in maximum security prisons.