Sure, “first place” is nice and all, but if managers who’ve won five more games than you have can get fired today, as Milwaukee’s Ned Yost was, then no one’s safe. Just kidding, of course; Torre has absolutely nothing to worry about. But it should serve as a reminder that as much as we’re all enjoying the resurgence of the Dodgers over the last few weeks, the fact is that Arizona’s nosedive should claim nearly as much credit. Remember, if the Dodgers were in the AL East or the NL Central, they’d be in 5th place – and that’s without even considering that they’d have had to play a more difficult schedule that would be less heavy on NL West cupcakes like San Diego and San Francisco. Even in the current NL, they’d be 5.5 games off of the Wild Card lead if the division lead weren’t being served to them on a platter.
I say this not to be the proverbial bug in the soup, but merely as a reminder of reality. The funny thing, however, is that regardless of how “lucky” this team may get in getting into the playoffs, they really do have a shot to make some noise. Manny and Ethier have obviously been unbelievable on offense, the starting pitching is excellent, and – as Jon details over at DodgerThoughts today – they have a bullpen that’s starting to get in the competition for “one of the best ever”.
Anyway, tonight in Pittsburgh against the lousy-as-usual Pirates represents the start of the final non-divisional series of the season for the Dodgers. In fact, it’s actually the last trip out of California they’ll make this season before the playoffs, as they return home to face the Giants and Padres before ending the season in San Francisco. It also gives us our first chance to see Andy LaRoche in person since the July 31st deal that sent him eastwards for Manny, and Andy… sure has been doing his best to make all of us who thought for sure he was going to be the next big thing look completely awful. He’s hitting just .161/.238/.271 in Pittsburgh for a fantastic 35 OPS+. Even on defense he’s been lousy, committing 7 errors in just 32 games, and if you’re wondering how bad that is, all Dodger third basemen combined have made just 15 errors in their 149 games. Your first thought may be, “well, that is more than double,” except that A) it’s come in nearly five times as many games, B) three of those errors were committed by the Dodger catcher, Russell Martin, and C) one of those 15 errors belongs to Andy LaRoche himself.
No, I’m still not ready to proclaim him a “bust” – despite the fact we’ve been talking about him for years, he’s still only got 270 at-bats in the bigs, which is hardly enough to judge his career on. Except that at some point, he’s going to actually have to, you know, perform.
If you know anything about the Dodgers, then you know Andy LaRoche is going to go absolutely insane in this series and park 3 homers and play Gold Glove defense. It’s just the way the world works. Fortunately, even if he went nine for nine with nine home runs (I’ve been waiting forever to get that line in this blog, and I hope at least someone picks it up) I doubt anyone’s going to to regret the Manny deal.
Magic number’s at Cey. Let’s hope after tonight we get it down to Pierre or Big Sexy. And if someone can help me come up with a better #9, I’m all ears.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness