After yesterday’s loss to the Phillies, the Dodgers are now two games over .500, and 7.5 back in the Wild Card race. They’ve outscored their opponents by four runs, which means we’re not seeing much luck happening here; they’re a .500 team, and they’re playing like it.
For the first time since 2007, we don’t have a pennant race to look forward to, no matter what the team claims. No, all we have to watch is the embarrassing divorce case (kudos to Jon Weisman for an absolutely perfect attack on the hypocrosy of ownership), state investigations into mismanagement of charity funds, and dozens of media members trying to rewrite the history of Manny Ramirez. Remember when all we cared about was baseball? The divorce case gets juicier by the day, but I’m not going to recap every turn in the court dialogue, other than when major news breaks, because it’s not what I do; again, I direct you to Josh Fisher and Molly Knight.
Still, there are 28 games remaining, and I can’t spend it all moping that the Dodgers foolishly made no trades to sell off veterans when it was clear they had no chance of contention. There’s still work to be done, progress to be made, and knowledge to gain. Do we really need to see the same eight guys every day for the rest of the year just to finish 82-80? It’s not like we don’t already know that Casey Blake is cooked, or that free-agent-to-be Scott Podsednik has a decent OBP but no power and average-ish defense. No, let’s use this time to see some sights and find out about 2011.
Here’s what I want to see for the month of September:
1) 4 more homers, 10 more RBI, and 99 more plate appearances from James Loney. It’s probably unlikely, because Loney has yet to hit more than 3 homers in a month or have less than 12 RBI (other than April), but it’s worth rooting for. If Loney can pull off those exact figures, he’ll put together a third straight season with exactly 651 PA, 13 HR, and 90 RBI. What would that mean, exactly? I don’t know. It’s not good production from a first baseman, that’s for sure. But it sure would be amazing to see.
2) Not trying to overwork Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen in the name of finishing 6 games out rather than 9. Kershaw has thrown 176.1 innings this year, 5.1 more than last year. Jansen has thrown nearly 60 between the majors and minors thus far; he threw 11.1 last year in his first year on the mound. Sure, it’s nice that Kershaw leads the NL in strikeouts, but that’s hardly a just reason to wear him down. I’m not suggesting that either be shut down immediately, but nor should either be ridden hard for no particular gain, at a huge risk.
3) A farewell speech from Joe Torre. Torre may have been the right choice for the 2008 and 2009 Dodgers, talented teams with clubhouse issues coming off the fractious “vets vs. kids” wars of the Grady Little years. He hasn’t been the right man to lead the 2010 Dodgers, clearly, and he almost certainly won’t be the right choice for the 2011 team. Torre’s been in the game for 50 years, but he’s also a 70-year-old man who clearly has had more trouble relating to the younger set like Matt Kemp. (Not excusing Kemp here, but Torre isn’t helping.) We’ll get to the discussion of Don Mattingly vs. Tim Wallach vs. the field later, but first things first: it’s time to move on, Joe. I can’t imagine any decision would disappoint me more than hearing he wants to come back for another shot.
4) John Lindsey to finally get a chance. If you haven’t read Ramona Shelburne’s recent ESPN piece on Lindsay, it’s well worth it. Like Mitch Jones last year, Lindsey’s a good guy who has been kicking around the minors for years without ever getting a chance. But “being a good story” doesn’t get you to the big leagues; pummeling the ball does. Or should, at least.
Lindsey’s dominating the PCL, with 24 HR, 40 doubles, and a 1.065 OPS. While clearly the ABQ environment helps him (he’s hitting .400 at home), he’s not strictly a product of his home park, since he’s got 14 HR and a 1.006 OPS on the road. At 34 in January, Lindsey’s certainly never going to be an everyday player, but it’s clear that the Dodgers need power from somewhere. Nice story aside, now’s the time to find out if he can be a power bat off the bench next year, right?
5) Finding out whether Jay Gibbons is worth a roster spot. Speaking of finding out about next year’s bench, Gibbons has been effective in limited duty so far – .991 OPS in 18 games, and only 2 K as a Dodger. He hit in the minors before being called up, and he’s proven he can hit in the majors before (121 HR in Baltimore). I like that his ability to play both 1B and the OF provides flexibility, and he might be a decent piece for the reserve puzzle next year. But we’re only going to find out if he plays, and he hasn’t started since August 21st – a game in which he homered, yet was pulled in the 7th. Do we really need to see Podsednik every day? Or Loney? I want to see what Gibbons can do.
6) Hoping that Rod Barajas knocks it off. I like Barajas; his story of being a childhood Dodger fan living the dream is something we can all relate to. The problem is, his ridiculous hot start as a Dodger – 3 HR, 1.271 OPS has far too many people thinking he’s a viable option to be the starting catcher next year. I’m okay with him being the backup, in some sort of job share, but 34-year-olds with career OBP of .283 don’t suddenly just “get good”. If he was that good, the Mets wouldn’t have just let him go, right?
Sadly, I think we all know what’s going to happen. They’re going to play the same eight guys every day in some misguided attempt to “win now”, and we’re not going to learn anything about Lindsey or Gibbons. At least we have the divorce to entertain us.
I’m off to the backwoods of Ohio for the next few days, so posting might be sparse until Monday. Hey, there’s one benefit of not being in contention – I don’t have to worry about missing much. Enjoy your holiday weekend, and play nice.