Just a Couple of Pieces Away…

Tuesday night’s one-run loss to the Atlanta Braves was just one game in what is the longest regular season in professional sports. A tightly contested affair that could easily have been a win, but seeing as it resulted in the Dodgers’ first home loss of 2012, there’s no better time than now to identify the weaknesses in this Dodgers depth. It’s a problem that has been lingering for over almost two years now, and will begin to fester if new ownership doesn’t do something soon. When a franchise has the kind of generational talents of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw (reaching the pinnacle of baseball at the same time), that franchise only has a small window of time to effectively build a winning product that compliments said talents for years to come. It’s time to acknowledge what this team does and more importantly does NOT have in the way of everyday pieces. Because what was the point of getting all giddy about the “Magic Era” beginning next month, if there wont be a clear deviation from the current path this franchise is on.

What the Dodgers Have:

  • SS – Dee Gordon will continue to be the “grease man”, using his youth, raw speed and athleticism to get on base and create offense.
  • 2B – Mark Ellis will continue to fill the Dodgers’ annual role of “veteran 2nd baseman stopgap” who uses a workman-like approach to get his hits and/or productive outs.
  • CF – Matt Kemp will be… well, Matt Kemp.
  • RF – Andre Ethier is clearly healthy and playing like All-Stars generally do in contract years.
  • C – A.J. Ellis has never been thought of as something he’s not. A solid catcher, who calls a great game, and gets on-base at alarming rates, is exactly what this club needed after the Dioner Navarro episode.
  • 1B – James Loney has always been a curious situation. Seeing as the franchise drafted him as a pitcher, it has always been impressive to me that James has had any of his limited success. It was quite clear that he was expendable when a bat like Prince Fielder was on the market, but for the time being James is doing his job of being just good enough to keep out of the cross hairs of the cynics.

What the Dodgers Don’t Have:

  • LF – Can anyone imagine what this ball club would feel like if we saw a starting lineup with a third outfielder whose name jumped off the page at you? Now, I do understand Juan Rivera is a solid veteran bat who is off to a respectable start (and just had his first home run). But it looks as if a hamstring issue has just landed Juan on the DL, which brings us to the “old guy” stereotype of being injury prone. First off, stereotypes are that way for a reason. And secondly, if you look at any title contender, there can only be so many veteran role players before you start complicating matters with DL stints and necessary days off. Not sure about you loyal readers at MSTI but I’d prefer to keep the “ranking old timer” role to just one position. Not to mention I’d like to see another 15-20 home run guy to follow Ethier in the lineup. Talk about a 3-4-5 nightmare for every pitcher in the Majors. While the Jr’s (Tony Gwynn and Jerry Hairston) do their best to help Mattingly’s current needs of positions by committee, a daily solution in LF would be a sight for sore eyes.
  • 3B – As cynical and bitter as I was during the San Francisco Giants’ run to a world series title in 2010, I was equally callous when I predicted that the slew of marginal role players would all cash in and be grossly over paid by various desperate clubs around the league. Sure enough, my LEAST favorite player from that list of Giants subsequently received his pay day from my own team. Another classic Colletti move in a long line of history defining acquisitions (while I use sarcasm as my crutch, Jason Schmidt is somewhere counting is stacks of money). The reality is that Juan Uribe was ALWAYS a free swinging fat guy who had the strength to hit home runs when he just so happened to run into one. It seems as if his age has caught up with him and his size is no longer translating to power (or the ability to catch up with fastballs for that matter). He blames his lack of production in the last year on injuries, I blame it on some sick twisted karmic fate. Adam Kennedy feels as if he’s been around forever, and Justin Sellers feels as if he’s lucky to be invited to the party. On a night where the visiting team’s 3rd baseman was celebrating his 40th birthday and 20th year in the league, the Dodgers were using their 4th 3rd baseman of the year. Clearly the position has been a carousel for years. Its also clear that 3rd base should be on Stan Kasten’s shortlist of major moves this year.

In an interview on MLB Network radio, Ned Colletti has confirmed the rumors that he will be actively seeking another bat by the trade deadline this summer. And according to Los Angeles Times writer TJ Simers, the Dodgers GM was in attendance of Tuesday night’s late inning loss to the Braves. Hopefully Ned was paying attention when Mattingly was forced to use Adam Kennedy and Tony Gwynn in consecutive, unsuccessful pinch hit situations. Then he just might be prompted to make multiple moves before the deadline and help shape this ball club for the future. More importantly, it might be his only chance to impress the new ownership and keep his job. This team has gone toe-to-toe with legitimate post-season clubs in Milwaukee and Atlanta, even with their apparent lack of depth. Los Angeles is theoretically a pair of key everyday players away from being a legitimate title contender, and it certainly feels like it’s time for Ned’s last stand as GM. A chance to rewrite his legacy and build that dynasty we all started daydreaming about last month.

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