Shut Out. Again.

Chad Billingsley has no heart! You’d think that a game in which the offense got blanked yet again and Scott Podsednik turned a double into an inside-the-park homer, while Billingsley was decent (and technically got a quality start) if not as good as his previous starts would buy him some love, but no, there’s still some braindead “fans” on the Dodger Facebook page thinking otherwise. Why I bother to ever even read over there is my own mistake, I suppose.

Still, on the same night that James McDonald dazzled in his Pirates debut (struck out five of the first six, went six scoreless striking out eight against one walk), and when Joe Torre admitted Russell Martin is probably gone for the season, to see the Dodgers get shut out again feels like just another nail in the coffin. While Ryan Theriot actually contributed with three hits, James Loney went 0-3 with men in scoring position and left about thirty men on base.

So the Dodgers are now eight games back in the NL West, six back in the wild card, and just three games over .500.  With the bad injury news piling up – Rafael Furcal won’t be back until next week, and who knows about Manny – you would be forgiven for thinking “this year just isn’t the year”.

Oh, and after this weekend’s series with Washington, the Dodgers have one of the toughest schedules in baseball, playing almost exclusively contenders other than a four-game set with Houston and some matchups with Arizona in September. So there’s that.

******

Just sayin’, if you’re in a game that isn’t going to extra innings and hasn’t seen any catastrophic injuries, and you still find yourself needing to stick Andre Ethier at first base, then you need to rethink the way your bench is put together.

******

Random thought for a Friday morning: MLBTR is reporting that the Cardinals have interest in Pirates 3B Andy LaRoche. The Cardinals have had injury issues at the hot corner, and LaRoche has fallen far behind Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker in Pittsburgh. Since it’s August, LaRoche would have to pass through waivers, meaning all NL teams with worse records than St. Louis would have a chance to claim him.

LaRoche has been a flop at the big-league level, with just a .651 OPS and just .589 this year, though much of that has come as a pinch-hitter of late. He’ll almost certainly never be anywhere close to the star many of us thought he could be, but he has shown some flashes, hitting .313/.359/.552 with 5 homers in September/October of last season.

As it’s been since Adrian Beltre left, the future of third base for the Dodgers is a mess. Casey Blake probably gets to start next year just because they’re paying him, even though he’s clearly in decline, and the farm system is barren for at least three years after that (I don’t have faith in Pedro Baez). Assuming that the price is low, as it would have to be thanks to his performance, isn’t that worth a waiver claim? He’s still only 26, and when you’re in the situation that the Dodgers are, you have to dream on a lottery ticket every now and then. Really, after McDonald’s performance last night, they should just tell the Pirates to retroactively stick him into the Dotel deal.

Just In Case You Didn’t Like the Manny Trade Before…

larocheHBP.jpg…just one Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article has got you covered.

First, former top prospect Andy LaRoche, who never quite got it going in Los Angeles due partly to injury and partly because of management’s inexplicable refusal to ever give him a shot to play (detailed here, and be prepared to be sick when you remember some of the guys who he got pushed aside for). He hit just .152 with 9 errors in 45 games as a Pirate in 2008; how’s he doing in 2009?

Andy LaRoche refuses to use his creaky back as an excuse for his 0-for-14 start or those three early errors.

But yesterday, when the Pirates’ regular third baseman again was out of the starting lineup for the home opener in favor of Ramon Vazquez, he acknowledged he continues to receive treatment for it.

Well, then. When you think of the accomplishments you hope to see from a highly touted young player – especially one from the Dodgers system – “lost his job to Ramon Vazquez” is not exactly high on the list.

But wait! This is the article that keeps on giving. How about young pitcher Bryan Morris, the other half of the deal?

The Pirates updated the health of minor league pitchers Bryan Morris and Jimmy Barthmaier, and each will miss extensive time: Morris’ right shoulder injury, diagnosed as having significantly restricted range of motion, will keep him out four to six weeks. Barthmaier’s right elbow injury, diagnosed as a strained flexor mass, will keep him out a month.

That’d be Morris’ second serious arm injury, since he’s already a Tommy John survivor.

Clearly, it’s not yet too late for either of these players, but LaRoche’s struggles are really striking, aren’t they? Look at the other top prospects in the system from the last few seasons - Billingsley, Broxton, Loney, Kemp, Martin, Kershaw, and Ethier have all become the core of this team. Even more impressive, all of them came up and were impact players from day one; no one was completely overmatched at the big league level. Meanwhile, the prospects that were moved have either been complete busts (Joel Guzman, Chuck Tiffany) or had huge struggles at the big league level before finally turning it around, thanks to playing time a lousy team could offer that the Dodgers couldn’t (Dioner Navarro, Edwin Jackson). 

Now you’ve got LaRoche, who struggled in LA and has been even worse in Pittsburgh. You almost wonder what the Dodgers knew about him that we didn’t, because say what you will about Ned Colletti – and we have – he’s shown a knack for trading away the right prospects. (Let’s ignore, for the moment, his almost-as-uncanny knack for importing awful players from Tampa Bay in exchange those prospects).

So yeah, trading these two for Manny Ramirez? That appears to be working out.

Now let’s just hope that Colletti knew something about Carlos Santana that we didn’t…. 

MSTI.com’s 2008 In Review: Third Base

Blake DeWitt (A+!)
(.264/.344/.383 9hr 52rbi)
Dig this: Blake DeWitt had a 91 OPS+, meaning he was 9% worse than the average ballplayer. He had a month (June) in which he hit just .182 with two extra base hits. He ranked 25th in VORP among third basemen, behind such notables as Martin Prado and Ramon Vazquez. Worst of all, he got demoted to AAA for over a month in the heat of the pennant race. This sounds exactly like the prescription for a “F-, let’s get rid of this guy” rant, right?

But no: Blake DeWitt gets an A+, and if anything that’s too low.

In order to really judge how DeWitt performed in 2008, you have to go back to the beginning of the season and see how frightened everyone was at the prospect of him being forced into the job after injuries to Nomar, Andy LaRoche, and Tony Abreu (remember him?). This is what ESPN’s Rob Neyer had to say:

DeWitt’s just not ready. He spent most of last season in the Class A California League before moving up to Double-A. Also, he wasn’t great at either level, and in 128 games he drew 27 walks and struck out 88 strikeouts. The major league wolves would eat him alive.

This wasn’t a case of Neyer being biased or anti-Dodger; this was a very reasonable outlook, because how could you expect a guy who flopped so bad in AA in 2006 that he had to start 2007 in A-ball to have a prayer? More importantly, there was no backup plan. If he couldn’t hack it for the first month until Nomar “returned”, we’re looking at… what? Chin-Lung Hu? A highway robbery trade for Joe Crede? It may seem crazy to say it, but Blake DeWitt may have been the most vital player for the Dodgers this season (non-Manny division), because if he doesn’t come up and perform to some level of adequacy, the season is over before it starts.

Here’s the best part, though. He wasn’t just passable; he was good. In April he OPS’d .761; in May it was .896. I mean, I went so far as to say this on May 6:

Let’s make it as simple as possible: the kid who was decent but not great in A/AA ball last year is statistically one of the top 5 offensive third baseman in MLB right now. He’s 2nd in batting average at .321, behind only Chipper Jones’ insane .425. He’s 4th in OPS, behind only Jones, Aramis Ramirez, and David Wright.  How about this? He’s on pace for 101 RBI this season. Think about that for a second.

Not only that, DeWitt showed a plus glove at third base – Baseball Prospectus has him down for 11 runs above average on the season. Now it’s true, he went off a cliff in June and July as the league caught up and ended up with his demotion to Las Vegas. And you know what? If it had ended there for him, that would have been fine. He would have played a large role in the Dodgers’ success, proven to himself that he has what it takes to succeed at the top level, and gone into the offseason with a lot to work on. I mean, it couldn’t get any crazier for him than being the Opening Day 3B and having two hot months, right?

But no, DeWitt had to go top it all by coming back up from Vegas having reinvented himself as a second baseman, and not only that, became the team’s starter at the keystone through September and the playoffs with Jeff Kent recovering from knee surgery. Even better, DeWitt’s bat returned, as his September OPS of .872 was his second best month of the season. Finally, for a guy who’d tried the conversion to second in the minors once before and had failed, his fielding was a pleasant surprise – just two errors in 27 starts.

Really, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Blake DeWitt, and that’s really odd for me. Maybe, however, we shouldn’t have been that surprised, because he was a first round draft pick, so it’s not as though he was a completely unknown commodity. It’s just that he’d shown so little of his talent in the minors, to the point where his huge increase in the bigs just floors you. I mean, his OBP was higher than that of James Loney, Jeff Kent, and Matt Kemp. For 2009, it remains to be seen if DeWitt will be a second baseman, third baseman, some combination of both, or if he’ll even get a shot at a starting job. But here at MSTI, you can consider us: Big Blake DeWitt Fans. Now let’s get rid of all those positive thoughts and move on to…

Casey Blake (B-)
(.251/.313/.460 10hr 23rbi)
You know what? I don’t even need to go back and find previous posts in which I said I hated the Casey Blake deal, because I have no problem with saying it again: I hated the Casey Blake deal from day one. Oh, it’s not so much that I didn’t like the idea of acquiring Blake, with DeWitt struggling, Nomar unreliable, and LaRoche apparently untrustworthy. It’s just that the price of catcher Carlos Santana and reliever Jonathan Meloan was so astronomically out of line with what Blake was worth – and his BA and OBP, by the way, were each lower than what Blake DeWitt put up over the course of a season in which he never should have been in the bigs in the first place and got demoted to AAA. Don’t forget, Santana got named MVP of the California League (and he’s a catcher!) after putting up a .994 OPS, and then proceeded to put up a 1.042 OPS with Cleveland’s affiliate after being traded. Meloan completely dominated the minors on his way to making his MLB debut at just 22 in 2007, before struggling a bit this year thanks to the ill-advised attempt to make him a starter. And for that? We got 211 at-bats of league-average (100 OPS+) performance from Casey Blake, although I do hear his charisma can be seen from space.

I keep trying to remind myself while writing this to not be unreasonably hard on Blake, because he didn’t make the trade (but you better believe this is coming up again in Ned Colletti’s review). So Blake gets a B-. He really deserves a C-, because we had a certain expectation for him when he came over from Cleveland, and he didn’t quite live up to it. After starting 2008 with a line that was more or less similar to the player he’d been in the last few years, he came over to the NL (the easier league, remember) and lost 48 points off his batting average and 52 points off his OBP, although he did keep a nice amount of pop. However, even that was still an improvement over how lousy DeWitt was playing and the dearth of other 3B options, so for providing some measure of stability – and for being the most interesting man in the world - we’ll bump him up a bit to a B-.

You know what? I can’t do it. Any time I think of Casey Blake, I think of how much I wish we still had Carlos Santana and Jonathan Meloan. Because it’s not like any team ever has need of a young slugging catcher and a fireballing reliever, do they? So long, Casey. Enjoy going back to Cleveland or whatever other outpost you end up in – just don’t come back to Los Angeles.

Andy LaRoche (inc.)
(.203/.319/.322 2hr 6rbi)
And thus ends the short, complicated Dodger career of Andy LaRoche. Unlike the other members of the highly-touted Dodger farm system, LaRoche was never able to turn his minor league potential into major league performance. But there’s no simple solution as to why; in 2007 he was kept down with a bad back, and when he did get a shot in LA, his performance was uneven (a .365 OBP is outstanding, but a .211 BA isn’t really getting the job done).

2008 looked to be the year he finally broke out; unfortunately, we know that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. First and foremost would be his inability to stay healthy, because after 2007′s back problems, his 2008 was dealt a huge blow with Danny Ardoin’s errant throw into his thumb on March 7. It’s almost impossible to imagine how much that one throw in a meaningless game changed the entire course of the franchise. If that never happens, then LaRoche is likely the Opening Day 3B. Which means: maybe we never see Blake DeWitt; maybe we never have to deal for Casey Blake; maybe LaRoche isn’t included in the deal for Manny and another young player like Andre Ethier is. You want chaos theory? Danny Ardoin might have been the most important player in the last ten years of Dodger history.

After injury, you’ve got lack of opportunity. It’s absolutely incredible how much LaRoche was jerked around by the Dodgers over the last two years, but especially in 2008. After his rehab stint at the end of April, LaRoche was optioned to AAA for over a month until June 10. At the time, DeWitt was still playing great, so no one was suggesting that LaRoche be handed the job back. But as you can see in any number of our posts at the time, there was no reason for LaRoche to be stuck in the minors. He had absolutely nothing to prove, and with the eternally useless Mark Sweeney taking up a roster spot in LA, it seemed more than reasonable to let Andy get a few starts a week between first and third base. It took just barely a week for me to make this post asking for more playing time:

Why isn’t Andy LaRoche playing more? He’s been back up for over a week now, and he’s gotten all of 8 plate appearances, in which he’s garnered a homer and two walks. I thought the entire point of recalling LaRoche after letting him get some time in at 1B and 2B in the minors was to be somewhat of a super-infielder – the righty yin to the lefty yang of Loney and DeWitt at the corners, and as a way to keep Luis Maza from playing whenever Kent needs a rest at second. But what have we gotten so far? One start at first base, one start at third base, and two pinch-hitting appearances.

And it never got any better, because nearly a month later (July 14) I was writing this for him in my first half review:

Seems like LaRoche is shaping up to be part of the next Dodgers holy war, following in the footsteps of Juan Pierre and Hee-Seop Choi. No, he hasn’t done much in the bigs. But the people who want to write him off are insane – he’s gotten just 44 at-bats this year. Look, he’s got nothing more to prove in the minors (career .895 OPS). The Dodgers need power. Blake DeWitt is slumping badly. So then why can’t LaRoche ever start more than two games in a row? Why has he been benched the day after hitting a home run both times? Some things, I’ll never understand.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he got sent back to the minors on July 27 in order to make room for… that’s right, Mark Sweeney, which is just indefensible, especially when you still had Pablo Ozuna and Angel Berroa sucking up roster spots. I will never know why it was that Andy LaRoche was never given any sort of decent shot as a Dodger, but for a player who had a track record such as he did, it really stands out as a glaring mistake for this team – especially since we yet again have no idea who’s going to be the third baseman next year.

And then he was gone. Yeah, it’s true, I did say before the fact that I didn’t want to see him get moved for Manny, but it’s hard to pretend that this wasn’t a worthwhile deal in retrospect. Really, it didn’t matter what LaRoche did in Pittsburgh with how Manny performed here, but in the first chance Andy’s had to play on an every-day basis in the bigs… he was absolutely terrible. Amid whispers about his work ethic, he put up a brutal .152/.227/.232 line with the Pirates and made 9 errors in just 45 games. So I can’t absolve Andy of all blame here, because in 316 career at-bats he’s hitting just .188, and at some point you have to stop coasting on that minor league record and start producing. I just know that if and when he does, I’ll be a little sad that it’s not going to be happening in Dodger blue.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

So… I Didn’t Miss Much, Right?

After three weeks on the road, I’m back in town. But at least it was a quiet three weeks. Wasn’t it?

Oh. Right.

Time for a quick recap, and I’ll be upfront in saying, this is going to be as much for me to catch up as it is for you.

* I was strongly against the Casey Blake trade. “But MSTI,” you say. “Blake’s hitting .364/.400/.576 since coming to LA and has really solidified third base.” First of all, quiet you. Blake has been really good, and a massive improvement over the other Blake (DeWitt), who had clearly hit that wall and needed to be replaced. Since it was pretty clear the club was never going to give Andy LaRoche a real shot, an upgrade was needed. The problem I had at the time – and still do – is that I think Colletti once again overpaid to get a slight veteran upgrade. The case can be made that just letting LaRoche play every day may have gotten you as much production as could be expected from Blake, so giving up a pitching prospect who dominated the minors until he was forced into a new role this year and a young catcher who’s absolutely obliterating his league seemed a bit much. I was never against getting Blake; just against trading so much for him. As I said at the time,

Look, I don’t really mind getting Casey Blake. He’s a useful guy. I just think that what Colletti gave up to acquire him is mind-blowingly out of proportion.

* Juan Pierre won’t stop whining. Vin did a great job of covering this a few days ago (dig that sad picture!), but I can’t help but chime in as well. Two things immediately jumped to my mind when I read the original article:

1) Juan, you didn’t even get benched. Andre Ethier did. Despite outperforming you in nearly every single fashion. We’re supposed to feel sorry for you that you have to go back to playing center, as you suggest in your quotes? Did the 72 games you played in left this year really make you forget how to play center after the 1167 times you’ve played center in your career? There’s five outfielders on this team, and it’s pretty obvious to everyone except for Joe Torre that you are the fourth best. Yet you keep a starting job anyway. What could you possibly have to compain about?

2) The line where he says, “All I’ve ever done is be Juan Pierre when I wear this jersey” completely kills me. Although I had the absolute same thoughts as below when I read the original aricle on the road, I can’t take credit because Jon at DodgerThoughts was the first to say what we all must have been thinking:

…even if we were to evaluate him only against the world of Juan Pierres (as he seems to prefer), he has disappointed. His current OPS+ (68), on-base percentage (.324) and slugging percentage (.316) are all career lows.

As much as I don’t like any version of Juan Pierre, I particularly don’t like the one who’s having the worst season of his already mediocre career.

It’s time to shut up and play, Juan.

* Apparently we traded for another outfielder? I don’t know, some guy with dreadlocks who’s wearing #99 now – and yes, it still seems really really weird to see him in Dodger blue. I’m still getting “Johnny Unitas in Charger blue” vibes when I see it, although I suppose Manny still has a lot more to offer on the field than Unitas did. I’ve already been called out on this quote from 2 days before the trade:

Don’t trade Kemp for him. Don’t trade LaRoche for him. But if you can do it with Ethier as the centerpiece? So long, Andre. Hello, playoffs.

Okay. I may have said that. And I stand by the part where I said “don’t trade Kemp for him”, because even if Manny homered every day for the rest of the year, I’d still rather the next 10 years of Matt Kemp. But there was one thing I hadn’t taken into consideration when I said “don’t trade LaRoche”, and that’s the fact that he was never, ever, going to get a shot to be the starter here. For what reasons that may be, I can’t say. But he didn’t get a shot when DeWitt was awful for two months, and he didn’t get a shot before they traded for Casey Blake. If he wasn’t going to get to play here, then he might as well be turned into something of value, and with the way Manny’s started off, I’d say there’s definitely some value going on. I just worry about what’s going to happen at third base next year and beyond with LaRoche gone and DeWitt hardly a proven commodity.

Best of luck in Pittsburgh, Andy. I expect we’ll be seeing you rocking the black and gold in an All-Star Game or three, and I just hope that we’ll be too blinded by the glow from the 2008 Manny-fueled World Series ring to care.

As for Manny.. what can you say? Vin spoke about him here, and my only disappointment is that I haven’t been able to catch a live (you know, “TV live”) at-bat by him yet. That will change tonight though, and yeah, I’m pretty excited about it.

* The NL West is worse than you think it is. Remember how many times we’ve said some variation of “this team isn’t doing that well, but since the division is so lousy they’re still in it?” Well, Deadspin passes along this reality shock:

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s John Shea has provided an intervention, making me face the stark reality: As of today, the 2008 NL West is the worst division in baseball history. Yes, worse even than the ’94 AL West, which technically doesn’t count because of the strike-shortened season.

* And one more thing about Manny…
Manny Ramirez: 13 at-bats, 2 home runs
J.Pierre/A.Jones: 506 at-bats, 2 home runs

Yes, please.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Because We Haven’t Talked About Manny Enough…

O.K., so, first things first.  A friend of mine, who has a partial season ticket package, happened to invite me to a game a few months ago, as a get together, and the one that I picked just happened to be on August 1st.  It was picked by me in a totally random fashion.

Damn… I’m good, aren’t I?

So I head to the stadium and, let me tell you, the place was completely rocking and it was as loud as I’ve ever seen it.  In some ways, the game ALMOST became secondary, as everyone just wanted to see Manny.  If he moved, he would get loudly applauded and, when he finally did come up to the plate, he got an awesome ovation, with fans chanting “MAN-NY, MAN-NY!”  All of this was common the whole night.  Of course, so were the annoying idiots who were more interested in tossing beach balls around and, thus, should be devoured by Andruw Jones, but I digress…

Sadly, Manny couldn’t finish it off with a story book ending in the 9th and, sadly, like Rob at 6-4-2, I also called the double play.  It’s just so Dodger-like for that to happen and, alas, it did.

So, I promised you a trade analysis, didn’t I?

You see, I intentionally held off posting a reaction, mainly because I knew the giddiness of the fact that Manny freaking Ramirez is a freaking Dodger would get the best of me.  It still has, but I should be good.

So, after taking almost 48 hours to digest all of this, let’s break down the trade, shall we?

When I posted my analysis on the Casey Blake trade, I began it by posting the good and mainly using it to say that, while I objected strongly to the trade (and still do), Blake is still a good player.  Now, it seems almost silly to do this with Manny Ramirez.  Is it even necessary to post statistics in this case?  You know who he is, you know he’s a first ballot Hall Of Famer, one of the greatest hitters of his generation, key component in Boston’s last two World Series titles, one time World Series MVP, and, now, a Dodger.

He’s Manny freaking Ramirez.

Granted, he’s no longer the Manny from 1999-2006; that Manny is gone.  He is a hitter that is in the beginning of his decline, but he is such a good hitter that even Manny 2008 is hitting .301/.399/.528, with 20 HR’s, and a 140 OPS+ to still make him one of the very best hitters in the game.  Those numbers in the middle of the lineup will give the Dodgers something they have rarely had and haven’t had since Adrian Beltre in 2004: a feared power hitter.  Putting him in the middle of the order will certainly be a great boost to the lineup and that I cannot complain about at all.

In fact, there’s a lot to like with this deal.  For starters, even if Manny is declining, he’s likely only going to be here until the end of the season, so that wipes out.  Also, even if Manny decides to turn back into the douchebag he became during the final two weeks in Boston, again, we won’t have to deal with him come hopefully late, late October.  But I doubt that will happen.  Manny is looking for one last big contract and, after the way things ended in Boston, he needs to repair his image a little bit.  So expect to see fun Manny… happy Manny.  Also, what’s great about it is that, outside of what’s reported to be a $1 million relocation fee, Manny costs us nothing in terms of cash, as Boston was able to pay the remaining $7 million of Manny’s contract and, by the Dodgers voiding the final two option years left in his contract, chances are, they will get two draft picks after he leaves.

So, really… awesome.

But, of course, there are downsides.

The downside, of course, is losing Andy LaRoche, and this really should be emphasized.  While we should be thrilled that Matt Kemp is still in a Dodgers uniform, I think, because of that, it’s been interesting to read how some people feel the Dodgers gave up “nobody” to get Manny.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Dodgers traded away arguably their best hitting prospect and someone who has been a stud third baseman throughout his entire minor league career.  Instead of rehashing the stats, I’ll reference you to an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago, arguing why LaRoche should start. The truth is, Andy LaRoche got what I hereby call the L.A. Screw Job.  The way that our upper management and our manager screwed him around was shameful.  This season, he never had an opportunity and the most games he started consecutively were four, and that didn’t come until a month and a half after he was called up or, to put it another way, a week before he was traded.  The Dodgers threw every road block at him that they could and, for some reason, didn’t want him to start.  Perhaps this was due to lingering injury concerns or other factors, that we don’t know, but they should have treated him much better than they did.  Maybe that was one of the downsides to Blake DeWitt’s hot start, now that I think about it.  That fluky first month and a half caused Torre to fall in love so much with DeWitt that it seemed to give them even more reason to make LaRoche expandable.

In any event, because of the fact that Andy had no future here, he was likely to be traded, anyways.  And if you had to trade him for one player, you can’t argue it being Manny Ramirez.  Granted, it’s a shame that we almost have to excuse front office incompetency and stupidity as a reason to trade him, but that’s the situation.  Admittedly, my knowledge of Bryan Morris, the other guy included in the deal, is low, other than I know he was classified as a very good prospect, although coming off of Tommy John surgery and seemed to be low on the depth chart.

Although I hate losing LaRoche, even I have to say, and these are words I thought I’d never say, but: Ned didn’t get hosed.  At all.  This trade, in a vacuum, is great and does deserve some A ranking and is arguably Ned’s best deal (not that there’s much to compare to, granted…).  Losing LaRoche stings, but if he was the centerpiece for Manny, I can live with it, especially with the circumstances.  I suppose it’s a move the Dodgers had to make.  Of course, we can thank Manny’s douchebaggery the past couple of weeks for why that was the package.  However, for as nice as the deal seems to be, judging the trade’s success isn’t as simple as that, though.

This deal’s success is contingent on two factors:

1.  How far we make it in the playoffs:

No question, this move, along with the Casey Blake trade, was a blatant “go for it now” type of deal.  Therefore, considering the chances of Manny being a Dodger next year are about .0000001%, the Dodgers have to, at the very least, go deep into the postseason.  If we get swept in the NLDS, yet again, or, even worse, we miss the playoffs altogether, then this trade is a complete disaster, especially for the future, as you’ll now have to fill the spot in LF, as well as 2B, SS, and 3B, with Kent retiring, and Furcal and Blake likely gone. And it proceeds to become even MORE of a disaster if LaRoche goes on to become a successful third baseman.

But with keeping just 2008 in mind, by adding Manny Ramirez, we obviously become an improved team, this season.  Even with that said, though, the ultimate question is, of course, how much? If you play the obvious setup of Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier, then this team improves their chances a bit and do become the favorites to win the NL West.  Still, not by a lopsided margin, mind you, but they do become the favorites.  However, if you’re going to start either Pierre or Jones, then all you’ve done is just rearrange the chairs of the Titanic and, in the process, traded your best hitting prospect (LaRoche, along with pitcher Morris) and two quality prospects (Santana, Meloan in the Blake deal) for absolutely nothing and, thus, hurt your chances for 2009 and beyond.  Again, disastrous.

Finally, since this trade was made for the present, it also heavily relies on the following:

2.  Joe Torre not fucking it up.

For as much as we get on old, crusty, way overpaid veterans who are past their prime, I think we always forget to put our manager near or at the top of this list.  Let’s face it, he’s been disastrous as a manager this year and he’s rarely shown a penchant for doing the right thing.  Which brings us to the outfield situation:

We’ve beaten the outfield situation to death probably since this blog’s inception, but, with the addition of Manny, now we have 527 outfielders.  In order for this trade to work to its best possible success, then the Dodgers HAVE to go with an outfield of Ramirez/Kemp/Ethier. There is no alternative.  It would be completely pointless to start Jones because the whole point of getting Manny was to replace him.  Sure, if by divine intervention Jones found his stroke again, I think all Dodgers’ fans would cream themselves at the possibility of how our lineup would stack.  But it’s not happening.  It’s criminal that they’ve stuck with him this long.  Bench him, DFA him, pay him $25 million to retire… I don’t care, get him out of there.

Secondly, you can’t go with the outfield of Ramirez/Pierre/Kemp.  Besides the fact that Pierre, well, sucks at the plate, it would be utterly comical to put him back in center field with Manny in left. The Dodgers already took him out of CF once… to put him back there would be beyond idiotic and if you thought Chris Burke’s triple last night was an aberration, wait until you see even more runners running on our outfield.

The point is… starting both Pierre and Jones mitigates the deal, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint.

This should be so obvious to see, right?

The sad, and yet highly predictable, part is, the Dodgers are opting for the latter.  Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe wrote yesterday how Theo Epstein originally wanted Ethier, and centered the deal on him, but Colletti and McCourt refused to give him up.  Sounds good, right?  I mean, if you refused to deal him then that means he should likely start… right?  Well, Joe Torre, last night

Dodgers manager Joe Torre on Friday laid out which two outfielders will get the shortest end of the Manny Ramirez acquisition: Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones. Torre said Ramirez will be the starting left fielder, Matt Kemp the starting right fielder and Juan Pierre will see most of the playing time in center field.

It gets better…

Pierre’s ability to lead off seems to be the main reason for Torre’s decision.

“To me, Juan certainly deserves the right to play,” Torre said. “At this point in time, his experience, his consistency, the way he goes about his business. When [Rafael] Furcal went down, he’s meant so much to the club. He brings another dimension, his basestealing ability. He gives a professional at-bat on a regular basis. He’s done it [leading off] longer than Matt. He’s willing to take pitches.

“Manny hasn’t played right field in a long time and we’re not going to push that. That being the case, I think we’ll look at Juan in center field.”

What else can you say, really?

Joe Torre has just completely lost his mind, at this point.  How does experience, going about their business and playing longer make up for utter crapulence?  If professional at-bats only land you a .327 OBP, which I’d imagine is one of the very few things consistent about Pierre, then screw professional at-bats and give me Matt Kemp’s “unprofessional at-bats” that have netted him a 19 game hitting streak and a .402 OBP in the leadoff spot.  Why should how many years in the league matter?  Kemp is the BETTER MLB player in 2008.  How hard is that to get through Torre’s thick head?!  By his logic, why not bring back RIckey Henderson?  He’s been doing it even longer than Pierre and looked quite limber in today’s Old Timers Game! Hell, even 44 year old Rickey Henderson in his stint with us had a better OPS+ than Pierre.

And now Andre Ethier continues to be the recipient of another L.A. Screw Job.  If his role is going to be on the bench, why not send him to Pittsburgh in the originally proposed deal, instead of LaRoche?  What’s the point of keeping him if you’re just going to dick him around like LaRoche?  Ethier has gotten screwed on epic levels.  First, he’s told that he’d be given the chance to earn the LF job outright in Spring Training, to which he outhits nearly the entire NL to do it.  Then, once Furcal goes down, his playing time gets cut because we need some pointless “speed” at the top of the order.  Once God finally came in and said: “Enough is enough!” and sent Dodgers’ July MVP, Erick Aybar, to sit on Pierre’s knee, Ethier goes on to become the second leading HR hitter on a team that BADLY needs offense and, in particular, power.

Yet once the little virus comes back, Ethier gets benched again for a man who hit his last HR in what seems like before the fucking Nuremburg Trials, and also gets benched for a guy who is in the midst of the worst offensive season in HISTORY.

And yet he’s asked to show patience.

THEN you get Manny Ramirez who, while one of the greatest hitters ever, is way below average defensively.  So, how do you fix this?  Do you put the very capable Matt Kemp in center field?  No… you put Pierre, who is less competent in center field than a one armed, one legged amputee, BACK there and then stick him back in the leadoff spot for utterly deranged reasons.

Good God, Randle P. McMurphy after his lobotomy had more brain power than this.

You see, folks, this is why I really hate Joe Torre.  The Dodgers could not have chosen a worse manager.  He is completely inept, his veteran love runs even deeper than Grady Little, and he’s about ready to screw up the greatest deadline acquisition in franchise history.  Because of Juan fucking Pierre.

This is why more than a few Dodgers fans literally have to sometimes hope for Juan Pierre to get injured in order for “roster justice” to be served.  Nothing against the guy personally, but when your management is such a freaking joke, what else can you hope for?  And to be clear, no, I don’t hope for a career threatening injury.  Maybe just a really, really, ripping case of anal fissure or something. I don’t know, I don’t care… as long as he’s not starting over the players who give the team the best chance to win.

So my overall assessment?  Great to have you, Manny, you’re going to be awesome and I’m going to get a real kick out of watching you hit.  And with the right outfield, this team as a whole definitely improves.  Pity your brain dead manager will do everything he can to mitigate that.

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg