MSTI.com’s 2008 In Review: Shortstop

Ahh, shortstop. Or as we like to think of it in 2008, “the Valley of the Damned.”

Angel Berroa (D+)
(.230/.304/.310 1hr 16rbi)

I have to say, I never expected to be reviewing Angel Berroa as the shortstop who got the most at-bats for the Dodgers this season. To be honest, I think this grade might be the one that differs the most from the mainstream perception. How many times did we have to read stories saying how great Berroa was in stepping in for Rafael Furcal? In particular, there was the heart attack I nearly had in August when Joe Torre started spouting insanity like “I tried to reason who was going to give me the better at-bat – Berroa or Loney.”

On the other hand, you’ve got me, who thought acquiring him was a terrible idea in the first place, laughed when he went his first 21 games without an RBI, and campaigned in August to give Chin-Lung Hu another shot.

Look, I’m not blind to the circumstances that caused Berroa to get such playing time in the first place, and sure, I enjoyed his decent hot streak where he hit .333 in 20 games between 8/24 and 9/17. I just don’t understand why so many people considered him to be, well, good. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who was so bad that even though the Royals signed him to a 4-year contract and had indisputably the worst shortstop in baseball (Tony Pena), they still wouldn’t let Berroa out of Triple-A. Despite that track record, he still underperformed in 2008 – his BA and SLG was far under his career averages, and while his OBP was almost identical to his career number, at .304 that’s hardly anything to be proud of. Putting up a 62 OPS+ when the career average that got you demoted was 77 is hardly a good thing, nor is the fact that of the 42 shortstops who had at least 200 plate appearances, Berroa’s VORP was 35th, at -3.7. That’s right, negative.

“But MSTI,” you might say. “Everyone knows he can’t hit. At least he was a good fielder, and that’s what was most important.” Which is all well and good, except that it’s not particularly true. Baseball Prospectus has his FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) at 0, which makes him exactly average. I suppose that’s a nice step up from his career -44 number in that regard, but it’s certainly not the sublime level with the glove that Chin-Lung Hu offers, which is basically what I was saying in August when I wanted to replace Berroa with Hu.

Really, there’s a reason that Berroa gets a D+ and not a straight F, and that’s because we all knew he was a terrible player as soon as he was acquired, so it’s hard to act surprised when he was terrible and somehow underperformed his already lousy career marks. If anything, it’s the media that deserves the F for trying to fool people into believing that Berroa was a useful player. His 2009 option was declined, but that doesn’t neccessarily mean the end of Berroa in LA – it just means that he’s clearly not worth $5.5 million. Let’s hope the front office realizes he’s not worth a roster spot, either.
Rafael Furcal (I take the 5th)
(.357/.439/.573 5hr 16rbi)
Well, I don’t even know where to start with this one. After the worst season of his career in 2007 (thanks, Jason Repko!), Furcal got off to an absolutely blazing hot start. Just how good was he over the first month? Remember, VORP is a counting stat, and despite playing in just 36 games, Furcal still was the 14th-best shortstop – beating out guys like Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera, who played full seasons. I don’t need to tell you what happened after that, with his back injury keeping him out for nearly five solid months, and nearly taking the Dodger season along with it.

But you know what the worst part was? The uncertainty. It’s one thing when you see a guy blow out his knee or break his arm, because you know right then and there he’s out for quite a while. You mourn the loss, but you move on and start making plans to get by. However, with Furcal, at first he was just kept out as a “precaution”; then it was “he’ll be back this weekend”, and then “in a week”; and then the next thing you know we’ve been watching Berroa, Nomar, and Hu suck the life out of shortstop until practically October. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that of everything that didn’t go right for the 2008 Dodgers, this one stung the most – even more than Andruw Jones’ epic chokejob.

It really makes you wonder what a Dodger offense with a healthy Furcal and a happy Manny could have looked like, right? I’m still holding out hope that we’ll see that in 2009, but it sounds like we’ll at least get Furcal back, since interest in his return is mutual. Hey, maybe we’ll get one benefit out of Furcal’s injury and it’ll drive his price down a little.

Nomar Garciaparra (D)
(.264/.326/.466 8hr 28rbi)
Man, and I thought Jeff Kent’s 2008 was eventful. Remember, at the beginning of camp, the biggest question was, “who’s going to win the third base job – Nomar or Andy LaRoche?” Well, that lasted as long as March 7, when both Nomar and LaRoche got hurt in the same spring game, with Nomar suffering a microfracture of his right wrist.

So okay, Nomar’s season debut is delayed until April 16th (injury #1), at which time he reclaimed the starting 3B job from Blake DeWitt…
…which Nomar kept for all of 9 days before injuring himself again. But hey, at least during those 9 days he hit .226 and asked Chip Caray if he could shake left-handed because that’s how much his right hand hurt! On April 26th, Nomar popped his calf (injury #2) and missed over two months. Okay, so far: nothing crazy, because Nomar gets hurt all the time.

But this time, Nomar returns on July 4th….as the starting shortstop! Which is doubly hilarious when you remember that half the reason a red-hot James Loney couldn’t get out of AAA in 2007 is that first baseman Nomar was deemed too fragile to move across the diamond and replace Wilson Betemit at third base. This time Nomar lasts all of 18 games before injuring his knee on July 27th (injury #3). He returned on August 12th and regained his starting SS job for the next few weeks until August 29th (hitting .167 over that time) before being benched for Angel Berroa’s one sign of life. He miraculously made it all the way until September 27th before…

injuring his knee again (injury #4), though this one didn’t land him on the DL, thanks to expanded rosters. Finally, other than one start at 1B against Jamie Moyer in the NLCS, he was last seen riding the bench for all of the playoffs and striking out feebly to end games. In the rare moments Nomar was actually able to play this year, he wasn’t completely terrible: a 105 ERA+ is actually slightly above average, and his .466 SLG was higher than anyone except for Manny, Ethier and Furcal. He did also mash lefties (1.067 OPS), although I’m hesistant to call that a repeatable skill because in 2007, he was actually markedly worse against lefties than righties.

I don’t like to blame Nomar for all the injuries, but he gets the grade he does simply because he wasn’t there when we needed him to be. We needed him to hold down third base at the beginning of the year with LaRoche hurt, and his absence contributed to the Dodgers having to turn to Blake DeWitt (and remember, DeWitt’s success doesn’t make it right – there were plenty of us who thought he was going to put up Jonesian numbers). We needed him to take over from DeWitt when the league started to catch up, and Nomar couldn’t answer the call. We needed him to prevent having to play Berroa at shortstop every day, and he was unable.

As for the future? Well, Nomar hasn’t decided if he’s retiring or not. But if he chooses to return, I can’t imagine there’s a whole lot of other teams clamoring for his services; conversely, I would think he wouldn’t want to leave his young family and his hometown. If he’s willing to play on a one-year deal at a markedly reduced salary, with the understanding that he’s the backup at 1st and 3rd (i.e., the new Big Sexy), I would find that acceptable – if only so I can keep using that picture!
Chin-Lung Hu (F)
(.181/.252/.233 0hr 9rbi)

This, I must say, is one review I’ve really not been looking forward to, because I had such high hopes for Hu entering the season, and he couldn’t possibly have failed more miserably. Just to show I’m not above bashing myself, this is what I said in last year’s season reviews after Hu had a breakout 2007 in the minors, which won him the Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year award:

So now in the space of one season, Hu has gone from “great glove/might not hit enough to stick” to “great glove/may be one of the better hitting SS around”. So much so that I wouldn’t mind seeing Furcal get dealt for something good and letting Hu get a crack at SS.

Hold on a second, it’s hard to type with all that egg on my face. There we go. After starting the season as Jeff Kent’s caddy at second base, Hu got the first crack at the shortstop job when Rafael Furcal was lost in early May… and it’s hard to overstate just how badly he fared. At the time of his first start at SS on May 6th, Hu was hitting .229/.325/.229 in mostly part-time duty. 76 at-bats later, he’d nabbed just 10 hits and was at .159/.224/.206 when he was sent down on June 7th. Really, if Hu had been able to just be decent, we might have been able to avoid the Angel Berroa era entirely. On the plus side, his glove was as good as advertised – in 75 career games, he’s made just 2 errors.

Hu’s brutal 2008 clearly torpedoed any chance of him getting the starting gig in 2009, but I’m not ready to give up on him yet, and there’s two reasons why (besides for his fantastic defense):

1) Hu’s lousy hitting might be traced back to vision problems. In last season’s review, I noted that Hu had a terrible offensive 2006, was diagnosed with an eye issue, and had a monster 2007. In August of this year when I campaigned for his return, we’d heard that the exact same thing had happened this season:

Hu hit the minor league DL with vision problems soon after he got there, and since getting that taken care of has been killing the ball, putting up a .361/.400/.475 line. There’s precedent for this with him, too; after struggling through 2006 (.660 OPS) problems with his vision were first made public, and after getting his eyes healthy in the offseason, he busted out with an .871 OPS in 2007.

Now I know it’s a small sample size, but in eleven plate appearances after his recall to LA in September, he reached base six times. I don’t know what keeps going on with his eyes, and obviously if he can’t get this taken care of more permanently it’s going to seriously impact his career, but it really seems that there’s a clear cause-and-effect relationship here, now that it’s happened twice. If he can get this fixed, he might be able to return to his 2007 form. Besides, while no one expected him to OPS .871 in the majors this year, I have a hard time believing that the same guy who did that in the minors in 2007 could only put up a .485 mark in 2008 unless there’s some other issue involved.

2) He’s only had 145 career at-bats, and is still just 24. I hope that Hu’s absurdly poor showing at the plate hasn’t completely poisoned him to the average Dodger fan, but 145 at-bats is hardly enough time to give up on a player who could be a rare blend of excellent defense and productive offense. That said, his lousy 2008 has almost forced the Dodgers to try and retain Furcal, but it remains to be seen what that deal will be. If it’s only a one or two year deal, then maybe Hu gets a chance to regain his prospect standing in AAA or on the LA bench until Furcal is gone. But if it’s longer than that, Hu probably will have to get his shot elsewhere, and personally I don’t wish to see that – regardless of my including him in a trade in my offseason plan.

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

Getting Started on Step 14 Already!

Per Rotoworld:

Dodgers declined infielder Angel Berroa’s $5.5 million option for 2009.

We’re not sure whether this was more or a less of a no-brainer than the option the Cards have on Mark Mulder or the one the Braves have on Mike Hampton, but it was definitely an easy call. Berroa hit .230/.304/.310 in 226 at-bats for the Dodgers, and if anything, he actually exceeded expecations in the process. He’ll be lucky to land a utility role coming out of spring training.

Clearly, there was no hope of the Dodgers picking this one up (and it’s actually the Royals who were on the hook for paying the $500k buyout). Honestly, I was really surprised at all the praise Berroa recieved this season. I will admit that he did have a hot streak (.333/.405/.470 in 20 games between 8/24 and 9/17) but that doesn’t change the fact that at no point this season was his OPS over .649. Remember, .649 was the pinnacle of his year… and even that would only be good for 144th in MLB, behind Jason Kendall. I never did understand why Chin-Lung Hu couldn’t get another shot, because if we’re going to have a shortstop who can’t hit, might as well have a fantastic glove there. Now that I think about it, we’re doing season reviews this week. Chances of me copying most of what I just wrote for Berroa’s segment: excellent. So long, Angel!

Also, under the category of “totally amazing things I wish I’d seen first”, be sure to check out the Onion’s breakdown of Manny over at Sons of Steve Garvey. I like the part about “going to deliver a pretty hilarious Hall of Fame induction speech.” I’ve always thought that absolutely nothing is going to be able to top Rickey Henderson’s speech (I’ve still got my fingers cross that instead of choosing a favored coach or close teammate to introduce him, he’ll choose Rickey Henderson), but Manny’s is going to be pretty classic.

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

Enjoy the Off Day

Because on Friday, if my calculations are correct – you’re going to see some serious shit.

We’ll look ahead at the big series against Arizona on Friday, but for now, let’s bask in the warm glowing warmth of a three-game sweep against Adrian Gonzalez, Jake Peavy, and 23 other guys who snuck into the clubhouse to steal San Diego uniforms. Just 1.5 games out of the lead, folks.

* Do we really have to stop making fun of Angel Berroa? Just as Nomar went into a 3-28 death spiral, Berroa took advantage and stepped up. In 10 games (8 starts) over the last two weeks, Berroa’s put up a .345/.424/.517 line. That’s… and I can’t believe I’m even saying this… good. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way on the bandwagon. He’s still got a 61 OPS+ on the season. But hey, credit where credit is due. Even better, he’s been entertaining. First you’ve got the grounder getting lost in his shirt on Tuesday night, and then last night you’ve got a fantastic post-game interview where he has Manny be his translator and, well, watch for yourself. (Hat-tip to LarryBrownSports for the video).

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--0Pt4qt80A]

That’s right, Manny’s serving as Berroa’s translator… until Berroa blows the whole charade by speaking English.

* Speaking of Manny, he won the National League Most Valuable Player award for the month of August, thanks to his completely insane line of .415/.508/.736. That’s a 1.244 OPS, folks. It’s too bad he’s been slacking so far in the first few games of September by only posting a 1.131 OPS. Shape up, Manny!

* Another trade rumor regarding the depleted middle infield: Via MLBtraderumors, we see that Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times has a mention of the Dodgers’ interest in Tadahito Iguchi. No, really, that’s basically all the information he has:

The Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies have expressed interest in second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, according to his agent, Rocky Hall. Iguchi was released by the San Diego Padres this week.

Since September 1st has passed, Iguchi wouldn’t even be elgible for the playoffs should that become a consideration, but I still say: pass. He was pretty terrible in San Diego this year (64 OPS+) before being cut, and Blake DeWitt’s starting to show signs of life with two homers in the last few days. Plus, you’ve still got Chin-Lung Hu sitting on the bench and all indications are that Jeff Kent will be back in another two weeks or so. I don’t see the need here.

* If you’re a regular reader, you know how much we love the guys at FireJoeMorgan around here, especially when we’re completely ripping them off to bag on guys like Ken Rosenthal and Tracy Ringolsby. But you’ll also have noticed that we very rarely do that to T.J. Simers, because it’s well-known that he’s a total clown – and a clown who’s not even all that funny, at that. So when Simers came up with this “Ned Colletti is baseball’s best GM” piece, I barely even gave it a second look, because it seemed so obvious that it was just a (completely unfunny) way to take backhanded swipes at Colletti. But it seems that FJM took it seriously (although they admittedly mention more than once that they’re unsure, but they did go through with it in the end). T.J. Simers should never be taken seriously. If I were in a room with him and he yelled “fire!” I’d ask him what his real ulterior motive was before I took a step.

* Finally, this is neither here nor there, but I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read it on Baseball Prospectus:

Left-hander Mark Hendrickson won’t be back with the Marlins next season, but he has significantly increased his free-agent stock by showing he can pitch effectively out of the bullpen since being dropped from the rotation.

Hmm… this sounds familiar somehow. Yet, I can’t place it. Oh! That’s right. It’s because I said the exact same thing on December 15th of last year:

Yet I still want to pay Mark Hendrickson millions to be an employee of the Los Angeles Dodgers. You know why? Because even though he’s a terrible, terrible starting pitcher… he’s a surprisingly effective relief pitcher.

As long as we never, ever, even in case of emergency, allow him to start again, that’s a lot of value there. He seems like a fantastic long reliever, who can give you 2-3 effective innings when your starter can’t make it past 5, and behind a pen that’s so fantastic in the late innings with Saito/Broxton/Beimel, that’s a pretty nice chip to have.

But that’s not even the most entertaining thing from the BP article, and to be fair, this is from an unnamed major league scout, not from the BP staff:

Dodgers outfielder Juan Pierre: “I know he doesn’t draw walks and he’s a low on-base percentage guy, but he is an energy guy. I just think the Dodgers miss him not being on the field. They lack that spark he provides.”

Priority number one of the offseason: find out what club this guy scouts for! Sounds like a good trading partner to me.

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

Let’s Not Get Swept on National TV, Okay?

Since the less said about the Dodgers at the moment the better, there’s definitely a few things of note to mention from last night’s Las Vegas game (thanks to Torgy for pointing most of this out).

* Andruw Jones… played first base? Jones has played in 1835 games in the majors, 325 in the minors, and this is the first time he’s ever played the infield. Now, he had missed the previous four games with a sore knee, so this very well may have been a way to get him some at-bats without asking him to run in the outfield in a non-DH game. But who knows. Maybe with the outfield logjam, they might be interested in getting him some time as a right-handed option to James Loney at first base in September? That would be a sight to see. How weird does that picture to the right look, too?

* Why again did Tanyon Sturtze stick while Eric Stults went down? We questioned this at the time, and Stults was very good last night for Vegas in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, allowing just 2 hits and a single run over 6 innings, striking out 6. Stults is never going to be an All-Star, but he’s proven he belongs in the big leagues, especially with that complete game shutout of the White Sox. Besides, when you’ve got innings-limited guys like Kershaw and Maddux back-to-back in your rotation, wouldn’t you prefer having a guy who can go multiple innings like Stults rather than someone who’s basically useless in Sturtze – not to mention how annoying it is for poor bloggers to keep the names straight?

* It’s probably time to give up on Greg Miller, right? If you’re unfamiliar with Miller’s story, he was basically Clayton Kershaw before Clayton Kershaw was. He made it to AA in 2003 as an 18 year old, and was completely dominating in his 4 starts, putting up a 40/7 K/BB ratio. In Double A. At 18. He blew out his arm soon after that and hasn’t been the same since (a more indepth profile can be found over at FireNedCollettiNow from a few days ago). Anyway, after one of the weirdest lines you’ll ever see last night (in one inning, he didn’t give up a hit – yet allowed 4 runs thanks to 3 walks and some lousy defense), he’s now up to a 7.21 ERA and is walking more than a man per inning. I hate to give up on a guy who’s only 23, but with control like that, he’s barely an AAA pitcher right now, and he’s using up a valuable 40-man spot. This is definitely a situation that will need to be reviewed in the offseason.

Speaking of the 40 man roster, Tony Jackson discusses who might be called up when rosters expand on September 1st:

With apparently none of the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliates looking like they’ll be playoff bound, the team’s September callups should start arriving on Sept. 2, the second day of the upcoming homestand. It looks like A.J. Ellis will be coming up from Vegas to be the third catcher. He is hitting .309 this year, so he’ll edge out Lucas May, who is hitting .228 at Jacksonville, even though May is on the 40-man roster and Ellis isn’t. Although I have long been under the impression that James McDonald was a lock for a callup, that apparently is still being discussed and is far from assured. But it looks like Ellis will be the only guy not presently on the roster who will be called up. Dodgers don’t have a lot of flexibility. The 40-man is full, and there aren’t a lot of guys on it whom you can look at and say, “He’s expendable.”

When you’ve still got guys like Sturtze and Mark Sweeney on the roster, I don’t think it’s that hard to find guys to dump, but Jackson isn’t wrong about the tight roster situation, especially with all of the guys on the DL. But just to get Ellis on the 40-man, here’s an idea. You figure that Chin-Lung Hu or Blake DeWitt or both will likely be called up to add infield depth (DeWitt’s been playing mostly 2B in the minors lately), plus you hope to get back Rafael Furcal at some point. Once you get Hu and DeWitt up, there’s absolutely no need for both Angel Berroa and Pablo Ozuna, not that there’s really much of a need for either one right now. Hell, bring up both Hu and DeWitt, and DFA both Berroa and Ozuna. You keep the same amount of bodies in the middle infield, you immeasurably improve your infield defense, hopefully improve the offense too, and free up two roster spots on the 40-man. Makes sense, right?

Finally, I hate to get nit-picky and point out mistakes for the sake of it, but come on, Bill Shaikin:

Blake, who turned 35 Saturday, has stabilized third base for the Dodgers and said he had not ruled out returning to Los Angeles. When the Indians traded him, he said, they told him they hoped to offer him a contract this winter, to return to what was the only major league club he had known.

“The only major league club he had known”? I knew off the top of my head that Blake came up with Toronto and also saw some time in Minnesota; upon looking it up, I found that he played in Baltimore too. It may have been only 112 at-bats over 4 seasons, but still, you’re the Los Angeles Times. Do a little research, would you? He’d played for three other MLB clubs, so that makes you look pretty bad.

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

This Quote Makes My Brain Want to Eat Itself

Ah, Joe. I was actually just about to write a post saying how much your decision-making has improved lately. You’ve benched Juan Pierre for Andre Ethier; you’ve let Matt Kemp continue to be your leadoff man. Sure, I suppose any manager will look good when you replace Pierre, DeWitt, and Berroa with Manny, Blake, and Nomar, but even so, other than some questionable bullpen choices, things have been looking up lately. And then you have to go and say this to Diamond Leung of the Riverside P-E:

In order to load the lineup with more right-handed hitters while preserving Nomar Garciaparra, Joe Torre said he would look to get Garciaparra some playing time at first base in place of James Loney. Torre said he nearly did it last night with left-handed Manny Parra on the mound before deciding against it. “I tried to reason who was going to give me the better at-bat – Berroa or Loney,” Torre said. Loney could get some days off against tough lefties in the future. “Loney’s so unpredictable,” said Torre, who could choose to sit Loney against either Jeff Francis or Glendon Rusch when the Rockies come to town next week.

There’s something unbelievable in there, so in case you glossed over it, I’ll present it again.

“I tried to reason who was going to give me the better at-bat – Berroa or Loney,” Torre said.

This. This, friends, is what will drive a man to insanity. I didn’t see Torre say this, of course, but I wish there was video of it. Was he able to say this with a straight face? Isn’t a quote like that grounds for immediate firing? Let’s see what Joe would say if he had some other professions:
Joe on shooting the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition:

“I tried to reason who was going to give me the hotter photo – Jessica Alba or Jessica Tandy,” Torre said.

Joe on choosing a movie:

“I tried to reason what was going to be the better film - Godfather or Godfather III,” Torre said.

Joe on going to a concert:

“I tried to reason who was going to give me a greater show - Led Zeppelin or Hannah Montana,” Torre said.

Really, James Loney vs. Angel Berroa, and this is something you have to reason? Do I really even need to explain this? One is a solid young major league regular who’s likely to only improve. The other is Angel Berroa.
I shouldn’t even have to go through this, but entering last night:
James Loney: (2008) .799 OPS, 106 OPS+ (career) .857 OPS, 118 OPS+
Angel Berroa: (2008) .528 OPS, 38 OPS+ (career) .681 OPS, 76 OPS+
How can you even consider having to “reason” who’s better? Even when you just look their stats against lefties (which is when Torre is considering putting Berroa in), it doesn’t change anything. Loney’s stats certainly fall, but it doesn’t matter because Berroa can’t hit anyone! Berroa’s got a great .573 OPS against southpaws this year, which Loney is beating by over 100 points at .687.
This is such a ludicrous statement that I’m having a really hard time believing it’s not just some twisted joke. Right? Anyone?
* Then you’ve got tonight’s game. What’s with the simply bizarre usage of the bench? In the 8th inning, Torre lifted Derek Lowe after Ryan Braun was announced as the pinch-hitter. With Nomar having made the last out in the 7th and Lowe up second in the bottom of the 8th, Torre chooses to double-switch in Hong-Chih Kuo to pitch and Berroa at shortstop, meaning Berroa – now in the 9th spot – will be up second in the bottom half. This is fine. Except that when Berroa comes up, Torre pinch hits for him with Juan Pierre. Where’s the sense in that? You’ve now wasted Berroa for one inning of his defense – and since you took out Nomar for him, you’re now down to your third shortstop, the endlessly mediocre Pablo Ozuna. Torre then takes out Kuo for Chan Ho Park in the 9th, which means that the double-switch was completely useless in the first place; Pierre could have just hit for Kuo and been replaced by Park, if that’s what Torre was going to do – and still had Nomar’s bat in the lineup and both Berroa and Ozuna on the bench, rather than Nomar and Berroa out and Ozuna at shortstop.
Ozuna, of course, ends up leading off the top of the 10th inning and does the one thing you cannot do when leading off in extra innings: he strikes out looking. Fantastic.
* Finally, two guys I’ve been backing forever that just did not come through tonight: Kuo and Matt Kemp. On Kuo, the double to Braun is one thing; it wasn’t really hit all that hard as much as it was well-placed. But in a tight game like that, you cannot give up a homer like that to Hardy. You just can’t. He’s been phenomenal all year, and I realize no one’s perfect, but… that was a killer, right there.
As for Kemp… well, this isn’t going to make things easier on him. How many completely overblown articles have we had to read on baserunning mistakes that he’s made, many of which weren’t even that big a deal? Well, with this most recent debacle, we’re really going to hear it. After Kemp singled in the 10th inning with one out, Ethier hit a shot to dead center that looked like it might go out, but also looked like Mike Cameron might track it down. With less than two outs, there’s no question what the runner does there – he stands on second base, because there’s no downside. If the ball is caught, you can easily make it back to first. If the ball drops, you can easily score from second, and if the ball leaves the park, well, who cares where you are. Except that Matt Kemp did none of these things; thinking that Cameron would catch the ball, he went back to first base. As you may have seen, Cameron got a glove on the ball but couldn’t quite haul it in, meaning that Ethier ended up with a 399-foot single when Kemp was only able to advance to second. That hit right there should have tied the game. Neither Kent or Manny could get a hit after that, and that was that. Absolutely terrible display by Kemp – I hope Larry Bowa is letting him hear about it right now. No matter when it is you read this, I still hope Bowa’s yelling at him.

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