Hey Man, You Jellin’?

Whether you are or aren’t, many seem to think that the recent struggles of the Dodgers have to do with the lack of colloids in which the disperse phase has combined with the dispersion medium to produce a semisolid material.

Writers!

Chris Haft & Ken Gurnick, MLB.com:

Despite adding slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to their lineup, the Dodgers haven’t jelled offensively. They scored 20 runs in their seven-game homestand. Center fielder Matt Kemp, who denied injuring his shoulder while colliding with the Coors Field wall on Aug. 28, went 3-for-25 during the homestand. Gonzalez has one home run in 56 plate appearances since the Dodgers acquired him from Boston in a nine-player trade Aug. 25.

Ken Rosenthal, FOXsports.com:

The theory is this: The Los Angeles Dodgers have not yet jelled, and might not jell until next season, after their players have experienced a pennant race together and bonded over a full spring.

Fans!

“GuitarBilly” on dodgers.com:

I’m not saying he new owners should have done anything differently. They needed to show that are committed to putting a championship level team on the field they have done that. A lot people thought after the big deal that was it we had it all wrapped up. Everybody was talking about the west coast Yankees and all that. It doesn’t work that way. It a new team. It jells when it jells. If they can jell tomorrow in San Francisco we can still win this thing. The ring doesn’t go to the team with the highest payroll. It goes to the team that wins on the last day. It is what it is. I’m just tellin’ ya. :l)

Dodger players themselves!

Jamey Wright, quoted by Ken Gurnick, MLB.com:

“We’ve added a lot of pieces and we’re trying to jell, to get an identity,” he said. “We’ve scuffled, had some tough games. You hope the talent takes over and we can go on a run.”

Believe it or not, I do put some stock in the idea of chemistry; you don’t need to be on a baseball team to realize that you tend to work better and be more productive when you’re working with people you know, like, and trust. That said, I don’t think Kemp is hitting .182/.257/.258 over his last 18 games because he doesn’t know Nick Punto well enough. I don’t think Gonzalez is hitting .260/.321/.380 as a Dodger because he’s suddenly so shocked to have left friendly Boston for the terribly unfamiliar climate of Southern California. I don’t think that the starting pitching has been questionable because Joe Blanton & Josh Beckett are newcomers as much as I do that Chad Billingsley‘s UCL decided to stop “jelling”with the rest of his elbow.

In Kemp’s case, you could argue (not conclusively, I will grant, because he wasn’t totally tearing it up before this) that he’s mainly still feeling the aftereffects of repeated run-ins with the Colorado fence. In everyone else’s case? Unfortunately, slumps happen. We’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again, and arguing that the Gonzalez trade was a failure because he hasn’t been markedly better than James Loney over the last two weeks is foolish, because two weeks. We’re really going to let two weeks matter more than years of sustained excellence? It’s insane.

Now, where the “small sample size” argument runs into trouble is that the most important games of the season start tonight. Whether it’s “jelling” or an unfortunately timed slump or Jupiter being aligned with Venus as the rainy season starts in Asia, there’s just not time to sort this all out. If they’re making the playoffs, they need to start producing right now, tonight against Tim Lincecum, and win at the very least two of these three games.

I don’t think it’s too hard to see this collection of talent on offense turn it on quickly, and all of a sudden you’ve got the Kemp/Gonzalez/Hanley Ramirez/Andre Ethier heart of the order that really ought to be terrifying the entire league. If that happens, maybe it will be because they’ve “jelled”. Maybe it’ll because someone changed the music in the clubhouse. Maybe it’ll be because the clubhouse spread has a slightly different variety of meats and cheeses. Hard as it is for us to acknowledge, we’re never going to know exactly what causes a player or group of them to get ‘hot’ & ‘cold’.

If it doesn’t happen in the next three weeks – and let’s be honest, it needs to be the next three days – it’ll be terribly disappointing. But as we know, winning this year isn’t the only thing which matters. And when they do, whenever that is, we can all do our best to figure out what sort of gelatin-based lifeform is responsible.