Is He Really Our Manager, or Just a Tourist Who Keeps Sneaking In?

You know what, it’s almost a crime that I’ve gone this far without overtly criticizing Grady Little. Whether it’s been his ridiculous lineups (Gonzalez should never play on a team with both Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, and never bat 5th when he does); or his complete lack of intensity on the field (I’m surprised one of his own players hasn’t slugged him for never backing them up during an argument with the ump); or his calling fans who second guess him st005_05.jpgupid, this hasn’t exactly been a shining season for Griddle. But he makes bad lineups out every single night, and that would kind of be a repetitive post.

No, what I’m on about today is an in-game decision he made last night – in a contest that could be described as, you know, a big game. 2.5 games out of the wild card going into a series against the team in the lead? This is not the time to screw around, ladies. This is not the time to massage veteran egos. This is the time to win.

Last night, Esteban Loaiza on the hill for the Blue against RoboPeavy. I think it’s fair to say that Loaiza just didn’t have “it” last night. (One might say that “it” was actually “an umpire who would actually call a strike now and then” – and they wouldn’t be wrong.)

First inning, he walks the bases loaded and gives up two runs. 2-0 Padres.

Second inning, he gives up a single to Josh Bard, and then a 2-run dinger to Brian Giles, swinging away on a 3-0 count. 4-0 Padres. Loaiza’s thrown 50 pitches by this point.

So far, this is not Griddle’s fault. Being down 4-0 is a consequence of Loaiza being ineffective combined with the postage-stamp sized strike zone behind the plate.

However.. the bottom of the 2nd. The Dodgers show some life against Cy Peavy. Kent singles. Gonzo walks. Turtle grounds out to move the runners to 2nd and 3rd. After Ethier strikes out, Nomar is intentionally walked to load the bases for Loaiza.

Who hits for himself. And inevitably, strikes out.

Grady. GRADY! Are you awake? You’re down 4-0 in a game you must win. You somehow managed to load the bases against the best pitcher in the league. Thanks to the expanded rosters, you’ve got half the state of California sitting on your bench. Just look at the sidebar here – this team is carrying fifteen pitchers. Plus, Loazia isn’t getting the job done. Look, it’s one thing if you’ve got Penny or Lowe or Billingsley in there mowing people down. You don’t take those guys out in the 2nd inning; you suck it up and hope to keep it close enough to get another offensive opportunity later. Tell me why you couldn’t have let Mark Sweeney (one of the best pinch-hitters to ever play the game) take a pop at a bases-loaded situation and throw Hull or Houlton out there for a few innings? Isn’t that why Sweeney is on this team? Isn’t that why we have 9282 pitchers? Personally, I hate the expanded rosters, but if there is ever a time to take advantage of it, this was it. Because honestly, what are we waiting for? There’s 20 games left in the season, and this team needs to win at least 3 more than the Padres do. Get on it.

But hey, at least we get the benefit of keeping Loaiza in the game, right? Because he.. bang, Khalil Greene homer. Oh, well at least.. bang, Kevin Kouzmanoff dinger. 6-0 Padres. Houlton and Hull, of course, later combined to pitch 3 and 2/3 scoreless innings.

Hey, maybe Sweeney (or whomever would have pinch hit) strikes out. Maybe it doesn’t matter. But maybe he gets a blooper to right field that plates two. And then Houlton and Hull don’t give up those two dingers that Loaiza did. We’ll never know. Thanks, Grady.

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

Pack It Up, Pack It In

ap070812014176.jpgHouse of Pain, indeed.

Look, I hate to be the negative voice of doom here – but is it not getting close to time to admit that this just is not working? That a rotation of Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, 50% of Derek Lowe, Brett Fucking Tomko and Mark Goddamn Hendrickson just isn’t going to cut it? That while Luis Gonzalez’ early-season renaissance was nice, he’s still going to be 40 in a few weeks and has continued his decline of the last 5 seasons? That Nomar Garciaparra hasn’t been a good baseball player in fourteen months now? That much as we love Russell Martin, the man is not indestructable and actually needs a rest – especially when we’re pulling day games after night games in hellish Midwest conditions?

 After today’s 12-2 waxing by a very mediocre Cardinals team, the Blue now sit only 3 games over .500 and in 4th place in the NL West. They’ve lost 10 out of 13. And they haven’t won a series since taking 2 out of 3 from the Phillies nearly a month ago. We’re supposed to believe that this team is going to turn it around to leapfrog 3 teams to win the division, or 4 teams to win the Wild Card?

Even more unfortunately.. there’s not much that can be done. There’s little reason to think Mark (6.57 ERA since the All-Star Break) Hendrickson is going to suddenly become an effective starter. There’s no reason to think Brett (ohmygod 5.49 ERA, 80 ERA+, how can you suck this bad?) will suddenly become even a mediocre starter. Wait, I’m not done with him. There’s been 113 MLB pitchers who’ve tossed as many innings as him. Ranked by VORP… he’s 105th. But, there’s no pitching out there to be had. Should we throw D.J. Houlton and Eric Stults in the rotation instead? You could make a strong argument that they couldn’t possibly be worse – but they’re not going to propel this team to playoff glory either. That’s pretty much it in terms of rotation options.

Speaking of black holes that suck the life out of everything they come near, Nomar Garciaparra. Ranked again by VORP, of the 105 players who have as many at-bats as he does.. he’s 97th. Considering that 3 of the 7 players below him are ancient members of the San Francisco Home for the Elderly, I’m counting this as 97th of 102. But again – what can be done to improve this? I’ve been on the Andy LaRoche bandwagon for some time, but he’s only played once in the last week at AAA due to back issues, so he’s hardly a viable option right now. With Meat shipped off to New York, who’s left at 3B? The Wrong Ramon Martinez? Another position where the status suck is likely to remain.

 The one area where we do have some control is left field, currently inhabited by the rotting remains of Luis Gonzalez.

Luis Gonzalez’s OPS, Last Five Seasons:
2003: .934
2004: .865
2005: .825
2006: .796
2007: .778

Wow. It’s almost like there’s a trend there. And that trend is “old and busted”. Admittedly, he got off to a good start this year. But OPS since the All-Star Break? .501. Three extra base hits. Add that to his below average defense, and can we just put this dog to sleep? So what’s wrong with playing Andre Ethier (that’s Andre “best outfielder on the team, 1.021 July OPS, .911 August OPS” Ethier) every day? What’s wrong with giving Matt Kemp a chance to break out of his slump and realize his immense talent by playing? (Yes, I realize I’m advocating not giving Gonzalez any more time to break out of his slump, but somehow I feel more confident in a 22-year old improving than a 39-year old). Finally, what’s wrong with giving Delwyn Young a real shot to play? The kid’s hit at every stop in the minors (career SLG: .514) and he’s been impressive in his short time with LA, going 6 for 11 since he’s been up, including 4 for 4 on Thursday. Since we all know that Juan Pierre’s not going anywhere in CF, tell me why we can’t see Ethier and Kemp as the starters in LF and RF, with Young getting a few starts a week in each corner?

Oh wait. Forget everything I said. We just acquired Shea Hillenbrand, Mark Sweeney, and Chad Moeller. Problems solved!!

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

Another God Damn Debacle

Another loss just ended – that’s 6 in a row, and 9 out of 10. And after Colorado’s 19-4 face-raping of Milwaukee earlier today, that puts the Blue squarely in 4th place,lasorda_fall.gif 4.5 out and a game behind the Rockies.

More worrisome, however, is the fact that this is the FORTH TIME IN FIVE GAMES the Dodgers have been shut out. According to Rick Monday on the post-game show (thanks SamAdams for the tip), this is the first time they’ve been shut out in 3 games in a row since 1966.

 How bad is this? Let’s just focus on the last 7 days, during which the Dodgers have gone 1-6. The Blue have:

  • Scored just 15 runs – 7 of which came in a loss to Arizona on Saturday.
  • Had 8 extra base hits. In a week. By comparison, the Cubs have had 23 doubles alone in that period. Hell, 16 (more than half!!) of the rest of MLB has more home runs in the last week than the Dodgers have extra base hits.
  • Put up an almost impossible team line of .227/.282/.303, for an OPS of .585. By comparison, I looked up Neifi Perez’ career stats, who is almost universally recognized as the worst semi-regular offensive player of the last decade. His career OPS? .672. This team is hitting so bad, 1-9, that it’s making Neifi F’ing Perez look like a favorable alternative.

So who’s to blame for this? Well.. perhaps it’s easier to point out who’s not to blame, and that’s a pretty short list – Andre Ethier and (gasp) Juan Pierre. Ethier’s been red-hot over the week, with a .939 OPS. Pierre’s actually been good too, batting .348 with a .423 OBP.

Everyone else? Yiiiiiikes. Luis Gonzalez and MSTI favorite James Loney are each batting under .200. Nobody has an OPS near .800. And can we stop pretending that those two homers Nomar hit are the start of some great rebirth and just get Andy LaRoche up here already?

Oh, and Mike Lieberthal’s done the worst of all – he hasn’t even gotten on base once. Wait, what’s that? Because hasn’t even had ONE plate appearance while Grady runs Russell Martin into the ground in the humid, sweltering Midwest inferno? That’s no excuse, Mike. None at all.