Free John Lindsey?

In the three weeks or so since being everyone’s feel-good story, John Lindsey has started just one game, and even then he made it only to the 7th inning before being pulled. He’s had just nine opportunities to hit. Meanwhile, Russ Mitchell started out 0-15 and has just 2 hits in 24 plate appearances (both homers, granted) and has received six starts, and even Trent Oeltjen has managed to pick up two starts despite a crowded outfield. Yet Lindsey’s barely gotten a chance.

If you ask Lindsey, I’m sure he wouldn’t have a word of complaint. I have no doubt he’d flash a big smile and say that just being with the team is a gift, and who am I to say otherwise? But the feel-good story tends to lose a bit of its luster when the subject is nailed to the bench while other callups get to play, doesn’t it? Lest you accuse me of putting emotion ahead of baseball, there’s been a glaring need for power on the Dodger bench for years. Finding out whether Lindsey is worth a reserve spot next year – particularly with James Loney being spectacularly ineffective against lefties (.224/.265/.312), which is Lindsey’s strength – would seem to be a worthwhile pursuit.

There’s only nine twelve games remaining this season. Let’s see Lindsey get a chance.

John Lindsey Must Be a Saint

Who’d have thought that after 16 years in the minors, three inches from the plate still wouldn’t be close enough?

I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself. After 16 seasons in the minors, John Lindsey was finally going to get his shot. He heard his name over the PA, strode to the plate to pinch-hit with men on and one out… and after a Padres pitching change, Joe Torre did the unthinkable and called him back to the dugout, so Andre Ethier could hit into the most predictable double play in the world.

Technically, Lindsey did make his major-league debut; you’ll see his name in the box score. But I imagine he’s going to be looking both ways before crossing the street just a little bit extra for the next few days, because after this, I’d believe just about anything that could happen to stop him from finally getting to the plate.

It’s not often you’d hear people upset that a longtime minor leaguer gets replaced by your All-Star power bat. But I mean, at this point, give the fans what they want, and everyone wanted to see Lindsey. My Twitter feed when this all went down was hilarious, and I’m not even just talking about Dodger fans; anyone who cares about baseball was dying over this.

Kevin Goldstein of BP:

Are you kidding me Joe Torre?

Molly Knight:

Oh are you KIDDING me, Joe Torre? You have got to be kidding me.

And then Joe Sheehan went on a tear:

Classy, Joe. Real classy. Your team is going nowhere, and you do that to the guy? Awful. Probably Manny’s fault.

That’s a quality AB, Andre. My god…we should have a quitting contest between the Dodgers and Cardinals.

If the Dodgers were concerned with being fair to the pennant race they wouldn’t have waived their best hitter.

Chemistry update: Dodgers are 2-7, averaging 2.1 R/G since waiving their best hitter. In a related story, they saved $120,000 today.

Podsednik, since being anointed upon Manny’s being traded for nothing: .100/.100/.267. Nice guy, though.

I just want the Dodgers’ performance after the release to be part of the story, too. At least it’s factual and sourced.

Yeah. This is where we are with the season right now, and then Torre had to snatch the one bright spot we’ve all been waiting for away. Granted, it’s one at-bat in a meaningless game, and even Lindsey was laughing about it. Still, it’s just another level of frustration in this never-ending season of disappointment. On the bright side, another loss means they’re one game closer to elimination, and an announcement on Torre’s future.

As for the rest of the game? Sure, stuff happened, I suppose. But really, all you need to know is that the Dodgers got shut out for about the 73rd time this year.

Tonight’s the Night for John Lindsey

I present four points:

1) Tonight, the Padres start lefthanded rookie Cory Luebke, who’s making just his second big-league start. He gave up two homers to the Rockies last week in his debut, despite the game being in San Diego, not Colorado.

2) Dodger first baseman James Loney is hitting just .211/.255/.299 against lefties, and just .206/.278/.322 against everyone since the All-Star break, including 0-4 with 2 K last night.

3) The primary right-handed backup at 1B, Ronnie Belliard, was sent packing via DFA just yesterday.

4) John Lindsey, everyone’s feel-good story, has not yet received a plate appearance since his recall. His line against lefties in AAA this year was .430/.477/.719, and while I’m sure there’s a lot of ABQ in that line, that’s still pretty ridiculous.

Seems pretty clear, right? The offense is stagnant, Loney can’t hit lefties – or anyone, really – and you have a power bat who crushes lefties dying for a chance. There’s no better time for Lindsey to start than tonight, and there’s no excuse if it doesn’t happen. It’d be one thing if it was just a nice story to watch in this dismal season, but there’s real baseball reasons to do it as well.

Ideally, this wouldn’t be the only move; Andre Ethier should absolutely not be playing against a lefty tonight either, and I wouldn’t be crushed to see Russ Mitchell at 3B rather than Casey Blake, but not starting Lindsey at 1B tonight is truly indefensible.

Do the right thing, Joe.

Update: Well, sort of. Dylan Hernandez reports that Mitchell will be starting at 1B tonight. It’s not Loney, and it is one of the new arrivals, so that’s nice, but starting Mitchell over Lindsey does seem odd. Dodgerfan.net points out that they think comments made by Ned Colletti point to Lindsey playing a bit in the upcoming series against Houston.

Catching Up on the Weekend

After three days out in the farmland of middle America, I’m back and trying to catch up on the weekend. So what’d I miss?

The Dodgers sunk further out of the race. In losing the weekend series against the Giants, the Dodgers scored just six runs in three games – two of which came off the bat of Chad Billingsley. Headed into tonight’s series opener in San Diego, they’re just one game over .500, 8 games out in the division and 8.5 behind the Phillies for the wild card. They are, obviously, done. The Padres come in on a ten-game losing streak, but the Dodgers haven’t been able to do anything about it. At this point, the only number that matters is “17″ – that’s the current elimination number.

One bright spot from the weekend was the performance of Billingsley, however, and not just for his bat. He’s got a 1.79 ERA over his last nine starts; in many ways, he’s having one of the best seasons of his career, as he’s currently rocking the lowest WHIP, FIP, and BB/9 in his time in the bigs.

Hey, remember how many people wanted to give up on him after his rough end to 2009, claiming he didn’t have “the heart of a competitor”? Yeah, I’ll be taking some credit for not jumping on that bandwagon, thanks.

John Lindsey lives the dream! I don’t think anyone can be against a story like this; as I called for last week, career minor-leaguer John Lindsey is finally getting the call to the bigs. Read this section of Ramona Shelburne’s story, and I dare you not to smile:

“Oh man, the second [Isotopes manager Tim Wallach] told me my whole brain kind of shut down. I was hearing what he was saying, but I couldn’t even believe it,” Lindsey said.

“He went to shake my hand and I had to hug him because my legs were so weak.”

Lindsey said Wallach had initially tried to fool him by asking him to come into his office, then slamming the door.

“I think he was trying to mess with me, but [hitting coach] Johnny Moses was in the corner, trying to keep a straight face the whole time, but he couldn’t stop smiling,” Lindsey said.

“Wally told me it was the happiest day as a manager he’s ever had. I walked out of that office and hugged all my teammates, called my wife, and I haven’t stopped smiling or pacing around the clubhouse since.

“I probably won’t sleep the next three or four days.”

Lindsey probably won’t get many – if any – starts, but I hope they do give him a shot to provide some power off the bench. It’s certainly better than more bench at-bats wasted on Ronnie Belliard, right?

Also called up were John Ely, Jon Link, & Chin-lung Hu, who we all know plenty about, and Russ Mitchell, who would be making his major league debut. To be honest, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Mitchell. He’ll be 26 before next season starts, yet he had a line of just .241/.298/.406 last year, his second season in AA. Overall, his career OBP in the minors was just .321. Somehow that was good enough to get him to AAA, where he took advantage of the ABQ environment to rake: .315/.363/.535, with 23 homers.

That’s not an accident, either; his OPS at home was 1.164, but on the road it was just .834, and it’s not like ABQ is the only park in the PCL that caters to offense, either. Still, Mitchell offers nice versatility – while he’s primarily a 3B, he also saw time at 1B, 2B, LF, & RF this year – and it’s nice to see another homegrown prospect make the bigs, so maybe he’ll make an impression and get into the mix for a utility role next year.

Jonathan Broxton blew up again. You’ve probably noticed that there’s some sort of “blog war” brewing over Broxton. (Yes, it’s the nerdiest war in history.) To be honest, this whole thing is pretty stupid. Is there really anyone who’s saying that Broxton isn’t pitching terrible right now? Of course not; since the June 27th disaster against the Yankees he’s been tuned up to an .861 OPS and a 7.71 ERA. Whether there’s an injury (his velocity is down) or a mechanical issue (his movement and control are horrible), there’s clearly something wrong. So if you want to jump on Broxton for being awful right now, I certainly won’t be refuting you.

But let’s just not to pretend that he’s the biggest or only problem with the 2010 club, as though the mediocre offense (15 shutouts, more than any other club), lousy defense, questionable management (time wasted on Garret Anderson & the Ortizes, plus everything Joe Torre does), and multitude of injuries (Furcal, Manny, Ethier, Martin, etc.) had no impact at all. Are the Dodgers in better shape if Broxton was pitching like he was in 2009, or the first half of 2010? Sure they are. But close enough to be a serious playoff contender? No, probably not. Broxton hasn’t helped, but he’s far from the #1 problem with this team.

Clearly, there’s something wrong with Broxton, and that’s been proven no matter what inning he appears in – and let’s not forget that he was basically the best closer in baseball for the first three months of the season. I think we’d all do better to try and figure out what the problem is rather than cast aspersions on the man’s tenacity or bravery, no?

Jay Gibbons is making his case. If you look at #5 on my list of things I wanted to see over the rest of the season, you’ll see “finding out if Jay Gibbons is worth a roster spot for next season.” So what happened? Gibbons got the start on Saturday and collected his third homer of the season. Someone remind me again why it took so long to get rid of the corpse of Anderson and get Gibbons up here – not like many of us hadn’t been calling for just that for months – because I sure as hell can’t come up with a good reason.

The “Tim Wallach” watch is starting to heat up. Kevin Baxter’s LA Times profile of Wallach contains a piece that practically jumps off the page:

Wallach says he interviewed for a big league job once, making the short list before the San Diego Padres decided to go with Bud Black four years ago. But he says it’s a good thing he didn’t get that job because the last two years in Albuquerque provided an invaluable apprenticeship.

“If I hadn’t done this, I would have been overmatched in the big leagues,” Wallach says. “I made a lot of mistakes because I was not ahead in the game. You have to be a couple of innings ahead, six hitters ahead.”

If that doesn’t shout “Don Mattingly has no managerial experience” in big neon capital letters, I don’t know what does. Also noted within that article is that fact that Ned Colletti understands that if Wallach isn’t the Dodger manager in 2011, he’ll likely be with another organization.

If so, that would really be a shame. Really, I’m just about completely on-board the Wallach train right now. He has managerial experience; Mattingly doesn’t. He hasn’t “learned” at Torre’s feet for the last few years; Mattingly has. He’s very familiar with all of the minor leaguers who have passed through ABQ the last two seasons; under Mattingly as batting coach, the offense has stagnated this season.

I’m already terrified that Logan White is going to end up as the Arizona GM; imagine if he brought Wallach there as well while we’re stuck with Colletti and Torre/Mattingly?

Let’s Talk About the Rest of the Season

After yesterday’s loss to the Phillies, the Dodgers are now two games over .500, and 7.5 back in the Wild Card race. They’ve outscored their opponents by four runs, which means we’re not seeing much luck happening here; they’re a .500 team, and they’re playing like it.

For the first time since 2007, we don’t have a pennant race to look forward to, no matter what the team claims. No, all we have to watch is the embarrassing divorce case (kudos to Jon Weisman for an absolutely perfect attack on the hypocrosy of ownership), state investigations into mismanagement of charity funds, and dozens of media members trying to rewrite the history of Manny Ramirez. Remember when all we cared about was baseball? The divorce case gets juicier by the day, but I’m not going to recap every turn in the court dialogue, other than when major news breaks, because it’s not what I do; again, I direct you to Josh Fisher and Molly Knight.

Still, there are 28 games remaining, and I can’t spend it all moping that the Dodgers foolishly made no trades to sell off veterans when it was clear they had no chance of contention. There’s still work to be done, progress to be made, and knowledge to gain. Do we really need to see the same eight guys every day for the rest of the year just to finish 82-80? It’s not like we don’t already know that Casey Blake is cooked, or that free-agent-to-be Scott Podsednik has a decent OBP but no power and average-ish defense. No, let’s use this time to see some sights and find out about 2011.

Here’s what I want to see for the month of September:

1) 4 more homers, 10 more RBI, and 99 more plate appearances from James Loney. It’s probably unlikely, because Loney has yet to hit more than 3 homers in a month or have less than 12 RBI (other than April), but it’s worth rooting for. If Loney can pull off those exact figures, he’ll put together a third straight season with exactly 651 PA, 13 HR, and 90 RBI. What would that mean, exactly? I don’t know. It’s not good production from a first baseman, that’s for sure. But it sure would be amazing to see.

2) Not trying to overwork Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen in the name of finishing 6 games out rather than 9. Kershaw has thrown 176.1 innings this year, 5.1 more than last year. Jansen has thrown nearly 60 between the majors and minors thus far; he threw 11.1 last year in his first year on the mound. Sure, it’s nice that Kershaw leads the NL in strikeouts, but that’s hardly a just reason to wear him down. I’m not suggesting that either be shut down immediately, but nor should either be ridden hard for no particular gain, at a huge risk.

3) A farewell speech from Joe Torre. Torre may have been the right choice for the 2008 and 2009 Dodgers, talented teams with clubhouse issues coming off the fractious “vets vs. kids” wars of the Grady Little years. He hasn’t been the right man to lead the 2010 Dodgers, clearly, and he almost certainly won’t be the right choice for the 2011 team. Torre’s been in the game for 50 years, but he’s also a 70-year-old man who clearly has had more trouble relating to the younger set like Matt Kemp. (Not excusing Kemp here, but Torre isn’t helping.) We’ll get to the discussion of Don Mattingly vs. Tim Wallach vs. the field later, but first things first: it’s time to move on, Joe. I can’t imagine any decision would disappoint me more than hearing he wants to come back for another shot.

4) John Lindsey to finally get a chance. If you haven’t read Ramona Shelburne’s recent ESPN piece on Lindsay, it’s well worth it. Like Mitch Jones last year, Lindsey’s a good guy who has been kicking around the minors for years without ever getting a chance. But “being a good story” doesn’t get you to the big leagues; pummeling the ball does. Or should, at least.

Lindsey’s dominating the PCL, with 24 HR, 40 doubles, and a 1.065 OPS. While clearly the ABQ environment helps him (he’s hitting .400 at home), he’s not strictly a product of his home park, since he’s got 14 HR and a 1.006 OPS on the road. At 34 in January, Lindsey’s certainly never going to be an everyday player, but it’s clear that the Dodgers need power from somewhere. Nice story aside, now’s the time to find out if he can be a power bat off the bench next year, right?

5) Finding out whether Jay Gibbons is worth a roster spot. Speaking of finding out about next year’s bench, Gibbons has been effective in limited duty so far – .991 OPS in 18 games, and only 2 K as a Dodger. He hit in the minors before being called up, and he’s proven he can hit in the majors before (121 HR in Baltimore). I like that his ability to play both 1B and the OF provides flexibility, and he might be a decent piece for the reserve puzzle next year. But we’re only going to find out if he plays, and he hasn’t started since August 21st – a game in which he homered, yet was pulled in the 7th. Do we really need to see Podsednik every day? Or Loney? I want to see what Gibbons can do.

6) Hoping that Rod Barajas knocks it off. I like Barajas; his story of being a childhood Dodger fan living the dream is something we can all relate to. The problem is, his ridiculous hot start as a Dodger – 3 HR, 1.271 OPS has far too many people thinking he’s a viable option to be the starting catcher next year. I’m okay with him being the backup, in some sort of job share, but 34-year-olds with career OBP of .283 don’t suddenly just “get good”. If he was that good, the Mets wouldn’t have just let him go, right?

Sadly, I think we all know what’s going to happen. They’re going to play the same eight guys every day in some misguided attempt to “win now”, and we’re not going to learn anything about Lindsey or Gibbons. At least we have the divorce to entertain us.

******

I’m off to the backwoods of Ohio for the next few days, so posting might be sparse until Monday. Hey, there’s one benefit of not being in contention – I don’t have to worry about missing much. Enjoy your holiday weekend, and play nice.