So Long, Rafael

Diamond Leung, take it away:

Shortstop and leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal will undergo back surgery tomorrow and miss about another eight weeks. The microdiscectomy operation will involve removing a part of a bulging disk in his lower left back in order to reliever pressure. “It’s a blow, but it’s reality,” Manager Joe Torre said. “We anticipate this will solve everything.” Nomar Garciaparra is expected to be activated from the DL by the end of the week to play shortstop, but Torre conceded he won’t be able to go everyday. Class AA Jacksonville shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. is also being considered.

Fantastic. I’m no doctor, but I would absolutely love to know how something that was supposed to keep him out just a few days in early May has now mushroomed into a four month absence. From Furcal’s perspective, this is costing him millions; the hot start to his walk year probably had him lined up for a nice raise on his current $39 million deal, but now – who knows what he’ll get? Actually, now that he’s going to spend just about 2/3 of his Dodgers career injured (if not on the DL), he sounds exactly like the kind of player Ned Colletti will give a 4 year $60 million deal to.

Anyway, it’s become more obvious than ever that it’s time to get a shortstop, because after Hiroki Kuroda’s excellent return tonight, this team is somehow astoundingly just 1.5 games out of first. Sure, that’s almost entirely because the Diamondbacks have been terrible for two months (for example, the Blue would be ten games out in the NL Central and dead last at twelve games out in the AL East), but since they’re being dealt such a favorable hand here in terms of competition, they might as well run with it. When I looked at the shortstop market a few weeks ago, I came up with the following names: Christian Guzman, Jeff Keppinger, Jack Wilson, and David Eckstein. Guzman sounds like he’s about to re-sign with Washington, so maybe he’s out. Diamond mentioned Ivan DeJesus Jr. (more on him in a second), and Rotoworld says:

This puts the Dodgers very much in the market for a shortstop. It’s doubtful that Nomar Garciaparra is the answer, and none of the internal options have been close to adequate. A trade for Juan Uribe or David Eckstein could be a possibility, though Eckstein probably isn’t available just yet. Perhaps Edgar Renteria could also become an option later this month.

I can’t even tell you how much Juan Uribe scares me. He had one pretty good year (111 OPS+ in 2004) and since then has been trapped in a solid vortex of suck, with OPS+ scores since of 85, 73, 74, and finally 61 this season. I want to be incredibly clear about this: in exactly the same way I said Angel Berroa is not the answer, Juan Uribe is also not the answer. Uribe got only 19 plate appearances in all of June, which should tell you how much the White Sox value him. And if that doesn’t, the fact that he’s been a DFA candidate for weeks – after being placed on waivers in spring training – should.

As for Ivan DeJesus, Jr., I’m a little surprised to hear his name. But I imagine Leung wouldn’t have said he “was being considered” if there wasn’t some truth to it, so let’s look at him. As a 21-year-old in AA right now, he’s put up¬†a pretty decent line of .300/.412/.378. That’s very little power, but the OBP and 39/37 BB/K rate seems to show that he’s a patient hitter. I’ll admit I don’t know a whole lot about DeJesus’ game, so let’s go back to the offseason and look at Baseball Prospectus’ capsule on him, where they ranked him the #9 prospect in the LA system, between Jon Meloan and Blake DeWitt:

Year In Review: Another excellent defender at short in the organization, DeJesus also had solid year with the bat at High-A.
The Good: DeJesus has a unique sense of his strengths and weaknesses at the plate, and knows that his greatest value comes from working the count and using a contact-oriented swing to lash line drives to all fields. He’s a very good defensive player with good range and smooth action, and as the son of 15-year big-league veteran Ivan DeJesus, it’s no surprise that his makeup is strong.
The Bad: DeJesus has little power, nor any projection for it, so he’ll need to maintain his high on-base percentages as he moves up. He’s no more than an average runner, and an inefficient basestealer. He needs to better measure which plays he can make and which he can’t, as many of his errors came on throws he shouldn’t have tried to attempt.
Fun Fact: In 21 games batting ninth for Inland Empire, DeJesus hit .354/.442/.492.
Perfect World Projection: An everyday big-league shortstop.
Timetable: DeJesus will face a big test with a Double-A assignment in 2008, beginning the season three weeks short of his 21st birthday.

To be honest? He sounds like he’ll be just fine down the road, but he’s hardly dominating at AA, and he’s still pretty young. As much as I’ve been on the pro-kids, anti-washed up vets bandwagon over the years, I really think we might be better off just looking to acquire one of the mediocre veterans we’ve already discussed – depending on the price, of course. Either way, this is going to get interesting.

In completely unrelated ex-Dodger news, I attended the Rangers at Yankees game in the Bronx tonight, and when former Dodger Wilson Betemit came to bat, the song played on the PA system was Pearl Jam’s “Better Man“. The section of the song that was played? I shit you not, it was the chorus, which if you’re unfamiliar with the song goes as follows: “can’t find a better man… can’t find a better man…” How’s that for instilling confidence in your players?

Finally, as I’m reading the paper this morning, an insert falls out for the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium. Apparently they’re doing this promotion in which all around New York City, 42 eight-foot-tall Statues of Liberty painted in the colors of all 30 teams (plus 12 others for AL, NL, defunct teams, etc.) are planted to drum up publicity. Some of them are in appropriate locations (Padres in front of a PETCO, Mariners in front of the Nintendo store), some are¬†unintentionally hilarious (Rays in front of Champs!) and some are just randomly placed on the street. I couldn’t help but go track down the Dodgers statue (in front of Niketown on 57th and 5th, if you happen to be in the area) and snap a shot:

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