The Russell Martin Chowder and Marching Society

One player who I never, ever get tired of saying good things about: Russell Martin. On an offense-starved team where just about everyone shares a bit of the blame, Martin just keeps chugging along. Think about this: no Dodger who’s played in more than half the team’s games (yeah, as of tonight that excludes Rafael Furcal) is hitting more than Matt Kemp’s .297. Except for Martin, who’s blowing everyone away at .321 – not to mention playing a fantastic backstop. And occasional third base.

Really, everything he means to this team showed up in tonight’s game. To put it simply, without Russell Martin, the Dodgers do not win this game. And who knows how many other games you can say that about? In the first inning, Martin drives in the first run with a single to RF and then steals second base, where he was stranded. He follows this with another single in the 4th, being stranded again, before grounding out in the 6th.

But it’s the 7th inning where he took the game into his own hands. At 2 outs and the Dodgers down 2-1, the 4th Padre pitcher of the inning (!) Heath Bell works Martin to 1-2 count. With a flick of the wrists, Martin rolls a single between first and second to plate two, and advancing to second on the throw home. Hey, that’s pretty impressive, right? After an intentional walk to James Loney, Kemp is the next batter, and really, when’s the last time you saw this line on a simple grounder to the shortstop with 2 outs?

M Kemp reached on infield single to shortstop, J Kent and R Martin scored, J Loney to second

Honestly, you had to see it to believe it. Jeff Kent, of course, was running on the play from third and was easily safe when Kemp beat out the throw to first. But talk about heads-up baserunning; Martin, knowing there were two outs, never slowed down and steamed around third towards the plate. Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez throws home, catcher Michael Barrett does a great job of blocking the dish, and Martin makes an incredibly athletic dive to get around Barrett and get his hand on the plate. I wish I had the video to embed here – the best part was him jumping up right after and shaking his fist in excitement. On a team that too often plays without passion, it was fantastic to see. The Padres fell apart in the 9th inning, so the 7-2 margin doesn’t look like a nailbiter, but in a game that was much closer than the score looks, the Dodgers have Martin to thank – yet again.

Final tally: 3-5. 3 RBI. 1 SB. 2 runs.

With that in mind, and with Andy LaRoche finally getting recalled, it’s time for a new MSTI Cause – and I can’t think of a better one than supporting the most valuable player on this team. I don’t care what the news says, there’s only one candidate to back this year: Vote Martin, ’08! I know, I know – it’s sort of a moot point, as with Furcal having sat himself out of consideration, there’s really no other Dodger with a shot to make the All-Star Team. But this is a pride thing. How is Martin only 5th in voting? Now, Geovany Soto, fine, I can’t argue – he’s having a fine season for a Cubs team in first place. Even Brian McCann, okay – he’s outhitting Martin by most standards. But Yadier Molina? J.R. Towles? J.R. Towles just got demoted to AAA after hitting .145. That, friends is a travesty. Martin is second amongst all MLB catchers in VORP, behind only McCann. He started the All-Star Game last year, and in many ways, he’s been better this year.

By the way, if you just weren’t quite sure how useless “wins” are as a stat for pitchers, after Clayton Kershaw was very effective for 5.1 innings, and before Beimel, Broxton, and Wade combined for 5 strikeouts over 3 scoreless innings, Scott Proctor pitched 0.2 of an inning, allowing a run to score on a wild pitch on his very first offering, and then committing an error on a grounder back to the pitcher on the very next hitter. Who gets the win? That’s right, Proctor, by virtue of still being the pitcher of record in the bottom of the 7th when Martin put the Dodgers ahead for good.

In other good news: Andy LaRoche is getting a start tomorrow night, says Diamond Leung

Andy LaRoche was officially recalled today and is scheduled to start tomorrow either at first base or third base while facing left-hander Randy Wolf. Torre said his plan is to get LaRoche plenty of at-bats, and he’ll use LaRoche to spell left-handed hitters Blake DeWitt and James Loney depending on who’s struggling more.

Just a guess, but since Loney got on base all 5 times tonight (2 hits, 3 walks) while DeWitt went 1-5 with 4 men stranded, my money’s on LaRoche at 3B tomorrow night.

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

Yet Somehow, the Dodgers Are Only 3.5 Out of First

Quick hits to wrap up a holiday weekend:

* Baseball Tonight on Kershaw: 100% positive reviews. I’m not totally sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

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* Cubs blog Wrigleyville23 linked here and to the other usual suspects (SOSG, 6-4-2, DodgerThoughts) as part of their series preview, along with the note,

By and large, the Dodgers blogs are of a much higher quality and quantity than others we’ve seen lately (I’m looking at you, Houston).

I couldn’t help but wonder about their distaste for Houston, so I went back to their Astros preview post:

It’s hard to play Around The Blogs when opposing team’s blogs aren’t doing their part – namely not blogging. Such is the case with the Houston Astros. Nobody seems to be following them (cyberly).

There’s an SBN blog, an MVN blog, and a place called Spikes ‘n Stars, which doesn’t seem to like interleague play too much.

Other than that, I found a few blogs that haven’t been updated in months. Am I missing others?

You know what? With all of the quality Dodger blogs out there, maybe I picked the wrong team to follow (20 years ago…) Stay tuned for the relaunch of Jeff Bagwell’s Tragic Illness.

* As excited as I was to watch Kershaw’s debut, I got about 150% more pumped when I realized that a standard 5-day schedule would put him in Shea Stadium against the Mets on Friday night… which, not so coincidentally, is where I will be on Friday night. Score!

* Re: today’s loss to the Cubs. I was keeping an eye on this one while at holiday festivities, and its not hard to say that I had a few “issues” with Torre’s game management today. That said, Rob at 6-4-2 beat me to most of them:

  • Why didn’t Chad Billingsley attempt a suicide squeeze in the fifth with one out and runners on the corners? The Dodgers have been having trouble scoring runs; it seems like smallball is eminently called for in that circumstance.
  • Why was Chin-Lung Hu held at third on Kemp’s double? It would have taken a perfect throw to get him.
  • Why did Mark Sweeney get the start at first? Loney may be scuffling, but … c’mon…
  • To which I would add, why did Loney pinch hit for Luis Maza in the 8th? Maza’s only hitting .438 since his recall. I’m certainly not suggesting that Maza’s a better hitter than Loney, just that Maza’s not a guy who needs to be hit for right now. Had Torre held onto Loney (or had him hit for the next batter, Park, rather than sending up Delwyn Young) then either Loney or Young would have been available to hit for Chin-Lung Hu with 2 outs in the 9th as the tying run at the plate, rather than letting Hu go up looking completely overmatched, and have him predictably strike out to end the game.

    * By the way, Mark Sweeney? Yeah, he’s now hitting a solid .100. Come on; this is getting embarrassing. Why is he still taking a place on this team? He can’t hit; he can’t field. He serves zero purpose whatsoever. I know there’s injury issues right now – I get that. But still. You can’t tell me there’s no one better to take up a roster spot right now. Like, oh, I don’t know: Andy LaRoche?!

    * Which brings us to our newest cause up top, with Andruw Jones out of sight and out of mind. It’s time to get Andy LaRoche up here. (Westsidedodger the first to point this out). Make no mistake, this is not a criticism of Blake DeWitt, who deserves to keep his job. But this team has been struggling on offense for quite a while, and it’s starting to not look like a slump anymore. It’s really time to get the best bats available up in the bigs. And guys who are OPS’ing .932 and getting on base almost half the time (.476 OBP) in AAA count as “best bats available.” In terms of the 25-man roster, it’s simple. Less Sweeney, more LaRoche. As for playing time, it wouldn’t kill DeWitt to only start five days a week, and it’s not like we couldn’t use another third baseman when Russell Martin is still in the conversation for getting time there. Usually I’m staunchly against in support of the  ”don’t bring up a young guy if he may not see a ton of time because it’d hurt his development” theory, but LaRoche really has absolutely nothing to prove in the minors any more. Get him up, let him hit. He can play 3B once or twice a week and get some on-the-job training at 2B. Risky? Hell yeah. But I really believe it’d be worth it.

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

    It’s Time For a New Cause

    Up there in the corner, we’ve reserved some space for our most urgent causes, usually under the headings of “Don’t Be Stupid, Ned” or “Don’t Be Stupid, Joe”. As you can see, the most recent cause Pierrehas been to “Play Matt Kemp!” However, it seems like that cause has worked out pretty well – Kemp has now started 16 games in a row and has the third-most AB on the team behind Rafael Furcal and James Loney. And he’s rewarding them with a .328/.355/.509 line, plus he’s in the top 10 in baseball in SB. I believe this was our quickest and most successful resolution to a cause yet.

    So it’s time to move on. But to what? I’m leaving this one open to you guys. What’s the most pressing cause on the Dodgers right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

    Let’s take a look back at how previous MSTI causes have went:

    Pierre
    Well, they didn’t trade Pierre. Of course, Juan has taken the threats to his job and changed his approach, and he’s actually playing very well lately. Dig that .382 OBP! Can he keep it up? Is this really a brand-new Juan Pierre? Well, I doubt it. And I’d still like to trade him, because he’s still got 3.5 more years on that huge contract. But until Andruw Jones can show that he’s in any way whatsoever still a competent MLB player, I can’t see Colletti pulling the trigger on any JP deals.
    Kershaw
    Good news again! This was from around the time of last offseason’s trading frenzy, (remember how often we were dealing Kershaw for Johan Santana, Miguel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, and pretty much everyone else who was on the market?) but forunately none of that silliness came down and Kershaw is still Dodger property, and it’s likely he makes his MLB debut in the next few weeks. If you’re wondering whether he’s still dominating AA, well how does a 1.09 ERA and a .493 OPS against strike you?

    A-Rod

    Ah, the original “official position on:” posterboy of MSTI, Alex Rodriguez. Don’t you love that rudimentary Photoshopping? Right after the season ended and A-Rod opted out, the Dodgers were often rumored as one of his destinations, and we here at MSTI were strongly against the massive price tag he’d carry with him. Of course, A-Rod eventually returned to the Yankees and the crisis was averted.

    So how about it, readers? What’s next? I’d like to keep it more in the positive vein, so “Frame Nomar for a crime!” is probably out.

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