Sunday, September 16, 2012
Shane Victorino, not a happy Dodger
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- A few days after the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Shane Victorino, first-base coach Davey Lopes -- who made a living for 15 years disrupting another team's flow -- was asked how much Victorino could help spark a team struggling to create action.
"He can help a lot ... if he does his thing," Lopes said. "First, he has to do his thing."
You didn't have to be an expert interpreter of body language Sunday evening to see that Victorino hasn't exactly been doing his thing. After the Dodgers' 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 12 innings, Victorino -- who went 0-for-6 and may have had the game-turning at-bat -- sat staring into his locker for a good 10 minutes.
When I asked him if he had a moment to talk afterward, he tossed something in his bag, snapped "Nope," and walked toward the showers.
That's kind of what it's been like for the new guys around the Dodgers these days. Victorino has batted .233 since the Dodgers got him from the Philadelphia Phillies and he has struck out more (26 times) than he has scored (20 times).
Adrian Gonzalez is batting .233 with one home run since coming west. Hanley Ramirez has hit some long balls, but he's batting a mediocre .264 in Dodger blue and has, frankly, played awful defense at shortstop. Josh Beckett has been better than many people expected (3.38 ERA) but the Dodgers have gone 1-3 in his four starts.
Manager Don Mattingly said he happened to talk to Victorino on Sunday about the difficulty of coming to a new team in midseason.
"He hasn't really gotten rolling, put it that way," Mattingly said.
His problem Sunday happened to involve rolling, actually. With Mark Ellis 90 feet away from winning a crucial game for the Dodgers -- at third with one out -- Victorino couldn't get the ball over a drawn-in infield. He slapped the ball to Daniel Descalso at second base and the Cardinals got Ellis in a rundown that defused their 10th-inning rally. St. Louis broke it open in the 12th off young reliever John Ely.
Victorino and Gonzalez combined to go 0-for-11 Sunday. They hit only one ball out of the infield between them.
The Dodgers have had moments when you can see the makings of some offensive flow, but they don't linger. The Dodgers have scored more than three runs just three times this month. All their best hitters not named Andre Ethier are in miserable slumps.
The struggles of the newest Dodgers are a big part of the storyline, in part because the changes the team made were done wholesale. Two starting pitchers, two relievers and three everyday players weren't on the club in early July.
It was supposed to be a refreshing transition for the newest Dodgers, three of whom came from the dysfunctional Boston Red Sox. Instead, the Dodgers are struggling to stay relevant. They fell out of the division race a while ago and they fell out of a first-place tie for the second wild-card spot Sunday. They now embark on their most difficult trip of the season, while the Cardinals get a nine-game dose of the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs.
It's not dire, but it's also not ideal. Until Victorino and his new teammates start doing their thing, the Dodgers figure to remain in chase mode.