Dodger Thoughts: Thinking out loud

The Remembering 2011 series is a byproduct of my not wanting to do a final Dodger Cogs and Dogs rankings for 2011, because after Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, the whole exercise just seemed too tedious. Instead, I decided it would be more interesting to reflect on every player individually, be it Kemp and Kershaw or Eugenio Velez and Lance Cormier. In the past, I've dispensed with year-in-review reflections in one massive effort, such as last year's online baseball cards, but this time I'm just kind of going all in. Hope you're finding the posts worthwhile.

I've ducked in and out of the baseball playoffs. With the Dodgers eliminated and with no particular dog left in the postseason fight, it's been a time for me to exhale as far as watching games on a nightly basis, but I do keep aware of what's going on, and certainly there's been enough drama where I'm going, "Man, what am I missing?" And I race to find a TV or radio. But again, the compensation for not having your team in the playoffs is the relief you get from not stressing over the outcome.

I've been trying to watch as much Stanford football as I can each weekend, since the Andrew Luck-led Cardinal is the best Stanford gridiron group in my lifetime and then some. It's quite a change from watching the Dodgers – Stanford has won its past nine games by at least 25 points, and there I am, totally enjoying it – yet seeing all the flaws. The team has given up zero points in the first quarter this season and only a total of six in six third quarters, yet I still see weakness in the defense that has me concerned for the Oregon game in November. The Dodgers should be so flawed.

I even made plans to watch a regular-season NFL game for the first time in ages. I got curious about San Francisco-Detroit because of them being two upstart teams, one of them coached by Stanford's recent leader Jim Harbaugh. It was kind of fun, but at the same time, overflowing with penalties. Ultimately, I went to a family lunch at the end of the first half, and then, instead of watching the second half on my DVR, decided I shouldn't sit on my butt any longer and worked on cleaning out the garage. It wasn't until after dinner that I learned that Harbaugh is still Harbaugh.

Lunch today included Grandma Sue, who has passed the halfway point between 101 and 102. She is in a wheelchair, can't hear anymore and doesn't know who everyone is – only a few people closest to her seem able to converse with her. But she looked lovely, and she just keeps pushing along. At Jerry's Deli, ate 1 1/2 hot dogs and some eggs – quite a meal.

My kids, as usual, have been alternately vexing and dazzling. And, predictably I suppose, in some ways it has gotten easier, but in some ways it has gotten harder. It was around this time, with my youngest at 3 1/2 and my oldest at 9, that I thought there might be a window of relative ease – no toddlers or teenagers – but it hasn't quite played out that way. Still Crazytown. But I hug 'em every night.

My blogging at Variety suffered for a two-month stretch as I focused on Emmy and Fall TV Preview duties, but I've recently been making a concerted effort to post every weekday. Hope you'll check it out. At the same time, it's also time for me to get knee-deep into the film scene as we rev up for Oscar season. The best picture I've seen since "Moneyball" was "Martha Marcy May Marlene," an intense drama starring Elizabeth Olsen. I still definitely spend too much of my time in front of screens – TV, movie, computer.

St. Louis center fielder John Jay just made a wild catch in center field with two out in the bottom of the ninth at Milwaukee. That would have been a heck of a final out.

It's so quiet on the Dodger front. I looked back at my posts from the past two non-playoff Octobers – 2010 and 2007 – and even though the Dodgers were sidelined, it seemed newsier. This month, other than some McCourtroom droppings, it's really just been a waiting game for things to happen. I'm not complaining, but I do occasionally imagine a tumbleweed blowing from first base to third in Dodger Stadium some mornings.

Let me know how your offseason is going. No detail is too mundane tonight ...

My journey

June, 27, 2011
6/27/11
11:13
PM PT
... In about the mid-1990s, after it became clear how awful the DeShields-Pedro Martinez trade was, I started to conjecture that the Dodgers really could become the Cubs - that a journey to 100 years of mediocrity can begin with a single step. Subsequently, I started to think that I might be following the same path. I'm a published writer, and people (some of them, anyway) have enjoyed my work. But I don't feel like I really made it to the champagne celebration in the locker room.

I'm very happy these days - I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful baby, and you won't catch me regretting the choices I made that allowed those things to happen. But I do have frustrations, and those frustrations, I've come to realize, are played out each time the Dodgers do something. Anything. I'm not just talking about the 162 games; I'm talking about the offseason trades and the decisions to replace the dirt warning track with rubber and the removal of the sandwich station on the Club level of Dodger Stadium. I was raised in an easier time, where things were more often right than wrong, and I haven't shed my addiction to that time. I want things with the Dodgers to be right. That, essentially, is the genesis of this website - to deal with that want.

I think what it is, is that when I was younger, the games were more fun. They were carefree. Now, they do seem to mean more to me. They carry this weight. And now, it's been so long since the Dodgers have been a winner, I can't imagine anymore what it will be like to celebrate that. I hope I enjoy the glory, if it ever comes, as much as I've suffered the pain. I think maybe I will.


– Dodger Thoughts, March 12, 2003

Lorenzo Charles died, and that was by far the worst news I heard all day.

I poked my thumb on a fork in the dishwasher, and that was by far the most pain I felt all day. I slammed my hand down on the counter and cursed.

But the angriest I got over the McCourt news today was when my web browser crashed while pages were loading.

This afternoon, I found myself wondering why I can get angry at so many things, so many little things – "Why won't this page load?! It's a computer! It's all 0s and 1s!" – and yet I can remain unflappably calm over the way Frank McCourt treats the team I grew up loving.

It's not because I don't care. I couldn't write for this website if I didn't care.

Sometime over the eight years since I wrote the post excerpted above, Dodger games went back to the way they were. They went back to being carefree, to being an escape. I suffer every loss, yearn for every win, but even with a losing team, the games are a release for me again. They don't carry weight. I channel my frustration elsewhere.

So much of the frustration and anger in my life is about unmet expectations. The computer should work. I should be able to do the dishes without maiming myself. March Madness God should not die at age 47. The biggest one of all: I'm not the person I want to be.

But Frank McCourt has no way left to disappoint me, because I have zero faith in the man to do the right thing. I have no expectations of him.

This is a particularly personal view that I don't necessarily expect anyone else to share, so please don't get the idea that I'm telling any of you not to be angry. You have every right. I'm just talking about me here.

I think part of my problem in life has been that I've not always been cynical enough, which is why I'm so easily disappointed. But McCourt is like a shot of cynicism straight into my veins. In some ways, it's a relief. McCourt might own the Dodgers, but he doesn't own me.

The Dodgers are my Odyssey, and to paraphrase Roberto Baly, Vin Scully is my Homer. Safe at home or mired on the seas, the Dodgers are a story, an endless fable that I see in the making, and so, so instructive.

The way I react to each chapter in this epic is the way I wish I reacted to the rest of my life. Suffer with dignity, accept limitations, believe that the next good moment is around the corner. I don't want to have to become a cynic to survive my remaining time in this world, but if I can ever learn to take the bad with the good in my everyday life, like I do with the Dodgers, I'll be the better man for it.

Don't surrender. Be a dreamer, not a demander. It might not be what you need, but it's what I need.

Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesRockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez robs Rafael Furcal of a potential game-tying double in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 7-5 loss to Colorado.


As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, though I don't by any means rule out the Dodgers making a run for a division title, my feelings about this year's team are about as pessimistic as I've ever had since I began Dodger Thoughts. The reason: Not only does the pitching have to meet high expectations for the team to succeed, but the offense and defense both have to exceed expectations. Los Angeles just looks too slight a horse to bet the big money on.

Today's 7-5 loss to Colorado was but one game, one that will be forgotten as soon as the next one begins (two long nights from now), but it does illustrate my point. The great pitching faltered, as will happen, and the offense, despite home runs by James Loney and Rod Barajas and a triple by Casey Blake in his season debut, couldn't make up the difference. Bad timing? Sure, and for that matter, the Dodgers nearly pulled the game out in the ninth inning. But over the course of 2011, I don't foresee the Dodger offense exceeding expectations more often than the Dodger pitching falls short of them.

We heard a lot of talk about execution and aggressiveness in Spring Training, which is all well and good — being anti-execution is like being anti-breathing. But I tend to think that any team that is relying on execution to save its season is a team that doesn't have enough talent to succeed.

The Dodgers next head to San Diego's spacious Petco Park, where the pitching should flourish, to play a team that most of us feel will finish beneath the Dodgers in the standings. After that is a trip to San Francisco, to play a team that just lost three of four games to Los Angeles. So for all I know, the Dodgers will be back in first place in a week's time, showing renewed signs of contendability. But this remains a prove-it-to-me Dodger team, one that perhaps will be looking for players like Rubby De La Rosa or Jerry Sands to save it.
Getty ImagesSofia Vergara has never faced Bill Murray in an official game - yet.
Apropos of nothing ...

I got to thinking the other day about the demise of the Dodgers' Hollywood Stars game, which actually began fading in importance in my childhood – I've never once seen it in person – but has truly crashed on the rocks in the current era. But once upon a time, it was a big deal. In a way, with the Lakers having become the gathering nexus of stars and sports, I'm surprised they haven't made a celebrity game a tradition.

Anyway, it's kind of a frivolous topic, but I decided to have some fun trying to come up with rosters that would make me want to come to the game – a lineup that would put some sizzle and some stakes back into the Hollywood Stars game. Here are the ground rules:
  • Each team should have breadth across the decades, dating back at least to players born in the 1950s.
  • Each starting lineup should have at least three women.
  • Each starting lineup should have at least five players who you have reason to believe can half-decently hit, throw and catch.
  • As many players who can both play the game and play to the crowd as possible.
  • There should be one or two players on each team from foreign lands who are inept at baseball but charmingly so.
  • Oh, and the winning team gets $10 million to donate to its favorite charity. The losing team gets $5 million. Don't worry - I've got it covered.

Here are my opening suggestions:

Sandys
Manager: Eli Wallach
Coach: Don Rickles
Captain: Sandy Koufax

Starting lineup
Miranda Cosgrove, C
Kobe Bryant, LF
Jon Hamm, SS
Tom Hanks, 3B
John Kraskinski, RF
Bill Murray, P
Reese Witherspoon, CF
Idris Elba, 1B
Emily Blunt, 2B

Bench
Jeff Bridges, P
Robert Redford, OF
Marisa Tomei, P
Nick Offerman, C
Ron Howard, IF
Danica McKellar, OF
Betty White, PH

Fernandos
Manager: Clint Eastwood
Coach: Ernest Borgnine
Captain: Fernando Valenzuela

Starting lineup
Alyssa Milano, 2B
Blake Griffin, CF
Bryan Cranston, P
Jimmy Kimmel, SS
Sofia Vergara, RF
Brad Pitt, 3B
Louie C.K., C (and for scorekeeping purposes, he should strike out in his first at-bat)
Tom Selleck, 1B
Amy Poelher, LF

Bench:
Will Smith, IF-OF
Anne Hathaway, OF
Zach Galifianakis, C
Mark Harmon, P
Adrianne Palicki, P
Selena Gomez, IF-OF
Mickey Rooney, PH

Broadcaster: Vin Scully

OK, now time for your suggestions. Which players did I miss? Whom would you add, and whom would you cut?

The race wasn't over in July

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
9:29
AM PT
As the July 31 trading deadline approached, there was a case that the Dodgers should become sellers instead of buyers. But that case rested on what was best for the franchise long-term, not on the idea that the team had no shot of making the playoffs in 2010.

While some began pronouncing the 2010 Dodger season dead with two months to go, while I was ridiculed at times for suggesting that a three-game series in July with the Padres wasn't a must-win, what we've seen again – as we've seen more than once in recent seasons – is that a single-digit deficit in the standings doesn't bury a team if a third of the season is remaining.

Sure, few foresaw that the National League West-leading Padres would lose as many as 10 games in a row, but it was hardly out of the question that they would come back to earth in some fashion – say, 11 losses in 15 games or something like that. If you're trailing but you can sniff the pennant race, you don't need to hold your nose.

The Dodgers were seven games out the morning they traded for Ted Lilly. Insurmountable? Well, San Francisco was six games out of first place as late as August 28, and they have been playing for first place in San Diego this weekend.

Colorado was 11 games out of first place as late as August 22. The Rockies are now only 2 1/2 games out with three weeks to go.

The Padres may well prevail, but they are sweating.

With any meaningful combination of wins on and off the field over the past six weeks, the Dodgers would be in the thick of the playoff hunt today. That didn't happen, and I suppose some people would say they knew all along it wouldn't, but if all the wheels hadn't come off at once, the Dodgers would still be playing important baseball. While this doesn't tell the whole story, the 2010 Dodgers had a better record on July 31 than the playoff teams of 2008 and 2006. It wasn't over, not at all.

The Dodgers would be better off today if they had gone into seller mode, and I would have understood it if they had – in fact, as I've said many times, part of me has always wished they would start an offseason in summertime. But I still think many fans are too quick to give up on a team. It's sort of telling, really, how many people can't wait to abandon hope.
This is not a rumor I'm starting. There is no evidence that this is being discussed or will ever happen. Everything I've heard is that the Yankee will finish his career as a Yankee.

But that sort of talk has been wrong in the past. And so I submit to you that there are far more outlandish possibilities than Joe Torre returning as Dodger manager next season and successfully recommending that the team sign free agent infielder Derek Jeter.
White lies, little and giant, have always been part of baseball -- even the creation of the game is rooted in myth. But I can't remember a year since I've been following the Dodgers that seems as defined by misinformation as 2010.

The tone was set last fall by Frank and Jamie McCourt as they prepared to do battle for ownership of the franchise, with the he said/she said battle positions flowering during numerous public revelations this year, leaving us with the bouquet of stinkweed at the trial that began this week. I'm not saying that someone's been trying to pull a lot of wool over someone's eyes, but lambs across the country are shivering in 90-degree heat.

It hasn't only been the McCourts. Matt Kemp is held out of the starting lineup for days at a time, and the explanations richochet like bumper cars. He's tired, he needs to get his head together, he's in a battle with a coach, he needs to go talk to Joe Torre, Joe Torre needs to talk to him.

Manny Ramirez is finally ready to play after a painfully long absence, and yet he's not playing. It's matchups against the pitcher, it's the square footage of the opposing outfield, it's Torre playing a hunch, it's to protect Ramirez for his waiver sendoff to the American League, it's Ramirez's own pigheadedness.

And then there are the media columnists who will bend and even break the truth to suit the stories they are determined to write, heedless of the facts.

This all comes on top of the game's typical lies, such as a player hiding an injury (often to the detriment of the team), that are so familiar and yet so tedious.

It has bred a cynicism so rampant in many of us that even when a Dodger executive of unimpugned integrity like Logan White said in June with complete honesty that he drafted Zach Lee with the full intention of trying to sign him, few believed him -- and most of the few who did simply believed he was lying to himself.

Baseball in general, and the Dodgers in particular, don't necessarily owe us the truth, and I understand little white lies will always be part of the game. Baseball is a business, a culture and a family, and in all three fib to protect themselves. But this year, the cumulative effect of the lying has had a punishing effect. Last week, when Ramirez missed his final four chances to start after reaching base in his final four plate appearances as a starter, I rolled my eyes so much that they bowled a 270. It would be a bit much to pull the "have you no decency" card, but surely there doesn't need to be such contempt for the truth to operate a baseball team in Los Angeles.

The grievances of Dodger fans are many, perhaps too many and perhaps sometimes too petty. But the feeling is almost unshakable that the Dodger organization has gone too far in insulting the intelligence of the fans. If our expectations are sometimes too high, that doesn't mean the Dodger players, coaches, manager, executives and ownership don't need to aim higher. In the end, winning is all that matters, but integrity goes a long way toward soothing the spirit when you're losing.

Let's put it this way: If you as an organization choose to espouse the heart and hustle and grit and gristle of players like Scott Podsednik and Jamey Carroll, then maybe you need to apply those values to your own, you know, values. Character in a baseball team is defined by more than how fast you run down the line. You're telling me character matters, yet you're not acting like it.

The good or bad of it

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
9:21
AM PT
The good or bad of it, as I see it, is this:

If the Dodgers win their upcoming series against Colorado and Cincinnati as part of a 6-1 week, while Philadelphia and San Francisco (who play each other starting Tuesday) beat each other up as part of .500 weeks, the Dodgers might only be three or four games behind in the National League wild card race with six weeks to go.

That's not all likely to happen – I'm not remotely suggesting it will happen – but it's not so unlikely.

If it does happen, that means the Dodgers are firmly in the playoff hunt, even if the odds remain against them.

It doesn't mean the Dodgers are a good team, let alone a playoff team. But you don't need to be a good team to have a good week. And, rightly or wrongly, a good week can change your outlook significantly.

Defeated

July, 18, 2010
7/18/10
11:48
PM PT
One of the constant refrains I hear this year, whether it's tied in with the McCourt debacle or the 22 years since the last World Series title or whatever, is that Dodger fans deserve better. And I get that, I totally do.

I just come at things from a different place. I don't feel like I deserve better with the Dodgers. Big media market, big tradition, big talent base - I don't care. That doesn't matter to me.

As someone who was never anything but a Dodger fan, I was born on third base, as they say – but I don't think I hit a triple. I think I got lucky. I was born into Jackie Robinson's franchise. I was born with Vin Scully as my broadcaster. The Yankees, the Red Sox – I don't care. I can't imagine a better team to root for than Jackie and Vin's team.

A game like today's, and I don't feel cheated. I feel, that makes sense. The McCourts, the bullpen collapses – they're plot points in a drama that otherwise would be very nice but very sterile. Very tidy. Life isn't tidy. That's why it makes sense.

I'm not saying that's right. I totally get why other people feel differently.

And it doesn't mean I don't feel disappointment. God, do I.

I just really don't feel I'm owed anything. And it could be another 50 years without a World Series title (it really well could be), and I don't think that will change. Some of you feel you're owed, and that's fine. I don't feel it. I feel we've been given gifts, and expecting, demanding more is nonsensical.

I won't stop being disappointed if there's nothing under the tree this year, but I don't blame Santa for passing us by.

And then there's this.

I'm not going to defend Jonathan Broxton today. From what I saw, he should have pitched better.

But this. People look at what he does and then they say he doesn't have a killer instinct or a heart or a brain or whatever other option "The Wizard of Oz" offers. They say it about Chad Billingsley, or Matt Kemp. They've said it about guys long gone, and they'll say it about guys yet to come. And maybe they're right. I don't think they're right – this ultimate judgment that boils down to "all winners have heart, all losers lack heart" – but maybe they're right.

I think part of the reason I get so bothered is that when they say those things, I feel they might as well be saying it about me. Because I am no different than Broxton, Billingsley or Kemp. I have my good points and my bad points. And in particular, in my life, I have been lacking in grace under pressure. Rising to the occasion is not so easy for me.

It's my hope that my family, friends and colleagues see the good that I do alongside my failings. Because if I'm judged only on my failings, I'm done for.

I think people are spoiled. But I'm spoiled, too. Just in different ways. So who am I to criticize?

In fact, I don't even like this ending, but I don't have the heart or the backbone to change it. So there you go.

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireManny Ramirez and the Dodgers are in the chase, but who's up for the ride?
One of the most peculiar things to me about last season was how testy many Dodger Thoughts commenters were when things were going well.

For a Dodger team that basically won its division wire-to-wire and had the best record in the National League for almost the entire year, there was an overflow of discontent last spring and summer. The gripes could be rather specific if not downright picayune, but they were constant. Criticism of Joe Torre was ongoing. The war against Matt Kemp batting eighth took on a life of its own. If it wasn't one thing, it was another.

I pleaded with the unhappy campers to smell the roses, to accept that no team was perfect and enjoy what appeared to be the best Dodger team since at least 1988 (even accounting for Manny Ramirez's suspension). They told me not to take anything for granted, that success didn't eliminate the need for worry.

This year, aside from the occasional game like the Sunday night meltdown against the Yankees, things are less angsty in the comments. But weirdly, that seems to speaks to a deeper dissatisfaction in Los Angeles.

It's just a theory, but I think that in a sense almost everyone felt that last year's Dodger team was a special team. Or at least might be. Different people absorbed and reacted to this possibility in different ways, but overall the Dodgers' potential seemed limitless — with even a World Series title possible if they would just not screw it up. People didn't want to see that team wasted, and that made the stakes higher.

People don't think this year's team is a special team. Manny Ramirez is a year older, and Kemp's spot in the batting order is the least of anyone's concerns about him. There's plenty to be happy about, but the team got off to a grim start instead of a great one, and the McCourt saga has sapped that extra bounce from everyone's step.

Even though the Phillies seem less a threat now than they did a year ago, even though the path to the National League pennant is arguably more wide open than it was a year ago, even though the Dodgers currently sit only a half-game out of a playoff spot ... no one seems all that excited.

The one fella that actually seemed to galvanize some fans was John Ely. His burst onto the scene was magical, spreading the kind of fairy dust that, accompanied by a nice month of May, made the eyes of Dodger fans twinkle. But for now, midnight has struck Ely down, and few seem very confident that we'll make it back to the ball.

I wouldn't have been writing this piece today if Clayton Kershaw had beaten St. Louis on Thursday, because I don't think it would have occurred to me to do so after a victory. But I don't think a victory would have changed the underlying feeling I'm getting. The ennui that seemed to accompany the 7-1 defeat crystallized some thoughts I've had percolating for a while.

After 10 or 20 years when Dodgers fans were grateful just to win a single playoff game, that's no longer enough. They want the World Series. And with but a few exceptions, they don't think they're gonna get it.

It's not that Dodger fans no longer care, or no longer desire. By and large, they just don't believe.

Play ball ...

May, 3, 2010
5/03/10
11:09
PM PT
My wife gave me the most extraordinary anniversary present. It was a 96-page, hardcover photo album (with accompanying text) celebrating our courtship and first 10 years of marriage and nearly eight years as parents. For a guy who finds self-pity less than a hop, skip and jump away, it was like being handed my very own "It's a Wonderful Life."

The words she wrote were obviously sentimental and loving, but they didn't hide the struggles we've had or the disappointments we have encountered. Sometimes we make bad choices; sometimes we aren't good enough. Sometimes we do everything right, but it just isn't meant to be. Marriage isn't one World Series championship after another, and within it there are frustrations large and small.

But in the most mundane moments can come the most diabolically precious memories.

When I paged through that photo album and saw so many dagger-to-my-heart images piled on top of each other, I was staggered. And it was amazing how many of them occurred on the most uneventful days, days that had no meaning other than bringing smiles to our faces then, and now, and in the future. It's a book of tear-dropped happiness, not a book of triumphs.

When we're up against it, when the dreams and peace of mind are deferred, we have to remind ourselves (some days I'm better than this than others) that the little things add up. It isn't done fairly, and the calculus isn't comprehensible. But we have to remember. I have to remember. Otherwise, when the time comes, I'll go straight into missing them without having appreciated them.

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Jonathan Broxton is the only impeccable Dodger pitcher this season, but he has only pitched 5 2/3 innings in 2010.

With the Houston Astros (6-10) on Friday winning their fifth game out of six, and Philadelphia and St. Louis losing, the gap between the top and bottom teams in the National League has shrunk to four games. By the end of the day, there's a chance that the Dodgers (7-9) could be part of of a three-way tie for the worst record in the NL – or a three-way tie for third place in the NL West, two games out of first. That should be enough to indicate how early in the season it is.

But I offer that up as much for me as any of you.

I've been disgusted by the pitching and the defense. So far this season, the Dodgers have only twice strung together as many as eight shutout innings: April 7 at Pittsburgh (in between giving up three runs in the first and the winning run in the 10th) and April 17 (2)/April 18 (6) against the Giants (the Dodgers won the second game). Four other times, the team has had at least five consecutive scoreless frames. That's it. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. writes, "The Dodgers lead the majors with 14 unearned runs allowed this season. In 2009, they didn't give up an unearned run until the 20th game of the season." One's stiff upper lip quivers when the pitching and defense are that porous.

The offense is working, but we all know you need more than that. If the Dodgers can get their fielding above abysmal (Dodger Thoughts commenter Regfairfield has pointed out that the rate of mistakes they have made in 2010 is essentially unprecedented over a full season) and at least get the pitching to be competent, that will be enough for now. As you can see from the first paragraph, no team has broken out in the NL – Philadelphia and St. Louis have their issues, and the NL West is led by the team predicted to finish last. There's plenty of time.

If the offense unplugs while everything else remains sloppy, however, then this season turns into a disaster and, looking ahead to next year, puts much of the entire roster up for grabs while the McCourt divorce case drags on. As we sit here today, there might be as few as four players the Dodgers will definitely retain for 2011: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Jonathan Broxton. Russell Martin and Rafael Furcal are likely to stay off the trade market if they can enough of their April performance. Everyone else ... who knows? Some would have to stay, but they'd all be on the table. It doesn't really matter who – it would still be turmoil.

It's too soon to worry about this, but I do worry. But it's too soon. But I worry. But it's too soon.

* * *

  • Based on this Washington D.C. forecast, the Dodgers should avoid a rainout.
  • No Dodger reliever except Ramon Ortiz was used Friday.
  • The Dodger reliever with the lowest ERA this season (minimum six innings): Carlos Monasterios, 3.00.
  • Xavier Paul is starting today, but this brief from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com indicates he will be out there in the first inning only occasionally while Manny Ramirez recuperates. Despite Garret Anderson hitting a pinch-homer Thursday, I think the Dodgers would be better-served giving Paul most of the starts.
  • It's not exactly the same problem as Chad Billingsley, but wun-time onederkind Cole Hamels is being heavily scrutinized in Philadelphia.
  • Inland Empire's Ethan Martin pitched six innings of two-hit shutout ball Friday, walking three and striking out seven, in the 66ers' 1-0 loss. Martin's 2010 ERA is 1.80. With two shutout innings in relief, Kenley Jansen has a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts against 10 baserunners in 10 2/3 innings this season.
  • Jerry Sands went 3 for 4 in Great Lakes' 2-1 10-inning loss. The 22-year-old Sands (he's about six months older than Kershaw) has a .485 on-base percentage and .879 slugging percentage this year.

IF: The If Factor

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
11:14
AM PT

Getty Images
If Ronald Belisario has really turned into a pumpkin, does that mean the Dodger season will too?
You know I know it's early, but if certain things don't go the Dodgers' way, it's true that this could be a downer of a year. I've rated the probability of these ifs on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most iffy, on a scale I call "The If Factor" (IF for short). Here are some examples:

If ...IF
Vicente Padilla doesn't become Cy Young.1
A major injury hits a productive player.2
Hong-Chih Kuo can't stay healthy.3
The offense's scoring average drops from 6.5 runs per game to 4.5.4
Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw both can't get their act together.5
Ronald Belisario turns into a pumpkin (figuratively).6
No one from the minor leagues steps up.7
One or more Ortizes aren't released by the end of the month.8
Ronald Belisario turns into a pumpkin (literally).9
The whole team is made up of pumpkins.9.9


Other candidates for either end of the table: Russell Martin stops hitting like Tony Gwynn, and James Loney has to move to the bullpen. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
Torre -- who used every position player, every reliever except Jeff Weaver (who wasn't available because he had pitched in six of the previous seven games) and even starter Charlie Haeger in Wednesday night's game -- when asked who would have pitched if the Dogders had tied the score in the 11th and sent it to the 12th: "It would have been one of those guys out on the field. If it had stayed tied [in the 11th], Russ would have hit for himself and gone back out there. But if we had tied it, I'm sure we would have found a volunteer in there somewhere."

Our cups runneth under

March, 23, 2010
3/23/10
12:13
PM PT


This metaphor comes with the Dodger logo and will cost you only $11.95, plus shipping.



Most cups and glasses (at least of the non-mug variety) are wider at the top than down low. You can take a big first gulp, and when you look down, it still feels like you've got plenty left. It might feel practically bottomless.

Then, when you're not quite ready or prepared for it, there's a figurative tipping point. The relative slimness of the cup becomes problematic. Not only do you have less left to drink, but each sip lowers down the level of what you have at an accelerated pace. The less you have left, the faster it seems to go.

So many of us forget to savor, or maybe we don't know how. That's why cups should be wider at the bottom. And if cups aren't, then at the very least, life should be.

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Meadowlark Lemon
So in the comments this afternoon, I started thinking about what it would be like if the Dodgers made this roadshow they're currently on in Taiwan a permanent thing. I don't mean an overseas trip every year. I mean turning the Dodgers into a modern-day baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters – the L.A. Dodgers Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings – crossing the globe on a 200-game roadtrip.

Oh sure, the team would never win a World Series again – but on the other hand, they'd really be playing a World Series. Tommy Lasorda managing, Don Rickles as his bench coach, Manny Ramirez signed to a 10-year entertainment services contract that lasts until he's 48, Rickey Henderson brought in as designated runner and team emcee, Clayton Kershaw mixing fastballs with snowballs, Matt Kemp as the next Meadowlark Lemon, James Loney as Curly Neal, Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax each taking an inning via hologram, and just when you think they might lose, Andre Ethier ending every night with a walkoff homerun that he hits blindfolded.

A squad of baseball clown evangelists – traveling around the world, raising money and goodwill where it's needed, pocketing it where it's not, each game better than the last. All the team's cares whisked away in a confetti-filled barrel of fun, a pregame "Sweet Georgia Brown" and a 200-0 record.

Yeah, I know: What about real competition? To that I say, don't take me so seriously. Just think about the good times ...

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
20 1.80 228 190
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .298
HRA. Gonzalez 25
RBIA. Gonzalez 112
RD. Gordon 90
OPSY. Puig .867
ERAC. Kershaw 1.80
SOC. Kershaw 228