Off Base
Defending Nomar

July 19, 2007

What do ya say we make fun of Bill Plaschke today, huh. Seems like it's been awhile.

You know how it is with these general sports columnists. Since their job is to cover all sports generally, that's what they do; cover all sports generally. Which is fine, except that this is baseball, and therefore more important than the rest, requiring the actual paying of attention, followed by genuine thoughtfulness.

There's no need for name calling, but let me just say that when I go to bed at night, among the things I thank the Big Blue Dodger God in the sky for, is that Bill Plaschke is only asking the questions about what to do with the baseball team, and not answering them.

Anyway, in case you missed Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, Plaschke wrote a piece titled "Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra can't power out of slump," with a subhead, "He isn't able to shake three-month funk in which he's lost his position, swing and aura. Dodgers can't go on like this indefinitely."

A link would be placed here normally, but I don't want to encourage the man. You don't need to read the whole column. Here are more than enough highlights:

Of Nomar, Plaschke says: "His smile is like his swing. Huge but vacant. His voice is like his power. Once resounding, now soft."

Lovely prose. Poetic even. Clever, but vacant.

"He looks you in the eye, but the stare is tired, and the words sound rehearsed, and you wonder if Garciaparra is having the same trouble as everyone else in the organization."

Actually, no. There's no stare, the words don't sound rehearsed, and I'm not wondering anything. I have faith in Nomar. I know he is a special player, and that the hits will come, when they are needed most. Like Kirk Gibson. I know this.

"[The Dodgers] are also in trouble if they go into the most pressure-filled part of the season without the calm presence of a guy who hit two of their biggest home runs last summer."

Kind of an all right sentence, but is Plaschke saying that they won't have Nomar, or they will have Nomar but without the calm presence?

"Finally, they are in an uncomfortable situation next season, the second of Garciaparra's two-year contract, if he is still struggling and Andy LaRoche is ready."

Next season. Nothing could be less relevant. Who cares about next season? The Dodgers have enough youth on the team right now. Andy LaRoche is not an issue at the moment, not even remotely.

"When he's playing well, Garciaparra is the lovably quiet enigma. When he's struggling, he's just an enigma."

Nomar Garciaparra, an enigma? Please. Not now, not ever. Mark Hendrickon is an enigma. Brett Tomko is an enigma.

"Said hitting coach Bill Mueller: 'He's working and improving every day.' Translated: No clue, and no clue."

The first good thing Plaschke says in 600 words, only he's talking about himself, not Bill Mueller.

"What they need to do now is face the truth that this player no longer exists. The only thing certain is, whoever this Garciaparra person is, he's gone, and the bewildered Dodgers miss him already."

That's the end of Plaschke piece, thankfully.

Look, Plaschke's not alone in his questioning of Nomar's performance so far this year, nor the most myopic (close, but not the most). But whatever is convenient to the point a columnist wants to make is what goes in the column.

Thoroughly ignored is the idea that the history books absolutely overflow with examples of players having down years, or down careers as the case may be, only to come through monumentally in a pennant race, or in a World Series. I'm not so concerned with Nomar's April through mid-July that I don't want him there in August. I want him there in August, and I want him there in September.

Comparing a baseball player to himself is a lame exercise. That's what cost the Dodgers Steve Garvey in December of 1982, and 22 months later, the San Diego Padres were in the World Series. Let me repeat that: The San Diego Padres were in the World Series.

Garvey's power numbers had headed south some, and the Dodgers figured, so should Garvey. That worked out just wonderfully, didn't it? Does the name Greg Brock mean anything to you?

If you must compare a ballplayer, compare him with the options, not with himself. Garciaparra will still hit for a higher average then some 20 starting third basemen this season, while driving in more runs. And that's just the third basemen who exist, not the ones who are available.

Wilson Betemit is fine right where he is; starting a couple times a week, and pinch hitting. In fact, it's Betemit who should be pinch hitting against right-handers the rest of the way, not Olmedo Saenz.

You know the old expression, "it's better to trade a guy a year too early than a year too late." The key word there is "old." It's an old expression, and doesn't apply to nearly as much as it used to, and certainly not to the Garciaparra discussion.

Nomar will be fine. He'll be better than fine. Trust me on this one. You want him there in September. You want him there in October. Question Bill Plashcke if you must question something. Nomar can question himself just fine without the help of a general sports columnist. And count on him to provide the answers in his own way, eventually, when it matters most…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

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Remember, glove conquers all….








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