Off Base
It's Always Darkest......Just Before it Gets Pitch Black

August 11, 2008, 4:05 p.m. There's no sugar-coating a thing here. It's bleak, folks. Just plain bleak. And Manny or no Manny, this is some pretty bad baseball we're looking at here.

Be grateful you're getting the tame version please, instead of the rant I wrote after yesterday's meltdown at Frisco. Man, was I pissed. Three aspirin and several hours in the fetal position later, and I'm a bit relieved. Uh, "relieved" is a bad choice of words there, sorry.

So now, in the cold hard light of day, a good deal less emotional and a tad more objective, I realize it's wrong to speak ill of the dead. Fine, almost dead. On their way to being dead, should be dead already, but this is the National League West, so maybe not all that dead.

Mother always told me, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." And this from a Brooklyn native.

Ah, what the hell. It's been well established that I’m not particularly nice, so here's some of that first draft as written, along with the original title, "This Just in Off the Sports Wire, the Dodgers are Total and Complete Crap," and every last exclamation point removed for easier viewing:

"They stink. They stink. The Dodgers stink. They just plain stink.
They stink. They suck. They are total and complete bleepers. They stink.  And suck. They stick and suck.

They can't play baseball. They can't play baseball. They can't play a lick. They just can't play the game. They have a million ways to lose. A million ways to lose. So many ways to lose. Awful, awful, awful. They're bad, worse than bad, hideous. Putrid. Unwatchable. Lame. Sickening. Incompetent. Lame.

[You said "lame" twice. I like lame. If you get that reference consider yourself a pop culture god.]

Did I mention bad? They're bad. The Dodgers are bad. They're bad. They stink, they suck, they stink and suck.

Counterproductive to rant like this, huh? Childish, you say? Unprofessional? Yeah, well bite me, pal. Get your kicks elsewhere. Route 66, for all I care, for crying out loud.

This is my party and I'll cry if I want to. That's why I make the big bucks. And I am sooo pissed. I am sooo pissed. So give me the damn ball and get out of the damn way. You do NOT want to be on my bad said, or even remotely in the vicinity right about now. Trust me on this one.

Think maybe I'm being too rash, that maybe I have a rash, or are about to get a rash, or give someone a rash? Can you bleeping blame me? Did you see those last two ballgames? Are you blind? Are you out of your bleeping mind, you insensitive twit?"

But like I said, three aspirin and some quality time in the fetal position. I'm thinking more clearly now. And you know what? The Dodgers don't really have a million ways to lose. That's an exaggeration.

The Dodgers lose generally with inept offense, leaving men on base in crucial situations. They lose periodically with weak starting pitching, particularly on the road, but less so than most clubs. They lose with sub-par defense. And most recently, they lose by blowing saves in the ninth inning, in gut-wrenching fashion, but in all fairness, no more so than the average club.

That's what, four ways to lose, not a million ways to lose. Let's take them one at a time. Inept offense, blowing opportunities with men on base. Manny helps, obviously, with Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre out of the lineup helping some more. Jeff Kent batting third, on the other hand, doesn't, and removing Russell Martin in favor of Kent was a silly choice by Joe Torre.

Martin's 5-22 post Manny was more a function of his overuse than anything else, and he was more apt to adjust than Kent was to flourish in the three-spot anyway. But OK, the Dodgers hit better with Manny than without. Next.

Starting pitching. Derek Lowe will be fine, and Brad Penny probably won't be, but starting pitching is not a real concern. Next.

Bad defense. Casey Blake has done a good job for the most part, so he gets a pass on one bad play, but Dodgers pitchers can't field the position as a matter of course. Lowe is an alarmingly bad glove man for a sinkerballer. Blame it on coaching, or lack thereof, but there's nothing to be done about it now. With Nomar Garciaparra returning Tuesday, and Martin spent behind the plate, fielding is going to get worse before it gets better.

There's no real solution in the bullpen either. Jonathan Broxton was due to blow a save. The big guy absolutely killed the Dodgers with his September run of dramatic home runs allowed last year, and it's anyone's guess as to whether we're about to see a repeat performance now.

On the bright side, Arizona is a thoroughly pedestrian club, which just dropped four straight at home before rebounding yesterday, and has lost arguably its best all-around player in Orlando Hudson for the year. They picked up Adam Dunn today, so bully for them. That's a break for the Dodgers, actually.

Nomar comes back tomorrow, and in another potential coup for Los Angeles, Jones' knee is hurting again. It's a simple switch, with Jones disabled, and left on the shelf until there's evidence he can hit minor league pitching. Convincing evidence; not six at bats.

Also, if you watch closely this week, you'll see that the Phils and Brewers aren't all that scary. Better than the Dodgers, sure, but with some exploitable weaknesses. CC Sabathia isn't one of them, but weaknesses just the same. Just you watch.

Conclusion? Well, the Dodgers really are that bad, but when in Rome. All that's required to win this division is one hot week of play, in almost any of the remaining seven weeks, and .500 the rest of the time, and they're in the postseason. Consistently fine play would be preferred, of course, but it's not necessarily necessary. Sad, but that's the reality…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Media Savvy: Check out this nice piece on closers by Jim Caple, of

Line of the week goes to Tony Jackson, of the Daily News. And this, before the second of consecutive blown games at San Francisco: "This race is like a couple of 102-year-old guys who are trying to see who can go the longest without dying."

And props to our friend Alan Nahmias, for the positive blurb at the end of Simers column last week. A very, very rare thing indeed…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….







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