Off Base
Stars Aligning for Dodgers

July 21, 2009, 11:15 p.m. "In a year that has been so improbable... the impossible has happened!"

By now, you know the line and the context. No, Vin Scully wasn't talking about Jason Schmidt winning a summer start for the 2009 Dodgers. And no, Vinny hasn't said anything about "the Most Valuable Player for the Dodgers [being] Tinkerbell." Not yet, anyway.

But more and more, the stars are aligning for this year's Los Angeles Dodgers, and championships are won in years like this one. Walkoff homers, plural; all manner of come-from-behind victories, well-above .300 performances from guys like Brad Ausmus and Juan Castro, and replacements for pivotal players leading the club unexpectedly, understatement though that may be.

The 1988 Dodgers received a walkoff pinch single from a pitcher named Tim Leary, not to mention a career-best 17 wins and 2.91 ERA. They got three wins in the postseason from Tim Belcher, three regular season wins from sixth starter Shawn Hillegas, four from mostly-crippled John Tudor, a career-first victory for Ramon Martinez, and one from Rickey Horton. Ricky Horton.

And Jason Schmidt won a ball game in 2009. It was far from pretty, but a win is a win, and they all count on the way to a World Series. Every single one of them. And four scoreless innings doesn't hurt now either.

Watching the first inning, you had to be thinking, "well, this is just sad." Tom Watson sad.

In a private moment, the Dodgers would no doubt admit they were closing their eyes and throwing Schmidt out there, with a 7 ½ game lead and not a whole hell of a lot to lose. Coming back to the majors, even for one game, is something to celebrate for one of their own. So can you blame them for giving it a try?

Perhaps they saw it as in investment in the season; one sacrificed ball game with the hope for a break. An investment in their investment, if you will. Five innings and three or four runs would've been fine with them, buying time for a turn around the rotation, when with any luck, they'd have a new man.

Like most people, I'm a naysayer as far as Schmidt is concerned, but there's no point in being mean. Yes, the Reds helped (and they're mostly obliging, just generally), but Schmidt contributed to the season, and he deserves credit. If it's his only start of the year, the Dodgers will gladly take it.

Schmidt's presence isn't going to stop the team from acquiring a starter, and when they do, it's not going to keep him in the rotation. But he's already earned a Series share.

Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi doesn't sport the most convincing poker face in the world, but he's doing his darnedest. Roy Halladay might not be traded by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but the odds of his finding a home in this country at some point during the season are a bleepload better than Ricciardi's letting on.

I'm guessing the Dodgers go at least as hard after Cliff Lee as Roy Halladay, and with the Cleveland pitcher's take-home considerably lower than the Doc's, they might just go the extra mile for Lee. And I still think someone like Zach Duke is a distinct possibility, and a good one.

Meanwhile, while I'm writing this, Manny Ramirez is nailed on the wrist and ends up with nothing more than a day-to-day dealy. Like there was any doubt. Stars are aligning, I'm telling you.

The way things are going, whatever arm or arms L.A. comes away with via trade, the new guys are almost certain to succeed. While I don't think the Dodgers really want to trot Schmidt out in the heat and Pujols of St. Louis next week, they can afford the luxury of another experiment…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Texas Holds Him: Talk about your stars being aligned, has anyone noticed that Andruw Jones is down to 227? The batting average, not the weight. Jones has the 14 homers on the year, but his .344 April has been followed by a .245 May, a .170 June, and he's at .185 in July…

Media Savvy: Props to Los Angeles Daily News columnist and IBWAA founding member Tom Hoffarth for his work on Steve Dalkowski here and here. Dalkowski was director Ron Shelton's real-life basis for the Tim Robbins' Nuke LaLoosh character in "Bull Durham."

If you didn't get a chance to read it yet, please take the time for a beautiful piece about Jon Wilhite, from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

And an interesting article by's Ben Reiter, on what improving defense can mean to a team's (e.g., the Dodgers') success from one year to the next…

What's In a Name: Plenty, apparently. I get some neat stuff in the form of emails from readers occasionally, and this is one of them. Long Beach native Orlando Zepeda signed the Statue for Sandy e-petition, and for obvious reasons, his name caught my eye.

Turns out he's a medical student and a Dodger fan in San Francisco, of all places, and was indeed named after Orlando Cepeda. Zepeda cornered Cepeda at China Basin at a game recently, and here's the photo.

And no joke, the Main Squeeze and I rented a home from a woman named Drysdale. I mean, how could we not? Comic Rebecca Drysdale; no relation…

Statue for Sandy: I have a trick up my sleeve, and it's got potential. You'll find out soon enough. Until then, the Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….







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