Will the Real '08 L.A. Dodgers Please Stand Up?
I've heard it said that these are not your granddaddy's Dodgers—Koufax, Drysdale, et la—but a brief stop at SI.com's Dodgers page drives home the fact that these aren't even last July's Dodgers.
Its random scrolling photo gallery is a study in failed experiments, second-rate players, fading vets, no-shows, and disabled-list victims, a reminder of how much this team has changed over the course of the season. I exaggerate slightly, but here are the Dodger greats I saw flash by, in order:
Juan Pierre: Many fans consider Pierre one of Colletti's worst bungles. For me, apart from his noodle arm, he's actually not that bad—he's just not as good as Andre Ethier, and he makes Manny Ramirez look like a gold glover. Still, bucking the stereotype, I have a soft spot for bunts and steals, so I've gotta cut Pierre some slack.
He would've had a chance to shine if Furcal hadn't had his ankle wrecked by the human pinball Jason Repko in Spring Training '07.
To refresh people's memories, after J.D. Drew announced he wanted to stay in L.A. at the end of '06 and then bolted for cash, GM Ned Colletti was in a bind. With Soriano (thankfully) turning his nose up at $124 million from the Dodgers and a slim FA market, Colletti was forced to cobble together an unorthodox one-two lineup in Furcal and Pierre, overpaying the latter.
The ankle injury to Furcal negated that strategy; his steals were down all '07. Now, thankfully, the outfield mess is untangled, Pierre's on the bench, and we have Manny Ramirez—which would be poetic justice for the Drew fiasco if only Scott Boras were the one shafted by the exchange.
Jeff Kent: I wish my favorite surly old warhorse could've ridden off into the sunset on a high note, instead of turning to stone like a troll before the dawn of the next generation.
But I must concede that Torre's made the wise decision by benching Kent. A gutsy decision, too, since the guy whom I cheer as "old man" (he's my age) worked his butt off to be ready for the postseason after arthroscopic surgery. Kent is a simple soul, really: two years ago, during an interview, he brushed off a reporter asking about his retirement plans, saying he knew reporters had to ask BS questions like that to fill airspace, but he "just want[ed] a #$@#! ring."
Having heard rumblings about the Dodgers' young guns dissing veteran players and coaches for two seasons, much as I love the kids, I hope Kent smacks one last clutch home run to show them how it's done. Not that they'll notice.
Jason Schmidt: One win, six starts, $47 million. AND he's a Giant. At least Kent gets booed by Giants fans.
Nomar Garciaparra: Don't get me wrong! I love Mr. Twitchy. He's like one of those fabulous guest stars who shows up in a few episodes every season and makes them memorable. As a pinch hitter, Nomar could be huge, but Joe Torre should always have a pinch runner ready to go.
Delwyn Young used up all the black medical tape making fake "rally dreads" for André Ethier.
Derek Lowe: Ah, finally someone expected to produce who's still with us. Take that, all you message board/armchair GMs who were calling for Derek's head for the last two seasons. It wasn't Lowe's fault he's had nearly negative run support ever since donning Dodger Blue. Nor did he ever kvetch about it.
Rafael Furcal: Watching his cannon-arm throws across the diamond reminds me just how much we've missed him all season long. Besides the runs, the steals, the canny bunts, the great defense, and the team (and league) leading RBI, this guy picks up the whole team on his back.
No wonder it broke. Here's to you, Raffy, the biggest October surprise. Manny may be getting the spotlight, but you're still my pick for team MVP.
Brad Penny: Remember our ace? Yes, he was that. Not this year, however. There are times when we have to thank the Disabled List for allowing us to move on (CF: Andruw Jones).
Russell Martin: All right, THIS is the future! Unfortunately, he knows it and has been pressing for most of the season. We fans helped put him on that pedestal by anointing him as the new Mike Piazza and sending him to his first All-Star Game in '07. I guess there's some truth to the old stereotype of the sophomore slump.
He's had some clutch hitting in the NLDS that makes me think our favorite Martin is back, but I really miss his ability to nail runners. I'm sure he does, too.
Chin-Lung Hu: MVP of the 2007 Futures Game, one of the rotating sub-Mendoza scrubs that the Dodgers trotted out this year trying to sub for Furcal or Kent during their time on the disabled list. Great potential, but he needs to solve major league pitching.
Hu is one of the reasons why the June-July Dodgers' lineup consisted of a few bats and a lot of easy outs. Maybe he was just trying to save us from announcers making tired Abbot & Costello jokes.
Takashi Saito: The announcement that he is off the postseason roster pains me. I loved watching that bowlegged little guy slamming the door shut with Gagné-like authority, sans steroids. "Sammy," I don't want to say sayonara—it was your pitching that helped keep the Dodgers treading water when they had no offense—but I fear Dodger Stadium may have seen the last of you.
Jonathan Broxton: Ah, there's another sign of the current and not past Dodgers. Broxton has been giving Dodgers fans heart attacks ever since he started filling in for Saito, but we're just spoiled by having Game Over closers for so long. (See True Blue LA on Broxton's closer mentality for a stats-based of analysis that should put Dodger fans more at ease).
Unfortunately, Broxton's big meltdown was against Philly. I'm glad to see Broxton's winning more respect, but the scout who claimed Broxton is better than Papelbon is seeing through Dodger Blue glasses.
So there's a fan's impressionist review of the '08 Dodgers whom Sports Illustrated has chosen to highlight, a gallery that's missing large chunks of the postseason starting lineup. SI is commemorating the team with the 84-78 season record, not the one we have now. No Loney. No Kemp. No Ethier. No Casey Blake or Manny. Cory Wade and Blake DeWitt: aren't they in AA? Kuo, Kuroda, Billingsley weren't yet worth mentioning.
Had the postseason Dodgers been playing all year, the D-Backs probably wouldn't have bothered to waste prospects on Adam Dunn.
It's less than two hours until the NLCS start. Time to read some more articles. Please tell my dissertation chair I'm doing "research," okay?
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