It’s hard to believe we’re one quarter into the major league baseball season and still trying to figure out the personality of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With the distinct possibility that the team’s payroll may not be met at the end of this month, there’s been more talk about ownership, stewardship, new management and court battles than about ERA, batting averages, on base percentage or extra base hits.
Yet, we were reminded Monday that sometimes the Dodgers make the right move when it comes to players and trades.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported that Mariners third baseman Milton Bradley—the temperamental former Dodger who left L.A. five years ago in a trade with the Oakland A’s that brought Andre Ethier to the Southland—had been given his outright release.
Score one for the home team.
While Bradley’s travelling road show took him to five different teams in five years, Ethier established himself as a steady leader in right field whose .294 average and uncanny ability to deliver game-winning hits marked him as one of the game’s top young stars.
Among all the negatives coming out of Chavez Ravine, the big positive news was Ethier’s near record-busting hitting streak of 30 games. The All-Star right fielder entered Monday’s game against Milwaukee tied for the league lead in hits with 54 and fourth in batting average at .346.
The promotion-happy Dodgers quickly seized on Ethier’s good fortune by announcing a 30 percent off sale on all Andre merchandise at the stadium. Not to be outdone by themselves, management also said a new Ethier bobble head, this one dressed in the old fashioned Brooklyn blues that fit like pajamas, would be given away on July 7.
Score another run for the home team—they’re certainly not scoring them on the field.
Ethier is one of the team’s bright spots at a time when there are dim bulbs all over the place. He is off to the best start of his major league career, coming off that hot 30-game hitting streak that left him just one hit short of tying Willie Davis for the club record.
Center fielder Matt Kemp has been just as hot, pounding out seven home runs to go along with 26 runs batted in and a .326 average. But other than second baseman Jamey Carroll and his .320 average, the Dodgers offense has been anemic and the team is just plain lucky that they play in the equally anemic National League West.
The bottom five of the starting lineup includes four position players hitting between .133 and .230 and any one of their pitchers.
Not exactly murderer’s row—more like the Saturday softball club.
The Dodgers ended Monday night four games out of first place after 2-1 loss to the Brewers. The Dodgers' record is 19-23 and they’re a not-so-intimidating 10-12 at home.
In a pregame interview in the Dodger dugout, manager Don Mattingly defended his team’s performance. He’s either the most naive manager in all of baseball or he truly believes in his players and their chances at taking the division with the players management has provided him with.
“We’ll do it with pitching,” Mattingly told a group of reporters from the Dodgers dugout. “I think we have what it takes to win the division.”
The first-year skipper went on to say that he thinks the top of the Dodgers order, now comprised of Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles, has done a pretty good job of getting on base and setting the table for Ethier and Kemp.
“But, we’ve got to get Juan (Uribe) going, we’ve got to get James (Loney) going and get more production from the bottom of the lineup.
“I’m not saying we’re happy with us being four games under .500. But, I know these guys are playing hard every day and I’m proud of the way they’re playing.”
So, on a Monday night when 35,000 fans braved some pretty chilly L.A. May weather, the Dodgers continued to play like a broken record; one without a distinct personality to it.
And while kudos must be given to such players as Ethier and Kemp, both of whom stormed out of spring training and opened the season with a bang, the fact remains that this team is floundering.
They have a young, first-year manager with heart and passion doing the best he can with what he’s got.
If, like the Giants last year, the Dodgers can find a strong collective personality, their prospects for success increase tenfold. But if they continue to struggle and allow outside forces to get the better of them, the remaining three quarters of the 2011 season could get ugly.
Expect more bobble heads.