This one's gonna hurt, but it's gotta be done.
There's a double edge to constantly dumping on the Los Angeles Dodgers when you're a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan. Well, if you are and you pride yourself on being as objective as possible. I certainly like to think I fit both parts of that description.
Which means the second edge is about to get me.
Because the Bums are very good in 2009—there's no getting around that fact anymore.
With sincerest apologies to my fellow Giant-loving, Dodger-hating travelers, the rules of baseball war dictate we acknowledge certain things when they've become too hard to ignore.
Currently, the ballclub down in Chavez Ravine has become too good to ignore.
The chum bucket is filling as I type.
Unfortunately, I must go on.
The Senior Circuit representative from Los Angeles sits atop the National League West with a record of 33-15 (both SF and San Diego have 23 losses).
Its record also perches L.A. on the highest rung in all of Major League Baseball by four games in the loss column—the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers are nipping at the Dodgers' heels with 19 losses apiece.
The icing on the cake for Bum fans is the fact that their boys of summer are already about 40 percent through Manny Ramirez' 50-game suspension for violating MLB's performance-enhancing drug policy (19 games in).
True, the Dodgers haven't replicated the .724 winning percentage they posted with Man-Ram. Also true, however, a winning percentage of .632 (12-7) in his absence ain't too shabby.
Especially in the NL West, where it's good for an additional two games on the divisional lead.
Furthermore, check out the competition during that 19-game stretch.
In the first game sans Manny, the Washington Nationals handed Los Angeles its first loss of '09 in Dodger Stadium. Our Giants followed the Nats' lead and continued to slap L.A. in the face in its own house—taking two of three on the field where the Dodgers previously looked invincible.
Then, the Bums got down to business.
They went to Philadelphia and took two of three from a Phillies team that hasn't been quite the one that knocked L.A. from the playoffs in 2008, but is still one of the best in baseball. Grabbing a road series from an elite team isn't easy in the best of times, and those were not the best of times in La La Land.
Next, the Bums went to Florida and took two of three from the upstart Marlins. This one's less impressive, but it's still another roadie on their belt.
After returning to Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers swept the New York Mets in three games before the Los Angeles Angels came in and put a damper on the party. The Halos took two of three in the first iteration of the 2009 Freeway Series.
No matter, the Dodgers bounced right back and took another road series—a three-game broom-job of the Colorado Rockies in Denver.
As you can see, almost half of the 19 games have been on the road, where L.A.'s been able to walk through the challenge with a 7-2 record. Almost half have been against the upper echelons of MLB competition, but L.A.'s shown no hitch in its giddy-up there either, with a 6-3 record.
Hey, if the Dodgers have forced me to admit I'm impressed, you know they've done something.
While we're here, stand up and take a bow, Juan Pierre.
That would be the anti-Manny—the guy with zero power and zero PEDs floating in his bloodstream. He's also the player who was forced onto the diamond when the great slugger began languishing on a beach somewhere, warm and comfy in his isolation.
In the month of May (basically since Manny got himself some vacation time), Pierre is raking. Absolutely, flat-out scalding the ball.
He's hitting .404 (also his mark on the year) in 94 at-bats with 21 runs scored, nine doubles, three triples, zero home runs (no surprise), 18 runs batted in, eight stolen bases, and a .472 on-base percentage.
Most incredibly, the slap-happy speedster has delivered an OPS of 1.036. That shouldn't be possible if you don't hit a single tater, but Juan is walking proof it can be done.
Other Bums deserve a nod as well—Casey Blake's gone on a power binge of sorts, and James Loney's splinter has started showing signs of life. Most of the pitching persists in overachieving while Chad Billingsley simply answers to his superb expectations.
Really, it's even more laudable than it looks because they're doing it despite Joe Torre. Even if you believe Torre's not hurting the situation, L.A. certainly doesn't look to be benefiting from his notoriously steady hand.
In my opinion, red flags signifying Torre's a hollow shell of his former self have been popping up left and right since he came West.
There was the ridiculous credit card commercial, then the book, and finally the astonishing free pass he handed Ramirez in the wake of pissing hot—all the more so because Joe refused to change his position even as Manny refused to address the team or ownership until it was convenient for him.
The latest one arose after seeing Torre burn through bullpen arm after bullpen arm, yanking his starters at the first sign of substantial trouble, and generally managing as if he's still protecting a division lead in the American League East under the scrutiny of the New York City media.
Someone get a memo to Joe: This is California, and he's in the Mild Mild West—he can give his starters some leash, and they might surprise him. Even if they don't, there's a good chance the second-place team is gonna lose anyway.
Oh, and it's too damn nice in SoCal to get that worked up over a single loss by a baseball team—especially since there's always Hollywood and its constellation of falling stars at which to gawk.
Nope, this one goes entirely to the players, and Juan Pierre—once a pariah in Tinseltown—is leading the way. Maybe a bone to be thrown to Ned Colletti.
Like I said at the outset, I'm a loyal San Francisco Giants fan to the core, so I haven't given up on anything quite yet, and I'll always hate the Bums. But I'm also not gonna sit here with my head in the sand.
I'm keepin' the faith, but I also see the writing on the wall.
For the 2009 Major League Baseball season, it says, "uh-oh."