Wednesday, May 13, 2009

July 3rd is a Long Way

We wondered a few days back how the young Dodgers would fare without Manny anchoring the lineup.  So far, the answer is "like a boulder in the ocean."  A team that relied on Manny not only to improve the offense and turn a good, line-drive hitting lineup into a feared row of RBI machines but also to guide the youngest players is suddenly without a man at the helm.

I watched the Dodgers-Phillies game last night and one can't help but get the feeling that the team is just going through the motions.  It's no one's fault (at least no one currently playing), but this is what happens when you remove the one true team leader.  The Dodgers aren't like the Red Sox; they don't have other go-to guys if the biggest of the big dogs goes down.  Kevin Youkilis got hurt, so Dustin Pedroia became the man; Pedroia got hurt, so Jason Bay stepped up.  Behind Manny, there was a void.  The closest thing the Dodgers have to a secondary leader would be catcher Russ Martin (or Russ J. Martin, as he decided he wanted to be known this year to honor his mother), but Russell J was more responsible for last night's demise in Philly than anyone.

The coming 2 months could be mostly summed up by one play.  Sure, Chan Ho Park shut down his former team, and Raul Ibanez took a 96mph fastball up around his shoulders and smacked it for an improbable 2-run double, but the play of the day, and the play that will either wake the Dodgers up or turn them into zombies for the next 45 games was courtesy of another former Dodger, Jayson Werth.  Werth stole 4 bases, none more demoralizing than when he burgled a run right out from under the Dodgers' noses.  The Phillies were up 2, already in the driver's seat, but the Dodgers were far from buried.  Werth, at third base, didn't take off for home during a pitcher's full wind-up as you might see from time to time.  On the contrary, Werth watched, stalked his prey, made absolutely certain that Russ Martin was not checking him at 3rd base, and inched slightly farther off the bag after each pitch.  Then came the right time -- Martin, still not paying attention, framed a sinker for strike two at the plate.  And off he went.  Werth, fully confident Martin wouldn't look at him once again, started running.  Martin casually tossed the ball back to his pitcher, and before he knew it, Werth was jogging into the Phillies dugout.  Brad Lidge nearly blew things in the 9th, but the Phils got the win, and the Dodgers got another helping of disappointment.

Today is a huge day for the Dodgers.  Will they bounce back from more humiliation?  The Giants are charging fast from 2nd place in the NL West, and LA needs to win a game or two to keep them at bay.  I wish I could say I was confident, but unless someone steps into Manny's spot, it's a long way down.

GEORGE SHERRILL - So much for closer by committee.  A hearty thank you to Dave Trembley for being a complete jackass.  Sherrill is still the guy.

ZACH DUKE - 8 innings, 1 run against the Cardinals.  Of course, it was a Pujols solo homer.  Duke appears ready for a breakout season.

SCOTT ROLEN - I think I may be a few days behind on this one.  Rolen had another 3-hit game to raise his average to .319.  He's a little low in the Blue Jays lineup to be a reliable source of runs and RBIs, but he's consistent, and he's doing a heck of a lot better than some of the top third basemen taken in the draft.

MILTON BRADLEY - There's a maniac out there that poses as Milton Bradley once every 3 or 4 months.  This loon generally strikes a fan or uses his bat to do bad things to the umpire crew chief.  Beware of that doppelganger.  When the real Milton is out there, he can be a decent steal.  One of the top fantasy options last year with Texas, Bradley is off to a truly horrid start.  But as bad as he might end up, he's not a .186 hitter.  Another buy-low candidate, or maybe a waiver wire casualty, Bradley will, mark my words, raise his average into the mid-200's, and the power numbers should come around as well.

UBALDO JIMENEZ - Sound the alarms!  Ubaldo has posted back-to-back 7-inning, 1 run starts.  Make no mistake, if he can remember how to pitch to the corners of the plate, Jimenez has top 20 starter potential.

TREVOR CAHILL - Cahill walked just 2 batters in Oakland's beatdown of the Royals.  If he can limit the walks, Cahill is on his way to a very successful career.  As for this season, it seems like he's a prime candidate for that "before batters adjust" rookie charge.  Might not be a bad idea to take a chance on him.

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