Deadline Drama: Dodgers Brass is on the Spot

 

Here we sit at the Major League Baseball trading deadline and wouldn’t you know the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are within a half-game of one another.  Oh what a wonderful world.

As the deadline approaches many amateur General Managers are vociferously stating what the Dodgers need to do before Friday to improve their team. Like most teams the Dodgers have short-comings. I believe these “holes” are like numerous breaks in the dam and to fill them all at once is nearly impossible. Unlike many calling for reinforcements, I see a structural problem in the dam that makes any move merely a stop-gap measure that will ultimately lead to a massive breach and an ensuing flood.

Speculation reigns that the Dodgers must find a way to get a front-line starting pitcher to go along with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Cole Hamels and David Price are the big names while Jeff Samardjzia and Yovanni Gallardo are on the second-tier. I am not opposed to getting any of these pitchers to help shore up the Dodgers rotation, but it better not come at the expense of prospects Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Grant Holmes. I do not want to see any of these names in a deal to bring an arm to Chavez Ravine.

While starting pitching is a problem, it is primarily a self-inflicted wound. It was a huge mistake to spend 61 million dollars on often injured and currently injured pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. I am not just pontificating about this now, I have been on this train since the signings. Injuries have crippled the Dodgers rotation and it was predictable, even from the most novice of baseball fans.

The one thing the Dodgers need to address at the deadline that they didn’t address adequately in the off-season is their porous bullpen. Even if the Dodgers acquire Hamels or Price, what does it matter when the bullpen gives the game away in the 7th or 8th inning ? The Dodgers best chance to flourish in October came and went last December when Yankees closer Andrew Miller was a free agent. Many of us in Dodger-land begged and pleaded with the front office to over-pay for the talented and versatile lefty. Instead the Dodgers shunned him in favor of multiple washed-up infielders who were converting into pitchers (i.e. Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez.) This massive faux pas by the newly installed brain-trust has left the Dodger bullpen woefully inefficient. This has been a problem for the last three years and continues to be a problem.

The structural problems the Dodgers have can not be fixed with a few trades. The Dodgers score most of their runs by hitting the long-ball. Teams that can’t run, hit-and-run, move runners with productive outs, bunt and play small ball rarely win in October. This team is structurally flawed in how they approach the game.

Throw in some of their trouble spots defensively with Justin Turner at third and Yasmani Grandal’s inability to consistently block balls in the dirt giving away the game 90 feet at a time. It is all topped off with Don Mattingly who continues to either over-manage or remain oblivious the need to situationally manage a spot and the Dodgers are a lot of bluster and with not a lot of bang.

Deadline deals will be made, fans will cheer, fans will jeer but when it’s all said and done the Dodgers foibles will have us wondering “what happened” by mid-October.

 

Clippers Clown-Show Reaches New Heights

 

The antics shown by the Los Angeles Clippers organization on Wednesday showed us all why they will never win an NBA Championship with this group.

In a day unlike any other in the history of the Association the Clippers put on a full-court press/kidnapping of one of their former players to suddenly bring him back into the fold and make themselves relevant again. It was a stunning turn of events where a hand-shake agreement had as much use as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward.

Last Friday DeAndre Jordan shook hands with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on a 4 year contract worth 80 million dollars. It was reported that Jordan had grown tired of playing third fiddle to the drama-king himself Chris Paul and the flop master in Blake Griffin. It had been reported that Griffin wanted more touches in the paint and wanted to be a featured offensive option within the Clippers offense. Griffin also had lost patience with Paul over the star point guards constant haranguing and “freezing out” of the 7-foot post.

The marriage between Jordan and the Mavericks seemed like that proverbial match made in heaven. Cuban promised Jordan he would be a focal point of the offense, and with Dirk Nowitzki prepared to cede the spotlight and the addition of Wes Matthews and return of Chandler Parsons, the Mavericks had put themselves in the discussion of Western Conference contenders.

Enter the Clippers full court press……

With word that Jordan was having second thoughts the Clippers pounced. Paul hopped off the banana boat he was riding with Melo and LeBron and flew to Texas from the Bahamas. Blake Griffin cut his vacation short and flew in from Hawaii. Newly-signed Paul Pierce hopped on a plane from Los Angeles to court his new teammate. Daddy Warbucks (Steve Ballmer Clippers owner) along with Clippers coach and General Manager Doc Rivers hopped on a jet to Houston as well. As long as Jordan was having second thoughts, the Clippers were going to try to convince him to stay.

After barricading Jordan’s door (as seen above) and some tense moments where Chris Paul feigned exasperation at Jordan’s discontent and promised to treat him better, and Rivers promising to make him more of a focal point, Jordan changed his mind and was back in the fold. But, the drama was just beginning. Reports had surfaced that Jordan would not make a final decision until he had spoken with the Dallas Mavericks. The Clippers and their brain trust were not going to allow that. Instead  they set up a pseudo-barricade inside Jordan’s home. According to Ramona Shelburne from ESPN the Clippers were not going to allow Jordan to change his mind again. In fact they were going to stay with their center until 12:01am EST. The first minute Jordan could sign a contract the Clippers would be there to hand him 87 million dollars.

During this clown-show Jordan wouldn’t even take phone calls from Dallas stars or owner Mark Cuban. So, in the end, the Clippers got their man, promising to change their ways and catering to the sensitive psyche of their 7-footer.

It’s truly a bad look for the NBA. The biggest loser in this fiasco is not Mark Cuban. I believe it is Dan Fegan the agent for Jordan. Who will believe this guy moving forward ? Will teams want to negotiate with an agent whose clients shake their hands, look them in the eyes, and then bolt at the first feel of freezing temperatures on their tootsies. What’s to keep teams from employing the same strategy now ? Negotiate with a player in good faith, make on offer in good faith during the eight-day moratorium period. And then as soon as a better option may come around, renege on the offer and chase another prize word.

The Clippers and their fans are relishing the change of heart from their big guy but this is still the team that choked away their NBA Playoff semi-final series against Houston blowing a 19 point lead with 14 minutes to play in the clinching Game 6.

This is still a team that is high on talent but short on character. This is still a club with a high maintenance point guard and center who shoots 37 percent from the free throw line. And, this is still a club that plays in an arena (Staples Center) with 18 championship banners hanging from the rafters, 16 of which belong to their fellow tenant the Los Angeles Lakers with two of them belonging to the Los Angeles Kings.

In the end, the Clippers are all about floppilicious drama and they are still only the 4th or 5th best team in the West. Fun to watch, entertaining but they still won’t get out of the 2nd round

Dodger fan urgency stems from SF Giants’ success….

 

My increasingly negative attitude about my first place Dodgers has me doing some self-evaluation on a weekly basis. Why am I so frustrated with a team that has one of the best records in baseball, and is 4 games clear of the rival Giants in the NL West ?

It’s the Giants. It’s those dastardly San Francisco Giants. Yeah, I know they just lost their seventh in a row tonight. Big deal. Their fan base can dry their tears with the same handkerchief they use to buff their three World Series trophies. They have flipped the script on the rivalry and now there is a sense of urgency for the free-spending Dodgers to win pennants and World Series. I certainly want the front office to be patient with the kids and not force quick fixes, but the interminable off-season of having the Giants continually win World Series titles while the Dodgers spit up moth-balls in October has cast a pall over this rivalry for me.

It’s probably my fault, but deep down I have always judged the Dodgers by how they are doing against the Hated Ones. So, even as Jack Clark was taking seven weeks to round the bases in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS to eliminate the Dodgers, this 14 year-old could take solace in the fact that the San Francisco “You Gotta Love These Kids” Giants were losing 100 games. Things just weren’t that bad. Then, when Jose Oquendo gutted the Giants in 87′ and then Gibby and Hershiser led the Dodgers to an improbable title in 88′ I was in heaven. That made two titles and 5 NL Pennants in my 17 years on this planet,  while the Giants had done diddly-squat.

Now, the tables have not only turned but there is pressure being applied. Since 1988 the Giants have 3 World Series titles and 5 NL Pennants. Those three titles have come in the last five years making the off-seasons misery. Dodger fans like myself have always believed we were the better franchise with the better organization, but I can’t argue that right now. The words simply won’t form. The terminology to make those arguments are not in my lexicon. The Giants have scoreboard. They have put-up, therefore making me shut-up. And please Dodger fans, don’t come at me with Division titles. Division titles are like getting a ticket into the dance with the pretty girls. Just because you are at the dance doesn’t mean the girls will bat their eyes at you.

So, forgive me for my negativity. I’m sorry. I simply have been watching the Giants add hardware while the Dodgers throw 270 million dollars at a team that has only two serviceable starting pitchers, spent 48 million dollars on a pitcher that has spent much of his career injured, has employed a bullpen filled with washed up infielders that throw hard and an offense that is the worst in the league at manufacturing runs, a skill that is not just needed but required in October. Forgive me if leading the NL West doesn’t have me in a lather……

Dodgers have me in a quandry

 

On one hand this organization is making all the right moves in player development. Then they fail to adequately address their bullpen.

On one hand this team is hitting home runs at a record pace for a Chavez Ravine squad, and then they show they can’t generate a run to save their lives.

On one hand (we have numerous hands; stay with me here) the Dodgers are trouncing terrible baseball teams and playing at a near .750 clip against bad teams, and then they go 8-20 against teams over .500 including 3-9 against the rival Giants.

I just don’t get this club.

With today’s San Francisco Giants loss and sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins the Dodgers have a three game lead in the National League West. It feels incomprehensible that the Dodgers could have a division lead while getting waxed by the Giants this year, but that is par for the course with this odd version of the Dodgers this year.

The loyalists amongst us continue to view Dodgers baseball as the glass that is half full. They argue, the team is in first place, the Dodgers are playing great at home, they are winning the games they are supposed to win. While this line of thinking is nice and dandy it tells an incomplete story. It tells a story with a familiar refrain and I know it ends ugly.

The things that championship teams MUST DO the Dodgers do not do well. First, they do not generate runs using small ball. This is not conjecture this is a real number. The Dodgers produce the highest percentage of their runs via the home run. They produce fewest amount of runs with the base hit, the walk, the sacrifice fly, the situational ground out etc……This is a precursor of post-season doom. Teams that can’t generate runs with small-ball do not win in October. I have grown tired arguing this fact with certifiable novices on social media. They don’t get it, and all the haranguing in the world will never convince these people that they are out of their scope. In the post-season when you are facing teams ABOVE .500 you can not rely on the long-ball to win games. The pitching is better, the mistakes on the mound are less frequent and as a hitter you must be able to generate runs by working counts and having productive at-bats.

The misnomer here is that the Dodgers have the best on-base percentage of any team in the National League. That statistic would tell you the Dodgers are good at producing runs with productive outs. That is not the case. They don’t score bushels of runs with stolen bases, hit-and-runs, stolen bases or productive outs. They don’t need to lead the league in small ball, but they at least need to be proficient at it. So far, it’s a gaping hole in their game. They need to change that for October success.

Second, the Dodgers bullpen is a sieve. They aren’t the worst in the league but they are closer to the #BoxOfPain instead of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys.” General Manager Andrew Friedman believed three washed up infielders could be anchors to the bullpen. Chris Hatcher throws 96 mph but his ball is straight and he gets lit up. Pedro Baez throws 98 but has yet to develop a serviceable breaking ball. Joel Peralta has been on the shelf for much of the year but his latest returns have not been encouraging. JP Howell has been effective but you better not push him past three or four batters because hitters will get a read. Yimi Garcia burst upon the scene like gang-busters but then lost his release point and started serving up gopher balls. You can’t really rely on him at this point. Surprisingly Juan Nicasio has been consistently good this year and Adam Liberatore gives the Dodgers a reliable left-handed reliever with a WHIP below 1.00.

I am not convinced the Dodgers pen has the depth to venture deep into the post-season. It was the primary reason why I was huge proponent of the Dodgers signing Andrew Miller in the off-season, but I digress.

Picture this, Game 5 of the NLCS, series is tied at 2-2. Dodger starter has a high pitch count and is in trouble in the 6th inning in a tie game with runners on base. What pitcher in the Dodgers bullpen, other than the closer Kenley Jansen, would you trust to save the day ? I don’t trust anyone in that bullpen.

As hard as this is to state, the San Francisco Giants and Bruce Bochy has had three or four arms that he had total and complete belief in to get out of that type of jam. The Dodgers just don’t have that. It is another intangible the Dodgers need, yet don’t have if they are to win their first pennant in 27 years.

Dodger fans are not thrilled with me. They say I am too negative, not enough rah-rah and am not focusing on the good things they are doing. Sorry but not sorry for my negativity. Winning the National League West is not my goal. I am trying to project a team that can A) beat the Cardinals. B) Win a pennant. C) Win a World Series.

This club is good, but I fear good won’t cut it.