Can Chase Utley help the Dodgers ? Sure he can. Hell, he may even help the Dodgers win the division and maybe even a playoff series. But on the day the Dodgers were just swept in the mini two-game set against the worst team in the American League the acquisition feels like merely a distraction device.
The Dodgers were completely and emphatically exposed in a 20 hour period against the Oakland Athletics. This is not meant to denigrate the A’s and their tremendous fan base but there is no way the 307 million dollar Dodgers should lose both games to the Athletics. The A’s GM tanked the season when he traded this year’s most likely AL MVP in Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, but I digress.
Today the Dodgers traded a couple of mid-level minor leaguers for Chase Utley. While Utley was once one of the best players in the game, now he is purely a rental. A rental for the sole purpose of keeping him away from the San Francisco Giants. While the Dodgers second base position is in flux with the hamstring injury to Howie Kendrick the Giants are also facing a second sack dilemma. Second year stand-out Joe Panik is dealing with some back issues and his availability for the rest of the season is highly in doubt. The Giants and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were lusting after Utley to give them a jolt down the stretch. But, the Dodgers deep farm system won out and the Phillies took the Dodgers offer.
On the surface the name of Utley gives Dodger fans visions of grandeur but let’s be brutally honest. What Utley brings is not a remedy for what ails this team. The Dodgers “dumpster-fire” bullpen is an embarrassment. Since mid-May the Dodgers pen has an ERA over 5. Since August 1st the bullpen ERA is over 7.
In the spirit of full transparency I liked the moves two weeks ago in bringing in Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan. There is no way around the unmitigated disaster those moves have been. They have made a bad bullpen even worse. But this all could have been avoided if Friedman wasn’t so dead set on doing a bullpen on the cheap back in December. While having unlimited funds, he decided to not offer contracts to Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson, Sergio Romo as complimentary pieces and Andrew Miller as the lynch pin bridging middle relief to Kenley Jansen…….dumbfounding. While many in the lunatic fringe of the Dodger fan base are calling for Don Mattingly’s head, they fail to place blame where it truly belongs. Andrew Friedman’s finger prints are all over this team, including the bullpen. He is not even a full season into his tenure as President of Baseball Operations, but if Friedman were a character on Game of Thrones he would have been sent over the wall of Castle Black by now so the White Walkers could have at him. For all of Friedman’s positives and there have been good moves. His negligence when it comes to the bullpen is inexcusable.
Friedman fleeced the Padres in the Kemp for Grandal deal. Friedman parlayed Dee Gordon and Andrew Heaney into Howie Kendrick, Kiki Hernandez and the Dodgers catcher of the future in Austin Barnes. But his handling of the pitching staff is what will hang around his neck if and when the Dodgers flame out.
Friedman has littered the Dodgers pen with washed up infielders who were converted to pitchers (Pedro Baez, Chris Hatcher) or thumbers (JP Howell) who must put a piece of straw through the eye of a needle to get hitters out. When you throw in Yimi (I have one decent pitch) Garcia and the signings of the Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, it’s just one big dumpster fire when looking at the bullpen and the back-end of the rotation.
No wonder Clayton Kershaw is chucking baseball’s into his own dugout. He is hoping one of the errant pieces of raw-hide clips a mate and forces Friedman to bring up Jennie Finch to man the bullpen. The bullpen is a dumpster fire but it is only one of the many things that ails this club. They only score when they hit home runs. While the novice baseball fan will say, “gee, that’s great, I love home runs.” Well, uh yeah., that’s not how championships are won. You win titles by playing flawless situational baseball. When there is runner at second and no one out, move him to third. When there is runner at third and one out, get that runner home. I don’t care how you do it, but do it. This team is woefully deficient in these essentials to winning baseball. The frustrating thing is this team gets on base ! They lead the National League in on base percentage and walks. They know how to get on base. They don’t know how to generate runs. Is this a Mark McGwire issue ? Well, he didn’t seem to have a problem communicating situational baseball to the Cardinals a few years ago when they were impeccable at run generation.
I believe this an entitled mentality that permeates this Dodger team. They are all getting paid and they want theirs. I have only seen a handful of guys on this club consistently play the game the right way and take a good approach to the plate with runners on base. Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are two of them. Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig sometimes appear they have never been told they need to shorten their swing or have an approach with two-strikes. It’s mind numbingly frustrating watching the waste that is the 2015 Dodgers.
So, as the lunatic fringe celebrates a player in Chase Utley that will be riding the pine in 10 days when Kendrick returns, never mind what’s behind the curtain. Don’t worry about it either, Andrew Friedman doesn’t want you looking back there any way. Just keep focusing on the glitz of the Dodgers, Hollywood and the deep pockets, all while San Francisco sticks it to us again circa 1997. You remember 1997 don’t you ? Brian Johnson walk-off. Bases loaded and no one out against Rod Beck and Eddie Murray hitting into a 4-2-3 double play ? The Barry Bonds pirouette. Never mind the lack of a bullpen and fundamental play. Who needs it !
I have waited 27 years. What’s another 365 days to drink the champagne