Is Ethier the 2009 version of Gibson?
Various unforeseen circumstances have kept this old Dodgers curmudgeon on the writers disabled list for most of this season. It has not however kept us from being in a constant state of worry. In 2008, the Dodgers got lucky getting big help midway during the season on the cheap.
So far in 2009, the Dodgers have largely refrained from solving some of their problems - no secret throughout baseball - by, egads, spending money.
Now we all know the country is in economic difficulties. Has anybody else noticed the price of the things we buy in the grocery store are up but the good are smaller in size.
What used to be a half gallon of ice cream ain't no more, but the cost for less is more.
If that ain't a hidden tax increase, what is? My electric bill is up 40 per cent while using less. And on and on and on.
But all of that is no reason why the Dodgers, one of sports most lucrative franchises are and have been operating on the cheap.
Without any direct supporting evidence (where are sportswriters like Dick Young when we need them?), it sure would be interesting to see just how much of the Dodgers revenues are swiftly diverted and eaten up by large debt repayments. Did the McCourts buy the team with little money down and baseball inspired loans to cover the closing costs? - a Barney Frank special.
One suspects the big reason the Dodgers owners aren't spending cash is maybe because they ain't got none.
The Dodgers answered their pitching needs with numbers rather than quality. Manager Joe Torre has never been exactly known for his adroit and discerning handling of pitchers (ask Scott Proctor, Cory Wade and others).
All of a sudden Russ Ortiz, John Smoltz and Vincente Padilla can be had for a pro rated share of the major league minimum. But is there a Jose Lima amongst this bunch? Is there anybody so cheap that will inspire fear among the likely post season opponents like the Phillies or Cardinals, much less the Yankees? If there is it will be a bigger surprise than the guy from South Korea sticking it to Tiger Woods who tried to back into a championship and lost.
The McCourts, for whatever reason, have been the antithesis of the Washington spenders so far. If its not for the reason they cant spend what they ain't got, maybe its because (a) the fact of what GM Colletti did with their money in the past has finally sunk in, (b) the history of how Joe Torre burns out pitchers in a sobering thought, (c) while pitching coach Rick Honeycutt may be serviceable, he's has never been considered by baseball purists (as opposed to the sycophants who "amen" anything from the top down), or (d) a variety of all of the above.
Can the Dodgers hang on? Even so will they be really competitive in the post season?
God works in many and wondrous ways. That being said, says here the Dodgers will advance only as far as some improbable folk pull off a Mike Scioscia end of the game homer of Doc Gooden and then is promptly backed up by a gimpy Kirk Gibson hitting that back door slider off Dennis Eckersley way back in 1988.
There are young men going off to fight in Afghanistan who weren't even born, those great days of Dodgers past occurring so long ago.
In the Book of Joel in the Old Testament, God says in the last days young men will have visions and old men will dream dreams. Being old ourselves, we have dreamed about the Dodgers short term future.
We have been dreaming that Tommy Lasorda has been shunted aside to being the maitre'd in the Dodgers dining room, Brother Colletti reassigned to managing the disabled list, Orel Hershiser hired as the new Dodgers GM, the surprise appointment of Angels 3b Coach Dino Ebel named the new Dodgers manager, anybody being brought in to be the new pitching coach, and other such irreverent reveries of the admittedly growing cynical of the same old, same old traditions that have disappointed the faithful lo now in our third decade and counting since the last championship. Yes, boys and girls, there once was a time when the Dodgers were on top of the baseball world.
Even from the sidelines this season, this old Dodgers junkie has seen enough to figure out the Dodgers so far have been luckier than good, have survived in spite of rather than because of any particular investments by the owners, skill by the front office decision makers, discernment in handling the band of gas guzzlers by the manager.
Down here in Florida, we notice the Marlins have a Ramirez just as the Dodgers do. The Florida version is young and has a future ahead of him. He is evidently clean, sports a decent hairdo, and still is able to hit a ton.
Over in Tampa, there are two largely unknown talents by the name of Ben Zobrist and Jason Bartlett in the middle of the infield and they are something to behold surrounding stars Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.
Both of the Florida teams are loaded - loaded - with young pitchers. Boy, the kid Johnson in Miami can throw hard. He throws 96 and then steps it up to 99 when there is a need to.
Contrasting these two teams of youth and excitement and talent with the all of a sudden win-a-game, lose-a-game Dodgers is something to ponder. The Miami and Florida kids didn't have to languish at Triple A (like Dodgers up and coming kids are wont to do).
The pitchers are not given to sit and watching the Jeff Weavers and Eric Miltons of the world picked because of the Dodgers fondness for experience first. We are reminded we once owned a Studebaker. It was experienced (read old). It was also awful.
In ending this epistle, we do have to remark the Dodgers were near awful in 1988 as well, given nary a chance to get very far in post season. Yet fate has a tendency to do funny things, just like that South Korean kid pulling a David against Tiger Woods' Goliath over the weekend.