I don’t remember the 1955 Championship and barely remember the 1959 Championship (I was only 6 years old), but I recall every one since then, I remember 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988, but for me this year feels even more special, maybe because it’s been twenty years since the last one. Up until 1988, we would win every 2 or 3 or 6 or 7 years – this time, it’s been 20 years! Count ‘em! 20 Years! We aren’t there yet, but we are rolling in that direction. We have gone from afterthought to front-runner. “Our kids are no longer kids, they are men.” No less an expert than Greg Maddux said that.
This 2008 Playoff version of the Dodgers is not the 2008 Regular Season of the Dodgers. We started the season with Rafael Furcal, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciparra, Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre, Brad Penny and Andrew Jones as our backbone. One-by-one they went down or never started (in Schmidt’s case), or lost their job to a “kid.” By season’s end, only Raffy was still a major factor in this teams success. Pick any other team who loses 7 key vets for a substantial portion of the season or all season and I’ll show you a loser, and the Dodgers did struggle, mightily at times. At the end of August our pitching seemed to be in a shambles, clutch-hitting was non-existent and the 8 game losing streak just reinforced how bad we were.
But then, magically, as if we were knighted by a supernatural force, we became the 2008 version of Destiny’s Dodgers. The Phoenix pales in comparison to Raffy rising from the ashes. Our vetern backbone is still present – on the bench. Some are active, like Pierre, Kent, Nomar, Berroa and Maddux. Some are inactive, like Sweeney, Jones and Schmidt. But, none are grumbling about lack of play. They know their role and are ready to step-in whenever called. They advise, chide and encourage the Kids Who Have Become Men. Manny was Manny, hitting .500 in the Series, but a huge key to our success was Raffy at leadoff and Martin at #2. They set the tone, especially last night when Martin beat the tag at 3B in the first inning. The announcers were chiding Martin for bad baserunning, but didn’t know that Joe Torre had told the team just before the game to take it to the Cubs. Martin and Loney were also keys to our offense, both getting key his at opportune times through the series, but the “Blakes” (DeWitt and Casey) were solid, if not spectacular, on defense and at the plate. Diamond Leung reported this about the vets:
I’m sitting here with my hair wet again and somewhat disturbed because, um, Stan Conte grabbed my behind in the clubhouse. That felt slightly less weird than Manny Ramirez grabbing my chest not during a celebration, but a random pre-game session. For those of you still wondering, I’m a dude.
Anyway, I thought it was interesting Joe Torre brought this up during his conference and also during television interviews.
“I can’t thank the veterans on this club for stepping aside,” Torre said. “Jeff and Nomar and Juan, I mean, they made my life a lot easier to write a lineup without their names in it.”
Pierre doesn’t appear to have gotten very wet during the past two clubhouse celebrations, and Kent has been staying out of the way.
That didn’t stop owner Frank McCourt from pulling Kent aside in the clubhouse tonight.
“I’m happy with what you’ve done to help this team,” McCourt told him. “Thank you.”
Ethier and Kemp were largely silent with the bats, but will probably step-up next series. However, the rest of the lineup picked them up and their defense was stellar. Loney only hit .214 but drove in 6 runs and Martin drove in 5 runs. Ethier did however, have 4 walks to maintain a .357 OB%. The Dodgers team ERA was 2.00 while we lead all of the post-season teams with 20 runs scored. That’s a lethal combination. It won’t get easier, but I think we now know we can win and we have an idea of what it takes. Enjoy the ride my fellow Dodger friends!
RANTS & RAVES:
BASEBALL AMERICA rated Andrew Lambo as the #7 prospect in the Midwest League (the only Dodger in the Top 20):
With a smooth swing and advanced approach, Lambo was born to hit. He batted .343 in his pro debut last year, and provided the lone threat in a woeful Great Lakes lineup this summer and posted a .389 average in a short August stint as the Double-A Southern League’s youngest player (20). He made consistent hard contact, hung in well against lefthanders and continued to develop his power, which should produce at least 20 homers per year in the majors. “If you pitched him tough, he’d still find a way to get his one knock,” Lansing manager Clayton McCullough said. “On the days when you made mistakes, he’d get two or three.” More of a first baseman in high school, Lambo has made a fine transition to left field. His speed is below average, but he has good instincts, goes back on balls well and owns a solid arm.
Carlos Santana was the only Dodger to be in the Top 20 in the California League. Oh wait, we traded him. Dang the luck!
BASEBALL AMERICA’s Pioneer League’s Top 20 Looks like this:
1. Wilin Rosario, c, Casper (Rockies)
2. Cutter Dykstra, of, Helena (Brewers)
3. Will Smith, lhp, Orem (Angels)
4. Devaris Gordon, ss, Ogden (Dodgers)Gordon failed to qualify academically at Seminole (Fla.) Community College and couldn’t play this spring, but the Dodgers drafted him in the fourth round anyway. Once he stepped onto the field in the Pioneer League, it was apparent why.The son of Phillies righthander Tom Gordon, Gordon has outstanding athleticism and 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. He’s extremely skinny with wide shoulders, so he has plenty of room to add strength to his wiry frame. Despite his slender build, he swings the bat with surprising authority and drives balls to the gaps. With excellent range and good first-step quickness, Gordon has the tools to stick at shortstop. Some of the rust from not getting live game action this spring showed, as he made 28 errors in 60 games, but the miscues should be correctable once he learns to play more under control.
5. Luis Jimenez, 3b, Orem (Angels)
6. Delta Cleary, of, Casper (Rockies)
7. Bryan Shaw, rhp, Missoula (Diamondbacks)
8. Trevor Harden, rhp, Missoula (Diamondbacks)
9. Dexter Carter, rhp, Great Falls (White Sox)
10. Kyle Russell, of, Ogden (Dodgers) Russell led NCAA Division I with 28 homers as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2007, then turned down a reported $800,000 offer from the Cardinals as a fourth-rounder. He went one round higher this June, though he had to settle for $410,000. Russell has long arms but still gets the bat head through the zone well and gets good leverage in his swing, which helps him generate tremendous power. However, his swing and pull-oriented approach lead scouts to question how much he’ll hit with wood bats. With Ogden, he continued his track record of hitting homers (11) and striking out with great frequency (82 times in 219 at-bats). A good athlete, he has a strong arm and fits best in right field.
11. Pedro Baez, 3B, Ogden (Dodgers)The Dodgers pushed Baez to low Class A to start the season, but after he hit .178/.244/.259, they sent him down to Ogden to regroup. While he continued to struggle with breaking balls and plate discipline, he was one of the more dangerous power hitters in the league.
“I’ve seen him hit some balls 500 feet,” Diaz said. “He’s got cartoon-shot power.” Baez has a strong, durable frame with a diverse set of above-average tools. He has plus power that could grade out even higher in the future, but his approach doesn’t always allow his pop to translate in game situations. At times he lacks rhythm at the plate, which causes him to start chasing pitches. At third base, Baez shows soft hands and a plus arm. His feet get tangled up at times, which leads to some erratic throws, but he generally moves well around the bag. He’s a below-average runner.
12. Jose Perez, rhp, Orem (Angels)
13. Efrain Nieves, lhp, Helena (Brewers)
14. Rossmel Perez, c, Missoula (Diamondbacks)
15. Angel Castillo, of, Orem (Angels)
16. Wily Peralta, rhp, Helena (Brewers)
17. Erik Komatsu, of, Helena (Brewers)
18. Dan Hudson, rhp, Great Falls (White Sox)
19. Tony Delmonico, 2b, Ogden (Dodgers) The son of former Tennessee head coach Rod Delmonico, Tony Delmonico showed an aggressive approach, swung the bat well and used the whole field in his pro debut. Though he hit 11 homers while playing his home games in the Pioneer League’s coziest ballpark (Ogden’s Lindquist Field), he doesn’t project to have huge power.Defense has been a challenge for Delmonico, whose range and hands are both limited. A shortstop in college, he moved to second base with the Raptors but still looked rough there. He might end up moving to third base or an outfield corner, and his bat doesn’t profile well at those positions. The buzz around the league was that Delmonico might move behind the plate, which wouldn’t be something new for a Dodgers organization that has converted Russell Martin and Carlos Santana, among others, to catcher. It’s a switch that others have considered in the past, considering Delmonico’s arm strength and athleticism.
20. Michael Kohn, rhp, Orem (Angels)
From the AFL: Tony Abreu after a second surgery is all set to play as is Ethan Martin who broke his leg a couple monyths ago. Abreu was once though the “heir-apparent” to the 2B job. Wouldn’t ity be nice if he can come back?