“Hey, how is your team doing, Buddy?”
“The good news is that attendance is down, but not too much. The bad news is that our MVP candidate has missed nearly half the season, our All-Star leadoff hitter when the season started, is hitting .240, our opening days starter has been on the DL for most of the season, the two vets signed for the bullpen (Mota and Ohman) have been arsonists, the rookie who was supposed to be our #5 starter is back in AAA, and the man annointed to be our cleanup hitter who had 22 RBI in April has only 8 in May!
“Wow! So sorry to hear about your teams misfortune.”
“Yeah, it is tough that we only have the best record in baseball and lead our division by 8.5 games!”
Some of you are waiting for this team to fold. I am going to suggest that we could get better! On the way out of Wrigley Field yesterday, my son had on a Dodgers jersey and some Cubs fans yelled “Dodgers suck!” I immediately replied “Are the Cubs up to .500 yet?” [Silence] ! My point is that we could really be doing poorly, but we are not, thanks to the efforts of Juan Pierre (.384), Casey Blake (.302/9 HR/33 RBI), Matt Kemp (.302/.370 OB%), James Loney (.286/36 RBI), Jopn Broxton (5 Wins/13 Saves/1.50 ERA), Juan Castro (.380), (Ramon Troncoso (1.95 ERA/1 Win/3 Saves), Chad Billingsley (6 Wins/2.80 ERA), Randy Wolf (.284 ERA), and even Andre Ethier during April (22 RBI). Our pitching staff has flaws, but the ERA of our starters is among the best in baseball. With Kuroda due back tomorrow, and Manny due back in another month, we can even get better.
Raffy can (hopefully) recover his stroke, and Andre Ethier should bounce back. Heck, we haven’t even seen the best from Russell Martin, and Clayton Kershaw is an Ace waiting to happen. Cory Wade is bound to improve on his bad luck and we have some young arms who could really help this team. I am adamant that one of our best relievers (James McDonald) is impersonating a starter in AAA, and Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom can help us in the second half – let’s not forget about Schmidt or Kuo – but don’t count on them either. Shawn Estes is looking like he may deserve a chance on this team and Victor Garate is looking like he could be a LH specialist for us. Again, all those guys won’t be “lights out” but we only need one or two to step up.
Now, there could be reason for concern over the fact that we have scored only 3 runs in the past 3 games against the Cubs, but the mood in the clubhouse was loose (not jovial) and the players act and feel confident. If their confidence is shaken, it isn’t showing. I think part of the reason AJ Ellis was called up was because Casey Blake is nursing a sore leg and Martin could be a backup to Loretta at 3B. Raffy is working hard and the training staff is working hard with him. One thing that I observed in traveling throughout the clubhouse, runway to the dugout, in the dugout and on the field, this team has a lot of really “nice guys.” That’s easy to say, but there is a commaradarie and quiet confidence about them.
I have learned that when you are “the new kid on the block” you just need to blend in for a while and watch the old pros do their jobs. I watched Tony Jackson in LA and in Chicago I watched Dylan Hernandez, Mike Bauman, Josh Suchon and others. I just kind of tried to be the “fly on the wall” but without prompting, many players walked by me, greeted me and shook my hand – Matt Kemp, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, Cory Wade – to name a few. I can tell you this: The clubhouse at Camelback Ranch is much nicer than the one in Wrigley Field!
My wife and son were at the game on Saturday and we sat among several Dodger fans. Just to my left were Brian Akin’s parents. Brian had Tommy John surgery last August and is working out at Camelback Ranch. He is scheduled to start pitching in a couple of weeks. He was selected in the 14th round of the 2004 first-year player draft. He pitched four seasons at Davidson and is 27, so if he can recover, he could climb the ladder quickly. His dad is an orthopaedic surgeon, so I picked his brain about my hip. I’m sure he will be sending me a bill! Actually, they were great people and LAdodgerTalk wishes their son a rapid recovery!
My wife left after the 7th inning, so I went down and sat with my son in her seat. When the game was over, we went back to the pressbox to get my computer and other things and I told him to wait outside. The Cubs Security guy, said “Go ahead, take him up, it’s OK!” So, Stephen got to see the pressbox and was excited about that. The Pressbox at Wrigley is actually pretty nice.
SUNDAY NIGHT BASEBALL
Dodgers vs. Cubs with Eric Milton trying to show he belongs. I suspect that Monday, Stults will go on the DL when Kuroda is activated.