Tony Jackson and Jon Weisman write about how important it is that the young Dodgers (Kemp, Loney and Ethier) rebound in order for the Dodgers to even have a ghost of a chance. I happen to totally agree with that, but I also believe that it’s really a lot more than that. Steve Dilbeck continues to dwell on the negative, and he’s very adept at it as he wonders whether Andre Ethier should be platooned (an idea I mentioned a few days ago), and that’s a possibility, but really, that’s not quite the question. Here’s the deal:
Yesterday Rory (aka/Badger) suggested that the Dodgers may have character issues. I think he thought that might upset me, but I
happen to believe he is DEAD ON regarding this issue. Regardless of how famous or loud a player might be, they are like most other humans. Some lead, some follow, and some say “What happened?”
I absolutely think that character (or lack thereof) contributed mightily to the Dodgers collapse last year. I know that I am going to probably get blasted for this, but I think the main culprit was the Dodgers’ alleged Captain, namely one Russell Martin! As I have said before, when Russ Martin came up, he was the hardest worker I had ever seen. He was the first on the field and the last to leave. For two years, he was the heart and soul of the Dodgers. Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and Charlie Hustle in a catcher’s outfit. Russell set the tone, and his teammates followed. I loved THAT Russ Martin.
Then came fame, fortune, wine, women, song and food. Did I mention the food? Russ was sucked in, and the result was that he became lackadaisical in his conditioning. He wasn’t as mentally sharp, and as a result, he wasn’t as confident. He teammates liked him, looked up to him, emulated him, followed him and for three straight years, he regressed. He played worse than the year before, EVERY YEAR! Last year, he said he was in great shape, but his teammates knew better. His commitment wasn’t there, and neither was theirs. Their Captain abandoned ship. The rest of the team floundered.
Russ has left for greener pastures. He is still making excuses. Hopefully his teammates have learned. Can they re-gain their character? I don’t think that Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or James Loney are natural leaders – at least now now! Is character something you can grow? I’m not sure. However, I do know that if you bring someone in with character who is a leader, that quite often, many of the followers will slowly develop that same character.
Do the Dodgers have that guy. Is it Juan Uribe? It’s not Raffy – he’s solid, but he’s a follower. Is it Casey Blake? He’s got character, but I don’t know if he’s the leader either. I hear that Navarro has “character issues.” Gabe Kapler might be that “Kirk Gibson-esque character”, but he probably won’t make the team. Is is Jay Gibbons or Marcus Thames? I hear that Thames is a great teammate, but…
I do hear that Juan Uribe is the guy the Dodgers want to step-up and be the leader. Is he THAT guy? That’s part of the reasaon they payed him$21 million. But, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a combination of players. Manny is gone and so his his fat little buddy (Belly). Russell is gone. Rod Barajas is solid catcher, but no star. A.J. Ellis is still nearly a rookie.
Who’s the leader? Who delivers the character? Could the change of manager be just the ticket? Is Donnie Ballgame a clone of Joe Torre, or is he his own man? Does he understand what happened last year and does he have the balls to change it? Could the “Keeper of the Character” be Davey Lopes, who has returned to his roots after 29 years? I have a feeling he will be on fire. Larry Bowa was fiery, but he was never really a Dodger. He had no Dodger Heritage. Davey Lopes bleeds Dodger Blue. He knows the Dodger Way to Play Baseball. Davey Lopes will provide the character. Will the rest of the team drink the Kool-Aid? That’s the question…
P.S. If this sounds like a “Trash Russ Martin Column” I apologize. I wish Russ the best, but I think I’m not far off on what happened…