The View From the East Coast

With the first half of the 2004 season now in the books and the All Star break upon us, let's ramble around a bit and pass along some random thoughts.

We all have to be happy with the Dodgers in first place. And like it or not, Jim Tracy (of whom, I am not a fan), has to get some credit. Their last home stands really did it for them, winning all but one game and even that one, was within their grasp until Shawn Green ended it with one of his patent GIDPs.

Green has been coming under heavy fire, but Tracy continues to have a lot of faith in Shawn and even moved him back into the cleanup spot. And he came through with two base hits. I was surprised when I saw him slotted there since Jayson Werth a right handed hitter seemed a better choice against the Astros lefty Roy Oswalt. Maybe Shawn will come alive after the break. If he does, that could do it for the Dodgers, who most people think are looking for a big bat. They could then train their sights on a quality starter.

Paul LoDuca who was recently named to the National League All Star Team as a fill-in, had a big series against Houston, hitting three home runs and driving in eight in the four games. He is leading the team in hitting and had the first grand slam home run of his career in the Houston finale.

Alex Cora drew two intentional walks today, which points out to me another reason why Shawn Green should be hitting in the #8 hole instead of Cora, who is hitting better than Green. Shawn would at least get some intentional bases on balls and maybe strike out less or not hit into so many double plays.

Chin Feng Chen got another callup, but will likely ride the pines once again. It has always seemed to me that Tracy just doesn't have enough confidence in Chen to give him a real chance. Chin will likely be among a lot of players currently on the Dodgers 40 man roster who will be gone by the start of the 2005 season.

Robin Ventura who has had a few good pinch hits was getting some starts at third base with Adrian Beltré out with injuries, but his average has fallen to just .218 closing in on the Mendoza Line. Only David Ross is hitting less. In my view what is saving Robin's job on the roster is that he bats left handed. The Dodgers are simply short of left handed batters in their system. At AAA Las Vegas they have two switch hitters Koyie Hill and Nick Theodorou and Joe Thurston.

Even at AA Jacksonville, there are just three players including one switch hitter who bat from the left side. And among those six players only Hill and Thurston would seem to have any chance at a callup. On the other hand Jeremy Giambi is now getting back in action and has been moved up to Las Vegas. If he comes alive, he could get a callup based on his experience and career stats.

Does Tom Martin make any of you out there, as nervous as he does me? Being a left hander is the reason for his being on the team. Wonder when the Dodgers will move either Ryan Ketchner or Derek Thompson up to Vegas? They have only two lefties, Troy Brohawn and Eric Knott on the team.

With so many teams in the hunt for division titles or wild card spots, the pot of possible trade bait is on the slim side. But over the next two weeks things might shake out enough for GM Paul DePodesta to find a body or two who can help move the Dodgers ahead.

Jayson Werth continues to put on a show for the Dodgers despite being shunted around from the bench to the lineup, from left to right field. Like many others before him, who seemed to most everyone but Tracy to have earned a regular spot, is set down. But recently injuries to Milton Bradley and the visit to the DL by Juan Encarnacion he's getting a bit more playing time.

Paul LoDuca obviously buoyed by being named to the All Star Team for the second year in a row, had a terrific series against Houston hitting three homers and driving in eight runs in the four games.

Jose Lima won his 8th game against just 3 losses on July 11 and has proven to be a godsend what with Hideo Nomo and Odalis Perez out of action.