2006 Start Only So-So

After the disastrous 2005 season, the winds of change throughout the Dodgers organization blew strong and hard, sweeping away all in its path. The first half of the offseason was astonishing for its relentless bloodletting, The second half just as breathtaking for the flurry of activity.

So much happened, and so many names brought in, veteran old time Dodgers fans were caught up in the swirl and joined an almost unanimous verdict that things were immediately better, the team would contend, would be favorites in the NL West.

But taking a quick breather after 16 games, the 2006 team is about .500 whereas the terrible team a year ago was already four or five games ABOVE .500.

Can't blame the so so start on injuries. We had 'em a year ago too.

Can't blame the loss of Jeff Weaver, he's been lousy across town.

Can't blame the bonehead GM, he's gone.

Can't blame the new manager -- yet. He doesn't pitch or hit.

The 2006 Dodgers can hit -- sometimes. They can pitch -- sometimes.

We thought the worst defensive catcher in the NL West was down the road in San Diego, but the Dodgers have yet to throw out a single runner this year.

It's much to early to rush to judgment, but it's not too early to say this is a team with some age on it in critical places, with some players with their best years behind them (meaning they ain't gonna match their best numbers of the past).

The hope of the Dodgers is evidently in Las Vegas, where the Triple A boys are going gangbusters (after having done the same a year ago in AA Columbus).

Of course, the Dodgers have yet to start the everyday lineup they had planned on. The season is a very long one and slumps and streaks have a way of evening out.

The new seats are nice in Dodgers Stadium, announcer Charley Steiner has mellowed out some (he still needs more mellowing, or we need it). At the same time, the team needs a more consistent effort from both pitching and hitting on the same days.

Has the crackdown on steroids and now on amphetamines (maybe the bigger of the two problems) a cause of different kind of play throughout baseball? Maybe so.

Are the Dodgers appreciably different from any other team in this regard? We hope so, but with fingers crossed.

Starters Derek Lowe and Brad Penny have done well, particularly Penny.

The rest of the starting rotation is off again, on again. While standin first baseman James Loney shows talent, he also shows need for that final bit of seasoning in AAA.

Is veteran Ricky Ledee that much better than the surprising Cody Ross? We didn't see it.

The days of thinking about Jason Werth as an outfield regular are frankly gone, as are any thoughts of Yhency Brazoban as a guy on the pitching staff until 2008, and like all guys coming off his type of major surgery, what we'll get down the road is frankly iffy.

Quick, tell me the name of two top flite big time relievers who have come back from a surgery requiring a year off? Then a guy who had to have a second surgery? History tells us that while Orel Hershiser remained a dependable guy to have around after his surgery, it still was he pre surgical Orel.

That probably is a good guide for thinking about Eric Gagne when he returns. He might be good, but then he also might be a different pitcher than he pre-injury Gagne. (The good news is all the other teams are going to be very skeptical of paying pre injury money for post injury Eric).

Highly paid shortstop Raffy Furcal has played enough games to feel comfortable in LA. He switching teams in the same league after all. He needs to pick it up a notch.

The pitching has been tough and go, as has the hitting, so there is work for new hitting coach Eddie Murray and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to do yet. It will be well for Dodgers fans to see some results from their work.

There not only is no panic yet, there really aren't signs of real concern, after all, look at the Yankees. But as April begins to turn to May, the Dodgers need to hitch it up a little while they are still only 2 games behind in baseball's worst division.