Old Man River Keeps Rolling Along

That old man river, he just keeps rolling along. And thank God for that. The Dodgers, put on the ropes by a series of Brett Tomko collapses, and starting a four game do or die series with the San Diego Padres (four wins and 11 losses including five straight at home), turned to the 40 year old Greg Maddux, the veteran of so many winning seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

Should Maddux lose, the sinking Dodgers would have made the Titanic second best.

The old geezer saved the day, he saved the season. And how. A one hitter into the late innings. Long enough so stubborn Grady Little and Rick Honeycutt didn't have to go to their seventh inning guy - the aforementioned Tomko.

Tomko has looked like the KGB mole, destroying the Dodgers nation from the inside. Tomko is surely a great guy, a good family man and all, but he has been like poison to the team in September.

If Reggie Jackson was the "good" Mr. September, Tomko has been the "bad" Mr. September.

So the Dodgers in effect said to Maddux, a six inning pitcher, "can you try to give us one more inning this time so we can resist the temptation and crazy impulse to go to Mr. Tomko again?"

This was no casual request. It was the biggest game the Dodgers had to play in years. On it rested the fate of the season. And boy did he deliver. A one hit effort.

Anytime from now through the rest of the season the Dodgers don't have to use Tomko is a plus. Maybe they figure Tomko is a better shot than Elmer Dessens or Gio Carrara, which doesn't say much about Dessens or Carrara now does it.

Maybe they don't want to use up surprising lefty Joe Beimel too early, saving their only tested situational lefty for a later key situation.

After Maddux' gem, the Dodgers only had to win one of the last three of the four game set with the Padres to end the series with a lead. With a favorable schedule and the next nine at home, the Maddux gem set up the roller coaster Dodgers on the up curve.

Maddux supercharged the Dodgers by example. It's as if he said "Don't just try to do, DO IT. Guys, I'm 40 but that's excuse. Gee, I wish I had your younger arm, I wish I had your velocity, I wish I had your youth. But winning is more than that." Maddux's body may be 40, but his heart is 22.

Truth be known, fear is part of athlete's psyche. Fear of not been up to the task.

More often than not, it's the fear that leads to defeat. There ain't no fear in Greg Maddux.

If Greg Maddux would consent to being a blood donor, and if the Dodgers could take some of his blood type and inject it into several of the other members of the pitching staff, the rest of the season might be rosier.

On Friday night, some of Maddux did rub off on the Dodgers 8th and 9th inning guys, Jonathan Broxton and Takeitonhome Saito. They as much as said, "We ain't gonna lose this sucker. No way!"

Now Maddux will have two, maybe three starts left. The other Dodgers will have to handle the rest. There are 14 more seventh innings the Dodgers have to put up with, 14 more times for Grady Little to be tempted to even think about Brett Tomko.

In Boston, a late inning Little decision left Pedro Martinez in too long, costing the Red Sox dearly and costing Little his job. In LA, a seventh inning decision to not go too long with a starter and bring in Tomko, has regularly cost the Dodgers.

Can somebody else make the 7th inning decision from now on? Can the GM tell the manager, "It's my fault, I brought the bum in, I signed him to a two year deal, but stop making us both look bad - I order you to bring in anybody else if you have to make a pitching change in the 7th."

Can we put managerial buttons at every Dodgers seat for 7th inning decisions? Can Little ask the faithful: "Ok, do I bring in Tomko or not?" A clue for Little: it would be the greatest overlay since Lyndon Johnson sank Barry Goldwater. Tomko would get fewer votes than Paul Tsongas (remember him?).

If the Dodgers hang on to win the division, many will credit the decision to go get winner Greg Maddux. If the Dodgers manage to snatch defeat from victory, many will credit the decision to go get Brett Tomko.

They've already set themselves up as the hero and the goat of the season. In the old Brooklyn days, The New York Daily News picked the "hero" and "goat" daily and would post the candidate chosen under a delightful Bill Gallo cartoon crown. The LA press is more indirect and certainly less colorful.

Maddux has now won three hundred and thirty something games in his Hall of Fame career. Not a single game was more important or had more impact. Unless of course he is needed again this season, which he will be.

Maddux is indisputably the Dodgers' "stopper." Tell me this, who was the last 40 year old stopper you can think of?

On Friday night, he 'stopped' Grady Little from calling on Brett Tomko. Now that's a stop if there ever was one.

Three times manager Grady Little went to Brett Tomko in a critical late game situation to hold a lead on this road trip. Three times in a row Tomko laid an egg - three losses - a baseball "hat trick" (borrowed from hockey).

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