Up One Day, Down the Next

Greg Maddux took the Dodgers nation to the heights. A day later, the rest of the merely mediocre Dodgers sent us plunging back to reality. The Dodgers not only have holes in their pitching staff, they are as big as vast caverns.

The fall from brilliance to the batting practice group the Dodgers threw out there the day after Maddux tells the tale.

The Dodgers rushed out Chad Billingsley, who had missed time because of injury. It was too soon and evidentally the decision was faulty. Billingsley was not ready. Instead of the guy throwing peas, he was the just up rookie-like throwing too many pitches.

He was followed by Eric Stults, the lefty kid who snuck one past the lefty prone Mets. Stults soon learned the righty packed Padres were a different breed than the Mets.

Almost half of the Padres Stults faced scored and the game was almost out of reach.

Why, one asks, was Stults the choice? Later on in the game, Grady Little took a flyer with Mark Hendrickson, the NBA guy posing as a major league pitcher. Hendrickson, more experienced than Stults, threw four dandy shutout innings.

Wasted innings as it turns out. Had Hendricksen been the pitcher of choice earlier, rather than an innings eater in a blowout, the Dodgers might still have been in the game. By going with Stults, Little and Company threw in the towel a tad prematurely.

Not to mention the performance of lefty Tim Hamulack. Ugh. And more ugh.

The Dodgers who had padded their division lead only the day before, had given it all up and now were perched still atop the leaderboard but resting on a bed of nails.

Elmer Dessens and Gio Carrara followed Hendrickson with shutout innings - six of them in a row. But throwing shutout innings after the barn door has been closed, when the barn has been burned, is not the same thing as throwing shutout innings with the game still on the line.

Grady Little doesn't look like a gambler. But his September decisions have been a gamble more often than not. He gambled on starting Lefty Kuo - and won. He gambled on starting lefty Stults - and won again. He gambled on Turnover Tomko three times - and lost each time.

Yesterday, he gambled Billingsley would suck it up, forget his physical problems, and perform. Little lost. He bet again on Stults and Hamulack and ran his single game gambles to three straight losses.

Little wasted four great innings from Hendricksen when he might have turned to the beleaguered Tomko again for the only role he seems suited for, mopup.

Little demonstrated his confidence in his own decisions by immediately pulling the regulars, figuring why take a chance on one of them getting hurt when there are still 13 games to play. That was about the only good decision he was to make this day.

Riding a half game lead (there can be none slimmer), the Dodgers now turn to Brad Penny and Derek Lowe back to back. That is apt, since the Dodgers have their back to the wall, the lead on the line. Problem is the Katzenjammer Kids, Penny and Lowe, have been good one day, bad the next.

Lowe, for one, loves the late season, game on the line situations. It would be good for Penny, who has won a bunch of games, to win what, as the old TV guy Ed Sullivan said, "a really big show."

All this September yo-yo-ing is driving us nuts. But at least it is showing Ned Colletti quite clearly the job ahead of him in the offseason.

This time around, he can start on the same clock as every other GM in the game. Colletti hardly needs a message board to tell him the Dodgers two greatest needs - pitching and pitching.

Memories-- There's different kinds of scouts. Those who mine the schoolyards for kids who've never been pros. And those who scour the minors for gems. The Marlins had a scout who helped pluck Dan Uggla from Arizona in last year's Rule 5 draft. All Uggla has done is set the all time big league baseball record for homers by a first year second baseman. Incidentally, more, considerably more, than any Dodgers player has hit this year. Ugglas aren't found every year, but teams have to keep looking. …Several years ago, when Jim Thome was unhurt and in his prime with the Phils, we happened to mention that Phillies minor league first baseman Ryan Howard would be a dandy pickup. Thome had him blocked and then, pre-injury, wasn't about to be traded. That changed suddenly, then no-name Howard got his chance. So far this season, he has more homers than any three Dodgers combined, is past 58 and heading for 60. Wouldn't he have look dandy in Dodgers Blue. And, we'd have had more than a 1/2 game lead.