September Second Guessing

The closer the standings, the tighter the clock, September games get watched much, much more closely than May-August games. The earlier games are just as important but seldom dissected with such angst.

So Grady Little naturally comes under the microscope. Dodgers win, he looks good. They lose, he, well, don't look so good.

The Dodgers had a lead. They are now in second place. Sunday's game was a dandy. Taut, hard fought, a shame either team had to lose. You couldn't fault the Dodgers pitching. But the bats have gone silent at just the wrong time.

The microscope is out and in use.

Why has Ramon Martinez, the dandy, scrappy all purpose guy who was so important earlier in the season, been put on ice?

Why was Julio Lugo, he of the ..223 batting average, placed in the lineup rather than Martinez? And why was Lugo put in the 3 spot?

For that matter, with a lefty going, why didn't Little give a start to the big righty, Olmedo Saenz?

Was Little thinking of past Red Sox glory and the younger Nomar Garciaparra (he of the second half blues and late season slow bat speed) too much and not enough of Saenz when sending up a 9th inning pinch hitter?

Will Little stick with his punch and judy hitters in the final 13 games?

Why bring up the Pacific Coast League batting champ, James Loney and his .380 batting average, and not use him?

Why has Jason Repko, the energizer bunny, been forgotten?

With a third catcher, Einar Diaz, on hand, has Little ever thought of using Toby Hall in a pinch hitting role? Check Hall's batting average.

In the old days, the Dodgers dining room was full of good old red blooded meat. Roast beef. Steak. In the politically correct present, the Dodgers have shifted to less cholesterol cloggers and more dainty salads.

For all the world, the Dodgers hitters in the late going have looked like they have been feasting and bulking up on spinach for power.

Now spinach may have worked for Popeye, but Popeye ain't in the Dodgers lineup.

The middle of the Dodgers lineup, the 3-4-5-6 guys, have been frankly awful.

J.D. Drew is just as willing to take a walk as take a swing. Jeff Kent admits his strained oblique still bothers him. Nomar looks like No-more. (Besides the youth advantage, Nomar hit better as a single guy than as a happily married one.).

But with all these musings, the offensive guy giving most offense is Julio Lugo. He is to the offense what Brett Tomko is to the pitching staff.

Off their performances, Little has relied on these two guys too much, gambling that with their subpar performances, both will break out and return to form in the very next appearance.

Neither has.

It will be a sad epitaph for the season if the Dodgers come up short. It would be too Little too late.

The only good thing about Sunday's loss is it leaves only one more game against the Padres this season. If the Dodgers could have only broken even against their southern California rivals this season, they'd be ahead by half a dozen games.

They didn't and they aren't.

Now comes Jim Tracy's Pirates. Do you think Tracy wants to stick it to the team that he feels didn't support him and then let him go? You bet your bippy he is salivating for revenge.

And then the Dodgers close against their age old rivals, the Giants, in San Francisco. Hardly looks like a patsy schedule.

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