Last chance. This is it. No more "we keep coming back." The Dodgers have chosen the most ill opportune time to have a mini slump and have their backs to the wall. No excuses.
Do or die.
In game one against the Mets, the Dodgers ran themselves into a double play that (a) didnt have to happen, (b) shouldnt have happened.
In game two against the Mets, the Dodgers defense gave up two runs when the suddenly new right side of the infield (first baseman Jeff Kent and second baseman Julio Lugo) couldn't handle a makeable play and then shortstop Rafael Furcal waited on a surefire double play ball a touch too long. As in game one when the two Dodgers did NOT score, in game two, the two Mets DID score. Down 2-0.
The Dodgers have a day to THINK if such a thing happens in baseball or at least in Chavez Ravine.
First thing to think about. Straight out of Abbott and Costello. Who's on first?
This, in contrast to Abbott and Costello, is not funny at all. Just as Grady Little stuck with Pedro Martinez too long in Boston, he has stayed with Nomar Garciaparra too long here. There has been a one armed outfielder in big league baseball. There have been one eyed pitchers.
But, please, somebody tell Grady Little, there has never been a one legged first baseman, especially at the playoff level. Nomar healthy is great. Nomar injured is average. Nomar with multiple injuries at the same time should NOT be in the game.
Manager Little's first option in this circumstance has been and continues to be to move Jeff Kent from second to first and put Julio Lugo in at second. It has never worked yet. Why does Little think it can work now?
Lugo, when he brought his 12 homers over from Tampa, was leading the Dodgers with most homers hit this season. He has NEVER hit another. He has not hit a homer in the National League.
In contrast to Lugo, who is hitting zilch and zero, there sits on the Dodgers bench one James Loney, a classy, proven top notch fielding first baseman, silky smooth. Now what has Loney done with the ash in September. Oh, there was 9 RBI in one game - tying a more than 50-year-old franchise record. Then HOMER.
Recommendation to Little: put James Loney at first base on Saturday. Do not even think about Nomar. Go right past the Lugo-Kent scenario duo to Loney.
Second thing to think about: sixth and seventh inning pitching choices. In games one and two, Little has gone with Mark Hendricksen twice and escaped. He has gone with Brett Tomko, bringing in a fly ball pitcher with the bases loaded. Result, a fly ball, a sacrifice fly, an insurance run.
Over in Yankee Stadium, Tigers manager Jim Leyland eschewed going to veterans in middle relief and turned to young blood, Mr. Zumaya, who throws 100 mph, 101 mph, 102 mph and even 103 mph.
The Tigers strategy was a winner. The Dodgers strategy was a loser.
While Dodgers manager Little went with veterans, he did have Jonathan Broxton ready, willing and able. There is NO baseball rule we are aware of that Broxton is forbidden from pitching in the sixth or seventh innings.
There also is NO baseball rule we are aware of that while iffy choices Tomko and Hendricksen can be brought out for a second inning, that Broxton can NOT.
Recommendation to Little: the chances of Greg Maddux going past six being slim and none, please think carefully about your strategy for long relief.
Notice the recommendations both include thinking about youth, Loney and Broxton.
Which leads us to the third consideration. The outfield. Brother Little, play Marlon Anderson. Play Kenny Lofton. But don't play both at the same time.
The Dodgers would have been in last place without the bat of young dynamic Andre Ethier. Give the kid a start. We ain't done so good with him - and the other kids - on the pine. Why lose with veterans? Cuz they done it before?
Lets face it. The Dodgers didn't play good solid fundamental baseball in the first two games. They made faulty decisions. They made faulty execution. They have played horseshoe baseball, but horseshoe rules (close is good) dont count in Abner Doubleday's fall game.
Teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit before. But rarely. Very rarely. So pardon if our thinking doesn't begin to filter on into next year.
First, Loney has to play first. Nomar is not going to be any younger or any healthier. If he does come back, it has to be at another position. Sorry about that. That's the way it is.
Second, why think about spending a lot of money trying to bring Julio Lugo back? What for?
Third, Kenny Lofton was dandy for the year he was here. Thanks a lot. With only two guys who just managed to hit 20 home runs, the Dodgers need to explore a little (no pun)
more punch from the outfield slots.
Fourth, like Nomar, Jeff Kent will not be any younger or healthier next year. The Dodgers need to plan around this factor. They have two players who if lucky might play 81 regular season games in full health, and who knows if those games will be at the same time.
This is a GM's decision. Improperly made, this is the kind of decision that puts a field manager in jeopardy, especially a field manager who has demonstrated a well known propensity for experience over youth.
Fifth, the pitching staff. A 12 year old fantasy league player would and does know that half of the Dodgers pitching staff is (a) not desireable, (b) not productive, (c) not worth signing, (d) not worth keeping.
Their names are no secret: Sele, Hendricksen, Dessens, Carrera. Now comes the two hard ones: Penny and Tomko. When the kids begin to do their fantasy league drafting next spring, let us tell you something: Penny and Tomko will be available late into the draft, their value having plummeted beyond their salaries, their potential talent. And so it is in big league baseball too.
There are big league players eager and desirous of seeing Brad Penny and Brett Tomko pitching.
They are the hitters on the opposing teams. Hey, batting practice time guys.
Sixth, the staff. The staff got to live and die with the results their guys produced. Hitting coach Eddie Murray huddled over the highest hitting bunch of players in the league. They produced. He stays.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt's minions were more aweful than awesome. Maybe he worked with what he had. Whatever. The results were and are wide of the mark. Sorry Rick.
Somebody has to take the fall here.
That's a discussion for another time. And maybe one that will be impacted, not to a small degree, on the final game or games.
We'll tell you this, if he sticks with Nomar like he stuck with Pedro, there could be a repeat.
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