The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway wrote a classic "The Old Man and the Sea." Spencer Tracy played the role in the film, the aging fisherman fighting improbable odds. Greg Maddux plays Spencer Tracy tonight, the old man against the sea, played by the New York Mets, looking for a sweep.

Maybe Maddux will take a minute today to call up even older Kenny Rogers, the Detroit Tigers aging lefty who pitched the game of his life last night, shutting out the powerhouse New Yorkl Yankees (Tigers great Al Kaline, who threw out the first ball, called the Yankees lineup the best he'd ever seen in baseball, and Kaline came up in 1953). Rogers is like Maddux now a junk pitcher, a guy who throws everything everywhere.

On Friday night, everything he did was right and he went two outs into the 8th, allowing Tigers manager Jim Leyland to skip his long relief guys and go right to Mr. 103 MPH Zumaya to close out the inning.

Grady Little should be so lucky, with Maddux going into the 8th, and being able to skip his long guys (who'll mostly be long gone in less than a week) and go to his hummer, Mr. Broxton.

Another "Old Man and the Sea" case could be made for Grady Little, who loves to go with his old men against the sea of youth.

Even beginning baseball scouts measure such things as (a) how fast a runner goes from home to first, (b) the strength of a players throwing arm, (c) the speed of his bat and such.

Why do they do such things? It's elementary Brother Holmes. Faster is better. Stronger is better. Now you put up a team of faster players against a team of slower players. Who has the advantage? Speed wins. Strength wins.

So why is it big league types throw away this basic baseball verity and stick with the old guys so long? Sure Rogers won. Who lost? The Big Unit, Randy Johnson, even older, that's who.

In the Tigers-Yankees game, Tigers speedster Granderson beat out a double play. He then used his speed to swipe second when a throw from much older Jason Giambi didn't get the job done. And he scored standing up without a throw on a single to center when hard charging but weak throwing Johnny Damon didn't even venture a throw.

Speed wins. Youth wins. Somebody tell Grady Little.

Can you imagine what a steam is building up in Mr. George Steinbrenner, as his $200 million a year squad chokes?

Can you imagine the heat headed towards ARod, the $25 million contract third baseman who thinks the S in September is for Swoon? Betcha we could get ARod on the cheap if the Yankees go down.

Says here the Dodgers could use a little of the Steinbrenner treatment if they get swept tonight.

Now it turns out Joe Beimel cut his hand at 2:30 a.m. (long after curfew) in a New York gin mill instead of, as he first reported, in his hotel room. Would Little have used Beimel instead of Mark Hendricksen in games one and two? You can bet the farm on that. Would he have used Beimel instead of fly ball pitcher Brett Tomko with the bases loaded. We will never know. Are the Dodgers steamed at Beimel?

You betcha.

We can't get over the fact that the dummy Florida Marlins let young hotshot manager Joe Girardi loose. Also how well Girardi, the second youngest manager in baseball this year, handled his young team.

And how the Dodgers future is NOT with a bunch of old guys who get hurt a lot (it ain't their fault, it goes with the aging process, just ask Holmes and Shelley and me).

Young Tommy Lasorda, an Italian, rode a bunch of kids to the big leagues.

Their names were Garvey and Cey and Lopes and Russell and Buckner and Valentine. The Dodgers did well. Lasorda did well. The players did well. The fans did well. We'd love another Italian manager who could duplicate what Tommy did.

But not an old guy like Jimmy Fregosi (who some of the baseball stage door annies call "the best manager without a job"), a young guy like Joe Girardi. Somebody is going to get the kid. And they are going to be very, very happy they did.

We just wish the timing were a little better in LA. The Dodgers owner has pledged to make the Dodgers winners again and soon.

You do not get to be winners by getting older, with due apologies to Mr. Maddux who is ageless.

At least the Dodgers lasted longer in the playoff process than the Minnesota Twins, frankly a better team.

We love Russ Martin. Joe Mauer was better - this year. The Twins had Johan Santana. The Dodgers don't have anybody remotely in his class. The Twins had Mr. Liriano (who was hurt). He might be better the Santana. The Dodgers don't have anybody that good either.

The Dodgers and Padres are both down 0-2. Says a lot about the National League West doesn't it? Who's playing worse playoff baseball, the Dodgers or the Padres? How do you pick between lousy and lousy? One New York baseball writer said it all when he said the Dodgers were playing back on their heels.

They were.

Win or lose, there will be changes made. In baseball there always are. Even teams standing still will move 7 or 8 players from their 25 man rosters. The thing is, when the 7 or 8 or 9 guys moving out have no market, the team is forced to (a) spend real money (if they have it), (b) burn up really good rookies for players ready now but of lesser value, (c) outsmart or outwit some other team (harder to do every year), (d) play on some other team's disadvantage (small market teams who have to get rid of players they can't afford).

This calls for an aggressive front office, which the Dodgers have, and a front office ready to go from day one this time - remember last year the Dodgers twisted in the wind for months before settling on Mr. Colletti.

This also calls for a very good scouting department, and this is something all of baseball, not just the Dodgers, have systematically been cuttting back on.

It also calls for a smart organization, which the Dodgers always were, in being able to prospect in mines others didn't, like the Dominican Republic. (Where is Mr. Pujols from? Where is Miguel Cabrera from?). The Dodgers unfortunately chose, under the current owners, to go on the cheap in this department, a decision they will rue for a while.

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