Dodgers' Mets Contingent Foiled

As the New York Mets went to the bottom of the 9th in game 7 Thursday night, the television cameras panned the anxious faces of the Mets players. None was more anguished than that of ex-Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green. Then the cameras went to the Mets bullpen where we spied coach Guy Conti.

Back to the dugout and injured hurler Pedro Martinez. Then to manager and ex-Dodgers player Willie Randolph. After ex-Dodgers player Jose Valentin opened the home 9th with a bloop single, another hit, an out, another out. Then up came ex-Dodgers catcher Paulie Loduca. A walk.

Are you beginning to get the flavor of the Mets? It carried a heavy dose of Dodgers Blue. In addition to the above mentioned, there was Gulliermo Mota. And Duaner Sanchez. And in Triple A, even more ex-Dodgers.

And the Mets loaded the bases with two outs and their number 3 hitter up and hot hitting cleanup hitter Carlos Delgado right behind.

Then the Cardinals hurler dashed the Mets, all of New York (the Yankees having succumbed earlier) and the huge Dodgers contingent by reaching back to that old baseball rally killer, the deadly breaking ball. Carlos Beltran whiffed on three straight, the last one looking. Momma, they's throwing the curve.

So now it is on to the World Series. A decidedly midwest World Series. Both east and west coasts shut out. A television marketing disaster. And a very slim Dodgers flavor.

The Cards have Jeff Weaver, who has found new life under Cardinals' pitching coach Duncan (why, perforce, did he not straighten up his act as a Dodger? Was it because we have had second class pitching coaches of late?)

And the closest Dodgers flavor on the Detroit Tigers has to be the new Class A farm club just located up the road from Columbus, Georgia.

The Cards almost didn't make the playoffs, blowing a substantial lead, and coming within 1/2 game of being caught by the Houston Astros. They were on their heels, fully agasp. But they sucked it up and hung on by the narrowest of margins.

Hardly considered a favorite to beat the hot San Diego Padres or the Mets, who had won 97 regular season games, tied (with the Yankees) for most in the majors. Improbable. But that is the joy of baseball. Improbable happens. More miraculous yet, they did it with their slugger Albert Pujols in a very un-Pujols batting funk.

The Tigers were even worse. With an insurmountable lead, they managed to blow it all and more, just hanging on to a wildcard berth. And they had to face the Yankees with the 97 wins and their $215 murderers row lineup. A worthy candidate for quick elimination.

But now we have the Cards and Tigers for the big brass ring. A midwest world series and narry a Dodgers connection to boot. The closest Dodgers connection other than hurler Weaver is the incessant FOX commercial featuring the tuxedo clad Tommy Lasorda pumping baseball (and a very good commercial, even if played and played and played and played.)

This gives the Dodgers plenty of time to toil in anonymity retooling for next season. A full 10 days after they exited the season by being unceremoniously swept, there is little or no news or clues as to what is being contemplated. Little good news anyway.

We know that too few players are eating up too much of the payroll, thus necessarily limiting big budget additions like that Japanese hurler said to be the second coming of Babe Ruth. A tight budget means trying to improve on the cheap, by outsmarting rather than by outspending the other teams.

There's another Dan Uggla out there someplace, the Florida Marlins Rookie of the Year second baseman, available in this year's Rule 5 draft. But it takes a preescient scouting department to know where the Uggla's are and professional scouting has not been the Dodgers forte of late.

The Dodgers coaching staff has a year to go on a multi-year contract, so that means if the Dodgers pitchers who need help, and many do, it will mean the current pitching coach has to show up next spring a lot smarter than when he left the team this October. Is this likely? Nope!

That means we will still have the multi year contract of Brett Tomko. He will still be there. He will still be throwing lots of fly balls. Fly balls that will fall for run producing sacrifice flies, gapper extra base hits and all too frequently home runs.

How this spells improvement or points to hope utterly escapes the level headed observer.

The Dodgers are inititially attempting to improve by subtraction. Gone are Terry Collins and Roy Smith. Say what you want, they were and are good baseball men. They are gone. Staying are Al Gore's ex-staffer.

Staying put, if not being promoted, is young McCourt, son of the owners, put into a real baseball job.

Say what you want, they have never been or are not now good baseball people. How does this bring improvement you might ask? And there is no, repeat no, good answer to this question.

Have you noticed that Fernando Valenzuela, only a year or two younger than Tommy Lasorda, will pitch again in the Mexican League. If he could still pitch, why did the Dodgers throw out hurlers in critical late going who could not pitch? Would he have been any worse (or younger) than Gio Carrera?

Now the baseball gurus and honchos look askance at anything other than total attention to the World Series, placing a de facto embargo on announcments, trades and such.

But the baseball world does congeal around the series and there is much talk going on between teams. It is just that we mere mortals will be placed on hold and in limbo until the World Series is over.

So we will wait and see what the Dodgers are up to, and like the exiles in Casablanca, wait and wait and wait.

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