Furcal, Abreu, Kent done for season

Shortstop Rafael Furcal, infielder Tony Abreu and second baseman Jeff Kent have all been shut down for the final three games of the season Manager Grady Little said Thursday. No matter where you point a finger, this sort of thing is a good deal of the reason the Dodgers finished fourth in the N.L. West.

Furcal, now hobbled by a sore back after a collision in the middle of the spring training season saddled him with a bad ankle, hasn't played since since the disasterous four-game debacle 11 days ago in Colorado. He underwent an MRI exam this week and trainer Stan Conte said he has a "very mild bulge" of a disk in his spine that will heal with rest.

He was the Dodgers' MVP in 2006, hitting an even .300 and reaching base just over 35% of the time, he recorded 113 runs, 196 hits that included 32 doubles, nine triples and 15 home runs. A repeat season in 2007 would make the final three games with San Francisco mean something important.

"I want to play. But I don't want to play like I'm feeling," he said. "It's getting better but not like I say I can play. It's been a tough year for me."

The Dodgers don't want Furcal to return to the Dominican Republic "unless we definitely know that rest and rehab is going to" heal the injury.

Abreu, playing and playing well at all three infield positions, has been plagued since July by what Dodger head trainer Stan Conte calls a abdominal groin strain, and has been seeking opinions on a course of treatment and rehab most of the summer. Surgery is among the possibilities. He re-injured himself in the Colorado series in Denver after making a spectacular play and has been sidelines since.

Kent, who injured a hamstring in July and now has a bruise on his left leg from a collision at the plate September 25.

Say he is a grump, say he had little to do with the other players most of the time, say he shot off his mouth about things as the losing streak extended itself and you might be right.

But when he could play, he never gave less that 100% on the field, driving his 39-year-old body continuously. That effort, and the lack of success it engendered, was more than a little the cause of his ill-timed diatribe.

So the club solders on, without the starting middle infielders and the best young replacement available. Add to that the mysterious ineffectiveness of Nomar Garciaparra (who had 20 home runs and 93 runs batted in last year) and the implosion of starters Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf, Hong-chic Kuo plus the weak help received from Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko. It provides a recipe for falling completely out of the league. Derek Lowe, also speny time dinged up during the year, went from 16-9 to 12-14.

Add to these woes is the remarkable play of the once-punchless Arizona Diamondbacks and the, well, the Colorado Rockies who once upon a time never threatened anyone -- and you have a recipe of disaster that helped poison the Dodgers portion of the season.

John McGraw, Leo Durocher, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel, or any combination of the above, could not overcome that sort of odds.

Did Ned Colletti sign the wrong people? Did Grady Little not push all the right buttons at the right time? Did they error in not bringing up at least some of the talented kids they left simmer in the minor leagues?

Maybe, maybe not.

It easy to talk about should have been done, and most of the criticism comes after what was done didn't work out so well -- but no one gets all of the answers right all the time.

And a great deal like the trade former GM Fred Claire made, swapping a young Pedro Martinez for a superb-looking infielder by the name of Delino DeShields -- not a negative word was written about trading a future hall of famer for an infielder that never really cut it in Los Angeles. All of that came well after the fact.

As you know, 20-20 hindsight is nearly always perfect.

So just for old-times sake, perhaps they can slice and dice the hated Giants one last time and maybe hold their left-fielder to an infield hit over the three games. Not that it would change anything, but it would be a nice, warm item to hold onto during the long, cold winter.

So, for the final spring season in Vero Beach, the Dodgers will be hip-deep in young bodies; talented kids who went through a learn-or-die final six weeks of the season and as they say, "anything that doesn't kill you will make you stronger."

It should be a joy to watch.

The club, due to many various reasons, have imported hired guns to "fill in" while waiting for the farm crop to mature. For a year or two, we had three teams, one coming, one playing and one going. And while it was marginally successful, when it came to the crucible of post-season play, it failed utterly.

On to Lighter Things
Appropriately enough, the Dodgers and Giants will meet in the first games of the 2008 season, celebrating the arrival from the Big Apple to make a home in and among the orange groves in 1958.

In interleague play they go to Anaheim and Detroit and host to the Angels, plus their 2009 partners in the new spring sports complex in Phoenix, the Chicago White Sox, as well as the Central Division champion Cleveland Indians.

As for the final three Giants games, Little is interested in seeing how his young pitchers react and has excused Brad Penny for the rest of the year.

Well, most of the youngsters anyway.

Veteran David Wells will be on the mound tonight and Chad Billingsley, who moved from the pen to the starting rotation bodes so well for the future, gets the ball tomorrow night.

Then things may well look like a spring training game Sunday, with everyone left standing getting an inning or two to impress the brass.

And to put the cherry on the top of a left-footed season, manager Grady Little told the Los Angeles Times, "Ever since Ned and I came to this ballclub, we do everything together."

"When decisions are made that work out OK, we celebrate together. When decisions are made that don't work out too good, we cry together. We don't sleep at night together."

Little, red-faced, quickly added: "I said the wrong words."

Chalk the whole thing off to just one of those years.

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