Dodgers Rebuild With Bargain Players

Every year, almost all baseball teams turn over from 20 per cent of their 25 man rosters. This year, the Dodgers have exceeded that number. With that many new players coming aboard, a team has a chance to change the character if not the future of their team.

Gone are Jeff Kent, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Angel Berroa, Chan Ho Park, Jason Johnson. Joe Beimel will work elsewhere. Mark Sweeney is retiring since he's unlikely to find work. Danny Ardoin must be willing to play in Albuquerque to stay in the organization.

The only reason Juan Pierre is still around is the Dodgers havent found another team dumb enough to take him off the Dodgers' hands. Jeff Schmidt's contributions? Well, as President  Eisenhower's opinion of VP Nixon's contributions: "Give  me a couple months and I'll try to think  of something."

Go back and read the Dodgers media hype on these  players a year ago. Kent et al were the heart of the Dodgers. To paraphrase Winston Churchill (on the RAF), never  have so  many counted on so few for so much (only to  be bitterly disappointed).

The sum total of the above is a lot of addition by subtraction. That's the first half  of the equation. The second half is what the Dodgers  have or havent done to fill those slots with talent. And here the upside  of subtraction has not exactly been supplemented by addition.

Juan Castro, 37. Brad Ausmus 41. Shawn Estes, mid 30s. Guillermo Mota 36. Mark Loretta, 37 or 38. Claudio (Who?) Vargas, already 30. Scott Strickland, Luis Maza and Hector Luna (Who even cares how old these guys are?).

The Dodgers have filled their many open spots with the aged, the crippled. There are no calendars in Dodgerland, at least any new ones. GM Ned Colletti must have a 1990 calendar in his office.

Not one of the Dodgers new - or retread - signees is likely to be ranked in the top 50 big league players in any category (at least the  positive ones) next season.

The Dodgers say they aren't finished. But the names of the players, Manny Ramirez aside, being mentioned - Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, Braden Looper et al - are frankly more of the same, i.e., old, with question durabililty.

Why all of this is coming about is anybody's guess. Maybe the McCourts invested with Bernie Madoff and are broker and more leveraged than people know. Maybe the McCourts are prescient and know more than others how much the national economic downturn is going to impact the turnstiles this next year.

Maybe the McCourts have read a book or two by P.T. Barnum and show up regardless of the talent on display  or lack thereof.

All of this would be more  understandable if the Dodgers minor league system was still chuck full of James Loneys and Clayton Kershaws, which it isnt.

Maybe the McCourts are just going through the motions with Colletti, paying him the last year of his contract, making him work rather than having to pay him for doing nothing,  and then,  based  upon Colletti's record with the Dodgers, waiting until 2010 and a new GM before looking for good or better replacements.

We told another baseball junkie about the signing of 41 year old Ausmus. The immediate response was surely as a coach.

Joe Torre's record is that (1) he does better with a $200 million payroll than one at $120 million (don't even bother to look at a minus $100 million payroll), (2) is slower than slow to blend in young players, (3) burns out pitchers and (4) has himself already passed his 70th birthday.

Look at pitching coach Rick Honeycutt's record. What winners has he coached? It is a very short list indeed. Are Shawn Estes and Claudio Vargas going to  change that record. Not  likely.

The Dodgers had many open roster spots. They have filled them with contracted players as outlined above. Now for everybody they might sign will cause a roster deletion, meaning a move more complicated than it would have only a month ago.

The Dodgers roster today looks like an old 1950s Pittsburgh Pirates roster just after Ralph Kiner left and before Roberto Clemente began to hit his stride, just plain awful.

It's hard to see how the current Dodgers roster - with or without Manny Ramirez - can be looked at as a winner even in the NL West, baseball's worst division.

The Dodgers has a big chance to improve with so much deadwood being removed. So far, they haven't taken this God given opportunity to heart and improved themselves. Ah, but brothers and sisters, hope springs eternal.

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