July 2, 2007
The difference between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, at the exact mid-way point of the season, was two games. Two, potentially season-turning, absolutely gut-wrenching games, both won by the Padres.
The Padres score five in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Dodgers, 6-5, June 7 at San Diego. Worst loss of the season. And the Pads win a mass of blown Dodgers opportunities, 3-1 in 12 innings, on the last day of June in L.A.
Fine. Forty-five wins in 81 games is just fine, considering. Considering a whole bunch of stuff.
Stuff like Jason Repko nearly spoiling everything, by slamming into Rafael Furcal in March for no apparent reason. Like getting one win out of Jason Schmidt, and having to endure 16 starts from Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko, also for no apparent reason. Plus, of course, 17 other appearances by Tomko.
Stuff like however you choose to label third base, which except for 18 years of Ron Cey and Adrian Beltre, has been a black hole, going all the way back to Jim Gilliam.
Like prolonged slumps by Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent, which I suppose in Kent's case is more age than slump. Like more lost scoring opportunities than can possibly be counted by a Hall of Fame player no longer working as a hitting instructor.
Like a scoreboard doing the dandiest impression of Jason Repko you ever did see, absolutely creaming two vital young players in right field at Dodger Stadium.
Forty-five wins, with all that stuff, really is just fine. No complaints from this quarter. The Dodgers began the second half with Chad Billingsley starting and pitching a game like those of us who won't say "I told you so" just this once, knew he could all along. That's a monster boost for the club, and there's no reason for Billingsley to toss even one more inning in relief for the rest of his life.
The Dodgers of Grady Little and Ned Colletti do take awhile to settle on what seem like obvious items, but at least they settle correctly. Billingsley is in there finally. Done deal. Tomko will be designated for assignment by next week at the latest. Colletti will have an impact starting pitcher on the mound soon, and an experienced reliever shortly thereafter. And no, Matt Kemp will not be traded for pitching.
Things to look forward to the second half are these: Nomar will hit .300 and drive in fifty. Furcal will get four days off at the All-Star break and cruise the rest of the way. Russell Martin will play but half a game over the entire four-day break, which for him will seem like a month at a spa.
There are reasons for concern as well, of course, but I'm feeling optimistic this afternoon. Forgive me. For the dose of venom you may be missing, check out the my blog on the Padres acquisition of Milton Bradley.
Oh, and while we're ragging on the Pads, is it just me, or is all the whining about Chris Young not making the All-Star squad rather unbecoming a major league franchise…or adults just generally?
Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…
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And Arizona color man Mark Grace, as you might expect, is great. Also as you might expect, video of Grace's duel with David Ross, which resulted in a homer by the then-Dodgers catcher, was dusted off for the occasion, and accompanied by this old line: "They said he was a good fastball hitter, so I threw him a bad fastball."
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Let's forget the money for once. Because clearly, it is glove which conquers all….
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