Off Base
The Obligatory and Not Really Clever "Hanging Chads" Line

April 26, 2010, 2:15 p.m. One more "hanging chad" reference and, so help me, I'm going to hurl. Because if there's a thing more difficult to stomach than a Chad Billingsley start it's the continued trotting out of that tired old line.

The man pitched well yesterday. So thank goodness for small miracles. We've got a moratorium on the phrase for four days, and a chance to recover.

Look, I've suffered through Billingsley's games as much as the next guy, but if you step back for a minute, separate, and focus on 2010, it's just two outings. Meltdowns, yes; train wrecks, yes; but two starts. Two whole starts.

Bills had a good spring, a rough but acceptable first game, and a fine one in Washington.

Joe Torre is a patient man, and it's a good thing. There aren't a lot of options when it comes to Chad Billingsley, and if we're going to be objective – as opposed to knee-jerk emotional – riding out the storm is the best course of action. Same thing with the bullpen. You can't replace large chunks of roster after a tenth of a season. We just have to be patient.

And why not? What, you're worried about the San Diego Padres? The San Diego Padres? And you want to admit it publicly? C'mon. The Padres run off streaks like the one that concluded Saturday all the time, only to follow-up with longer stretches of lameness and small-marketness than you ever thought possible.

Take last season. The Pads won five straight and eight of nine from April 9 to 18, only to lose 10 of their next 12. They played a nice next set, winning two of three, before following up with six straight losses. After that, San Diego won 10 in a row, lost seven of 10, and lost another seven of ten. I could on, but why obsess over the San Diego Padres?

The Dodgers lost their first four road series and won their first two home series, two out of three in each set to date. The offense has come back to earth, which is to be expected. The defense has been frighteningly bad, but will probably self-correct to an acceptable level.

Props to Carlos Monasterios for his cool, calm and collected performance Saturday afternoon. Credit Torre minimally, since he had no choice, but if the young man is going to be on the roster, he might as well pitch.

The bullpen had a bad run, which Dodger pens just plain do, and they almost always turn out strong in the end. I really think the bullpen is about to be in place and fine, assuming the starters can get some length.

Therein lies the problem. Starting pitching. I'm not going to sit here and tell you Billingsley is going to be an All-Star in 2010, nor will I say the same about Clayton Kershaw. Either is possible, however, and if you think you know you're fooling yourself and anyone you can get to listen to you.

Hear that, prognosticators of the old and new media? With the exception of a few consistently excellent pitchers in each league, there's simply no predicting pitching. Ever.

And by the way, I'm happy to go on record right now supporting Josh Towers. With 112 career starts, if promoted Towers immediately becomes the most experienced man on the staff, and that's worth something. Say what you will about those 112 starts. I think he has a chance to help out.

But again, who knows? Bills could roll off a streak of masterpieces or just as easily self-destruct, Vicente Padilla could be lost forever or just plain stink, and while I like him, who the hell knows about Charlie Haeger?

The Dodgers need reinforcements. There's already been plenty of talk about two men we're familiar with – Pedro Martinez and Jarrod Washburn – and Los Angeles has zero to lose except a few bucks by signing one, or even both of them. One club or another will benefit from the contributions of these pitchers, and if it's the San Francisco Giants, who only need one more starter…well, do you really want me to finish that sentence?

And yes, I understand it's too early for this kind of talk, but a man can dream, can't he? Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee. Pull for a ton of losses in Seattle and Houston, OK. That's what I'm doing, even though I wouldn't expect the Dodgers to spring for it.

Oh, and if Javier Vazquez needs an escape from New York again, in case you haven't heard because it's been such a well-kept secret, the Yankees will be here in June. I'll carry his bags from one clubhouse to the other myself...

This 'N That: The Dodgers should sign Juan Cruz.

Check out old friend Tom Bentley's nice piece on Vin Scully and Mark Twain.

From the perhaps pertinent to nothing department, Russell Westbrook's family and friends threw a going away party for the then newly-signed Oklahoma City Thunder basketballer the day before the Main Squeeze and I got married.

It was August 30, 2008, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. With our wedding the following night, when we showed up for our rehearsal, Westbrook's people were setting up for their evening in the same space.

August 30, 2008 was also the night the Dodgers started their season-changing eight-game winning streak in Arizona, with none other than Chad Billingsley beating Dan Haren. Derek Lowe took care of business against Brandon Webb the next night, right about the time we were exchanging our vows.

August 30, 2008 was also the day Sarah Palin was introduced as John McCain's running mate. Squeeze's first words at the time: "she's gorgeous!"

Our event was the second most important thing that happened that day. Draw your own conclusions...

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Baseball Reliquary: I've been way late in telling you about Southern California's neat baseball non-profit organization, the Baseball Reliquary, and I'd like to rectify that right now.

Balloting for the 2010 Shrine of the Eternals ends Wednesday, and while it might be too late to get your vote in for this year, please consider the good things offered by the group, and attend a special event when you can.

In particular, there's a 40th anniversary of the publication of "Ball Four" exhibition in August and September, at the Burbank Public Library, with a panel discussion featuring Jim Bouton on September 18.

Members are asked to cast nine votes for the Shrine of the Eternals, and here are my nine: Roger Angell, Charles M. Conlon, Dr. Frank Jobe, Mike Marshall (the pitcher, not the outfielder), Manny Mota, Rusty Staub, Luis Tiant, Fay Vincent and Maury Wills…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….

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