October 5, 2010, 6:40 p.m. We'll dispense with the usual postmortem. The 2010 Dodger season was simply too ugly to look at live, I'm just not going to put a magnifying glass to the thing a second time.
Of course, the club did not perform to expectations. Of course, a few key players put forth disappointing seasons. Of course, it was excruciatingly frustrating. But say what you will about the team on the field, the lion's share of the blame for this particular mess goes to management. That's my theory anyway.
Following most of these 22 World Series-less seasons (the longest such streak in the 127 years of franchise history) – and yes, this is a generalization – my thinking has gone something like this: the Dodgers failed because of the decision making, or lack thereof, of three men; the owner, the general manager, and the manager, in that order.
That's Peter O'Malley, Fred Claire and Tommy Lasorda, a distant third for most of the 1989 to 1997 stretch; followed by Fox, a host of crappy GMs and less-than-spectacular managers for the period of 1998 to 2003; and Frank McCourt, primarily Ned Colletti, and Jim Tracy/Joe Torre from 2004 to 2010. McCourt, Colletti, Torre this year. In that order.
If he led at all, McCourt led badly in 2010. While being less the culprit, Colletti GM'd badly in 2010. And Torre managed badly in 2010.
On second thought, since the GM had to defer to the owner and the manager (example enough, Garret Anderson), Ned's task this season could not possibly have been made more difficult if they wrote out a what-not-to-do-list in advance. So let's change the order of responsibility for 2010 to Frank first, Joe second, with Ned third.
But like I said, we're not going to review the entire nightmare, blow by blow by blown save. Rather, let's go position by position briefly, and look to 2011.
Infield, Right Side: There's a growing consensus in the blogosphere about the inferiority of both James Loney and Ryan Theriot, which is why I grouped first base with second, and which I could not disagree with more.
Yes, it would be helpful if Loney hit for more power, and I think all he really needs to do to get there is fine tune his technique ever-so-slightly (a hitting coach not named Don Mattingly, perhaps?), and bulk up a bit.
I'm not suggesting he show up metamorphosized like Brian Downing that one year, but he can get stronger by applying himself to that end. The hiring of someone like Steve Finley's old trainer, Tim Hallmark, or Finley himself, might just do the trick.
The rest of Loney's game is absolutely fine. I wouldn't change a thing about the guy. He's great defensively, he drives in runs, and has a good head on his shoulder, the best of the so-called "core" Dodgers (remember what I said earlier – "The Core" is a song by Eric Clapton, from the Slowhand album, not an apt label for four baseball players).
Loney's season was ruined, if you can say that about it at all, by a bad second half. It happens, but it's not a trend. He's a .288 career hitter (.349 in the postseason), who could, should, and probably will be a .300 man soon enough. There's no move to be considered at first base.
Theriot is ten times the second baseman Blake DeWitt is. I'm sorry, but DeWitt simply can not make it at second base. It's just not going to happen.
Not every second baseman is Jeff Kent, OK. And you don't get a superstar at every position. Theriot slumped in the second half, like practically everyone, but is a solid hitter and an excellent second baseman. He's a second baseman, period, and the criticism of his play is to be discounted. Nothing to be done at this position.
Shortstop: I love Rafael Furcal. He's my favorite Dodger, and I'm somewhat confident he'll have a healthy final year of his contract. There's no better alternative and nothing even remotely close. So let's just cross our fingers, and hope that Mattingly (359 games played over his final three seasons) remembers what it was like to play with a balky back in his early thirties, and goes easy on Raffy.
Jamey Carroll will be around to spell Furcal again, perhaps along with a backup infielder of higher quality than Ronnie Belliard.
Third Base: I can live with Casey Blake for one more year if need be. And if Mattingly is smart with the player, the Dodgers can get by with Blake as the regular third baseman. He's not done.
On the other hand, if the Dodgers can bring back Adrian Beltre, who's a free agent, for something like three years and $35 million, they ought to. A non-tender or trade opportunity could pop up during the winter, and I'm sure the club will keep an eye out, but we're going to have to be patient on this one folks.
Outfield: Dodgers need a big-time player in left field. Big-bleeping-time player in left field. The solution is simple really – bring back Manny Ramirez. Just kidding.
The free agent pickens are slim, unfortunately. It's Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and a bunch of dreck. Both Crawford and Werth are going to be grossly overpaid, and if either or both of them excel in the postseason, it's lookout below. The Red Sox and Yankees might be the only clubs that can absorb the salaries. With Crawford that's probably the case already.
While he is a truly great all-around left fielder, and even if the Dodgers were able to afford such a player, Crawford wouldn't bring the power the club appears to need at this point in time. Werth would, and he'll get a comparatively smaller deal, but can he remain on the field a second time around in Los Angeles? And will he hit in Dodger Stadium, where he's at .250 lifetime?
I've said all along I expect the Dodgers to be sold, and I still believe that to be the case. Who knows if it'll happen in time to make a difference in 2011, but with McCourt, the Dodgers should have a payroll of around $90 million. That's enough to win if you're smart, and you get lucky.
Look what the Giants got out of Aubrey Huff. Aubrey Huff, for crying out loud. Brian Sabean's no genius, OK. There was simply no reason to expect a thing out of Aubrey Huff. San Francisco got lucky.
And guess how many productive seasons 32 year-old Andres Torres put together before this one. Exactly, this is it. He'd played in as many as 50 games twice, with seven home runs lifetime, to go along with a whopping 36 career RBIs. So of course Torres goes 16 and 63 this year.
Weird things happen when you win, and you win when weird things happen. The Giants scored with Huff and Torres, for a grand total of $3.43 million in salary, getting extremely lucky in the process. Subtract those two guys and you're looking at a fourth place team.
Andre Ethier will be fine next year. He'll go .290, 30 and 100 easy. That's all we need to say about right field.
I'm not going to try to explain Matt Kemp's 2010 base running, base stealing, batting average, defense or choice of at-bat music. I imagine he'd benefit from a more professional agent, and I know the addition by subtraction of Torre, Larry Bowa (if he ends up gone) and Bob Shaefer will do the young man some good.
While further regression is possible – like, say, to the tune of a .235 – I expect an improved Matt Kemp next year, with stats close enough to Ethier's. Center is fine. Next.
Catcher: I haven't given up on Russell Martin. This business about him getting $6 million in arbitration is folly. The Dodgers can renew him for around $4 million, and that's what they ought to do. Rod Barajas and A.J. Ellis make for adequate backups. Nothing more.
Of the potential free agent catchers, I like Yorvit Torrealba to either start or share time with Martin. One year for Torrealba, then he can go to Arizona in 2012 to complete his journey of playing for each of the five National League West teams over a seven year period.
Starters: Clayton Kershaw is inching closer to a top five Cy Young Award vote already, and he'll crack the list in 2011. There is no question in my mind we'll be looking at a true ace next year. None whatsoever. Chad Billingsley is a solid number two.
Look for Hiroki Kuroda to return on a hometown discount one to two-year deal. Ted Lilly will get a similar offer, but is less likely to take it. 50-50 at best.
There will be mid-range salary options like Jon Garland, Jake Westbrook or Chris Young in the free agent pool, and plenty of non-tenders worth considering. I'm not all that concerned about the rotation. And if the team is sold, a top-tier Cliff Lee-type acquisition is a possibility.
Relievers: Houston, we have a problem. A big-fat-greek-former-ace-closer problem. Mattingly says he expects a comeback from Jonathan Broxton, but if he really thinks that's going to happen, he's all by his lonesome in this town.
Broxton absolutely must get into professional-athlete condition over the winter, and if the Dodgers are going to continue to employ him, they need to supervise the effort closely. They ought to anyway. That alone assures nothing, as far as closing is concerned, but it's a beginning.
And you know the old Jewish saying: "It's like chicken soup to a dead man – it couldn't hurt." It's the responsible thing to do regardless.
Hong-Chi Kuo's a bleeping stud, he really is, but everyone knows his history. An encore season for Kuo is a flip of the coin. Kenley Jansen should be successful in a seventh or eighth inning role. There's your 2011 bullpen, Los Angeles. At least, that's the way it looks today.
Maybe one more year for Jeff Weaver, perhaps another Chan Ho Park comeback, and if I'm the boss, a zero-tolerance policy for Ronald Belisario. Thirty seconds late to Spring Training and he's toast. Tell him that up front and hope for the best. No more unexplained absences, no more chances.
Clubs turn over their pens from year to year, and the Dodgers do it all the time. Russ and Ramon Ortiz notwithstanding, they're pretty good at it generally.
Bench: Dodger benches turn over annually too, with Carroll being the only lock to return. Jay Gibbons works as a pinch-hitter and fifth outfielder only. Colletti will no doubt find an acceptable veteran infielder not named Belliard, we'll see about Reed Johnson, and backup catcher is a legitimate mystery to be named later.
More will be revealed. I'm ready for Spring Training right now…
Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…
Award Time: In a coup for the group, the IBWAA welcomes Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times, as a new member. We're now represented by writers from the LAT, the Los Angeles Daily News, ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, the Orange County Register and YahooSports, just to name a few.
Season award voting concluded Sunday night, with winners scheduled to be announced ahead of the BBWAA starting November 8, 2010. We use the same voting and calculation method as the traditional writers, with Most Valuable Player Award voting for ten places, five for the Cy Youngs, and three for the rest.
The Rollie Fingers American League Relief Pitcher of the Year and Hoyt Wilhelm National League Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards were created by the IBWAA for the IBWAA in 2009.
Here are my winners.
NL MVP: Joey Votto.
NL Cy: Ray Halladay.
NL Rookie: Buster Posey.
NL Manager: Bud Black.
NL Executive: Walt Jockety.
NL Comeback: Scott Rolen.
NL Hoyt Wilhelm Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson.
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton.
AL Cy: CC Sabathia.
AL Rookie: Neftali Feliz.
AL Manager: Ron Gardenhire.
AL Executive: Andrew Friedman.
AL Comeback: Jose Bautista.
AL Rollie Fingers Relief Pitcher: Rafael Soriano...
DO Stop Believing: Lame to begin with, the playing of the old Journey song, with or without inane lip syncer at Dodger Stadium, has got to go. Two years is more than enough. Bleeping Steve Perry showed up to lead San Francisco in the singing last Saturday. If that isn't reason enough, I don't know what is…
Warning: LakersSavvy.com in coming soon. Be afraid. Be very afraid…
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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