Off Base
The Men are All Right

October 28, 2009, 7:00 p.m. Miss baseball already? Me too, so full speed ahead into the offseason.

The OC squad wins one more game than the locals, and as usual, the Dodgers are more compelling in defeat than the Angels are in, well, defeat. The winter in Los Angeles figures to be exponentially more interesting too.

But first things first. Can we finally, once and for all, adios the term “kids” from any discussion of L.A. baseball, please?

Fine, Clayton Kershaw is a kid. That’s a grand total of one. Come April, Andre Ethier will have been voting in Arizona for ten years. Russell Martin will weigh in at a spry 27 years of age.

James Loney, as thoughtful a player as we’ve been fortunate to have here in decades, is a four-year veteran of 25, boasts a .349 average, already with four homers and 14 RBIs, in five postseason series. It took Barry Bonds 37 years, 17 seasons and God knows how many injections to achieve such October production.

The baby of the bunch, Matt Kemp, just turned 25, and yes, he had trouble making contact during the 2009 playoffs. Even so, he still contributed two important home runs to the losing cause. No young Dodger improves faster than Matt Kemp, so a run at an MVP in 2010 wouldn’t be beyond the realm.

Complain about Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal’s postseason batting if you like, but trust me, you’ll be glad to have them back next year. Continuity is a good thing, and Ned Colletti has significantly fewer to-dos this winter than last.

I still don’t get the Orlando Hudson benching, and especially the way they did it, hot-hand of Ronnie Belliard or no, but OK. The Dodgers need a second baseman. There’s zero chance of a Blake DeWitt / Belliard platoon, as has been suggested elsewhere, so you can forget about that right now.

Colletti will hope for a second straight depressed free agent market, and look to come away with Felipe Lopez, Placido Polanco, or perhaps in a position switch, Orlando Cabrera. Good choices all, with either of the latter two being great matches for the club.

Polanco’s career high in errors, by the way? Uh, eight. Eight. And he’s made all of 21 this millennium.

That leaves Manny, and the Dodgers really ought to. Bite the bullet, again. Have Scott Boras pull up the Andruw Jones document on his laptop, do a save as, fill in the word “Ramirez,” and be done with it.

The shower incident may be a small matter in the grand scheme of things (assuming the absence of an “inappropriate relationship” there), but the man has won his last popularity contest in Los Angeles. It’s over. Manny is done as a slugger, and right now, he’s better with the glove than he is with the bat.

$20 million is a ton of money to drop in the trash, but thanks to Boras, it’s not unprecedented. Maybe the Dodgers can chalk up Manny’s one-way trip to Texas or Oakland as a travel expense. Maybe the largest excess baggage fee ever, but part of the cost of doing business.

It doesn’t matter that Manny picked up his option.

And by the way, Bill Plaschke hasn’t been the only guy preaching the Manny-must-go line in this town. I said it too, and I said it first (me, Plaschke), starting the day the suspension story broke.

If we’re to be really honest, I mean really and truly honest, don’t you think there’s some justice in the Manny-included Dodgers falling short of the World Series. Maybe just a wee bit of justice in that?

Anyway, there are going to be some solid one-year outfield options in free agency, and among the non-tenders, and if the Dodgers were to go well into Spring Training with Juan Pierre in left, I don’t think there would be a loud cry of disenchantment from the faithful. Not this time.

The Dodgers had a great, veteran bench this year, and I imagine Colletti will reel in a similar group of team player types for 2010.

As for starting pitching, forget the club’s pronouncement that they’re going to promote from within. This ownership group or another, a starter will be on the Christmas shopping list.

John Lackey will no doubt end up in the Bronx, but there will be alternatives, both in free agency and via trade, few involving enough dollars to be hindered by divorce proceedings. Don’t worry about it. And don’t be surprised to see Randy Wolf back in blue. Probably Jon Garland and Jeff Weaver too.

And really really don’t buy into this crap about the 2009 Dodgers not being tough enough. You win; they call you soft; you lose, not so much.

It’s not about toughness, it’s about experience. There are many more examples in baseball history than I’m about to cite (and in other sports too, for that matter), but let’s start with the young Dodgers of the early 1970s.

You know, Garvey, Cey, Lopes, Russell, Buckner. Those guys. They won 85 games, finishing 10½ behind Cincinnati in 1972. In ’73, they improved to 95-66 and 3½ back of the Reds, then leapfrogged them in ’74, winning the National League West by four, with a 102-60 record.

Eight years between World Series seemed like an eternity then, and of course, L.A. lost to the Athletics in five games. From there, it took them until 1981 to finally win it all, adding Dusty Baker, Jerry Reuss, Fernando Valenzuela, Reggie Smith (tough enough for ya?) and all kinds of pieces along the way.

Also along the way, the Dodgers beat Philadelphia in the National League Championship Series in 1977 and ‘78, only to lose both times to the Yanks in the Fall Classic. Part of the process. And the Phils must have learned something from losing back-to-back NLCSs, because in 1980 they won their first championship in what was then their 104-year history.

It doesn’t always work this way, but often it does. Maybe the Dodgers have a coupla guys who need toughening. Chad Billingsley comes to mind. So there’s a little work to be done there. BFD.

The Dodgers are going to be just fine in 2010. The men are all right. A little more patience, please…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Media Savvy: Best line of the American League Championship Series, from Tom Verducci, of "Girardi replaced a left-hander with a left-hander to face a left-hander, and replaced a right-hander with a right-hander to face a right-hander. He has made 14 pitching changes in the past 18 innings. It's like watching Carrot Top playing speed chess after downing a case of Red Bull."

More Yankees: Memo to America’s media, and in particular, to Fox television. Lost in the thoroughly unattractive gush-fest surrounding Alex Rodriguez, just because he’s actually hit a baseball in the postseason for once in his life, is the notion that THE GUY IS A BLEEPING DRUG CHEAT!!!!! Hel-lo?!

I cannot tell you how much I would love to see A-Rod revert to form in the Series. Tell me that wouldn’t be just great…

More Dodgers: You can't blame Don Mattingly for trying, but there’s nothing that can come out of negotiating with the Dodgers now for what may be a managerial opening in 2011. Even if they were to guarantee him the job in two years, which they won’t, it wouldn’t mean a thing with a new ownership group.

Plus, does it really matter if Mattingly goes to Cleveland? I’m going to continue to say this till I’m Dodger blue in face: Mike Scoiscia is going to follow Joe Torre as skipper. Just you watch.

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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