Off Base
Roster Rumblings

March 4, 2008

Roster rumblings, Dodgers doings, spring samplings. Blah, blah, blah.

With the Larry Bowa helmet-flap taking center stage this past week, and the serial overuse of phrases like "Bowa Constricted" and "Bowa Constrictor," it's been a rough stretch for the English language.

You know what I always say: "use a pun, go to jail." OK, technically, these are plays on words, not puns, but you get the idea.

Bowa is the Dodgers new third base coach slash drill sergeant, brought west from the Bronx courtesy of Joe Torre. Not that I'd try, but there's no nice way to say it, except to say it. Bowa has had a bug up his butt for years. Way up there. For years.

Whether it's chronic hemorrhoids, small-man's complex or too many viewings of any version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" (Clark Gable's is the best), no change of scenery seems to make a difference. Philadelphia, Anaheim, San Diego, whatever.

The institution of hiring managerial retreads seems to be in decline for now, thankfully. Bowa is a handy coach, so if it's possible to convince him to button it, and focus primarily on teaching Matt Kemp to run the bases, that's the way to go. There's zero reason to consider him a future manager, and every reason not to.

Argumentative for no good reason, Bowa has what's known in public relations as a tin ear, which doesn't play well anywhere, much less in Los Angeles. A full complement of media training is in order here, and perhaps a little therapy. Fine; a lot of therapy.

To clear some space on his calendar when the Dodgers hit town, maybe Bowa can cancel that block of scheduled lunches with his idol, Gary Busey…

Roster Rumblings. Team takes, clipboard clamor, bench marks. You know. Here's how it shakes out for the moment. Jason Schmidt might pitch this year, but don't bet on it. More likely, it's $47 million down the toilet. Remember please, we're in a drought, so large bills only when you flush.

But not to worry. I'm in the minority, sure, but I like Esteban Loaiza, and I still think it'll work out. But feel free to rip me a new one.

And the under-the-radar pickup of Jason Johnson was a pleasant surprise. Somebody should've said something, and I'm happy to be that someone. Johnson is far from another Scott Erickson, so don't even go there. He's got a shot to be at least as useful as Jose Lima in 2004.

This is a man with 218 starts this decade, a reliable member of a rotation consistently until missing 2007. That's significant. And he throws strikes. Keep an eye on Jason Johnson, will you?

Forget what Bill Plaschke said this morning about the Dodgers having "only two proven starting pitchers." C'mon.

Chad Billingsley is a total stud, and is as likely an ace as there is on the squad. And you might as well pencil Hiroki Kuroda in as top-five Rookie of the Year vote-getter right now. With Torre making the decisions instead of Grady Little, the rotation is a non-issue. Breathe easy.

Much of the worthwhile talk now centers on third base and the bench, and about how one affects the other. If, for example, Andy LaRoche gets the nod over Nomar Garciaparra, then Nomar becomes a pinch-hitter and backup infielder, setting off a chain reaction for a bunch of guys.

That line of thinking pretty much spells the end of the line for Ramon Martinez, with Delwyn Young serving as a fifth outfielder and extra infielder, with Garciaparra covering short in the rare times that Rafael Furcal needs a break.

But my guess is that Nomar wins the third base job, the Dodgers go with 11 pitchers in April, and LaRoche makes the club anyway. They keep the much-more-useful-than-he-gets-credit-for Martinez, and the switch-hitting Young, with of course, Mark Sweeney sticking as the primary pinch-hitter.

Gary Bennett, Jr. is the reserve catcher, which leaves one open spot – the fourth outfielder.

At the moment that person is either Juan Pierre or Andre Ethier. If Pierre is traded, as I've been predicting for months, then Jason Repko probably gets the gig. Or it goes to a player not yet in the organization.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Andruw Jones showed up to camp at 241 pounds. 241! Bad for Jones, bad for the Dodgers, but good if there's a way to blame it on Scott Boras…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Lame Rumor of the Week: The lamest. Yeah right, like the Dodgers were contemplating a trade for Brandon Inge to play third base. Please. Inge is Jose Valentin, Jeff Hamilton and Mike Blowers rolled into one, but with less power. To those who fell for that one, I've got an apartment complex in Brooklyn for you. Been there about 50 years...

Trivia Questions Needed: Like in the movie, "Diner," the Main Squeeze must pass the baseball test before the marriage can take place. I think that goes without saying. And you know what, let's credit and post the best questions in this space, and make it an open-book test. Send those mostly Dodger-oriented trivia questions my way at your earliest. Gimmes especially helpful…

Media Savvy: "Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team" is yet another triumph for HBO Sports, and HBO just generally. If you didn't follow the story closely as it occurred, or even if you did, it's very much worthy of 77 minutes of your time.

Beautiful narration by Liev Schreiber, per usual, and wonderful story telling from the players and coaches, with all the action you'd expect, plus some you might not. Mia Hamm is great, of course, and it was cool to see her familiar number nine jersey, with the name Garciaparra across the back, in one scene near the end. Great stuff, all around. favorite and Yahoo Sports' baseball writer Steve Henson penned the piece of the week, albeit with yet another play on words, Roger Clemency.

And while this is a six-week-old piece about the Giants malfeasance concerning Barry Bonds and company, it's worth reading. It's by Howard Fendrich of the AP...

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

Get Well Soon: Thoughts and prayers to ex-Dodger great and current Phils coach Dave Lopes, and a speedy recovery from prostate cancer. Go get em, Davey…

Remember, glove conquers all….






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