You are all well aware of how bizarre and frustrating the 2011 season has been for the Dodgers, their fans, and especially me personally having to write about it everyday. And while the Dodgers lost their third straight today, being swept by the Reds in the process, I’m tying to take a different approach to my recent blogging trend and report on any positives I can find, while not letting the negative stuff get to me so much.
I finally realized why I’ve been so bitter. We’re Dodger fans, we are used to winning and excellence and doing so with class, basically just being better than everyone else. It’s not like we’re fans of say a certain team who resides about 5 hours North of L.A. who demonstrated last year that they don’t know how to do that because they’re not used to winning. Okay before my Uncle who is a huge Giants fan comes over and punches me out I am joking.
But really, no team in baseball could survive losing nearly every single member of their bullpen at the same time and expect to be competitive. Yet the Dodgers did just that, and had to call on an unprecedented youth movement, with Javy Guerra, Rubby De La Rosa, and Josh Lindblom all making their MLB debuts and pitching in crucial situations. A huge positive for the Dodgers is these three, along with Scott Elbert until recently, have accounted for themselves quite nicely thank you. Add in Kenley Jansen and you’ve got some solid young talent to mix with veterans like Blake Hawksworth, a great pickup by Ned Colletti, and Kuo and Broxton if they can somehow get healthy, the Dodgers suddenly have the makings of a potentially solid bullpen.
The injury to Jon Garland has opened up a spot in the rotation for the previously mentioned De La Rosa. If you haven’t had the chance to watch the 22 year old pitch yet tune in Saturday night. You’ll see a smooth and easy delivery that produces a high 90’s fastball, and also see him mix in a nasty change-up that I dare say is the best Dodger Stadium has seen since Game Over Gagne`.
Rubby has been a little wild in his first 2 starts, but what 22 year old who made just 36 starts in 4+ minor league seasons before being thrust into the rotation wouldn’t be? Yet despite battling control problems, Rubby has won both of his starts, at Philly and Colorado which are tough parks on pitchers, while striking out a batter per inning. That has allowed him to pitch around his walks, 8 in 10 innings, but imagine how tough he’ll be to score on once he settles down and get’s his fastball under control.
There’s no question that his stuff plays at this level and he is potentially the right handed part of a dominant 1-2 punch with 23 year old lefty Clayton Kershaw. While it’s not time to anoint them the next Don Drysdale Sandy Koufax Dodger duo, there’s no question that they are potentially as good a young righty/lefty duo as there is in baseball, and that is certainly something to be excited about.
Then there’s the fastest young man in all of MLB, who has quite literally flashed on the scene this past week, 23 year old Devaris Strange-Gordon aka Dee. In 9 games since his surprise promotion last week Dee’s hitting a cool .333, with 6 runs scored and 3 stolen bases. His speed has made a noticeable impact in every game he’s played. He’s nearly bunted for a double, he’s so fast getting down the first base line infielders have made errors trying to rush to make a play, and he turned a routine double for anyone not named Matt Kemp into a routine triple.
Defensively he has already made a half dozen spectacular plays, showing off a stronger throwing arm than I expected to go along with unbelievable range. He’s made several amazing diving grabs which have led to double plays, and already saved a couple runs by getting to balls most short stops wouldn’t get near and making outs, or forcing runners to stop at third where normally they would have scored.
Cincinnati Reds announcer Thom Brennaman, one of the most respected baseball broadcasters this side of Vin Scully, even threw out a comparison of Dee to Omar Vizquel, who is arguably one of the greatest defensive shortstops ever, not named Ozzie Smith. Gordon has the potential to be the lightning part of a power speed combo with slugger Jerry Sands who should provide the thunder.
Sands was also unexpectedly called up, but never got to play everyday while he was with the Dodgers, which I think never allowed him to really get into a groove. Plus, considering he had played in just 78 games above A ball before being called up to the Dodgers, there’s no question he was rushed and the stats he put up clearly show that.
What he did show during his 41 game stint with the Dodgers, was a patient approach at the plate well advanced for being just 23 years old. He was second only to Jamey Carroll in terms of number of pitches seen per at-bat, an underrated stat that demonstrates a batters patience and maturity. He is good old fashion country strong, as witnessed by how far the grand slam he crushed in Houston traveled, close to 450 feet.
Sands has not missed a beat since being sent back to AAA, with 8 hits (4 for extra-bases) 5 RBI and 5 runs scored in 7 games. Like a fine wine he just needs a little more aging and he will be back, hopefully for good, playing solid defense at multiple positions, getting on base and providing the offense with extra-base power. Add it all up and that’s 5 rookies in their early 20’s, Guerra being the oldest at 25, who have contributed earlier than expected.
With all of the McCourt drama sure to be settled at some point this year, and don’t tell me that it’s not providing an unwanted distraction to the players on the field, no matter how hard they try to tune it out. Little to no production from key positions such as catcher, first base, third base and left-field, and the fact that the Dodgers still have yet to field their projected opening day lineup all at the same time once the entire year. Not to mention more injuries than any team in all of MLB, it’s remarkable the team has the record they do and has been as close as they have in so many games.
Better days are ahead for the boys in blue, it’s a matter of when not if, oh and Matt Kemp is making a legitimate run at the triple crown at the ripe age of 26. This season isn’t lost just yet, it might be if they don’t get healthy and put together a couple of 6 or 7 game winning streaks, but there are certainly reasons to be optimistic.
And also I need to give a big shout out to the Dodgers and Roberto Baly over at the Dodger blog Vin Scully Is My Homeboy, who first broke the story that Vin Scully’s star on the walk of fame was being covered up by a red carpet from a night club. Come to find out the star was cracked and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce were apparently actually trying to cover it up rather than have it repaired. So Roberto started making noise about the issue, and Glenn Mingay started a website to accept donations to have the star repaired. The Dodgers then found out what was going on and stepped up to pay to have the star repaired, now that’s the kind of class that I have grown accustomed to and that made me such a Dodger fan to begin with.
Here is the message from Dodgers VP of Communications Josh Rawitch to Roberto explaining the club’s efforts to have Vin’s star repaired.
When the Dodgers learned of the project, we approached Vin with our plans to pay for it and he was very grateful because he simply did not want fans to spend their hard earned money on repairing the star. That said, he is aware of the campaign and extremely humbled and appreciative of the efforts of Glenn and others
Sure the Dodgers just got swept, but hearing that they are paying attention to this kind of stuff, i.e. fixing Vin’s star on the walk of fame, especially considering everything that Vin has meant to the organization, somehow being swept by the Reds just doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Well done to everyone involved. Now let’s see a sweep of the Astros over the weekend, after a much needed day off tomorrow, and see if they can make some noise in the N.L. West, despite everything that has gone wrong for them.
Tags: Blake Hawksworth Clayton Kershaw Dee Gordon Frank McCourt Hong-Chih Kuo Jamey Carroll Javy Guerra Jerry Sands Jon Garland Jonathan Broxton Josh Lindblom Kenley Jansen Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Guerrier Matt Kemp Ned Colletti Rubby De La Rosa Scott Elbert Vin Scully