Just picture this guys, it’s the bottom of the eighth inning. The Dodgers are down 2-1 to the Giants but are threatening. There are runners at second and third with two outs. San Francisco starter Matt Cain is tiring. The Giants have activity in their bullpen. The pitcher’s spot is up next. A hit could not only tie the game, but put the Dodgers ahead. The crowd goes wild in anticipation. Manager Don Mattingly must look to his bench. The Giants bring in nasty set-up man Sergio Romo. As blackbeard jr., trots in from the bullpen, Mattingly must counter, and scans his bench. He looks at his lineup card for the best match-up. He spots his pinch-hitter, and motions for him to grab a bat. The batter grabs his bat, puts on his helmet, and waddles into the on-deck circle. Dodger’s P.A. announcer Eric Smith announces the player pinch-hitting.
Yeesh! Phew! It was all a dream (or a nightmare)….thank god…..or was it? I’m sorry Dodger fans, but it’s actually reality. Why? Because the Dodgers have degraded their bench to the point where it is utterly useless, and the place where they discard trash that they no longer want.
The Dodgers have made a number of roster moves over the last few days, and none of them made any sense. Both Bobby Abreu, and Tony Gwynn were designated for assignment. Both players cleared waivers and have ended up at Albuquerque. For both men, accepting a minor league assignment makes sense. Both players can play for the Isotopes for a few weeks, stay in playing shape, and more than likely both be called up to the Dodgers when rosters expand in September. For the both of them it’s either that or be unemployed.
The latest move was the most puzzling. Fourth outfielder Tony Gwynn was DFA’d and the Dodgers called up outfielder/first baseman, Jerry Sands to take his spot on the roster. Of course the saber kids rejoiced even though Jerry has yet to ever prove he can hit in the major leagues despite his three good weeks last September. Of coarse Sands predictabley went ohfer in his only game played (0 for 3), and looked just as awful as usual. Although I was actually hoping the Dodgers would play him since obviously Loney and Rivera both suck, and the only way to find out if Sands is a Billy Ashley, or can actually hack it in the bigs, is to play him. The Dodgers decided to send Sands back down to Albuquerque and activate Adam Kennedy from the DL for the start of their ten game road-trip.
Now while everyone is complaining that Sands was sent down again, relax. Sands will be back up when rosters expand anyways. However before you start saying that Abreu is old and cooked, and Gwynn sucks, let me remind you of something. Gwynn was hitting .400 (8 for 20), as a pinch-hitter this season with the Dodgers. Abreu was hitting .316 (6 for 19). The Dodgers cut their two best pinch-hitters, and now their bench is worthless. And let me tell, worthless it is.
Baseball is a team sport with many aspects needing to be more than major league quality in order for a team to be successful. The team needs outfielders who can throw guys out. They need sluggers who can hit home runs in the middle of the lineup. They need catchers who can throw out runners trying to steal. They need a strong rotation, etc. etc. etc.. Each area needs to be strong. The rotation, lineup, bullpen, and….the Bench
An area that has been neglected far too long by the Dodgers, and the new ownership is doing the same thing. We all know, the Dodgers hate to fire people. They’ll option guys down to the minors, but they won’t fire them. Heck you can even hit .193 all season as a starting third baseman, and they’ll just toss you on the bench to waste a roster spot. You know who I am talking about. As I feared Juan Uribe will be stinking up the bench for the rest of the season. Mattingly said that he would be an “extra guy” used in case of an emergency. Uribe has not started a game since July 22. Not that I am complaining, but it is just further proof the Dodgers front office refuses to fire him because of his 21 million dollar contract, and proof that he is pathetic. Meanwhile Mattingly refuses to play him. I don’t blame him.
For years the Dodgers philosophy on the bench is to have as many useless hitter as possible. The more bums the better. The Dodgers have had past bench losers such as Garret Anderson, Juan Castro, and F.P. Santangelo. Meet the new and degraded Dodger bench. Jerry Hairston, Juan Rivera, Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy, and backup catcher Matt Treanor. Try not to vomit, I know it’s hard not to after looking at those names.
The best hitter the Dodgers have on the bench is Hairston, who is a good player who can play all over the diamond, but he’s not much of a pinch-hitter. Are you telling me the rest of those guys are the Dodgers only pinch-hit options late in games? Rivera is 2 for 12 as a pinch-hitter and is awful. Kennedy is hitting .200 (4 for 20) as a pinch-hitter. The atrocious Uribe is 1 for 8.
This is the National League where there is no DH, and the pitchers hit. You have to have guys that can come off the bench and hit home runs, and or get hits, or at the very least get hits. The Dodgers are going to have to get all of their production from the starting lineup, because they sure as hell aren’t going to get any from the no-bats stinking up the Dodger bench.
Abreu and Gwynn weren’t worthless. Their jobs were to sit on the bench, pinch-hit, and occasionally start when someone needs a day off. Gwynn was a fourth outfielder yet the Dodgers feel he doesn’t have a role anymore. Being a fourth outfielder was his role, and that doesn’t go away, since Shane Victorino was acquired. Someone has to do it. Who’s the fourth outfielder now? Hairston?
Abreu’s whole entire reason for being on the team, was as a lefty bat off the bench. Now the Dodgers say he has no role as well. Insert Adam Kennedy, and his uppercut swing.
If the new ownership really wanted to show fans they are committed to building a championship team, then they would cut the dead weight off the roster, the real dead weight. Why not cut Uribe, and Kennedy and call up Elian Herrera, and Josh Fields? Or even call Sands back up, whatever, the point is the Dodgers have no bench now, and it could cost them late in games. Don’t even ask what James Loney does as a pinch-hitter, trust me you don’t want to know. It’s bad. The bench is not a place where you should be dumping your trash. That’s what the unemployment line is for.
So the next time the Dodgers have a rally in the late innings, and the pitcher’s spot comes up, and they need a pinch-hit off the bench, they’re actually better off calling upon one of their coaches like, Manny Mota, or Dave Hansen. What other choices do the Dodgers have? I guess it’s Hairston, and or a prayer.