Los Angeles Dodgers Week in Review: Reversal of Fortune

Los Angeles-June 1st

Clayton Kershaw was 4-0 in May. He is putting up All-Star like numbers.

Talk about your reversals of fortune. On May 31st, 2010, the Padres and Dodgers were number 1 and 2 in the NL West with the Giants and Rockies sandwiched in between the last place Diamondbacks. Flash forward to the same day a year a later and it is the Diamondbacks on top with the Dodgers and Padres floundering at the bottom. As Bob Costas once said, “Look, it’s a wacky business. Who cares?”

This week, the Dodgers were able to dispense with the wackiness a bit as they played some pretty good baseball to close out May and begin June. Though their May record was only 12-16, the Dodgers have won five of their last eight through Tuesday. They took two of three from the Marlins over the weekend and began this week by defeating the Rockies in the first two games of a three game set . That marks the first time in more than a month the Dodgers have taken back-to-back series. Between April 18 and April 24 they won three of four against the Braves at home and took two of three from the Cubs in Chicago.

Star of the month: Clayton Kershaw went 4-0 and allowed only eight runs in six May starts. He shutout the Marlins on two hits in his last start on May 29th.  Kershaw is quietly generating the numbers All-Stars are made of. Overall, Kershaw is 6-3 with a 2.62 ERA. He currently ranks third in the majors in strikeouts (87) and fifth in the NL in innings pitched (79). The key stat that shows the maturity of Kershaw lies in his base on balls total. He has given up 23 walks in 2011; at this time last season he had given up 43.

Andre Ethier went 8 for 16 after being benched in favor of Jay Gibbons. (AP)

Getting back into good graces: At one point in May, outfielder Andre Ethier looked to be losing his head after he was caught flipping the middle finger at a photographer during batting practice as well as flipping off his bat.  After ending a 30 game hitting streak on May 7th, Ethier went into a slump and watched his average drop from .379 to .311 on May 25.  In what may have been an intentional message in a game against the Astros, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly used Ethier as a pinch-hitter midway through the game but told Ethier not to take the field the next inning. Mattingly decided Jay Gibbons was the better replacement and Ethier was reportedly confused about the decision. The “psychology” may have worked; Ethier is 8 for 16 in his last five games since the little exchange.

A club no one wants to be a part of

Reliever Kenley Jansen has become the latest casualty of the reliever injury bug. He was recently placed on the 15 day DL with bursitis in his throwing shoulder. Jansen becomes the fifth Dodgers reliever to be placed on the DL.  Jonathan Broxton, Hong Chih-Kuo, Blake Hawskworth, and Vicente Padilla are all still out.

Jansen appeared to be developing into a solid late inning reliever when he strung together ten scoreless appearances between April 22nd and May 22nd.  He struggled mightily the next two times out. In just 1.2 innings, he threw 68 pitches, walked three, and gave up four runs.  The theory something was wrong with him proved to be true.

The Dodgers filled the roster slot with minor leaguer Josh Lindblom. Lindblom, 23, who had a very nice collegiate career at Purdue, came close to making the squad in 2009 after having an impressive spring. The Dodgers kept him in the minors and he ended up going 6-5 with a 3.83 ERA as both a starter and a reliever. Some scouts within the organization marked him as a closer who could fill Jonathan Broxton shoes one day.   Too bad Lindblom took a step step back in 2010 by surrendering 145 hits in just 95 AAA innings.

LAPD case stalled?

On May 22nd, the Los Angeles Police arrested gang member Giovanni Ramirez in connection with the beating of Bryan Stow in the Dodgers Stadium parking lot on opening day. In spite of assurances by police spokesmen the right man was being held, Ramirez has yet to be formally charged with the beating. Some wonder if the case against him is not as strong as it always is in TV shows.

First, the police have remained very tight-lipped about the results of the police line-up Ramirez was part of.  Second, Ramirez’s mother said her son has never even been to Dodger Stadium and friends say Ramirez, whose bald head matches the police sketch of the perpetrators, did not shave his head until days after the crime.  Third, Ramirez has agreed to a polygraph test. Police have been able to keep Ramirez locked up due to a parole violation and because of his possible involvement with a shooting in Las Vegas. The perpetrator in that crime is said to have worn a Dodgers jersey; witnesses say the men that beat Stow were wearing Dodgers gear. For more local coverage, click here.

No Rubber Checks

The Wall Street Journal initially reported Dodger owner Frank McCourt would run out of money by July. Then some reports were that McCourt might not make May payroll.   Well, McCourt was able to payout the $9 million needed for May payroll after all.  The money supposedly came from the current television deal McCourt has with FOX and local station KCAL. The Dodgers are still his; for now.

If McCourt misses one month of payroll, the team automatically becomes property of MLB. Bud Selig is coming across as a vulture eyeing some prey until it is finally deceased.  Only time will tell.