Los Angeles Dodgers falling down but can they get up?

Uh, oh.  A certain monster is beginning to rear its ugly head in Los Angeles. And we’re not talking about  “Godzilla (2014).

Brian Wilson is struggling way too much this season.

Brian Wilson is struggling way too much this season.

I am talking about the monster known affectionately as “team meeting.”  Sports fans know that term all too well.

When their team is struggling, the players, sometimes sans coaches, have some sort of gathering where,  I assume, they have to be reminded what they do for a living.  But let’s face it, there are plenty of studies in the “normal” workplace that prove meetings are a waste of time.  I guess it is only apropos that the Dodgers followed up this gathering with a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants Thursday night.  And what, pray tell, happened at this meeting?

Manager Don Mattingly reportedly called the meeting  to call into question the work ethic of some players.  In keeping with the old tradition of “what-goes-on-in-the-clubhouse-stays-in-the-clubhouse-until-TMZ-gets-the-tape,” Mattingly would  tell inquiring simple minds the meeting was simply about  “”where we are going, how we get there.” And they haven’t gotten very far against the Giants who seem to thrive in even numbered years.

The Giants won World Series in 2010, and 2012, not to mention their last title in New York was garnered in 1954.  So far this year, the Giants have taken five of seven versus the Dodgers.  And what, pray tell, is keeping the Dodgers from playing at a Giant level?

First off, the “re-vitalized” bullpen is looking more vital for the comeback hopes of the opposition than the saviors for an oft-hurting Dodgers starting rotation. The Dodgers bullpen has the most losses in the majors (10) and has only four wins, which ranks 25th. The bullpen ERA is a combined 3.94.   Of course, you could balance those numbers against the amount of work the bullpen has been requested to do. The bullpen has thrown more innings than only the cellar dwelling Diamondbacks. The bottom line is this bullpen certainly keeps fans watching to the bitter (or bittersweet) end.   Take two of the victories during the most recent 5-4 road trip.

Last Saturday, the Dodgers were nursing  a comfortable 7-3 lead after six innings against the Marlins. Manager Don Mattingly pulled starter Paul Maholm and left the rest to the bullpen.  Right move, wrong people.  His bullpen blew the lead and sent the game into extra innings before the Dodgers squeaked out a 9-7 win.   Mattingly was forced to use six pitchers on a night he should have used half that.

Clayton Kershaw returned to the rotation this past Tuesday and left after seven innings with a comfortable 8-0 lead. But again, the Dodgers bullpen made the last two innings like a fire you can’t turn away from. In the bottom of the eighth, the bullpen gave up two hits, three walks, three runs and left the bases loaded before getting the last out of the inning.  Okay, so what if the game ended up with the Dodgers winning 8-3.   But it was one of the most tension filled 8-3 games I’ve watched in quite awhile.

One of the biggest concerns has been the play of Brian Wilson. Wilson averaged more than 40 saves a year with the Giants between 2008 and 2011. But in 2012, Wilson suffered an arm injury and underwent Tommy John surgery.  He was forced to swallow a bit of pride as the Giants won their second World Championship in three seasons with Sergio Romo playing the savior role this time out.  Romo earned four postseason saves including notching the save in the final three World Series games.  When 2013 rolled around, Wilson’s healing process was met with the Giants bidding him a fond farewell.  The Dodgers jumped at a chance to get him hoping he could turn his Dodger-killing form into a Giant killer.

Wilson came back not just strong but Iron Man strong when he joined the Dodgers in late August. He ended up appearing in a total of 24 games, six of those in the postseason, and gave up just a single earned run while striking out 21 batters in only 20+ innings. It was no surprise the Dodgers signed Wilson to a $10 million deal for 2014.  He was even rumbling about wanting to replace Kenley Jansen as the closer this season.  So much for that boast.

Wilson, who spent some time on the DL earlier this season when his surgically repaired elbow became inflamed, is currently 0-2 with a 10.24 ERA.  He says it will be okay once he can get into a “normal rhythm.”   He told reporters “I need to get to the point where everything is in sync. I know what I’m capable of doing when everything’s in sync. I just need to get there.” Geez, that quote makes the Chris Martin-Gwyneth Paltrow explanation of their break-up due to a “conscious uncoupling”  sound sensible.

Speaking of injuries, the Dodgers are once again too beat up to put the team they have on paper onto the field.  Just as Kershaw’s return from a month long stint on the DL offered a shot of adrenaline,  it was taken away when Hyun-jin Ryu came up with a bum shoulder.

Ryu entered his April 27th start against the Rockies as hot as a firecracker having given up just two runs total in his previous three starts.  So it certainly seemed something was out of whack when Ryu was shelled for nine hits and five runs that evening.  Sure enough, his shoulder is sore and there is no timetable for a return. To make matters worse,  our friends over at ThinkBlueLa are worried whether Dan Haren is beginning to show  signs of wearing down.  Outside of Kershaw and Zack Greinke, it seems Josh Beckett may be the third best hope in the rotation.

Just when it looked like Josh Beckett was done, he has found a second wind.

Just when it looked like Josh Beckett was done, he has found a second wind.

Beckett’s career appeared over after going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in 2013 and beginning 2014 by getting knocked around by the Tigers(5 runs, 4 earned in 4 innings) in his first start. But since then, he has pitched pretty well and is slowly returning to some sort of form. He has given up two runs or less in four of his last five starts.  Even when he gave up four runs against the Marlins in 6.2 innings back on May 2nd, he mustered 8 strikeouts.  Sadly, Beckett is still just 0-1 but at least he has kept the Dodgers in games.

Another matter of concern is the defense. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer once mentioned that about a half dozen of his wins each year could be attributed solely to the great Orioles defense behind him.  Well, he’d have at least 6 wins less if he was with the Dodgers-the Dodgers currently lead the NL in errors. The good news is those errors may be getting erased quickly. The Dodgers rank third in the majors in double plays turned.

Okay, so maybe a four game series with the Giants in May isn’t so important.  After all, the Dodgers get six more shots at them in September when it will really count.  And maybe the “Should Don Mattingly be fired?” talk shouldn’t start up quite yet. After all, it wasn’t until June of last year that this team put it all together.

Still, if the Dodgers continue to get rolled over by the Giants, they may look like Tokyo after the Bay area Godzilla leaves town on Sunday.

Related Articles: Are the Dodgers Ready to Play?

 More Dodgers














  • Ballpark Frank

    This is not complicated. Either Frisco has a betterteam or it doesn’t. Numbers over the years say it does. But they do it on lessmoney. L.A. now trying to out-Yank the Yankees with big free agents. Field and general managers on those free-spenders don’t need to be geniuses. Just grab the
    guys who might be over the hill but just had a good season or two. Put enough of them together and you have a championship, right? Why did it work for Steinbrenner and probably won’t for the Dodgers? I’ll tell you. Holes and roles. They dumped all their good back-up infielders, kept too many streaky, fragile outfielders and were victims of MLB’s idiotic plan to have early games played abroad. So the starting team, high salaries or not, was too vulnerable. No consistent line-up,scramble to get low-hitting bad-legs players on short notice, yo-yoing second-string guys between Chavez Ravine and Albuquerque. N.Y. had Jeter and that catcher what’s-his-name go for years, virtually their whole careers—and those guys in the outfield, too. When did the Dodgers have guys like that this century?
    The smart managers are in Oakland or Minneapolis using some sixth sense to get good cheap, young players. You’re right about clubhouse meetings, and it says something is screwed up about how and why players do their best, and maybe why they get and give mixed messages about their performance: it’s the money! If Iwere running this game, like a good dictator, I wouldn’t sign any player for more than one year, and I would pay him based on his previous year’s numbers—not
    on spec. But that violates the free market and would outrage those parasitic agents making millions—like the owners—off the fans. And I think the cities should own the teams, not some billionaire who wants a status toy. I am amazed at the loyalty people give to an organization that simply wants to milk them. But we Americans like to talk “level playing field” and sportsmanship, yet approve winning at all costs. Maybe we get the pro sports we deserve.

    • Methuselah

      Must be frustrating to be a good pitcher this season, because now (after about a quarter of the year is in the books), the unanointed high priests of baseball (broadcasters and writers who make a living from our offerings at the Temple of Horsehide) are screaming about the low batting averages and how the DH ought to be imposed on the NL. Good copy for them but I agree with the previous comment about level playing field in the other direction. Is their problem that low-scoring games will drive away the fans? Not compared to high prices at gates and concessions (“bring us back our pre-war beer!” was the cry after the Volstead Act was repealed), nor to the losses incurred by Our Boys in Blue Blood by trying to squeeze the cable audience where it hurts. I say this unto these great gurus, who again want to fiddle with something that something yet manages to work after repeated assaults over the years (“modernization”–but it’s the Grand Old Game: have you no respect; “fan experience”–but the fans need educating: this is not a tractor-pull or rock concert; and “building the brand”–Bill Veeck had his day, and play on the field is getting overwhelmed by merchandising): if the hitters can’t hit unless they’re drugged, send them down for some low-rent seasoning and long bus rides; if the pitchers can’t hit at, say, the level they did pre-DH (including sacrifices), give them B.P. on their “rest” days. There you have two things that can be done at no added cost: don’t blame the pitchers for being more dominant than in the Steroid Years. If some were juiced (no names, you know who I mean), then unjuicing everyone should make the playing field as level as it was before the cheating started. And don’t wring your hands over the supposed loss of interest caused by low-scoring games. In other words, the offensive fall-off is a sign that that drug testing works! Why complain, unless you’re a hypocrite? If fans don’t want their own team to have good pitching, they shouldn’t complain when other teams do–I’ve seen bad pitchers booed at home at least often as bad hitters. And here’s one last reason for keeping pitchers hitting and eliminating the DH: every pre-DH record in both categories was based on hitters playing a position and pitchers being removed only when absolutely necessary; now in the AL you have some overweight forty-year-olds who can slug the ball but can’t run, and managers who don’t have to decide whether or not to lift their pitcher in a tight game or clutch situation. That skews the results, through time. And the playing field is four-dimensional, going back at least a hundred years: that is where it should be level. Horses race on a standard track. No one changes the dimensions of a football field to favor offense. But baseball now is addicted to tinkering, sizing the game to fit the fads of the day. Bad idea: the high priests should be initiating the novitiates into the wonders and mysteries of this religion and its traditions, not shilling for the greedy owners or pandering to the coarse and naive desires of the boorish fair-weather fans.