I have a friend named Alexis Garcia. She's a huge baseball fan and one of my very good friends. Well, she writes for Bleeding Yankee Blue now and I couldn't be happier. Alexis will take the "Eye on MLB" beat and will be bringing you a unique perspective from different teams around the Major Leagues.
She starts today ladies and gentlemen. Welcome her to the BYB family! -Casey
You know you’re season is going off the rails when good news gets overshadowed by comments made by your 86-year-old former manager.
That’s exactly the position the Dodgers found themselves in this week when their ace Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound from the disabled list to deliver an 8-3 win over the Washington Nationals. For a team that has been struggling this season, Kershaw’s return signified an opportunity to rebound from a horrendous road trip and get back on the winning track.
Instead, the story this week was Tommy Lasorda. The former Dodgers skip told a local Florida station that he was “not surprised” by Donald Sterling’s remarks and that he hoped V. Stiviano would get “hit by a car.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I can’t imagine the Dodgers’ brass (including Magic Johnson) were none too pleased about Tommy getting involved in the Sterling controversy. A controversy that has nothing to do with winning baseball games.
The Lasorda comments are just one example of the diversions that have plagued the organization at the start of the season.
From Donald Sterling, to a nasty cable dispute, to Puig-mania, the team just can’t seem to get it’s focus back to the business of baseball.
This wasn’t supposed to be that kind of season for the Dodgers.
After shelling out $269.8 million, the team surpassed the Yankees as the highest paid in all of Major League Baseball. The investment was a gesture to fans by the new Dodger management to show that they were serious about bringing a championship back to Los Angeles. But it seems as if someone forgot to tell the team that being expensive doesn’t automatically gain you entry into the World Series. (A fact Yankees fans know all too well.)
In addition to having the largest payroll in baseball, the Dodgers have also emulated the Yanks by launching their own national cable network. But thanks to carriage disputes, most ardent Dodgers fans can’t even watch their home team play on television.
Even the sensational rookie Yasiel Puig—who has been productive in the Dodgers lineup—has caused some early headaches for the Boys in Blue. Off-season arrests for reckless driving and undisciplined play have irked fellow players (it was reported that teammates called a team meeting with Puig in Spring Training to get him under control) and frustrated fans who see star potential in the young Cuban athlete. Of course, the L.A. media loves all of this and uses every Puig misstep as evidence of the growing dysfunction in the Dodger locker room.
This is the context in which the Dodgers are playing. A listless team in a season of distraction. And it’s reflecting in their performance.
At 19-17, the Dodgers winning percentage just barely hovers above .500—with seven of those wins coming against the last place Diamondbacks. They’re off to one of their worst home starts ever since moving to Los Angeles. And though the team is under performing in the W column, they are dominating the National League in terrible fielding with a high of 33 errors.
While their defense leaves something to be desired, the Dodger’s hitting has been inconsistent at best. Big-time (and highly paid) sluggers like Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford are still trying to find their groove in the batter’s box.
Watching the Dodgers play, you just can’t help but feel that they are going through the motions. And I’m sure it’s an issue Don Mattingly addressed in his recent private locker room session with the team. The season is still early and the Dodgers historically have shown to be a better team after the All-Star break, but it’s a lot of money to be spending for mediocrity.
As I mentioned before, it takes more than just a big payroll to win championships. If the Dodgers hope to be the Yankees of the West, they are going to have to show a little more consistency in the clutch and a lot more heart to overcome early setbacks.
Last year, it was Puig that stepped up to lead the Dodgers to the off-season. Who is going to be their spark plug this year?
--Alexis Garcia, BYB's "Eye on MLB" Columnist
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