Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Ugly Start to the Second Half

Everything was looking bright. Penny was named the starting pitcher for the All Star game in Pittsburgh. Nomar had been elected by the fans as this years "Last Man" for the midseason classic. The Dodgers had won 5 of their last 7 games just prior to the 3 day break. We had much more to look forward to as the season headed towards the second half.

Then comes a steaming train we call the Cardinals. The big giant behemoths wearing bright red and sporting a billy club in one hand and a Budweiser in the other. They are one of the most intimidating teams in Baseball. Rolen, Edmonds and Pujols. Rolen and Edmonds are some of the best defensemen in their respective positions, and they can hit to boot. Pujols, well what can I say? "Pujols, Pujols, Pujols!" That guy can win games on his own. No, he does win games o his own. In our first game back, we lose a 14 inning killer on a homerun by Pujols. Then, Carpenter blanks us with a 2 hit complete game. Yesterday, Rolen knocks in the winning run in a 10 inning nailbiter. Lastly, we get knocked around for 15 hits and 11 runs- a laugher. My head hurts!?!

Getting swept during the first series of the second half does not give me much confidence. The only saving grace is knowing we got beat by a good, no great, team. But frankly, that doesn't provide much solace.

Now, I see the problems that lay before us. Our hitting is not our biggest problem. I think we will continue to hit pretty well the remainder of the season. Although, we may see a slight negative regression to a more reasonable mean, but I believe our group of experienced players will continue to shine. Our real deficiency lays with our arms. It's all about pitching, pitching, pitching.

To start with an extra starter would be nice. Penny and Lowe have solidified a starting core. Sele has been excellent and appears to have turned the corner. Unfortunately, our last 2 spots are more problematic. Tomko is ailing. Hendrickson may provide some good games, but his stuff is hardly earthshattering. Billingsley is young and still in a learning stage. Odalis is just terrible.

Our relief pitching has been as volatile as the stock market. One day it's up big, but the next day it takes a 100 point dump. This kind of movement keeps me on edge and reminds me of an old investment adage. "There are only two emotions on Wall Street: Fear and Greed." The constant bouncing ball nature of todays market fosters fear; therefore, threats of a oncoming Bear market loom. Fortunately, the Dodgers do not give me the type of fear I sense in todays stock market. Not yet, at least. Our relief corps have been up and down this year as Baez, Broxton, Carter, Osoria, Hamulack and Kuo can attest. Saito has been a godsend. Where can we find more like him? Carrara has been a great surprise so far. This is a man who has had a rollercoaster type of career in Baseball and has always been one of my favorite underdogs. Still, another solid verteran reliever could do wonders.

In this game there are no quick solutions. We have very little available in the minors to turn to. The pitchers available on the trading block are sparse; therefore, very expensive. Do you really want to trade a frontline prospect or two (like Loney, Guzman or Aybar) for a half season rental? Furthermore, what is the long term impact of a trade for a high priced (or overpriced) veteran?

At this point it looks like we will be eating Perez's contract. It will cost the team $10,000,000.00 in 2007 including a deferred signing bonus and a $1,500,000.00 buyout in 2008. This impacts the team significantly next year. Can we trade him in a budget saving move? Maybe the anticipated spot start spoken about in todays broadcast is a showcase outing for potential trade suitors. Afterall, I'm sure the Dodgers will be paying much of his salary, and there are plenty of teams out there who will risk another teams albatross in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough, i.e. Sele.

Who knows what's going to happen? I'm inclined to see nothing happen at all- besides throwing Perez to the curb. Furthermore, free agency next Winter could be interesting as we will have alot of cap room to work with. On the other hand, I do know who I would like to see wearing Blue this year. I like Maddux in Blue. Zito would fit in very nicely. Can you imagine Kerry Wood in our rotation, or even in the bullpen? I just don't know if I like the idea of trading our minor league gems. Nevertheless, we might be a trade or two short of being a "real" World Series contender this year.

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