Inside Look: LA Dodgers
The New York Mets move westward to face the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles (not Anaheim, nor San Jose, nor any other city disassoicated from the team). The Dodgers had been riding atop the ultra-competitive NL West, but recently dropped down to second place, one and a half games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, who currently share first place (did you notice the “Standings” in the sidebar to the right? Scroll down, you’ll see it).
Since most of us Mets fans are too self-centered to know what’s going on outside of the Tri-State area (and our fantasy teams), we’ve called on Aaron Sapiro of “Rockin’ the Ravine“, a popular Dodgers blog. Instead of a paltry ten questions, we pushed the envelope Spinal Tap style and shot him eleven.
1. There’s really a dogfight going on in the NL West, with the D’Backs catching fire and the Padres winning behind spectacular pitching. What’s going on, in a nutshell, with the Dodgers recently and what do they need to do to move ahead of SD and AZ?
Oh Brother, right of that bat huh? Well, itâ€™s a good division; itâ€™s a real good division. When you take a look a couple years back and remember all the talk that the NL West could have been the weakest in the history of baseball, itâ€™s incredible to see how far weâ€™ve come. The division is loaded, and itâ€™s probably the second toughest division in baseball right now behind the AL Central. Not just the Padres, DBacks and Dodgers, but the Rockies are stacked with real solid young talent, and the Giants are one bouncing ball away from making a legitimate run. This is a division that is built around pitching, and the Dodgers certainly are not slacking in that department. We got to start hitting, plain and simple. Thereâ€™s no power bat in the lineup, thatâ€™s no secret, timely hits, some balls have to start falling again.
2. How did Matt Kemp not make the 25-man roster out of spring training, and now that he’s back, will he have the opportunity to make an impact?
Matt Kemp did actually make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training; it was James Loney who was left off the roster creating all the stir. Kemp not only made the team, but he was thriving, started the season 6 for 14, and looked like he had Andre Ethier beat for the starting rightfield gig. Of course, as fate would have it, he went on the DL after slamming into the Right Field fence, and now has finally made his way back. Yes, he will play, heâ€™s a solid guy to have on the team, the closest to a full-blown 5-tool guy we have. He can run, he can hit, and he plays the field extremely well. Plus Grady loves him.
3. Ah, it was Loney, not Kemp, my bad (duh) … you have so many great young bats we can’t keep them straight on this side of the country. While we’re on the subject of powerful young bats, and Loney in particular, I see James Loney has finally returned. Where will he fit into the lineup?
Interesting predicament we have here with James Loney. Heâ€™s supposed to be our sure hitter, our â€œpower batâ€ that weâ€™ve been waiting for. Only problem is he only had 1 Home Run in Triple A. Heâ€™ll get the chance to see the field, with Nomar slated in at first, Loneyâ€™s been working in both corner outfield spots in Vegas, and lord knows Nomar needs a rest every once in while before he just keels over and dies trying to leg out a double one day.
4. Nomar Garciaparra’s been pretty healthy all year — at least as far as we can tell here on the East Coast. Any nagging injuries affecting his play?
Nomarâ€™s only nagging injury is Nomar. Heâ€™s pretty healthy, especially considering that he played nearly all of last year injured, but his bodyâ€™s pretty worn down. Truthfully, if he was still in great shape, heâ€™d playing third base for us right now with all the troubles weâ€™ve had over there, and we could hand Loney the 1B spot. Management doesnâ€™t feel like his body is up to it. Heâ€™s fine though; donâ€™t read too far in to that.
5. Chad Billingsley looks to have a promising young arm. Any chance he’s going to crack the rotation this year, or is he too valuable in the bullpen right now?
Chad Billingsley right now is probably the most talented pitcher we have on the staff. In all my years of watching baseball, I really think Chad Billingsley has the best stuff I have ever seen from a pitcher in a Dodger uniform, and heâ€™s only 22 years old. I would LOVE to see him in the rotation at some point this year, and I really think somehow there will be a way to see it happen, but you never know with Grady. Heâ€™s been great out of the pen for us this year, but heâ€™s our future number one starter for sure, heâ€™s got a real bright future.
6. Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a magnificent game against the Mets last year. Is he the real deal, or was he just hyped up for “Taiwan Night at Shea” ?
I guess weâ€™ll have to wait and see for Game Two of this series. Heâ€™s only started two games so far this season after beginning the season on the DL. Gotta remember, Kuo has been through not one, but two Tommy John surgeries, and heâ€™s still throwing 94. Management likes him now because heâ€™s left-handed, but we have a farm system oozing with pitching prospects. Weâ€™ll seeâ€¦
7. Back in March, would you have believed that Randy Wolf would have more of an impact on the season than Jason Schmidt?
Ha. Well, no, of course not. But, I also wouldnâ€™t have thought Jason Schmidt would have spent seven weeks on the DL and Randy Wolfe would be 5th in the NL in strikeouts. Schmidtâ€™s locked up here for at least two more years after this, and even though Wolfe is in his first, itâ€™s technically a contract year with the club option for next year. Randy Wolfe has been great, so have Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, who by the way leads all of MLB in complete games with three and is 0-3 in those games. Welcome to our season.
8. Juan Pierre: 5 years, $44M. Your thoughts.
9. Outside of statistical performance, has Luis Gonzalez had an impact on the team? Does he appear to be one of the veteran leaders that others look to, or is he just another guy on the team? Who IS the “main guy” / leader of the team? Nomar? Russell Martin?
You can check out my article here regarding the Dodgers’ leadershipfrom about two weeks back (shameless self promotion). Russell Martin, yea, is absolutely the captain of this baseball team. I know heâ€™s only in his second Big League season, but the way he handles himself and the way he approaches the game is unparalleled. Nomarâ€™s always been a player to lead by example, and I think Luis Gonzalez has been a steady influence, as has Takashi Saito, Jeff Kent, and Olmedo Saenz, but this is Russellâ€™s team.
10. Ninth inning, tie game, two outs, man on third. What Dodger do you want to see at the plate?
11. Same situation, but the Mets are hitting. What Dodger do you want on the mound and which Met would you least like to see up at the plate?
Well, if my starter is still in, Iâ€™m taking DLowe, he makes me feel comfortable. Reliever, obviously Saito, who just blew his first save in his last 27 chances. As for the Mets, I want absolutely nothing to do with Jose Reyes, ever.
Thanks again to Aaron for his great insights. Be sure to check out Rockin’ the Ravine for thoughtful analysis and information on the Los Angeles Dodgers.