Thursday, July 7, 2011

This Dodger team is bad, but 2005 was worse

Well, at least 2005's team (71-91, Pythagorean 74-88) felt worse.

The Dodgers (37-51, Pythagorean 39-49) are struggling and with General Manager Ned Colletti still on the proverbial fence about whether to be buyers or sellers (only Colletti would entertain buying), the team isn't giving him much reason to buy or the fans much reason to buy tickets.

Coming into the season, a lot of folks knew this Dodger team wasn't as good as previous incarnations (2008 and 2009, in particular). But with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, fans were expecting better.

Alas, this is what they have: a team that's 14 games under .500 and has the fourth-worst record in all of baseball -- which led to this tweet on Monday:
"If the season ended today, the would have the No. 4 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. "
To be fair, this team has been riddled with injuries. Rafael Furcal, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo -- all key cogs in the team's success the past few year -- have all spent significant time on the disabled list. Coupled with Jon Garland giving the Dodgers nine starts before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury -- the same shoulder that prevented teams from signing Garland to a multi-year deal.

Guess we shoulda seen that one-a-comin'.

Vicente Padilla, utility pitcher extraordinaire, is out for the season. Casey Blake has been on the DL twice and the team's starting catcher, Rod Barajas, is on the shelf.

Despite all the negativity surrounding this franchise off the field, the team on the field still has talent and is much more talented than the '05 version.

The Dodgers were fresh off their first playoff appearance since 1996 and first playoff victory since 1988 (behind the heroics of Jose Lima, who wasn't retained, in Game 3 of the NLCS).

It was Jeff Kent's first season as a Dodger, and he was by far the team's MVP -- .289/.377/.512 with 29 home runs, 105 RBI and 100 runs scored. It was also J. D. Drew's first season, and he was putting up great numbers through his first 72 games -- .286/.412/.520, 15 HR, 36 RBI -- before getting hit by a pitch, effectively ending his season. Milton Bradley, fresh off a career-high in games played in 2004 (141), played 75 games. Derek Lowe also made his Dodger debut, posting a solid 3.61 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.

The team had nearly 60 comeback wins in 2004 and things started off great in 2005. The Dodgers were 22-10 after the first 32 games, including an 8-7 come-from-behind win against the Diamondbacks on April 8. Jose Valentin pinch-hit in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. He got down 0-2 and, as if he had magic from the previous year's team, banged a grand slam off Brandon Lyon, who hung a curveball (some things never change). I exclaimed, "I'll never give up on these guys," because if felt like '04 all over again.

And that's about where the good ends.

Hee Seop Choi had an amazing four-game stretch, one that is since unmatched for the Dodgers, but he became the most polarizing figure since, well, ever, I suppose. Jayson Werth was coming off injury and wasn't the Jayson Werth he is now. Cesar Izturis had a great first two months of the season (.345/.392/.426), leading to an All-Star berth, before suffering an injury that derailed his season and in effect, his career.

Brad Penny struggled with nagging injuries to log just 175 1/3 innings. As the expected ace of the staff, that wasn't enough. Oddly enough, Jeff Weaver pitched a team-high 224 innings, and was pretty effective.

Are you ready for the real fun?

I know 2005 wasn't that long ago, but when you sit through a season like that, you don't want to remember it. So, I'm here to jog you memory (I apologize in advance).

The '05 squad, much like the '11 squad, had a bunch of players who wouldn't make 2/3 of Major League rosters today (I'm probably a little conservative with that number). Let me name the names:

Buddy Carlyle
Chin-Feng Chen
Mike Edwards
Scott Erickson
Jason Grabowski
Brian Myrow
Norihiro Nakamura
Franquelis Osoria
Jason Phillips
Oscar Robles

All of these guys really had no business being Major Leaguers. If this were Hollywood (wait, isn't it?), they would have all banded together, become best friends after a few spats, overcome the incalculable odds to make it to the playoffs with many much fun and laughter along the way. But this was no comedy -- it was a horror flick.

Granted, some of the players didn't play nearly enough to have a substantial impact on the team's record, but the manner in which some were used was head-scratching and infuriating.

Robles logged 368 of his 399 plate appearances as the team's No. 1, 2 or 3 hitter. Phillips spent 36 PAs as the cleanup hitter, which is 36 PAs too many. Edwards played 88 games and gave the team well below-average production. Erickson, amazingly, started six games at age 37 and was terrible.

The '11 list of "Those who don't belong" isn't that long, but it is only July. We could see the likes of Randy Keisler, Merkin Valdez, JD Closser and Corey Smith before this season ends.

Yes, it is painful to watch the Dodgers today, but it could be worse. Of course, we had a glimpse of that on Tuesday when Aaron Miles hit in the No. 3 spot for the Dodgers. It brought back memories of Robles; memories I'd prefer not to relive.

Hey, at least the 2011 Dodgers have Kemp and Kershaw. If they didn't, they could be the most unwatchable team in sports.

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