Sunday, June 4

Return of the Prodigal Son

Okay okay, first off Eric Gagne's return as the Dodgers Closer isn't analogous to Luke's "The parable of the prodigal son" (Luke 15:11-3) nor do i claim versed with the Bible or the Gospels. In fact i had to look it up. But i am aware of the parable's context in society and it was the first thing i thought of when Gagne came out of the bullpen gates on last Fridays game to the tune of "Welcome to the Jungle", the return of the prodigal son.

No Gagne, given the moniker "Game-Over" having saved 160 out 164 in three seasons, did not demand a lion's share of the Dodger's Riches like that of the son in the parable, he was injured. The prodigal son squandered away his property in dissolute living after demanding his inheritance of his father. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. After having hired himself to one of the citizens of the country to feed the pigs he'd realized he could go back to his father. So he set off to see him, but while he was still far off his father saw him. The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son". His father was filled with compassion for him and quickly ordered his slaves to dress him with a robe, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. He ordered a fatted calf killed, for his son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and found and they began to celebrate... Gagne's return was met by the Dodger crowd with ebullience. Like the father's long lost son in the parable who has returned from the dead; he was quickly dressed in his Dodger robe, ringed the Dodger closer and given the pitchers mound on his feet as the Dodger Nation celebrated his momentous comeback.

Although plagued with some injuries, the Dodger ship has remained afloat and has done extremely well. And thanks to a surprisingly potent offense the club is 9 games over .500. The team's bread and butter clean up hitter Jeff Kent, who is now on a 15 day DL (disabled list) was slow out of the gates this season but soon led the squad in RBI's once he got going. The former NL MVP will continue to be consistent when he gets back. JD Drew, the most expensive player in the roster, even with a tender shoulder and not playing every day in right field has 9 home runs and 42+ RBI's. Rafael Furcal thus far has not met expectations, stolen base numbers is down after stealing 50 + last season, and is hitting a career low .250, and for good measure on-base percentage has been lack luster as well. Third baseman Bill Mueller on the other hand has been on the DL for quite some time now. So out of all the new acquisitions and Veteran players only Kenny Lofton has done exceedingly well, hitting over .315, stolen 11 bases with a .377 on-base percentage which is over 30 points better than the 39 Million Dollar Rafael Furcal in the leadoff position. With a bad hammy at that... And oh, almost forgot, Rafael has 13 errors. 13 Million a year and 13 errors thus far, ominously uninspiring (... and oh he leads the league in that dubious achievement, well in the Short Stop position anyway)

So despite all the negative stuff i just mentioned they are 9 games over .500. Thanks to relatively good pitching by the starting staff, an okay bullpen and the onslaught of rookies (4 of them) who can hit very well. Ultimately the Dodgers are collectively hitting better than .277 which is 2nd best in the Majors, yea that'll get it done even with some annoying loses due to the bullpen. Friday night's game for instance was a typical offensive onslaught, the Dodgers hit 3 homeruns but couldn't recover after another Dany Baez meltdown in the 8th inning recording zero outs while giving up 5 runs. Dany from the onset was signed as a closer but was demoted (deservingly) by Dodger Skipper Grady Little to the setup position for blowing big leads. So maybe i'm being a bit critical, because baseball works that way, games are blown, starting pitchers never always go 7 innings, errors are committed etc etc. So i guess overall i'm very happy with the way the Dodgers are playing.

What do i think should happen this Season? Eventually the National League will figure out Nomar is hitting .800 from the 7th inning on and will stop trying to get ahead of the count with a fast ball down the pipe for a first pitch. Nomar is infamous for swinging at the first pitch. But keep in mind, even though he'll predictably swing at that first good fast ball he has significantly taken more pitches in his at-bats this season than any season in his entire career. So at the end of the Season that batting average will be up there. Lest we forget he is a two time AL batting champ (back to back.... last man to do that in the Majors) and he's married to Mia... Unless the Staff Ace Brad Penny keeps the pitch count down he is going to tire out late in the season potentially injuring his arm again (averaging over 100 pitches in less than 6 innings of work). Last Saturday's win over the Phillies for instance, Penny had pitched a 1 hit shutout through 6. Those kind of numbers generally translate to a pitcher in cruise control, right? Well not Brad Penny, by the end of the 6 inning shutout he'd already thrown 112 pitches and had to be pulled. In contrast the losing pitcher also went 6 innings giving up 6+ runs, but only threw 75 pitches. Brad works way too hard, throwing too many pitches even to the opposing pitchers. He faced the opposing pitcher twice on that game, throwing 7 pitches to get him out the first time around and walked him on an 8 pitch at bat the second time around... Derek Lowe averaging 7 innings of work ironically doesn't get the same run support as the hard working Penny, he has an Era of under 2 in his last 9 starts but only 2 wins to show for while Penny has 6 with the same number of starts.

The rookies offensive onslaught should simmer down soon, hopefully in time for the return of 2nd baseman Jeff Kent and Mueller in third. Outfielder Matt Kemp as impressive as the kid has been in the last 3 games (3 HR , 7 rbi) is a free swinger and has the tendency to pull bad inside pitches and seems to like to dive into the plate and golf low balls (ala Guerrero) will need perhaps another year to develop into a better hitter (try to hit for average and not only for HR's like Albert Pujols). I like Willie Aybar the most, among all Dodger Rookies. For one thing he looks like a Major League Player, he doesn't move around in the box like a rookie, he has those manacing eyes that suggest base hit, he is a good hitter that looks at a lot of pitches with a .430 OBP and best yet, a switch hitter that averages over .300 on both sides. The bullpen will be reinforced with Monsieur Gagne's return, guaranteeing better than 96 % in save opportunities executed, provided he remains healthy of course. The veteran and proven starting staff (if healthy) will remain good, which otherwise would've been potentially excellent if not for Odalis Perez's woes (lets forgive rookie starting pitcher Jae So's problems who was promoted a starter after Odalis messed up) The squad's run average should remain around the same if no significant changes and or injuries plague the team.

Ultimately i am no baseball expert but i am a big Dodger fan. Looking good so far so i expect the team to be fighting for a playoff berth in September. And they may win the divison...

I haven't been to a game this Season yet. Maybe when the Giants or the Cardinals come to town. I miss those girls in Dodger Blue. As i was telling white girl Sarah the other day, who attended, but failed to wear Dodger Blue, the Friday game of the Freeway Series against the faux Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (and because of them the Dodgers are now LAD instead of just LA on the MLB scoreboards. Even my mom was like "who the heck is LAD?") that i miss the girls in Dodger Blue. Especially the white girls who look best in it. Her response? "LOL, you are a Riot Marc"... hahaha such a white girl!


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