Let’s start with the Dodgers. They are an absolute mess. Not only are key guys going down left and right, their big money guys are underperforming and now Mattingly is forced to either go with the young guys with the hot hand, or continue to trot out these overpaid former Red Sox. It’s actually amazing the correlation between the Red Sox, Florida (now Miami) Marlins and this current Dodgers squad. Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Hanley Ramirez have all played for 2, or 3 of those franchises. Gonzalez is really the only franchise type guy that the Dodgers got at the deadline last year, the other players being elite, but all extremely injury prone at this point in their careers.
The Dodgers pitching staff is already pretty thin, not having a bunch of depth at the starting spots behind Kershaw and Greinke, but as of today, they have SEVEN pitchers on the DL. From elite starters like Greinke, to back end relievers, no pitching staff could take this kind of hit, but Ryu has looked good and could be a legit number 2 behind Kershaw. Miraculously, Josh Beckett is still relatively healthy and depending on how many quality starts LA gets from him may determine how long they can stay in the NL West hunt. Kershaw continues his tear through the MLB and looks like he could be in Cy Young contention once again, but we saw how that script played out for the Dodgers last year as they finished 8 games behind the Giants, with no shot at a Wild Card.
Another factor that is leading to the Dodgers blowing games late is their inability to knock guys home in clutch situations. That infamous stat no team wants to lead the league in, runners left on base. 9 last night. 11 on Sat. 13 on Friday. It seems almost impossible to win games, let alone series, when you leave 33 runners on in a three game series, especially against a team like the Giants who have that magical late game clutch gene. The Dodgers relievers have been getting beat up and their offense can’t capitalize in sacrifice or 1 out situations, which may be their undoing come June/July. The Dodgers are ultimately stuck between a rock and a hard place, you either keep trotting out these same overpaid vets (and losing close games), make a statement to the clubhouse by only playing those who perform, or try and take on more salary and hope bringing in another star to LA doesn’t entirely blow up any type of chemistry already built up.
I genuinely feel bad for Don Mattingly. I really believe that he is a top 10 manager in the MLB, but no one is capable of reeling in this many A-type personalities. Not even Phil Jackson could handle this group. From juggling an endless staff of injured pitchers, to having to find a replacement SS every time Hanley Ramirez breaks a nail. (Although Dee Gordon has looked great on defense and can wreak havoc on the base path.) This group was destined to fail. Was anything less than winning the West by 10 games, and sweeping every playoff series en route to a title going to live up to expectations for a team with the highest payroll in the history of professional sports? While I do applaud GM Ned Coletti for giving Mattingly as much talent as an MLB payroll can provide, he may have wanted to look deeper than just the numbers when acquiring this type of team.
Ok, onto the Giants. What a series. One important player goes down, and another fringe guy steps up. Peguero was already expected to be a spot starter, a guy who could who showcase his speed and defense late and possibly be the difference in a few games. But with Angel Pagan going down with a tweaked hamstring (here’ an SF Gate discussion with Pagan and Bochy about the extent of the injury) which may or may not force him to miss extended time, I still feel confident with Torres now full time in center and Peguero stepping into the left field spot. Pagan says pulling himself from the Dodgers series was more about anticipating a more major hamstring injury, and that he could play tonight against the Phillies, although I’d rather see him make sure he is at full strength before rushing to come back. His leadership may be missed on the field, but it just gives another guy a shot to show he belongs.
We all know Pablo Sandoval’s absurdity and his affection for swinging at atrociously bad pitches. McCovey Chronicles just released an article showing his greatest bad pitch home runs. This weekend, Pablo may have had his most Sandoval-ish moment. He swung and hit a curveball that had absolutely no chance of crossing the plate. It looked like it was going to land just a foot past the infield grass. Granted the hit was just a blooper but at this point, Pablo is so dialed in that absolutely no one, not Bochy, nor Sabean, nor Baer can say a word to him about his weight. He just simply won’t listen. ‘Hey Pablo, eat this salad instead of those 3 meatball subs.’ To which he rebuts, ‘Ask the Tigers about the 3 meatballs in game 1.’ His BA is hovering around .330 and he’s got some of his power back. Suddenly that 3 year extension isn’t looking too horrible.
Back to back walk off home runs. This Giants team has a special kind of make up. They may not play elite baseball for 162 games a year, but Bochy makes sure they play their best ball on the most important nights. This Dodgers series was huge for demoralizing the 4th place LA team. The Giants got some nice breaks in the series, but also came up with the nig hits when they needed them, something the Dodgers have yet to find. When your superstar is hitting walk off HRs, then the next night the 2nd (sometimes 3rd) string catcher is walking off in dramatic fashion, the ball has officially started rolling.
Is there a deadline deal out there for the Giants? While I doubt that GM Brian Sabean makes any major moves, he may trade for more middle relief help. Every year he seems to find guys that are undervalued by their own team, are available for close to nothing, and end up making huge outs late in the season and even into the playoffs, see Ramon Ramirez, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez. You can’t predict these types of moves, too obscure, too out of nowhere, but they always pay dividends in the most important moments.
We are in the ‘Golden Age’ of Bay Area sports. Niners take baby steps, then a big one. Giants rebuild the right way, winning while pitching is the hot trend with the most dependable pitchers in the game. Warriors win a playoff series after only having expectations to contend for an 8 seed. Everyone is overachieving. We can’t over look how great of a time it is to be a Bay Area sports fan. It’s not long ago we were being tortured on all fronts, Warriors couldn’t draft to save their lives, Giants spent too much on old vets, Niners had one of the most embarassing offenses in NFL history. One underlying proponent. Good coaching. Harbaugh, Jackson, and Bochy. All championship caliber. Yes, even Mark Jackson. And none of them would have been put into the position to win without good upper management. It took a long time to have multiple teams with good front offices in the Bay, but 2013 is the year of the Coach in Northern California.