The Memorial Day holiday normally marks the one quarter mark of the baseball season. That’s the time where teams take stock of their roster. The Dodger’s stock can’t drop any lower. The boys in blue have been mired in mediocrity since opening week and now have fallen 5.5 games behind the Giants in the National League West. Certainly 5.5 games is not insurmountable by any means. It’s hard to imagine this roster being able to string together the necessary winning streak in order to do that. Meanwhile the more fundamentally sound NL West club up north continue their tear through the early summer weeks.
Baseball is a game of constant adjustments and flexibility. MLB rosters change from month to month and from week to week. MLB front offices are always tinkering with their rosters; the last spot in the bullpen or the last man on the bench are usually revolving doors throughout the season. Not the Dodgers though. They operate quite differently.
The Dodgers may be the only club in baseball that has the exact same roster since opening day. The Dodgers have made zero changes to the roster except for when players are jettisoned to the disabled list and marginal replacements are recalled from the minors to replace them. It hasn’t made a whole lot of sense. The Dodgers are exactly where we all thought they would be right now, or some of us did. The Dodgers are 28-27, an average club.
More frustrating than the mediocre results is the front office’s refusal to dump roster spot wasters, or the illogical game decisions. They could at the least try to better the club through better lineup creation. Common sense seems to escape this front office.
Andrew Friedman’s flawed philosophy on building a pitching staff has been bad since he was brought in. The club has the same problems that they had last year. A razor thin back of the starting rotation and weak middle relief. The Dodgers essentially have 3.5 pitchers on their 13 man staff. It’s very difficult to win with just 3.5 pitchers. I will admit that the pitching hasn’t really been the primary problem. The pitching has actually been pretty solid. Newly signed Japanese import Kenta Maeda has pitched well and veteran Scott Kazmir seems to be turning a corner. I still believe that Kazmir is a much better pitcher than we’ve seen thus far. He’s never been this bad and he could be one of the best bargains the Dodgers have acquired if he continues to turn his season around. Ace Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher in baseball and having another brilliant season. Kenley Jansen is still one of the best closers in baseball that never gets any press. The bottom half of the rotation needs a wing and a prayer though.
The injuries have been a huge detriment to the pitching staff and the front office only has themselves to blame. The Dodgers suffered another devastating injury losing Alex Wood and now have 4 starting pitchers on the shelf. The Dodgers need innings and health. Not spending a little extra money and getting a frontline starter seems foolish. I don’t want to hear any excuses either. To say there was nobody available is an outright lie. There were plenty of viable free agent pitchers that could have been had. The Dodgers are the richest team in baseball and they could have outbid any team. Why not use that 150 million dollar offer given to Zack Greinke for Johnny Cueto? As many people have told me over and over, “he’s too expensive” as if we’re suddenly the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s amazing to me how many fans have completely done a 180 on this subject. When scandalous owner Frank McCourt owned the club Dodger fans cried Argentina for the team to spend money on good players.
Now some Dodger fans obsess over data and cry anytime the club spends more than league minimum on a player. I see decries for lowering the payroll all over twitter. Good players cost money. You can’t have it both ways. The club is already spending 236 million dollars for an average team. That money could have been better spent on established players with histories of health, like perhaps Johnny Cueto who is probably only going to help the Giants win another division title and possibly another championship. You think Giants fans are crying about his high (130 million dollars actually seems very team friendly) contract right now?
Common sense would dictate that spending money on injury riddled pitchers is a recipe for failure. You can’t tell me that the front office didn’t know that pitchers like Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy who have never been healthy throughout their entire careers wouldn’t get hurt. Everyone knew those guys couldn’t be counted on. I’ve said it since day one.
It’s not just the pitching that has been lackluster during the Friedman era, it’s also the offense. The main problem with the club this year is the inability to score runs. The Dodgers rank at the bottom of baseball in most offensive categories. This year’s club is even worse than last year’s club. At least last year they were able to hit home runs and draw walks. This year the Dodgers have only four hitters on the club, the rest are straddling the Mendoza line and useless as ever.
There’s not a whole lot the Dodgers can do this early in the season, but there are quite a few marginal moves that could improve the club’s chances of winning each night. One important change is stop batting terrible hitters at the top of the order. Justin Turner is a prime example. I have no idea what happened to him this year. Maybe his knee is bothering him, thus affecting his hitting mechanics. It seems he’s lost that gap to gap power he’s had the last two seasons in Los Angeles. All he does is make weak contact. I think the knee injury timeframe has run out, but who knows. Regardless of what the real problem is with Turner, he’s not hitting and currently harming the club. I’m not asking for him to be released or DFA’d. Just to be taken out of the 3 spot and moved down in the order. This is something Oscar has been screaming for the Dodgers to do for weeks, and they refuse.
I don’t know why the Dodgers keep employing Carl Crawford either. He’s horrendous. He can’t hit, he can’t run, and he can’t throw. He’s so past his prime it’s almost painful to watch him play. He’s barely hitting above the Mendoza line. It’s time for the Dodgers to let him go. Just cut bait. Eat the salary. I don’t get it. They don’t even have to wait until Yasiel Puig returns from his sore hamstring. They can put Howie Kendrick in left and Chase Utley can play second base.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Dodgers play percentage baseball. This means they stick to a script and every time there is a left hander on the mound they load up the lineup with right handers. It rarely ever works because the only good hitters the Dodgers have this year all bat from the left side. So by sitting all of your best offensive threats you are asking to lose. The club needs some kind of offensive threat from the right side of the plate.
Why is Kike Hernandez still here too? He’s been so bad this year I often wonder if the Dodgers should just call up Charlie Culberson and send banana man packing. Seriously, take your lousy hitting and banana suit and clean out your locker.
Look the Dodgers are just not a good club as currently constructed. I still think they can win 90 games. That’s what I thought they would win before the season started. I think that total is attainable, but only if they start making some changes. The front office is in wait for the injured players to come back mode, and that’s not likely to happen.
Waiting until 2018 for a bunch of kids that may or may not pan out is a poor strategy. That’s probably not even their true plan anyways. We have no clue what the roster will look like next year, let alone in 2018. It’s not about that, it’s about winning championships.
The front office may finally decide to start making some moves to improve the club. Until that happens, keep your expectations low. Try to enjoy the games as much you can. Enjoy Clayton Kershaw’s incredible season. Because it’s not Kershaw they are wasting, but Vin Scully’s final days behind the microphone. That is the biggest shame of this miserable season.