During the sixth inning of last night’s Dodgers – Brewers game, Justin Turner sent a fly ball to deep left field. Joc Pederson tagged up at third and scored the tying run, but the play was much closer than it had to be.
Yasmani Grandal was on first base and he tagged on Turner’s fly ball as well. However, instead of slowing the action down to make sure Pederson scored, Grandal quickly ran into being tagged out at second base. He was tagged out so quickly, the Brewers appealed to instant replay, hoping Grandal was out before the run scored.
The Brewers lost the appeal, Pederson brought in the tying run, and Justin Turner steamed.
When Turner returned to the dugout, he sought out Grandal to remind him to keep his head in the game; I presume his message was something like that, but with some colorful language for emphasis. They began barking at each other seriously enough that veterans Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick had to step in and separate them.
Some bad turns that affect a team cannot be controlled, such as a foul ball breaking a leg. Smart base running according to the game situation is something that can be controlled. The Dodgers have been a sloppy and boneheaded base running team all season. At times they’ve been flat-out lazy. Grandal’s gaffe almost cost the tying run last night. Add that to the myriad of woes surrounding the club this year, and one can see why Turner just could not take any more.
When the Dodgers recently played the Diamondbacks, there was chatter about past bad blood between the two teams, and some openly hoped for an encounter with the Snakes that might fire up and inspire the Dodgers. I never want to see anybody get hurt, but there is nothing like an enemy to strengthen ties and determination on a team.
Over the past couple of years the Dodgers’ idea of playing with passion has shown itself as dancing to bubble machines, wearing banana suits, and faux selfie poses.
While it’s all good fun and I like a laugh as much as anyone else, what this team needs is more of the grit and take-no-prisoners attitude that Chase Utley has.
Yasmani Grandal made the mistake of being the anti-Utley last night. He has not been hitting, has been less than efficient behind the plate, and his boneheaded base running became the last straw. Turner let it be known slacking will not be tolerated, and it’s a message that needs to be repeated often with this team.
There are fans and writers who have accepted the notion the Dodgers are going nowhere near the playoffs this season. That’s one thing, but when members of the team accept this notion – look out. All bets are off, and only bad things will come from it.
Justin Turner served notice last night that he is focused on winning, and everybody else better be as well. Sure, it was a heat of the moment thing, and he probably wasn’t thinking about all of that when he went at Grandal – but it made a statement. Regardless of what they said in postgame interviews about everything quickly being forgotten, more than a few of the Dodgers went to bed last night thinking about that dugout shoving match, and what it means for the team going forward.
I suspect tonight a number of players will focus more keenly in batting practice, prepare for the game a little better, and synchronize with each other more on the field. Even if it doesn’t end up making a difference to the team’s chances in the long run, the skipper and the suits will notice who responded well to the kerfuffle, who was indifferent, and who couldn’t improve despite putting in the extra effort.
The Dodgers don’t need to hit the panic button, but they sure need a shot of Vitamin Kick-Ass if they are going to catch the Giants and win the division. Justin Turner delivered the first dose of it last night.