- It's too early for the Dodgers to panic:
Yesterday, after the Dodgers 7-3 loss to the Mets, I got an email from Bern a friend on Twitter regarding the controversy swirling around the staggering Dodgers and whether it was appropriate for GM Ned Colletti to call out Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley for, respectively, perceived laziness (Kemp); and just being bad overall (Billingsley).
I tend to think there's more at play than a GM losing his cool with a couple of players who aren't doing what's expected of them. Obviously, Colletti is aggravated by the way the Dodgers have played; but if you look at manager Joe Torre's Yankees teams, especially the ones from late in his tenure, they got off to slow starts on an annual basis and turned it on as the warm weather arrived. Torre's not going to panic and the calm which has always been Torre's main strength as a manager will permeate the club and prevent a full-blown explosion.
Torre and Colletti still wanted to get a message out to the players and with the frustration exhibited in Colletti's questioning Kemp's commitment due to the perceived comfort with his first lucrative contract, it's very possible that this is a good cop/bad cop routine from Torre/Colletti than a straight reaction by the GM.
The truth with Kemp is that he's never been the type to adhere to the "baseball player code". From his rookie year, he had in-house issues with the veteran members of the club. One such veteran, notably, was Jeff Kent, Mr. Charm who had a well-publicized dustup himself with Mets veterans for refusing to partake in a rookie initiation prank and was hated for it; his aloof nature was loathed everywhere he went. Because of Kemp's personality and rising fame, no one should have expected him to keep quiet when called out by his GM.
Kemp has MVP talent and he'll let you know it. Being compared to Dave Winfield will cause a player to be impressed with himself no matter his personality. With Kemp, presumably it's gotten worse as he's developed into a star player and gotten his first big contract (he avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 2-year, $10.95 million deal through 2011). Interestingly, Kemp's agent is former star pitcher Dave Stewart, never one to shy away from confrontation on or off the field.
With Kemp, you're talking about a burgeoning star; playing in Hollywood; and dating pop star Rihanna. It's easily forgotten how young he is. Having been in the majors since he was 21 and still only 25, he's got some growing up to do. Sending this message to him is a combination of Colletti and Torre having seen and heard enough of the excuses and lack of hustle not just from Kemp, but from Russell Martin. It would've been unbecoming for Torre himself to lay into Kemp publicly; and I'm sure Kemp's been spoken to by Torre and coaches Larry Bowa and Don Mattingly about this.
Another aspect of Colletti's aggravation has to be the way the divorce between the McCourts has affected his attempts to improve the team. The Dodgers needed starting pitching help and given his aggressiveness, there's no doubt he would've liked to have jumped into the Roy Halladay sweepstakes last winter; and would like to upgrade the rotation now with a Zach Duke or Roy Oswalt. No one knows how deeply the divorce proceedings have infected the day-to-day business of the club.
On-field, the Dodgers will be fine. The starting rotation is seen as shaky, but Torre's other Dodgers playoff teams have never had a super-strong starting rotation to begin with; the big failure thus far has been the bullpen.
Since joining the Yankees, Torre's bullpen was paramount in his success/failure. The Dodgers bullpen has been absolutely hideous. With George Sherrill getting rocked and having trouble throwing strikes; Ramon Troncoso up-and-down; Ronald Belisario struggling; and Jeff Weaver on the disabled list, the strength has been the biggest weakness. They haven't been able to hand games over to closer Jonathan Broxton.
The team's been hitting; the starting pitching's been good enough to win. It's the bullpen that's the problem. And that will straighten itself out of the histories of the personnel are to be believed.
Clubhouse and in-house disagreements happen far more often than is publicized and many times there's far more occurring behind the scenes than is disclosed. A little controversy and fire can help spur something positive. It's an energy and isn't necessarily a bad thing. The only way to see if it worked is in retrospect. If Kemp goes on a tear; if Billingsley starts pitching as he did two years ago, then Colletti's comments will be seen as the spark; if not, it didn't work.
It's not time to freak out in Los Angeles...yet. Torre has earned the benefit of the doubt in steering a ship through any and all storms. This one is no different.
- Cardinals 6-Braves 0:
I can handle a teamwide slump----no one's hitting----but it's the absence of passion with the Braves that would upset me more than anything. They don't hustle and it looks like they don't care.
Chipper Jones gets a pass for not running as hard as he possibly can on a grounder to second base; his multitude of injuries and rampant fragility makes it self-defeating for him to break the tape and only be out by one step rather than two.
But does Troy Glaus get that same leeway? Yunel Escobar? Melky Cabrera?
It's been 21 games for Glaus and he'd done nothing to dissuade me from thinking he's shot. If he was ripping line drives that are getting caught; if he was just missing pitches that he should hit because of timing as David Ortiz was early last year, it would be a reason to say give him time; but his bat is slow; defensively he's a statue; and he doesn't look to be playing hard.
Escobar's frequent mental gaffes are one thing, but I'd think that because of that inexcusable screw-up on Saturday in not tagging up from third on a fly out in which the Mets were conceding a run; a mistake that ran the Braves out of a potential big inning, he'd be playing like a madman for at least the next few games; instead, he's jogging at 80% speed on ground balls and displaying a similar ambivalence to Glaus.
And Melky Cabrera?
He's been awful offensively and defensively and not only deserves to be benched, but may need to be demoted.
I mentioned all of this on Monday, but it's gotten worse, not better. That environment is poisoned not just for a team that has the pitching to be a playoff contender, but for a 20-year-old megastar talent in Jason Heyward who can't help but be affected by the way they're playing and behaving. A message is going to have to be sent by someone with the Braves be it GM Frank Wren or manager Bobby Cox, because they look atrocious in every aspect and it has to be stopped. Soon.
I'm being told that it's very useful for fantasy players and that the writing's pretty good.
Hey, I'm just the messenger...and the writer....and the judge...and the jury....and the executioner...