Suffering Bruin Asked For It
Such is the eerie scene in a muted Dodger clubhouse filled with strangers trying find each other and themselves.
And the bathroom.
Gone are the joyous sounds of late last season.
That was, um, last season, Bill. It’s over. Did you miss Dwyre’s memo? Baseball generally ends in October (or early November, nowadays) and then everybody takes a long break, and then they come back in February for Spring Training. In the meantime, some of the events of the previous season do not carry the urgency that they did many months ago.
Gone is the buzz that has accompanied this team, like background freeway noise.
I haven’t even read this whole article yet, and I can tell Plaschke is taking time to be extry-dumb today. This team is nothing BUT buzz. Ticket sales a-plenty. Gammons actually mentions them, something he never did for about six years. Multiple spring training games on ESPN, even if the only purpose was to give Steve Phillips’s jealous rage somewhere to vent. Buzz, buzz, buzz. Far too much of it, if you ask me.
Pulsing beneath this aura of calm is a feeling of uncertainty, perhaps even worry that something is wrong.
Once in every article, Plaschke generalizes his own irrational belief into “the way things are.” Ladies and Gentlemen, here is that sentence.
I mean, is there a quote here? Or anything at all? No. This is a MacGuffin sentence, designed simply to move the “plot” along. At least when Hitchcock used one, he recognized his own dishonesty.
Where is the chatter? What is the team's personality? Who are the leaders?
I can understand where a locker room without Jose Lima in it would sound quieter.
All of which leads to a question about an off-season conducted like a fantasy draft, a roster built like a spreadsheet. It's the only question that matters:
Can you break up a championship culture and get away with it?
Oh, no! Not a fantasy draft. Is this the same system where Carl Crawford is a first round draft pick? I’m doing my first ever fantasy draft on Saturday, but I can assure you Bill, that paying mega-dollars for J.D. Drew, Derek Lowe, and Odalis Perez, not to mention committing to Cesar Izturis and Hee Seop Choi, is not much of winning strategy in your typical fantasy draft. A great strategy for someone who thinks that all it takes to win is spending piles and piles of money, but that’s not what you think, right, Bill?
Of course, that’s why I don’t generally do fantasy baseball.
And “Championship culture?” Where exactly did this championship culture come from? Steve Finley? Who traded for Steve Finley? Eric Gagne? Who just threw $20 million at Eric Gagne? What team’s championship culture is completely divorced from the front office you’ve been tearing apart for the last year? I thought we traded away the championship culture. Now, it turns out we still had it, but then we didn’t. Or something.
UPDATE: And by the way, the only fantasy-baseball, spreadsheet approved move DePodesta could have made was to sign Adrian Beltre. If you dissect Plaschke as much as I have, you begin to realize that Plaschke never lets an overused cliche get in the way of his own argument.
Meet new second baseman Jeff Kent, who laughed.
Get that. Jeff Kent laughed at Bill Plaschke.
"So it's too quiet, huh?" he said with a smile. "What, no Barry Bonds fights? No car-wash incidents? What, you need something to write about it?"
Bill. He was being serious. Please keep your ignorance to yourself.
"I know, there's not a lot of chatter, not a lot of butterflying around," he said. "You're right, it's quiet, but it's not a good thing or a bad thing."
Not a bad thing?
It’s not? What do you know, Mr. Baseball Player? All you’ve done is play Major League Baseball for fifteen years, live the locker room culture, hit 300 home runs and win an MVP Award. I, on the other hand, AM A SPORTSWRITER! BOW TO MY SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE, PUNY BASEBALL MAN!"
Because chemistry is so, so overrated," Kent said.
This is where we go to our new, Fire Jim Tracy trademarked, stat, CORP – Chemistry Over Replacement Player. Our Top 10 CORP players
1) Paul LoDuca
2) Paul LoDuca
3) Paul LoDuca
4) Paul LoDuca
5) Paul LoDuca
6) Paul LoDuca
7) Paul LoDuca
8) Paul LoDuca
9) Paul LoDuca
10) Paul LoDuca
Our conclusion? Yep, chemistry’s overrated.
UPDATE: Did I mention that Mike Matheny was 11th?
But what about last year's Boston Red Sox "idiot" team? What about the rally-monkey Angels?
What about those wacky ’78 Yankees? Or those crazy early ‘70s Athletics? Or how about asking the guy you’re talking to about all those picnics with the Bonds family?
"It all starts on the field," Kent said. "When is the last time you've heard of a team with great chemistry that stinks? It's all about the field."
What kind of chemistry do you think they have at the Los Angeles Times? It may be answer to Jeff Kent’s question.
But what about all that time spent in the clubhouse?
That’s for the media to ask probing questions about chemistry. If all the ballplayers did was actually play, what the hell would Bill Plaschke EVER WRITE ABOUT?!
"Hey, Barry Bonds and I fought more in one year than anybody could imagine, and we went to the World Series," Kent said. "Now that was chemistry."
As you would…a child.
'If guys hate each other, sometimes I think that's better," Kent said. "If they are fighting with each other, competitive with each other, they take it out on the field, on the other team, and that's great."
Take it out on the other team?
Notice here that Kent has completely changed the subject. We have no idea whether anybody on the Dodgers hates anyone else. He’s got Plaschke talking about three years ago. Good move, because now we’re not talking about the Dodgers anymore, and Plaschke is always going to be too lazy to write his own copy when someone else will do it for him.
"Let's say I go up there, bases loaded, and I don't get a hit," Kent said. "The guy batting behind me, if we're fighting in the clubhouse, he wants to show me up. He wants to say, 'That at-bat proves Kent stinks. Let me show everyone how I can do it.' "And then?"Then he does it, gets a big hit, wins the game, just to spite me," Kent said. "Now that's chemistry."
That might work for a hitter.
The old Plaschke begrudging agreement routine. A classic.
I would just settle for getting a big hit and winning the game, and leave the “motivation” for such an event to the angels.
"Works for pitchers too," Kent said. "Let's say a pitcher is mad at somebody in this room. He goes out to the mound. He looks at the batter's box. He picks up the ball and looks at the batter and is like, 'I wanna kill you with this ball.' "Kent shook his head, and he wasn't laughing."That's the guy I want on my team," he said. "I want that edge. Now that's chemistry."
He wasn’t laughing? Well, it was so funny! If Plaschke had started laughing, Kent would have hit him over the head with a bat, and Henson would have written today’s column. In fact, if you’re looking for a way to bring the clubhouse together…
Kent said he'd learned an important lesson after his San Francisco Giants had blown a lead and were beaten by the Angels in a memorable Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.The Giants were so devastated, they could not recover for Game 7, which they also lost."I remember walking into the clubhouse after Game 6, and people were crying, and I should have done something," he said. "I should have thrown some helmets, said some things, done something to remind us that we were still just one game from winning the thing."If we're ever in a similar situation, and I see that my teammates are down, I'm doing something," he added. "I'm not going to let that happen again."
On behalf of all Giant-haters everywhere, let me voice my strong gratitude for the fact that Jeff Kent learned this lesson AFTER Game Seven, and not before. I was crying when it was 5-0 in the seventh, so I’m glad to find out they cried too (and longer)!
So Jose Lima's happy face and Steve Finley's quiet strength are going to be replaced by ...
STEVE FINLEY!? WHO TRADED FOR #*(&& STEVE FINLEY?! Did I miss something?
And let’s not forget “Jose Lima’s happy face,” apparently not his only happy feature, but clearly what put him over the top in Game 3 of the NLDS. Weaver, get HAPPY FACE!
"I want a guy not afraid to rock the boat," Kent said.
Given that we have such a chicken nancy-pancy for a GM, I’m glad there’s someone around not afraid to rock the boat. Is there a “new Sheriff in town?”
Starting his Hall of Fame push, this veteran with more homers, 278, than any other second baseman in history, seems willing to be that guy.
Well, good. So what the hell was all this about?
He has sat quietly in his far corner locker, but when a question is asked, he answers, whether it be about steroids or heavy lifting.
But he’s so darn quiet! But he talks to me! I’m conflicted! Punch a mirror and break the tie!"
My bottom line is, I want to win," said Kent, who has been in postseason play five times, more than the rest of the Dodger starting infield combined. "And when that happens, I want to be one of the guys in the truck pulling the trailer, not the guy sitting in the trailer. I want to be one of three guys sitting in the cab of that truck."
The Dodgers' concern, of course, is that three guys will end up fighting over the steering wheel.
I don’t understand. Plaschke just asked “Where are the leaders?” Plural. Aren’t three guys supposed to be driving the truck? Maybe with a timeshare arrangement – Derek Lowe drives for eight hours, then Gagne drives the ninth.
With groundball pitchers throwing in front of an average defensive infield, there is potential for conflict there.
Did I say once an article? I meant twice an article.
Let’s think of some more possible potential conflicts:
1) With relief pitchers coming in and possibly blowing leads, there is a potential for conflict with the starting pitchers
2) With arbitration or free agency looming for several Dodgers, runners left on base without scoring a run could become angry with those that left them on.
3) Jeff Kent and Cesar Izturis could get into a potential conflict regarding which one of them covers second base with a left-handed hitter at the plate
4) With Jason Repko, Jayson Werth, Jason Grabowski, and Jason Phillips all on the roster, there is a potential for conflict as to the “butt-kickingest” Jason on the team.
In other words, if that really is a potential for “conflict,” then anything is a potential for conflict. And, of course, anything IS a potential for conflict, especially if you’ve already decided that such conflict will inevitably occur.
Milton Bradley has been a clubhouse gem so far, and insists that his positive attitude will remain, but there is always concern about disruptions there.
As long as Bill Plaschke is writing for the LA Times, there is always concern about disruptions there. I’m far more concerned about his 120 Ks last year, but there you go.
There are so many new faces and new attitudes, it would not surprise anyone to see Kent's theories tested.
Ahh…yes. The mysterious “anyone” again. Did I say once an article? I meant three times an article.
General Manager Paul DePodesta likes to quote his assistant, Roy Smith.
He wouldn’t talk to me for this crap article, so I had to pull an old quote from three months ago.
"Roy says that our chemistry is always just a three-game winning streak away," he said.
Roy is wise. The Front Office is nothing but a big Socratic dialogue. (Bill: Socrates was a Greek philosopher…oh, never mind).
Amid the quietest, most detached spring in years, neither seems guaranteed.
Not only are the Dodgers going to suck, but they’re going to have…bad chemistry! OMG! OMG! OMG!
It is easy to remind ourselves here of the events of Spring of 1988, and speculate for a moment as to what Kirk Gibson would have done to Jose Lima’s “happy face” given the chance. But instead, simply focus on this conclusion regarding what is “guaranteed.” Friends, very little is guaranteed. This team, particularly, comes with no guarantees (the organization, in the long term, I have no worry about – the 2005 team – who knows?). Thirty teams start – only one finishes a winner. But I said that “very little” is guaranteed? So what’s guaranteed? An entire year of absurd rhetoric from the Los Angeles Times regarding chemistry. If the Dodgers are 20 games over .500 in June, I have no doubt that I’ll be reading rhapsodic texts giving all the chemistry credit to Jim Tracy, regardless of how many times he tries to platoon Paul Bako or use Frank Brooks in bases-loaded situations against in-division opponents.
But that's for another day.