Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I usually don't do this....

but with the Dodgers' playoff hopes officially crushed, maybe I just need to vent some frustration. Michael Ventre, who contributes to, wrote an article yesterday that blasts the Dodgers for their use of young players. I won't post the whole thing, but I'll provide quotes and respond to them ala FireJoeMorgan. So here goes:

First, we have a quote from Derek Lowe:

“To go with a total youth movement is not fair to the veterans, and not fair to the city. I am a firm believer that you use the minor league system to help the major league team now. You try to win today, and four years from now, you will probably have a kid just as good as the one you got rid of.”

I don't think anyone's asking for a "total youth movement," in the sense that there would be no veterans on the team. I think the problem some people have is signing a veteran (Nomar, Gonzo, Pierre) when a kid's available who could do the job just as well, if not better. And as for having a kid just as good as the one you got rid of, trying telling Dodger fans that about the Pedro Martinez deal.

And of course there's Kent's opinion:

“I don’t know what it is, especially when you have a lot (of young players). It’s hard to influence a big group. We’ve got some good kids on the team. Don’t get me wrong … It’s hard to translate experience. I don’t know why they don’t get it. … I think experience can help more than inexperience. And it’s hard to give a young kid experience.”

It's hard to influence a big group when you're sitting off in a corner of the clubhouse reading a motorcycle magazine, isn't it?

And now, Mr. Ventre's drivel:

This “geezer-punk” assemblage has lost five in a row at a time when the San Diego Padres, making a run at the division title, have won seven straight. The Dodgers just suffered their first-ever four-game sweep by the Rockets at Coors Field. So naturally, the already cranky tricenarians and quadragenarians who creak around the clubhouse in search of their lost youth are becoming more cantankerous by the minute.

Of course he forgets to mention the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks, whose lineup is filled with "kids." As a matter of fact, the only regular starter on their team who is over 30 is Eric Byrnes. And his justification of Kent and Lowe's comments are on par with Colletti's "players are bound to speak out" BS. The only players who've been complaining are the veterans.

You might think that this is a diatribe directed against jocks in their sunset years who can’t accept that at some point the amusement park will close and they’ll have to go and find real jobs. But it isn’t.

Actually, these geezers have the sharpest minds of anybody in the Dodgers organization.

What they detect, but can’t come right out and say – so I’ll say it for them -- is that the owners of the club, Frank and Jamie McCourt, have decided they would rather populate the roster with low-priced youngsters and make gobs of profit in the process rather than put the absolute best team possible on the field given their revenue stream.

Oh the old "McCheap will ruin the Dodgers" argument. Yeah, if McCourt was simply looking to turn a buck, spending $100 million on players probably wasn't Plan A. Again, look at the D Backs. They sprinkled some veterans into their core group along with a ton of youngsters and it worked. Look at the Marlins last year; sure, they didn't make the playoffs, but they came incredibly close for a team with a $15 million payroll.

But even more disturbing is the intimation that playing kids doesn't give the team the best chance to win. Apparently, Mr. Ventre believes the Dodgers should spend like the Yankees or Red Sox and buy themselves a string of championships. How's that worked out again?

When you have guys like Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and James Loney, you play them because you aren't going to have a better player fall into your lap. It's important to have these cheap players so you can supplement them with the revenue saved from paying them the league minimum. So no, it isn't a better idea or even a possible scenario to pay top dollar to veteran players at every position.

The Dodgers don’t make the kind of money the Yankees make, but they rake it in nonetheless. Yet they like to garnish the roster with token veterans like Juan Pierre and Luis Gonzalez to cover up the fact that the main course consists of minor league hopefuls like James Loney, Andre Ethier and Andy LaRoche.

The inevitable Yankees comparison. I wouldn't call signing a guy to a 5 year, $44 million deal a "token" acquisition. But let's look at these "minor league hopefuls." First, including Andy LaRoche on this list is just stupid, given the fact that he's started 8 games since June 1st. Onto Andre Ethier: he got off to a bad start, OPSing less than .750 in the first 2 months of the season. But he's turned it around by posting a .298/.360/.492 line since the All Star break. And James Loney. Is this moron really trying to bolster his argument by including Loney? All J Lo has done this year is rake. He's OPS'ing .905, best number on the team of anyone with 300+ PA's. He's shown that ever popular "clutchiness," batting .435 with runners in scoring position. And he'd played Gold Glove defense at first base. But I suppose Mr. Ventre is going to criticize the Dodgers for not trading the farm for Mark Teixiera, who'd either leave next year in free agency or cost the Dodgers more than 50 times what Loney is making annually while likely outproducing him by a less than significant amount.

Most of the responsibility for winning has been entrusted to kids who haven’t yet learned how to win. In the context of a competitive division that includes the likes of the Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies, that’s almost like conceding defeat in spring training.

Ah, the ever popular argument that kids need to learn how to win. Apparently, it isn't as cut and dry as playing well. And how was "most" of the responsibility entrusted to the kids? 5 of the 8 projected starters coming into the year were veterans: Nomar, Kent, Furcal, Gonzo and Pierre. The rotation consisted of 5 veterans: Penny, Lowe, Schmidt, Tomko and Wolf. So either the veterans have gotten hurt or they just couldn't cut it. So much for "knowing how to win."

The Dodgers received some early love from pundits as division winners on the basis of their starters. But they’ve been spotty, the bullpen has faltered, and the sticks have been wildly erratic. It isn’t one statistical category that has caused the team’s downfall, but rather those “things you don’t see in the box scores,” especially team chemistry. More often than not, these have been dead men walking.

So this d-bag admits that the reason the pundits believed the Dodgers would win was because of their veteran pitching staff, but it's still the kids' fault that they didn't? The bullpen, consisting mostly of veterans, has faltered and I'm sure that's all Broxton's fault. And the "sticks" have been wildly erratic, even though Martin, Kemp, Ethier and Loney have all OPS'd over .800 since the All Star break. So what does it all come down to? Chemistry! Of course! And if anyone's known for his great clubhouse presence, it's Jeff Kent!

The McCourts have gone the cheapie route, and in doing so, they’ve created a team with no real identity and a hazy future.

Remember folks, the cheapie route costs over $100 million. I'll admit, the current team really doesn't have an identity, given Colletti's unnecessary reliance on veterans and Little's near refusal to play the younger, more deserving players regularly. But a hazy future? With guys like Martin, Ethier, Loney and Kemp, along with Chad Billingsley and Jon Broxton already major league regulars, and more talented prospects on the way, how is the future "hazy?"

Whenever a superstar name is floated as being available, the Dodgers are almost never mentioned as players in that card game. The suggestion of Alex Rodriguez coming to the Dodgers is usually met with a glass of water and a couple of aspirin. The Dodgers might be the smallest-minded big-market team in the majors.

Although I would like to see A Rod with his rightful ballclub (Damn you, arbitrary alternating first pick draft rule), it's not like he'd come in and solve all the team's problems. But anyone remember how the Dodgers were set to sign Vlad Guerrero, only to have Selig intervene and nix the deal? So no, it's not like the Dodgers never get mentioned as being in the running for big-named free agents. And with the Dodgers officially out of the playoffs, McCourt could feel the need to make a huge splash in hopes of avoiding criticism by the LA media.

It wouldn’t be so bad if such an approach bore fruit, but it hasn’t. The Angels have worked kids like Howie Kendrick, Reggie Willits, Casey Kotchman and Maicer Izturis into their plans, but they’ve managed to amass a giant lead over second-place Seattle in the AL West. They did that by building a superior pitching staff, and by making sure that the veterans who are at the heart of the lineup – Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson,
Gary Matthews, Jr. – are all at or near their primes. The Dodgers, conversely, populate their roster with fantasy league scraps.

The Dodgers and Angels have very similar rosters. Of course, the Dodgers don't have Vlad (Again, thanks Selig) but they did at least try to surround young players with veterans in the lineup and in the rotation. But of course Mr Ventre makes the mistake of saying guys like Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews are at or near their primes. Anderson's health problems have all but negated his value to the team, while Matthews' one good season (In a great hitters' park, no less) earned him about 10 times what he's actually worth. And another cheap shot to boot.

The coming weeks will tell a lot about the direction of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Right now they’re going down. That’s clear. But will Kent stick around next year (he has that option)? If he does, will the Dodgers get him some experienced help so he can realistically go after that elusive World Series ring? Or will it be more of “Daddy Day Care”?

Yeah, because the Dodgers are all about winning for Jeff Kent, right? I'm going to assume that Mr. Ventre believes every player on evey roster can be had at a very reasonable price this offseason, because looking at the free agent class doesn't paint a rosy picture as far as filling out the team with productive veterans. And the Dodgers were just 2.5 games out of the Wild Card on Monday, so I wouldn't say their chances this year weren't realistic. And again, taking a cheap shot at the kids.

Watching kids is hell.

You know, there's a lot to criticize about this team: Colletti's roster moves, Little's lineup moves, even giving McCourt partial blame for the Vlad deal not getting done. But the fact that Mr. Ventre is criticizing the one thing that the Dodgers did right is just incomprehensible. Saying it's the kids' fault when they've produced better than most of the veterans on the team makes absolutely no sense. Loney and Kemp have the two highest OPS's of any Dodger with more than 250 PA's. Chad Billingsley's ERA is over a run lower than Brad Penny's since the All Star break.

Think back to the mid 70s: Yeager, Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey. Shouldn't the Dodgers try to follow that model? Building around guys like Fernando and Orel, even the run of RoY's in the early to mid 90s was on the right path. After years of having to deal with a barren farm system, the Dodgers finally have the chance to develop some serious talent from within and now they're getting flack for it. This is what the Dodgers should be doing. It's the smart thing to do. It's the right thing to do.

And to you, Mr. Ventre, I ask that you please refrain from ever talking about the Dodgers again. You need not embarrass yourself any further.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home