SNIDE WORLD OF SPORTS — There’s an old saying that money can’t buy happiness. Others say “Yes, but it can make being miserable much more comfortable.” Apparently $238,841,005, the L.A. Dodger 2014 payroll, can’t buy a decent bullpen. Evidently that’s extra.
I have a personal saying I try to follow, “Don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach.” (I buy everything in sight.) Another should be, “Don’t write a column about the Dodgers on a night when their bullpen blows a lead in the 8th inning and loses 6-3.” (Which I realize, for a saying to live by, is a little on the wordy side.)
As I write this the Dodgers are fresh off being swept at home by the Milwaukee Brewers, a team they might meet in the playoffs. But, on Friday night in the first game, they were cruising 2-0 in the 8th with one out and nobody on. Then the roof caved in. (Even though Dodger Stadium doesn’t have a roof.)
Thanks to the bullpen, shaky all season (at least they’re consistent?), the 2-0 lead turned into a 6-3 loss. They lost again Saturday and Sunday and saw their 5 game lead over the Giants trimmed to 3 1/2.
The Dodgers have not been in the World Series since 1988 or 25 very long seasons and counting. According to my research, it’s the longest such stretch in the history of the franchise, going back to Brooklyn before the turn of the 20th century.
Even when the Dodgers were the “Bridegrooms,” and then just the “Grooms;” even when they were the “Trolleycar Dodgers” and then just the “Dodgers;” they’ve never gone a quarter of a century without a World Series appearance. So, given the history and the $239 million player payroll, and “World Series or Bust” is an understatement.
I like this year’s team. A lot. And so do the fans. The Dodgers lead MLB in attendance. And even after the 3-game sweep they still have the best record in the National League. But Hyun-JinRyu, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe are all on the disabled list and Josh Beckett is likely lost for the season. (Trainer Stan Conte is the busiest man on the team.)
Thank God (and Guggenheim’s deep pockets) for two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw who may pick up his 3rd this season. He may even win the league MVP.
And then there’s Yasiel Puig who does things in the outfield that defy physics. (And sometimes logic.) When Puig crashes into the wall to catch a ball, he’s usually fine but the wall is “day to day.” And the always steady Adrian Gonzalez leads the league in RBIs. So what’s the problem? To borrow from political strategist James Carville, “It’s the bullpen, stupid.”
I suppose when you’re paying Zack Greinke $28,000,000, Gonzalez $22,000,000, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford $21,000,000, Kershaw $19,000,000, Beckett $17,000,000, Hanley Ramirez $16,000,000 and Andre Either $15,000,000, there isn’t much left over. Maybe the Guggenheim group should sell another Matisse and get a quality starting pitcher and a strong middle reliever? Okay, so maybe two Matisse’s.
One of the most valuable Dodgers, Dee Gordon, who leads the league in stolen bases, is making $515,000. But $10 million Reliever Brian Wilson has been a disaster. Apparently you can’t divide time between pitching and writing songs. Before you email me, that was a joke, albeit not a terribly funny one. So I’ll try one more. This season, every time Wilson comes into the game it’s definitely not been “good vibrations.” (I should have quit while I was behind.)
Actually, on the night of the 6-3 loss/bullpen meltdown, it was 39-year-old Jamie Wright who gave up four hits and an intentional walk and was charged with 5 runs. But the game was still tied 2-2 when Brandon League came in with the bases loaded.
After striking out Rickie Weeks, League gave up a three-run double to pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay and I felt compelled to write this column. If I sound like a spoiled Dodger fan keep in mind I’ve been pretty quiet for 25 years now.
On Sunday, Kershaw pitched a 9-inning masterpiece, striking out 11 and didn’t walk a batter. However, he lost, 3-2. I was reminded of when Don Drysdale was told Koufax had just thrown a no hitter and he asked, “Did he win?”
The Dodgers have now lost 5 out of 6 to the Brewers so far this year. I’m also troubled, that from the 8th inning they’ve been outscored 119-88 and when trailing after 7 innings they’re 0-43. Yikes.
Currently the Dodgers and Angels are both in 1st place, which in the past 53 years has never happened before this late in the season. Wouldn’t a Freeway Series be something special? Of course first the Dodgers have to figure out a way to beat the Brewers. Otherwise, I fear it’ll all be … a bust.
Jack also writes, “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. He can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.