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The Cold Shoulder
2003-09-02 15:47
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Unlike Shawn Green, I will make excuses. I'm no hero. Issues with the new house seem to be taking every waking moment and many sleeping ones. So I don't have the power in my Dodger Thoughts swing I'd like to have right now.

Belatedly, then ...

Jason Reid of the Times today broke what might be the biggest story of the Dodgers' season - that their top offensive player, Green, has been injured since Spring Training.

My immediate response to this was to wonder whether in-season surgery for Green would have been a better solution than having him struggle through the injury. I wrote Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus - we'll see if his response adds some perspective.

The other fragment of A Shoulder's Story that I find disconcerting is that for most of the season, Dodger officials did imply that they were waiting - expectantly - for Green to resume his usual production. This now seems about as fair as asking a Seinfeld actor to headline a successful sitcom.

Meanwhile, the bigger issue for Reid's teammate, Ross Newhan, was that the Dodgers' knowledge of the injury increases the sin value of the team not pursuing offensive help.

Newhan writes:

...there has been no excuse for management's decision to hide behind the luxury cap at a time when so much of the offense hinged on Green duplicating his production of the last two years, when Brian Jordan went down for the season and Fred McGriff disappeared for a large part of it, and when it became obvious that Kevin Brown was healthy and the high-salaried pitching staff was good enough to carry the Dodgers to the playoffs if the lineup received a shot of substantive help.
I disagree. In fact, there has been an excuse for management's decision. Whether you think it's a good excuse is subject to debate, but you can certainly make the case that salary excess (as well as disregard for protecting the farm system) was the curse of the Dodgers, and that someone needed to draw the line - the sooner the better.

Is this tough love for a fan base (and apparently, a media base) starving for postseason action? Definitely. But I appreciate that it shows signs of wanting to stop the Fox/Kevin Malone madness - a madness that all starving fans would decry.

Dan Evans had an agenda - win as many games as possible within a $117 million budget. Newhan believes that this is a phony agenda - that a dollar well-spent is a dollar well-spent, budget be damned.

Honestly, maybe Newhan is right. But I'm not sure. At a minimum, Newhan seems to only be looking at 2003, without any consideration for the future.

The Dodgers may end up missing a window to the playoffs this season, then perhaps watch Kevin Brown and the other pitchers struggle next season. But each year in which the Dodgers show restraint increases their flexibility and potential for the following season. And there really is something to be said for that.

The Dodgers still don't seem to get that on-base percentage matters, or that drafting high schoolers is risky, but other than that, I feel good about the direction of the franchise. Barring a major regime change, I doubt that the team will still be fasting offensively in seasons to come.

* * *

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 4.8 percent
September 1: 7.9 percent
August 31: 6.9 percent
August 30: 5.5 percent
August 29: 4.8 percent
August 28: 2.6 percent
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of September 2
Wins ... Team ... Chance of winning wild card
88 ... Philadelphia (47.3 percent)
87 ... Florida (31.6 percent)
86 ... Houston (3.5 percent)
85 ... St. Louis (3.5 percent)
84 ... Los Angeles (4.7 percent)
84 ... Arizona (4.3 percent)
83 ... Montreal (1.4 percent)

(Division leaders account for the remaining wild card possibilities.)

I'm increasingly aware that the Dodgers' difficult September schedule - facing Houston plus NL West teams that they have struggled with all season - would render a wild-card run miraculous.

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