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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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If This Had Been an Actual Emergency ...
2003-05-03 10:29
by Jon Weisman

Over the past two days, reader Ro'ee Levy from Israel and I have been having an e-mail discussion concerning that old can of soup in our basement bomb shelter, Andy Ashby.

The roster issue becomes more pressing because it looks like Paul Shuey will be able to come off the disabled list on time, meaning that the Dodgers could soon be back to a 12-man pitching staff when, as Levy points out, they've really only been using 10.

Levy wrote:

The Dodgers haven't used Ashby since April 19. I personally think the Dodgers shouldn't give up on him yet. He only played in 4 games and as Jim Tracy said he has been put in somewhat of an unfair situation: turning him from a starter to a reliever and being used with the game on the line in extra innings in his second and third appearances.

On the other hand he also pitched poorly in spring training so maybe age affected him and he lost his talent.

My point is that the Dodgers should make a decision: Either give him another shot and let him play or release him even though he is owed a lot of money.

It is unlike Tracy to waste a roster spot, which is what's currently happening.

My response was:

--I'm sure the Dodgers would be thrilled to trade Ashby, but no one will pick up that contract until the trading deadline this summer, if even then. If the Dodgers decided to trade Beltre - which I'd be against, unless they were blown away - then you could perhaps include Ashby in a package.

--I don't think it's unfair to expect a veteran, even if he's always been a starter, to be able to pitch with the game on the line. That doesn't mean I expect him to be perfect, but it's not a free pass to give up runs every time out, either. Ashby has been ineffective in almost every appearance, relieving and starting - although he did have one amazing six-pitch inning against the Giants. Overall, there-s no reason to think right now that he isn't the 12th-best pitcher on the team, and should only be used as a last resort, as he has been so far.

--I think the Dodgers should be willing to eat his contact if it were keeping someone great off the team. But the fact is, the Dodgers don't really have 25 good major leaguers in the entire organization. If you can't trade Ashby, who do you replace him with? Larry Barnes? Wilson Alvarez? It's not that these people have no value, but there's no reason to think that their presence would help the Dodgers any more than Ashby or Ron Coomer or Jason Romano do - which is not at all.

--In short, there may or may not be value in keeping Ashby right now - but I'm pretty sure there's no value in releasing him. I don't know that there is a decision to be made right now.

In my latest e-mail from Levy, there was this:

I thought about your answer and I agree with the first two points you made: I also wouldn't want the Dodgers to trade Ashby if it involved trading Adrian Beltre (yet), and the fact that Ashby was used in extra innings isn't really an excuse for his performance.

But I disagree that there is no value in releasing Ashby (or at least letting him pitch):

One of the things Tracy has done so well with the Dodgers is use the whole roster. This season started with a 12-man pitching staff; the Dodgers are currently using 10. So far the bullpen has done an amazing job (I don't think Tracy has gotten enough credit for this; one of the reasons for the success of the bullpen was Tracy knowing when to replace pitchers and who to replace them with), but if the Dodgers will continue playing with only 10 pitchers, they might overuse some of them. So I think the Dodgers should give Ashby more playing time even if the main purpose is resting another pitcher, or they can call Alvarez or some other pitcher from the minors to give him a shot.

Another option is waiting for Shuey to return and then calling up one of the position players instead of Ashby. You might be right, these players might not help the Dodgers, but I think it's worth checking out. Maybe one of them will surprise the Dodgers and help the offense a bit. I think that with the way he's playing now, Bubby Crosby deserves a chance, but they can also call up Barnes or some other player.

Levy has me, at a minimum, questioning the wisdom of having 12 pitchers on the roster. Again, if there were a potential impact hitter in the organization, then by all means bring him up and dump a pitcher. Or, if you want to give Joe Thurston some more major league experience and spot him in the lineup, then bring him up (not that Thurston's current Las Vegas numbers inspire much hope.)

However, there is no such impact hitter. So my thinking remains that if the Dodger pitching is a strength and the hitting is a weakness, then play to the strength. If your last hitter is going to have an OPS of .400, then why bother keeping him - Darren Dreifort could produce those numbers at the plate. Whereas, keeping a 12th pitcher will give you a great advantage when a pitcher has a minor injury, like Odalis Perez did with his ankle, as well as in games that require numerous pitching changes. The Dodgers haven't had many games like that recently, but as we saw in the opening two weeks, they do come in spurts. Levy is concerned about the 10 top relievers being overworked - the fact is, they aren't overworked at all right now - with Perez throwing 132 pitches, they can barely get in a game. But that could all change rapidly.

In other words, I do not agree that Tracy is wasting a roster spot. I think the Dodgers could play this whole season with 24 players and have virtually the same record.

If you accept that thinking, who should that 12th pitcher be? Ashby or someone else?

Frankly, I'm still not convinced that, as bad as he's been, Ashby couldn't do better in the starting rotation than Kaz Ishii, and Ishii couldn't do better in the bullpen than Ashby. Admittedly, conditions were awful last night, but Ishii remains so inconsistent, I'm not sure why he isn't on the bubble. Perhaps someday, he will be.

Furthermore, I think Ashby should stay because, with pitchers like Alvarez and Steve Colyer able be stashed in the minor leagues, there is additional flexibility in keeping them there. Perhaps someday, the trade opportunity will open that allows us to get some hitting help, and we'll want to have the extra pitchers.

Ultimately, as I discussed at the end of Spring Training during the frenzy over Coomer, Thurston, Terry Shumpert and the like, the 25th man on the roster really just isn't that important - especially in an organization lacking in hitting depth. So while I still feel that the Dodgers should keep Ashby when Shuey comes off the disabled list, I won't have any strong feelings about any decision they make in that spot.

Perhaps you're wondering why I would spend so much time talking about a topic that I don't feel is that important. Well, even if it's not critical for the present, it is relevant to the future. And sometimes, we need to just work these things through.

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