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Return of the Stooges
2004-05-23 21:14
by Jon Weisman

Remember The Stooge Division, the story of the 1994 American League West and the last sub-.500 division champion? Seems a propos now.

Views from the Laughing Stockade, where everything can go wrong and you can still be in first place:

1) With consecutive poor starts by Wilson Alvarez, the starting pitching has reached a crisis, becoming truly unreliable in four of five slots. Alvarez and Jeff Weaver qualify as inconsistent, Kazuhisa Ishii has a good outing once a month, and the Hideo Nomo/Jose Lima slot offers crepe-paper arms. Only Odalis Perez engenders any expectation of strength.

Do yourself a favor and refrain from the Darren Dreifort suggestions. These are usually accompanied by statements like, "Let him earn his money," or "He deserves the chance." Unfortunately, you can't just will someone to be a good starting pitcher - particularly a fragile pitcher who, averaging three innings per week, has an ERA of 4.12. Dreifort has allowed 16 hits and 14 walks in 19 2/3 innings - that's borderline poor.

It's a crisis. Nevertheless, the focus of the media coverage hasn't been on the pitching - it has been on ...

2) Shawn Green. This week, as his batting average fell below .220, the struggles of Green became the top Dodger story. And yet, everyone from Green to Dodger manager Jim Tracy have been denying that Green's labrum injury could be a cause, despite the preponderance of medical evidence. The denials have been so effective that most articles on Green don't even mention his shoulder.

Tracy and Green concealed the injury most of 2003 - why should we trust them in 2004? Advice to the Dodger beat writers: Ask someone outside the Dodger organization about Green's injury.

3) The messy Giants have closed within 4 1/2 games of the lead.

4) Haven't understood why the Dodgers have been talking about having Jason Grabowski share time with Dave Roberts (when he returns from the disabled list) and not Juan Encarnacion, who has an OPS of .656. Furthermore, other sites reported that on Saturday's national broadcast, Jeff Torborg indicated that Encarnacion has been putting off shoulder surgery since the Pleistocene.

Oddly, Encarnacion has two singles in 28 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season (plus three walks) - but that's a fluke. The bigger problem is that Encarnacion arrived in Los Angeles with no on-base credentials to begin with. He should not be an automatic in the lineup ahead of Grabowski when Roberts returns.

5) The Dodgers travel next to Milwaukee, a city that has often been Advil to the team's headaches. This year, however, the Brewers have been clipping along around the .500 level. San Diego, fighting off first place like they didn't want to have to pay the higher taxes, spends the mid-week in Colorado.

P.S.) Tangentially, may I express amazement that the Times and others have touted Raul Mondesi as an option for major league teams? It's not like he's some free agent who nobody noticed. He left an active contract to deal with personal problems. Why would anyone be discussing a signing of Mondesi, just a week later?

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