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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Choi Polloi
2004-09-09 15:52
by Jon Weisman

Although I've made my peace with the indefinite benching of Hee Seop Choi, I feel that something more needs to be written in support of him.

I made my peace because the Dodgers have an alternative to Choi in Jayson Werth. Though Werth has cooled since July, he is still a solid threat to get on base. His coldest stretch of the season was an 0-for-13 slump in mid-August; he snapped out of it to go 7 for 28 with a few walks for the remainder of the month.

Additionally, though little should be expected of him as an everyday player, Robin Ventura has done well in spot appearances. Ventura is 11 for 34 with three home runs and four walks since August 1.

Choi's OPS with the Dodgers of .530 is worse than that of Dave Ross (.561) and almost as bad as Brent Mayne's (.428). Mayne and Ross play because the Dodgers don't have other options. But because there are alternatives to Choi, Choi sits.

And I guess that's okay.

In some ways, the Dodgers treated the month of August as a second March. Players auditioned for roles. Choi at first base. Darren Dreifort, Giovanni Carrara and Yhency Brazoban as set-up relievers. Who could do the job? Make no mistake, if Steve Finley had started his Dodger career 9 for 55 with no home runs instead of Choi, Finley would be on the fast track to becoming an understudy.

But August is not March. August is not the month before April, it's the month before September. It's the month where you don't want to wait for a turnaround from a player. It's not a month to sow, it's a month to reap.

And Choi didn't reap. He reeked.

Now, no one on the Dodger offense, outside of Adrian Beltre, is doing wonders with the bat. Shawn Green, homerless with one double in his past 15 games (ever since I commented on his brief surge), has lost power again. Milton Bradley has not homered since August 18. And so on ...

But Choi was worse than all of them. So Choi hit the pine.

With that decision made, the Dodgers, if nothing else, do look more comfortable. Their batting order has a comet at cleanup, a black hole in the No. 8 slot, and stars of middling brightness everywhere else. It won't make anyone in St. Louis lose sleep, but it's enough to keep them competitive. And it's stable.

Still, it's a shame about Choi's benching, because Choi remains perhaps the best candidate to help the Dodger lineup.

Consider that Paul Lo Duca, whose departure created the current black hole in the lineup, has an on-base percentage of .369, slugging percentage of .444 and OPS of .813 with Florida. Now consider that all of those numbers are worse than Choi's Florida numbers with Florida. Choi, in 340 plate appearances, was .388/.495/.882.

Do you know how many Dodger regulars have an OPS as high as .882? One - Beltre.

Most of Los Angeles looks at Choi as this colossal flop, at least as far as 2004 is concerned, if not for good. They either think he was never that good, or that he's in this interminable funk.

Me, I just don't know. I can't tell if something is really wrong with Choi beyond the kind of slump that most every hitter goes through - that most every Dodger hitter is currently going through. My fear, before I made peace with Choi's benching, was that Dodger manager Jim Tracy never made peace with Choi's acquisition in the first place. It seemed at times that Tracy was reluctant to commit to Choi, even before his numbers really start to sank.

Obviously, if Choi had smashed the ball right away, Tracy would have warmed up to him like a campfire in the Sierras. But Choi didn't smash. And almost from the start, you were never sure whether you would see Choi given another chance to play. For a hitter with his potential - and for that matter, his existing track record, it bothered me that Choi was on a choke chain.

But I remembered that I like Jayson Werth. So I've decided to live with it.

Prediction: Dave Ross or Brent Mayne, if not both, will have more than one key hit to help the Dodgers down the stretch. They're not great hitters, but they're better than they have shown. And they will have the chance to prove it.

Speculation: The same would go for Hee Seop Choi, if he were given the chance to play. But even if he isn't, the Dodgers may still be okay.

Update: wants to poach Choi for the Mets.

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