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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
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The Math
2004-09-27 09:39
by Jon Weisman

Magic numbers don't quite put the National League West race in perspective.

Between them, the Dodgers and Giants have 13 games remaining. Just to force a one-game playoff (which, admittedly, the Dodgers would want no part of), the Giants need nine of the 13 final scores to go their way. The Dodgers need four out of 13.

To win the division outright in the regular season, the Giants need 10 of the final 13 games to go their way. The Dodgers need five.

* * *

Uno, dos, tres ... Diaz! Who would have thought that the losing team in the Dodgers' acquisition of Jeromy Burnitz last year would be ... the Cubs?

Yes, that was indeed former Dodger prospect Victor Diaz hitting a two-out, two-strike, bottom-of-the-ninth, three-run home run for the Mets on Saturday, tying the game at the buzzer and setting the stage for the Cubs to lose it in the 11th.

It's true that the Dodgers could be the ultimate loser in the deal. Diaz, one of three farmhands to go to the Mets for Burnitz, has an OPS of 1.080 in his first 29 plate appearances, including two doubles and two home runs. You don't know how long he can sustain such a hot start (he batted .292 with 24 homers for Norfolk this year, but struck out 133 times against 31 walks), and his early defensive play - two errors in seven games in right field - validates those who think he has no major league position, but it's quite a first impression for someone who doesn't even turn 23 until December.

But for now, by going 5 for 10 over the weekend, Diaz is ringing in the ears of the Cubs, who missed a chance to take control of the National League wild card race by dropping two of three to New York.

Instead of leading the Giants by 2 1/2 games, the Cubs lead by half a game. The Astros are 1 1/2 games back and the Padres are 2 1/2 back.

The schedule still favors Chicago, with games against Cincinnati and an already-clinched Atlanta. But after the events of this past weekend, who knows? As Simon and Garfunkel would have sung had they been Cubs fans, "Hello doubt, my old friend ..."

* * *

Woe Duca: Atlanta eliminated Florida from postseason contention Sunday, once again leaving Paul Lo Duca on the outside looking in.

As happy as I am to see the Marlins out of it, I'm sad for Lo Duca. You know when you've been waiting in one line in the supermarket forever, and then another line opens up, and as much as you resist it, you have to go. And then that line stalls out, and your original line passes you by? Now imagine that you really didn't want to switch lines, but that Ralphs management forced you to. And now imagine that it really meant something. Poor Paulie.

Meanwhile, underneath the radar (that is to say, obscured by the failings of the Dodger catchers who replaced him), Lo Duca did have his late-season fade. After a hot start with his new team, Lo Duca has an on-base percentage of .225 and a slugging percentage of .320 in September.

Compare Lo Duca's overall Florida statistics with those of the disrespected Juan Encarnacion:

  • Lo Duca: 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 67 total bases, 13 walks, .330 on-base, .404 slugging, .733 OPS
  • Encarnacion: 12 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 61 total bases, 17 walks, .322 on-base, .384 slugging, .706 OPS

    Which is not to say that Lo Duca would not have been superior than Brent Mayne and Dave Ross for the Dodgers' stretch run. But ... it continues to be painful at times to be on the side that wouldn't have traded Lo Duca. Though I felt the move was more risky than necessary, the justification for the trade couldn't be more obvious, and the narrow-minded criticism it has received has not ceased to aggravate.

    The Dodgers clearly needed a starting pitcher and had reason to think Lo Duca would not produce on offense as the season wound up. If Ross, Mayne and Hee Seop Choi had fulfilled the reasonable expectation of hitting better than Jeff Weaver, the exchange of players for Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota would have been a success - even with Brad Penny on the disabled list. And the Dodgers are better positioned for 2005 than they otherwise would have been.

    As long as they find a catcher.

    * * *

    Pantheon Pranks: How badly did the baseball gods want Eric Gagne and Barry Bonds to meet this weekend?

    Friday, they force Gagne into a four-pitch walk of Pedro Feliz.

    Sunday, they force Alex Cora into an error on a floppy Bonds grounder.

    Have the gods no shame? Who do they think they're foolin'?

    I'm fairly confident that Gagne's walk of Feliz came because he was so jazzed by Cesar Izturis' spectacular fielding play on the previous batter. I think Gagne lost focus.

    Cora had a terrific series, marred only by the error. With Izturis and the home run by Jose Hernandez, the middle infielders were the offensive and defensive heroes of the weekend.

    * * *

    Green Produces: That Dodger first baseman didn't do so badly either.

    Sandwiching his mid-day of atonement, Shawn Green had a game-tying two run home run, five walks, and two outstanding defensive plays - a diving grab, and an Actor's Studio performance.

    In the fifth, with Giants on first and second, Green's fakeout helped the Dodgers turn a 4-6-3 double play against a hit-and-run.

    "(First baseman Shawn Green) did a good job," Cora told Tony Jackson of the Daily News. "He faked like there was going to be a pickoff play. Because of that, I don't think Deivi (Cruz) got a very good jump (off first)."

    Meanwhile, Green has settled in the No. 5 slot behind Adrian Beltre and quietly had a second half that ... well, still isn't quite up to what he is getting paid, but it's at least in the ballpark. Since the All-Star Game, Green has hit 18 home runs and is 15th in the N.L. with a .938 OPS.

    * * *

    The Quiet Man: So, I was driving to work this morning, and over between First Street and Second, I saw Milton Bradley caught in the crosswalk.

    Even before this past weekend, I could safely say I did not recall a player getting picked off more times in a single season than Bradley. But boy, did he elevated it to an artform against the Giants. And that's with no penalty points against him being caught stealing at home on a busted squeeze play.

    Hasn't Bradley had an oddly quiet summer, though? The most news he has made was his agreement to move out of center field so that Finley could be there. And that was nearly two months ago.

    Bradley's OPS before the All-Star break was .814; since then it has been .767. He's not doing enough to really excite you or hurt you. He strikes out twice in a row and you're aggravated - then he hits a game-tying home run like he did Saturday and you think, "Oh yeah - Milton Bradley."

    It was typical of recent trends for Bradley's homer to come and be mostly forgotten in a losing effort. He just has not been in the thick of it for a while, it seems.

    * * *

    Rat on: Points to Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle for recognizing that the umpire calls went both ways Sunday, and for putting the whole thing in perspective:

    The Giants' position was that (a) Izturis was thrown out at third by shortstop Deivi Cruz for what should have been the second out of the fifth inning but wrongly acquitted by third-base umpire Doug Eddings, (b) that the correct call would have changed the inning, taken about 20 pitches off Tomko's total, and altered the course of human history, at least as it relates to the playoff race.

    In fact, like Bonds' limp, it is much ado about little.

    Yes, Izturis was out, but then again, the Giants benefited from two other calls later in the game. In addition, there is no evidence that Tomko, who was what the pros call ineffectively wild, suddenly would have turned into Greg Maddux. And finally, the Giants didn't exactly serve themselves well even after the fifth inning passed.

    My philosophy on blown calls is this: You should enter a game knowing you have to be enough better than the other team that you can withstand an umpire mistake. The mistakes couldn't be more frustrating, but they're as much a part of the game as the wind.

    * * *

    Chez Alou: Giants manager Felipe Alou is taking the long way from San Francisco to San Diego for the Giants' next game. He's going by way of Florida.

    According to Nick Peters of the Sacramento Bee, Alou is going to check in on his West Palm Beach residence in the aftermath of the latest Florida hurricane.

    Talk about a stressful week ...

    * * *

    Feel Neel: On ESPN.com today, Eric Neel gets the space and visibility I wouldn't mind having to talk about the Dodgers-Giants series And he runs with it...

    The Dodgers have lost seven of 11 coming into this series. I'm reeling.

    Gil Hodges has been narrating my dreams.

    This morning, I looked in the mirror and I saw Brian Johnson's evil mug staring back at me.

    Two nights ago, after Jake Peavy and the Padres put us in a headlock, I paced for hours in the garage, swinging a bat, throwing a ball against the wall, and hurling real epithets at a thousand imaginary Joe Morgans.

    The lead is dwindling. The Giants are gaining. The divison lead, once 7 games just a few weeks ago, is down to 1 games. The Dodgers could be in second place by the end of the weekend.

    I'm not well...

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