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Other Views: Playoff Edition
2004-10-05 08:28
by Jon Weisman

From: Jon Weisman
To: (Various online baseball writers - see below)
Subject: The Second Dodger Thoughts "Outside Views" Project

With the playoffs about to start ... for the second time this year (for most of you, anyway) - and on just as much ridiculous short notice - I invite your participation in a project:

Write something about the 2004 Dodgers.

As before, it can be one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page, whatever. It can be analytical, funny, effusive, hateful (to an extent), sarcastic, or of course, the ever-popular lucid.

Anything goes, as you can see from the first "Outside Views" Project:

Thanks in advance.

Tyler Bleszinski, Athletics Nation: From the Godfather: "Fredo, you're my older brother and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever."

Since the A's have been eliminated from postseason contention, and DePo is still family to the Oakland A's front office I have but one sentiment for the 2004 postseason. Go Dodger Blue!!!

TwinsFanDan, Will Carroll Weblog: I really don't like the Trolley Dodgers here. Unfortunately I just don't see how they keep the Cardinals from scoring hella-type runs; well, unless Walker, Rolen, and Pujols pull a Biggio/Bagwell 0-43 type playoff series.

The magic seems to be with your team this year - who will ever forget Finley's grand salami - but logic dictates that the Cards will get the best of it.

And really, if you think about it, anti-logic says the Cards as well. ...

Cubbies tank due to broadcasters and their arch-rivals throw them farther down the rat hole as they go onto win the World Series! Poetic justice that even The Bard could appreciate.

Rich Lederer, Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT: Looking at the Dodgers and Cardinals teams position-by-position, is there one player on the Dodgers that you would take hands down over his peer on the Cardinals?

Let's take a look:

1B: Green or Pujols - Need we discuss further?
2B: Cora or Womack - Depends upon what you're looking for but neither outshines the other.
SS: Izturis or Renteria - Cesar in his best year and E-Rent in one of his worst years have comparable stats.
3B: Beltre or Rolen - Two of the top five players in the league this year.  You take one, I'll take the other.
LF: Werth or Sanders - Werth has the slight edge with rate stats, Sanders the same with counting stats.
CF: Finley or Edmonds - As valuable as Finley was to the Dodgers, I know Jim Edmonds and Finley ain't no Jimbo.
RF: Bradley or Walker - Give me today's actual production over tomorrow's hoped for production.

I didn't think so.

However, if relief pitchers are everyday players as Peter Gammons claims, then the Dodgers undoubtedly have one edge.  Gagne is so good, he could be the difference maker in a short series.

Steve Treder, The Hardball Times: As a lifelong Giants' fan, there can be no doubt about my feelings toward the 2004 Dodgers: I despise them, of course.

That said, if this particular crew of players and manager wore any other uni than Dodger blue - okay, any other uni than Dodger blue or (shudder) Yankee pinstripes - I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit that I'd love 'em. This is a tough, gritty ball club, can beat you several different ways, fun to watch, well-managed, play fundamentally well, don't seem to have any comprehension of when they've been beaten - what's not to love about this ball club? Other than the vile franchise they represent, I mean.

I found it especially amusing that all the sturm-und-drang in the media about how "The Trade" of LoDuca would ruin the '04 Dodgers' clubhouse chemistry seems to have been rather silent since. "The Trade" hasn't (yet) worked out well, because of Penny's injury, but if these Dodgers, who down the stretch seemed to pull off miraculous late-inning comebacks on a daily basis, did so with depleted fire and spirit, it's frightening to imagine what they'd have done with LoDuca and his .694 post-trade OPS still around. Never lost a game at all, apparently.

A tip of the black-and-orange cap to these Dodgers. The best team won the NL West in 2004. Now may they be obliterated in the post-season.

Geoff Young, Ducksnorts: I kept hoping my Padres would catch you guys but it never happened. I think the acquisition of Bradley just before the season was huge. I also think moving LoDuca was the right thing to do. DePodesta seems like a pretty shrewd guy who has more money at his disposal than I'm comfortable with as a Padre fan.

Guess that's about it. Oh yeah, and thanks for helping to keep the Giants out of the playoffs.

David Pinto, Baseball Musings: I've been looking at the Dodgers and Cardinals tonight, trying to say something interesting about the series. The thing that struck me when looking at the L.A. batters was the number of stolen bases. The Dodgers stole 102 bases, fifth in the NL during the regular season. I think that shows how little influence DePodesta has had on the strategy so far. Their success rate, 71%, is just above break-even. With the Cardinals throwing out 35% of basestealers, this could be a very bad strategy for the Dodgers to follow in the postseason.

Studes, The Hardball Times: I don't follow the Dodgers as closely as I should, but my brother Woody does. He's a hardcore Dodger fan, and he's also a lifelong APBA fan. I wrote about him this spring at the Hardball Times.

Here's what he says:

"My guess is that right now people are underestimating the Dodger starting pitching. Perez and Weaver, in particular, have been pitching at BZ levels for a couple of months, and that's better than the Cardinals. When you throw in the fact that we've got the best fielding and the best bullpen in baseball, itmakes us a threat to win a game or two. St. Louis is the best hitting team I've seen in a long time, but they can be upset in a five-game series.

And Adrian Beltre's APBA card should be something like:

1,1,5,6,10,7,7,7 (or 1,1,0,0,0,7,7,7) with 3-14s and 2-24s"

Jim McClennan, But It's a DRY Heat: For a lot of Arizona fans, the ninth innings of Saturday's LA-SF game might well have provided the biggest reason to cheer all season.

The D'backs had a wretched 2004, racking up 111 losses, with players dropping like flies almost after every game. But at least the Giants didn't make the playoffs either, and who hit the division-winning walk-off grand-slam? None other than longtime AZ fan favorite, Steve Finley, sent to the Dodgers in a deadline deal that perhaps saved L.A.'s season. Of course, the main player we got, catcher Koyie Hill, had his his ankle broken in a collision at the plate before reaching 40 AB's. It's been that kind of year.

I thought the Dodgers would be much the same way as 2003: mediocre offense, stellar pitching. Instead, their starters' ERA went from 3.49 to 4.53, but the offense scored 187 runs more. Homers were up 64%, 124 to 203; Adrian Beltre was the most obvious cause, more than doubling his 2003 total, but pickups Bradley, Werth and Finley (the last hit 13 homers in 58 games) all contributed. Net result: eight more wins, enough to make all the difference between staying home and playing on in October.

How far can the Dodgers go? Being honest, they're likely to be underdogs all the way. Their starters' ERA is easily the highest of the NL playoff teams, which might spell trouble against the likes of Rolen, Pujols and Edmonds, even if St. Louis' arms are showing signs of fatigue too. I think they'll lose that series 3-1. But I'll be rooting for Finley, Mayne and Dessens all the way...

Bryan Smith, Wait Til Next Year: I don't want to say 2004 is the last hurrah for the Dodgers, but big changes will be hitting Los Angeles next year. I think it's safe to say that Hideo Nomo and Odalis Perez won't be back, as the club will likely make an all-out attempt for Adrian Beltre. Hee Seop will push Shawn Green back to the outfield, where he will likely join Jayson Werth and Milton Bradley. Signing a catcher under 36 should be a priority as well.

But with Paul DePodesta at the helm, I would feel comfortable if I was a Dodgers fan. This is a general manager very receptive to change, and even if L.A. loses Beltre, will put a very competitive team on the field next year. Another important development to watch will be the team's handling of Eric Gagne, as his days to free agency get closer and closer.

Jay Jaffe, The Futility Infielder: For the Dodgers to win the west during the first year of new ownership, an ownership many of us doubted and with most experts saying that they didn't have a chance in hell, is sweet. No matter what happened this past weekend or what happens this coming month, they've been playing with house money all year long. Give Paul DePodesta an offseason to revamp the team and apply some of Moneyball's principles while taking advantage of the Dodgers' deep farm system and considerably stronger financial state, and this could be a team hunting much bigger game for years to come.

For the Dodgers to win by kicking the Giants squarely in the cojones on the season's final weekend is even sweeter. 1951, 1962, 1982, the fact that under Jim Tracy they had never won a September series against the Giants until last weekend ... all of that matters little right now. To paraphrase South Park's Eric Cartman, "Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness. Yummy, yummy tears of Giants fans!"

I've been convinced for the past few years that Tracy is a hell of a manager, especially when it comes to getting more out of less by putting players with limitations in positions at which they can succeed. It's a pleasure to see his hard work and perseverance rewarded, especially in the face of so many detractors and so much misfortune. The Dodger starting pitching damn near dropped an axle down the stretch, and a trade made for all of the right reasons blew up in DePodesta's face due to injuries (of course, another trade worked out quite well, thank you, Mr. Finley!). Yet the team found innumerable ways to keep winning, managing to eke out good pitching performances from the likes of Jeff Weaver, Jose Lima, and even Kaz Ishii, not to mention a great one from Odalis Perez. The relievers, most of them in-season pickups or recalls, kept picking each other up, and the hitters kept fighting until the final out through the rocky stretches of the past few weeks. Even if they repeat the postseason futility they have shown since winning the '88 Series, they are deserving of their division championship and of their place in the hearts of Dodger fans everywhere.

Jonah Keri, Baseball Prospectus: Fin's HR was nuts.

(Keri's preview of the Dodger-Cardinal series is here.)

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