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Navarro Becomes Electra
2006-04-25 21:54
by Jon Weisman

Russell Martin and Dioner Navarro each entered play today with 54 at-bats in their respective leagues. Navarro had 17 total bases plus five walks, for a total of 22. Martin had 23 total bases plus 10 walks, for a total of 33.

I'm speculating, but I think that difference can mostly, if not entirely, be explained by the difference between facing major league competition in Los Angeles and minor league competition in Las Vegas. So as far as Martin being the bee's kneepads compared to Navarro at the plate, the best we can suggest is maybe.

Further, whatever the Dodger offensive problems are, they were not meant to be solved by the catcher any more than a museum lives and dies with its senior writer/editor. A good season for Navarro would be about a .700 OPS in the No. 8 slot of the order. If his settling in the .600 range breaks the Dodgers, they were done for, anyway.

Defensively, the situation with Navarro is mysterious ... just this side of haunting. He seemed like a breath of fresh air behind the plate when he replaced Jason Phillips last season, although that was the "anything will help" equivalent of opening a window in a gas station men's room. Considering how poorly Dodger pitchers hold runners on base, Navarro did a respectable job. With Sandy Alomar, Jr. coming on board to teach him the finer points, whatever those are, we had every reason to hope - to feel promised, in fact - that Navarro would be an asset behind the plate in 2006.

So far, those promises have evaporated like Enron pensions. Navarro hasn't been throwing out runners attempting to steal, and it hasn't always been the pitchers' hands that have been dirty. And Tuesday, Navarro poorly executed two throws on balls in play, one on a first-inning bunt, the other while trying to nab a baserunner at third.

During Monday's game, to his credit, Dodger commentator Steve Lyons pointed out two stops that Houston catcher Brad Ausmus made on pitches in the dirt in the ninth inning, noting how often we take those plays for granted. Tonight, Navarro tried to backhand a low pitch by Brad Penny with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, and instead let the go-ahead run score.

I really know nothing about catching, except this. On a ball in the dirt with runners on, you have to get your body behind the ball. The fact that Navarro, in this situation, isn't doing that instinctively is like a guy my size shooting spitballs at Deacon Jones in the 60s. Just asking for a beating.

It doesn't concern me that Navarro isn't hitting a lot yet. And it doesn't really concern me that Navarro makes an error once in a while, or has a bad defensive game. People learn through mistakes. Martin would make them too, and we know Alomar does. (Discouragingly, Alomar was backhanding dangerous pitches with the winning run on base in the 11th inning Tuesday.) Navarro could play like this in April and have every chance of being a hero in September.

So I have no qualms about Navarro tonight. But as the days and weeks pass, I would like to see the learning begin.

2006-04-25 22:21:37
1.   LAT
The good news is I lost three pounds tonight on the "Dioner Sucks Anxiety Diet."
2006-04-25 22:58:23
2.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
I can't recall which broadcaster (Kuiper, Krukow, Miller or Brenly) or which game last week (vs. Jints or vs. Cubs), but one of them was making the point that Narvarro was backhanding far too many pitches, especially ones in the dirt he should have been getting his body in front of.

It was a pretty convincing argument, as Navarro let one or two that he tried to backhand go by him for passed balls.

2006-04-25 23:05:17
3.   Bob Timmermann
While many of the balls getting past Navarro are his false, so far, Navarro hasn't been charged with a passed ball.
2006-04-26 00:24:34
4.   Brian Y
Im still wondering about Flanders reasoning behind signing only Borders and Alomar as backups. If Sandy goes down I really don't want Borders fragile body as our next fresh body behind Dioner. I understand giving Martin time at AAA is very important but why not get a decent backup Catcher like most teams. I would take a AAAA catcher who hasnt gotten a break. Kinda like the Reds did with Javier Valentin, or the Jays did with Gregg Zaun, etc.
2006-04-26 00:31:44
5.   Louis in SF
Brent, I believe the comment about Navarro was made by Brenly...I believe he hates the Dodgers to begin with and has become a homer for the Cubs, but he does have good catching knowledge..Jon you are right on point about the Dodgers not losing games because of Navarro. I believe in the long run, if errors are to be made this season, making those personnel errors with younger players is the way it should go...I also must say that while Lofton doesn't have a cannon, his speed as been useful.

Isn't the real issue for the Dodgers average start more to do with pitching and while we miss Gagne, I wonder if we are not also missing Duanner Sanchez and Yahency. I think Kuo and Salito have done overall good jobs, but Duaner for a spell was lights out and also could pitch more than one inning.

2006-04-26 01:06:27
6.   Brian Y
I see the way Dioner blocks balls and it scares me but the real problem with him is his head. I think the pressure has gotten to him to produce. He struggles in his AB's, his defense has been subpar, and his throws "for the most part" have been atrocious. I think a small stint in AAA would be bad for someone his age because he needs confidence but we need to have some sort of reliable back-up who can step in and play more than Alomar is capable of.

The Dodgers are definitely missing Duaner, 2004 Yhency, and the old Gagne but I think we are doing ok so far with Saito and Baez. The rest are not doing their part. Kuo needs some time in AAA it seems. Hamulack has a decent ERA but seemingly allows every inherited runner to score. Carter I don't need to talk about and Osaria is not much of an answer either thus far.

2006-04-26 06:59:04
7.   gcrl
bert "be home" blyleven and dick bremer were discussing pitch blocking during the twins/royals game last night. bremer claimed that pudge fisk told him that he calculated how many runs he saved one season by blocking pitches: 260.
2006-04-26 08:44:15
8.   capdodger
5 No. It was Kuiper and Krukow. They mentioned it after Navarro tried to backhand a ball, missed it, and allowed the go-ahead run into scoring position. They later had a split-screen comp with Matheny. (sp?)
2006-04-26 08:45:57
9.   Fletch
I more concerned with the apparent green light given to the likes of Preston Wilson(2 steals). Not to mention throws that were off-line and into the outfield
2006-04-26 10:56:00
10.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
3 They looked like Passed Balls to me.

5/8 It is possible they both made reference.

Mostly, my point was, whomever was making the comments, no matter their homerism (as K&K are certainly homers for the Jints), I could see what they were saying and tended to agree: it would be better to see Navarro move his body to block the ball rather than backhand so many. I mean, someone whom you do not trust points to the sky and says it looks like rain, and you look up and there are dark clouds in the sky, you don't automatically discount it just because you don't trust the person who said it, especially when it is cloudy!

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