I know it wrapped up days ago, but I’m still flying high from watching the American Baseball Classic championship game … I mean the World Baseball Classic! You know the one where the Semi-Dominican Republic team beat the Semi-Puerto Rico team 3-0.
And that was the same “world” tournament where the Semi-Mexico team competed against the Not-the-Best American team. What an instant classic!
In the WBC championship game, 16 of the 18 players on the Dominican and Puerto Rican teams had players who are important parts of current Major League Baseball teams that play … in America!
These players may have been born in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but they grew up in America, went to college in America and earn their millions in America. I was watching one of the games, in which Mexico was playing, with my 14-year-old son.
Adrian Gonzalez was at the plate, and I cheered him on. My son said, “Hey, doesn’t he play for the Dodgers?” When I told my son that Gonzo does indeed play for our beloved Dodgers, he said, “Wait, he plays for the Dodgers and gets his paychecks from the Dodgers but now he’s playing for Mexico? That makes a lot of sense!”
… out of the mouths of babes!
As if I didn’t have enough consternation from the WBC before, now I get to digest the fact that one of the keys for the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers was injured in the championship game. Hanley Ramirez, starting shortstop for the Dodgers is out until June because of a torn thumb ligament.
Thanks a lot, WBC! Why in the name of Biff Pocaroba did they hold the WBC tournament weeks prior to the start of the 2013 MLB season? Couldn’t this have been done in November? I’m sure there are some places in South America where it’s still baseball weather in November.
We now know that the Dodgers are going to have to plug the shortstop hole for two months. What does that mean for the team? Is it time to run around like Chicken Little and scream that the National League West is falling?
Just how will the shortstop puzzle be solved for the Dodgers? Here are some possible solutions for manager Don Mattingly in trying to replace Hanley Ramirez at short:
• Keep Luis Cruz at third and put Dee Gordon at short – Mattingly named Cruz the starting third baseman this spring. Gordon was destined for triple-A, especially after his disappointing rookie season in 2012. Gordon is fast, but he lacks the kind of plate discipline needed for a championship-caliber team. So far this spring, Gordon is batting .241, although he does lead the team with seven stolen bases. The question is whether Mattingly wants to throw Gordon back into the major-league fire for two months to see if he can learn not to swing at everything, or whether he would rather see Gordon play every day all season at triple-A.
• Keep Cruz at third and platoon at short – Mattingly can leave Cruz at third to see if it is his position of the future. Then the Dodgers skipper can plug-and-play some capable reserves at short to see who blossoms. Likely shortstop candidates are Justin Sellers and Skip Schumaker. One small problem with this scenario: Schumaker is hitting a paltry .234 in 17 spring games. Sellers isn’t exactly making a name for himself at the plate this spring with his .150 average in 13 games. Schumaker is a wily veteran who could probably handle athe starting role more capably than Sellers, but Sellers has more potential upside.
• Move Cruz to short and platoon at third – This move makes the most sense for the Dodgers. Of the 123 MLB games Cruz has played over his four-year career, 63 have come at shortstop. Cruz began his MLB career in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a shortstop. If the Dodgers make this move, they still have some capable players who can slide in at third base for two months until Hanley Ramirez is ready. Two veterans are at the front of the third base line – Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Juan Uribe (did I just use Uribe’s name in a positive light?) The 36-year-old Hairston is a 15-year veteran who is solid in the field. He may not be ready to play every day over an entire season, but Hairston has enough gas in the tank to start for two months. Uribe has looked good for the Dodgers this spring, hitting .350 in 16 games. More importantly for Uribe, he has only struck out seven times in 40 spring plate appearances.
Whatever happens in Los Angeles, all hope is not lost because of the Hanley Ramirez injury. Sure, it is definitely disappointing news for a team that is poised to make some real news this season. However, unlike past years, the Dodgers have the kind of necessary depth to withstand the Hanley Ramirez injury.