Last year at this time, I was fed up with the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing leads and losing games they should have been winning.
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I wrote a column for TTFB and said that before Memorial Day Kenley Jansen would replace Guerra as the Dodgers closer. A fan said I was on crack and TTFB should implement drug testing for its writers.
Fast forward to 2013. I’ll wait for you to catch up if you need a minute. Once again, as the new season approached, I disagreed with Mattingly’s choice for closer. Mattingly named Brandon League as closer, much to my chagrin.
I know what you’re thinking: This writer is just an obstinate naysayer who loves to hate on the Dodgers. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve been bleeding Dodger Blue for longer than many of you have been alive. I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, and my favorite number to this day is 6 because that was the number of my favorite childhood player: Steve Garvey.
I’m sick to my stomach at the sight of my putrid team being in last place in the National League West. I’m sick to my stomach at watching League blow leads and games and look pitiful even in the games he manages to “save.”
Is League the only problem with the 13-19 Dodgers? Hardly. But you can’t fix problems unless you start with one, and League is the one I wish Mattingly would start with.
I understand the Dodgers and Mattingly have had a horrible hand dealt to them with injuries this season. Losing players like Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Ted Lilly have taken a toll on the team.
However, there is no way the Dodgers should be in last place and have two six-game losing streaks over the season’s first 32 games. I’m not calling for Mattingly’s head … yet; but patience is running wafer thin.
Here are some of the things the Dodgers need to do now in order to save some face and try to salvage the 2013 season:
• Replace League as closer – Last time I checked, quality closers weren’t 0-2 with an ERA of almost 6.00. Should we be surprised by League’s struggles? He has had only one closer-like season over his 13-year career. In 2011 with the Seattle Mariners, League did save 37 games, but he also had a 1-5 record. Besides 2011, last season is the only one League has saved more than eight games. It’s time for Mattingly to give the closer role to Jansen and his 1-0 record and 2.12 ERA. Jansen has struck out 21 hitters in 17 innings this season. Over his career, the 25-year-old Jansen has struck out 257 hitters in just 162 innings. The time has come to give Jansen the ball and see what he can do as the official closer.
• Keep Nick Punto in the everyday lineup – Punto has been one of the few bright spots in this dismal 2013 season. He is hitting .368 and has played all over the infield. Punto makes pitchers work without swinging away at every pitch that comes his way. Once Ramirez comes back from his hamstring injury, Punto can move to third base and Luis Cruz and his pitiful .091 average can go to the minor leagues where he belongs. Until Ramirez and Mark Ellis both return, let Punto play second base and keep Dee Gordon at shortstop and Juan Uribe at third.
• Buy a one-way ticket out of town for Ramon Hernandez – Can we just admit that we made a mistake in taking on Hernandez for Aaron Harang? Hernandez is batting .045 and is worthless defensively. It’s time to cut our losses with him and bring up Tim Federowicz to back up A.J. Ellis. In the games that Hernandez spells Ellis, opposing pitchers can count on a sure out each time he comes to the plate.
• Trade Andre Ethier – I feel like Buddy in “The Incredibles” who kept waiting for Mr. Incredible to make him a part of his superhero team, only to be heartbroken time and time again. I keep waiting for Ethier to show me that he’s not a player in decline. I keep waiting for Ethier to play up to his five-year, $85 million contract, only to be disappointed time and time again. Ethier is a fine player who will occasionally hit a home run and who plays a solid right field. However, he is not worth $17 million a year. The Dodgers need to trade Ethier while he still has some trade value, and they need to bring up Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson to play right field. So far at double-A Chattanooga, Pederson is leading the Lookouts in average (.310), hits (36), home runs (7), RBIs (17), runs (27) and doubles (8). In 10 fewer games than Pederson, Puig is hitting .293 with five homers and 16 RBIs for Chattanooga. The 21-year-old Pederson or the 22-year-old Puig would give the Dodgers a hungry player in the lineup with tons of upside. Ethier gives the Dodgers a player who looks like someone just kicked his dog when he comes to the plate.
OK, I’m ready for all the hate mail and comments about how I’m crazy. You don’t throw yourself out there on the wonderful world of the Internet without being ready to face some feedback – positive or negative. I’m just fed up with my Dodgers and how we’re getting punked by everyone, especially teams that have payrolls less than half of our $200-plus million.
I might wake up tomorrow and not feel quite as despondent about the Dodgers. I might also win the Powerball lottery and be able to quit my job, eat Twinkies and drink Dr. Pepper in my underwear all day.