Wait until next year: James Loney becomes an issue for Dodgers

It’s early August, and fans in cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston and New York are entrenched in the excitement of division titles and World Series runs.

Should he stay, or should he go? James Loney is a key trade figure for the Dodgers. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, fans in Los Angeles (not in Anaheim, because we don’t care about them) don’t have visions of playoff berths dancing in their heads. For the Dodgers, this season is what it is – one that has been challenging off the field and on.

That doesn’t mean Dodgers fans don’t still pull for their team. We’re still happy when the Boys in Blue win, and we still check the box scores to see if Matt Kemp hit a homer and stole another base, or if Clayton Kershaw was successful in his push to win 20 games.

We also have hope for 2012. “Wait ‘til next year” may be a familiar saying at Wrigley Field, but it’s not fun at Dodger Stadium. One thing Dodgers fans can embrace, though, is helping to answer some questions about what next season will hold.

I’m not talking about contractual issues (like with Kemp and Andre Ethier) or when (if?) the ownership issue will get resolved. I’m talking about on-the-field, good old baseball!

Here is a look at a couple areas of concern for the Dodgers as they play out the 2011 season and hope and pray that the San Francisco Midgets don’t win back-to-back titles:

(The Clash singing to James Loney) – Should I stay, or should I go? – Loney is coming to the end of his one-year contract with the Dodgers. He has been mentioned in trade talks on numerous occasions. He is a solid fielder, but is never going to be a power hitter. What to do … what to do? Loney is a nice guy. How do I know? Because last year at Turner Field, he watched Ethier, Kemp and Rafael Furcal walk right past me and my nine-year-old son as we were begging for autographs before a game. Loney then came over and apologized for his teammates and signed my son’s ball.

Nice is … well, nice. However, the Dodgers need a bat at first base. I say we either trade Loney before the end of the season, or we wave goodbye to him and let him walk into free agency. Then, I think we need to bring up Jerry Sands and sink or swim with him at first next season.

To catch, or not to catch? That is the question – When I think of the catching situation in Los Angeles, my stomach gets as upset as Justin Bieber’s groupies when he got his bangs cut. Rod Barajas isn’t the answer. Dioner Navarro isn’t either. Ditto for A.J. Ellis. Will the next legitimate catcher for the Dodgers please stand up?

The Dodgers don’t have anyone at triple-A who is ready to be “the man” behind the plate. J.D. Closser is a 31-year-old “rookie” at triple-A who has hit 10 homers and driven in 39 runs in 69 games this season. Gorman Erickson looks like he might be a keeper at double-A. In only 24 games with double-A Chattanooga, the 23-year-old Erickson has hit seven homers and has driven in 19 runs.

I say we keep Ellis around and let Erickson try to win the job in Spring Training. There won’t be any franchise catchers available in free agency this off-season, and the Dodgers wouldn’t be able to afford one anyway. As for Closser, there’s a reason he is 31-years old and is still in the minor leagues.

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