Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Friday, November 25, 2011

2003, Great Pitching and Practically No Offense...and the Jason Romano Incident

The 2003 season was probably one of the strangest in Dodger history.  A second place finisher (85-77) that probably had the best pitching staff in baseball.  With Kevin Brown leading the way with a line of 14-9, 2.39 ERA, 5.4 WAR, and number 2 starter, workhorse Hideo Nomo's (218 innings pitched), who had an amazing resurgence at age 34 (16-13, 3.09 ERA, 3.9 WAR).  The remainder of the staff was followed by Kaz Ishii, Wilson Alvarez and Odalis Perez, all but the latter having above par seasons.  It was the bullpen of that staff that was rock solid, with a perfect Eric Gagne recording 55 saves on his way to the Cy young Award (2-3, 1.20 ERA, 15.9 K thru 9IP ratio, 55-55 in save attempts, 4.3 WAR), Paul Quantrill (2-5, 1.75 ERA in 89 appearances, ), Guillermo Mota (6-3, 1.97 ERA, 76 appearances).  The entire staff led the league in ERA (3.16), Games saved, Shutouts, Least amount of hits allowed, runs allowed and home runs allowed.  Additionally, this was a solid defensive core with Izturis and Alex Cora up the middle, Beltre at third.
Joey Thurston was a disappointment for L.A. in 2003.

This Dodger club entered the 2003 campaign with a lot of questions offensively. They  won 92 games in 2002, that was good enough for a 3rd place finish in a tough NL West behind the powerhouse DBacks and GIants.   Gary Sheffield forced management's hand and the result was a trade to Atlanta that brought them Brian Jordan. Newcomer Fred McGriff, along with Eric Gagne and promising rookie Joey Thurston donned the cover of Baseball Weekly in March, but by the end of the season, only one remained on the roster and Thurston didn't even make the opening day cut after having a horrid Spring Training. 

General Manager Dan Evans attempted to get the club some offensive spark midway through the season with the acquisition of Jeremy Burnitz and Ricky Henderson who had reached the age of 44 and was snatched out of an independent league in New Jersey.  Neither made a significant impact.  It was the year of the Fred McGriff experiment.  The 39 year-old McGriff entered the year needing 22 homers to reach the 500 HR mark.  He went down with an injury half way through the season, still 9 short of the mark and is remembered primarily as a disappointment in L.A. 

Jolbert Cabrera hit .282 BA, .332 OBP, .770 OPS for the Dodgers in 2003

This was a club that simply couldn't score runs, running out such players during the year as Chad Hermansen, Jolbert Cabrera, Wilkin Raun, Jason Romano, Ron Coomer, Mike Kinkade, and Darryl Ward.  Ward came over from Houston known as a power hitting first baseman and hit a meager .183 with a .211 OBP and was released following the season.  Kinkade, who showed promise the previous season with a .360 BA in 60 plate appearances, fell flat in '03 hitting .216 before taking off to Japan the next year and never returning to the majors.  Coomer's best days were gone (.240 BA, .299 OBP), Ruan's best days never came (.220 BA and OBP) and then there was Jason Romano.

Jason was the 1st round pick of the Texas Rangers in the '97 draft.  He was well thought of as a prospect out of high school in Tampa, Florida. By the time the Dodgers acquired him, he was already in his third organization and his prospect status had faded to suspect.  But then in 2003, at AAA Las Vegas, he started to heat up.  His versatility as a middle infielder and outfielder that could cover all three positions was valuable to the club and he was called up.  But Romano never really hit in his time as a Dodger, collecting 3 hits in 36 at bats.  Jason was remembered by a large group of Dodger board posters for much more than his abilities as a hitter.

On May 22, 2003, Romano attained near cult status in Dodger Message Boards when he took down a fan that was running on the field towards left fielder Brian Jordan.  In a forearm shove, Romano decked the on-field pursuer who was being chased down by Dodger security staff.   Over at my favorite message board, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, posters were reminiscing about the Jason Romano incident.  I was amazed to find a clip of the event on You Tube:
What resulted on Dodger message boards following this incident was a heroic rise in popularity of Romano.  Posters surfaced by the name of "Romanofan" in various renditions.  He received accolades for months.  It got tot he point that Ben Platt, the Dodger's Web master, put a clip from Romano on the Dodger web site where he acknowledged his fans.  Had this occurred a  few years later, there would have been a clamor for a Romano Bobblehead to be given out.

The '03 Dodgers never really contended after the all star break.  Sitting in a first place tie with San Francisco on June 23, they fell deeply our of first and finished the year 8 games over .500 but a distant 15 1/2 games behind the Giants (100-61), in second place.  2003 was proof positive that the saying "good pitching beats good hitting" is not the complete truth.

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