Monday, May 7, 2012
Bring on the Giants! News from Behind Enemy Lines
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times was on the San Francisco Flagship station, KNBR, this morning. They were doing a preview of the first Dodger Giant series of 2012. Hernandez’s overall assessment of the Dodgers so far is not that positive. Something that the Giant audience really ate up on the morning drive show today. Not that I expected anything less on that show.
KNBR’s Brian Murphy:Alright Dylan, let’s talk about the Dodgers. What a start! 9-1, they’ve gone 9-9 since, but it doesn’t matter, they’re still 18-10. Is this a dramatically better team than we’ve seen in the last couple of years or is this the team that took advantage of a weak early schedule.
Hernandez: You know I think they’re a team that took advantage of a weak early schedule. Uh, that said, I think they’re a little better than I thought they’d be. I think Mark Ellis has been a huge addition. They’re a team that for the most part isn’t really going to trip themselves up. They’ve had some bullpen issues recently. Javy Guerra the closer has blown three saves. Besides that with the fielding, they’re not a team that is prone to many mistakes. From that standpoint, they’re a slight improvement from last year. But when you look at the big picture it’s pretty much the same thing, where you have Kershaw the ace and pretty much everyone else. Right now Kershaw, Chris Capuano and Lilly are all pitching well. But I’m not really sure that you can expect them to contain that throughout the entire year. Offensively you have pretty much the same thing. You have Kemp, you have Ethier and then you have pretty much everybody else. So, I would say they are a top heavy team, without much depth.
Murphy: Yeah, good observations. It was something we were looking at from afar. James Loney, .202, Dee Gordon, low .230s, Juan Uribe no homers. Is this the kind of thing where, are they expecting guys to step up? A.J. Ellis? I don’t know, or are they thinking ‘Man, we don’t have much beyond Kemp and Ethier?
Hernandez: Yeah, I think going into the season I think they knew that. Don Mattingly said during Spring Training that they’re going to be in a lot of close, low scoring games. Which is why they’ll have to pitch well. Which is why they’ll need good production out of the bullpen. I think that when you look at what has happened in the last two weeks, the back end of the bullpen really hasn’t held up. A lot of that could be because of the fast start...the closer Javy Guerra and the set up man Kenley Jansen were out there almost every day. So my guess is that they’re dealing with a fatigue issue. But we really don’t know, Guerra and Jansen, last year was pretty much their first full major league season. So we don’t know if they can hold up over the full course of the year. That really will decide how this team goes.
Murphy: About Kershaw Dylan, his talent is so enormous. I guess though in Colorado he had a little bit of a hiccup, Carlos Gonzalez got him in the 8th inning there. But other than that isn’t it the same old dominant Kershaw?
Hernandez: Yeah it has. You get the feeling that this is going to be one of those years where he posts a low two ERA and only wins 13 or 14 games or something. The run support really hasn’t been there too much and a lot of times he’ll take a one inning lead late into the game. I think in the home opener he gave up a run in a 1-0 lead in the 7th inning. That is asking a lot of any pitcher. I don’t care if it’s Kershaw or Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum. You give them of support and it’s gonna be hard to win on a consistent basis.
Murphy: Yeah, but his stuff remains...he’s the Cy Young Award winner. Is there a feeling around the Dodger organization that he’s just a superstar with no essential flaws?
Hernandez: Yeah, absolutely. I think that the one thing that sets him apart from other guys is his mental makeup. We saw that right away. When we were first exposed to him as a teenager, we saw that right away. There was something about him that was a little bit different. If he suffers a failure, he doesn’t take it all at heart. It just seems to drive him more. He seems very open to learning. He doesn’t let his ego get in the way of his pitching all that much. I think that when the team looks at him, with the new ownership this is the type of guy that they probably want to lock him up long term, maybe like the Giants have done so with Matt Cain.
Murphy: Yeah, going to Matt Kemp. He could have easily won the MVP award. And now he’s doubling down this year, what a crazy month. We now hear he’s tweaked his hamstring, I know you weren’t in Chicago, what is the vibe now? Are they maybe going to be a little cautious and might he miss a game or two this series?
Hernandez: I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. They really can’t afford to lose him for an extended period of time. The offense right now is pretty much Kemp and Ethier. If they lose Kemp at this point, they’ll literally become one of the worst offensive teams in the league. My guess is that they’re going to be cautious. He does have a pretty long consecutive games streak going. The longest in the majors, I think it’s approaching 400. They gave him a pinch hit at bat yesterday and my guess is that we’ll at least see him pinch hit over the next couple of games.
Murphy: Well that’s something to definitely watch when the lineups are posted. And then finally you mentioned the new ownership Dylan. I guess it’s official. I mean it feels like the easy analogy of the Wizard of Oz. You know, ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.‘ The house fell on McCourt and everybody’s happy now. It seems like now with Magic Johnson as the public face and this billionaire venture capitalist guy with the money, I mean it seems like the Dodger Kingdom, or the fans of the Dodgers are ecstatic. Is that the right read of what’s going on with them and the ownership?
Hernandez: You know I think it was initially, and a lot of that has to do with Magic and the memories that he gave people who grew up in Los Angeles here, but I think what came out over the last few days, with my colleague Bill Shaikin, who did a terrific job covering the sale and the divorce. He reported that McCourt is still going to be collecting parking money every year. And it will kind of be indirect. In the introductory press conference the new owners said that Frank will not be collecting any revenue, which was technically true. But McCourt still owns half of the parking lots and the team still has to pay a lease on the parking lot of $14 million per year. So McCourt will still be getting money. And that was one of the first things the new ownership group said, that McCourt wasn’t going to profit off the team basically. So, they started off with a lie, which I think wasn’t good. And even though McCourt’s gone, I think the fans don’t want any of their money in any way to end up in McCourt’s pockets. You know, because they lied, it kind of gives it a bad feel right now. So I would say that it this point the fan base is cautiously optimistic.
Murphy: Now the game plan is that at the trade deadline this summer they may be a little different team than they have been the last few years as far as resources.
Hernandez: Yeah, that is the expectation. And even before that I think the first sign of what this ownership group will do will be what they decide to do with Andre Ethier. Ethier will be a free agent at the end of this season, and my guess is that it’ll be in the best interest of this team to get him signed before he does hit the open market. I would guess that in the next couple of months they’ll approach Ether. If something gets done, I would say that is a pretty promising sign.
Murphy: Dylan, great information...and enjoy the series, we’ll catch up down the road sometime.
Hernandez: Thank you so much for having me on.
Murphy: Yeah, Dylan Hernandez, good to have him on. I like having a Dodger beat writer on, someone close to the team that sees the warts more, because now we know that behind Kemp and Ethier, not much there. Behind Kershaw, not much there. That makes me feel better.
So fine, Giants fans can feel better all they want. Truth of the matter is, the Dodgers have a better ball club in my opinion. I don't agree with Hernandez that this team is as weak as he hints. Gordon, with his struggles is still a sparkplug. Ellis is the veteran presence that the team needs. Can Loney get worse? I doubt it. AJ Ellis is solid. Rivera, numerous clutch hits. Hairston, amazing D and timely hitting. I couldn't disagree with Hernandez more, with the exception of his assessment of the bullpen. Yes, there we have issues.
Today it was announced that Giant reliever Guillermo Mota has been suspended for 100 games for testing positive for PEDs. The Giant team without Wilson, Huff, Sanchez, Mota has many issues and they still can't hit, though I will admit they are doing better than last year.
Now is the time for the Dodgers to make a statement and dominate the NL West on this homestand.