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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trading The Wrong Guy

From today's BTF thread about another worthless Plaschke article claiming the Dodgers are thinking about trading Matt Kemp:
The Dodger's problems are not just a "young-old" issue. Kent has hit well, but he is a statue at second base. Gonzalez is still a decent (part time) player, but can't run well in the outfield anymore. Garciaparra has completely disappeared as a hitter this summer, and doesn't have a position anymore ( although he is an adequate third baseman.) Furcal seems to be the only infielder who actually knows what he needs to do, but several times this summer it seems he ran to the second base bag to start a double play because Kent hadn't made it there yet. (and wasn't going to). Loney at first base made the 3-1 toss to the pitcher an adventure several times this summer as he rushed his throws. Russell Martin's (The Man Who Never Takes a Day Off) game (SB's, RBI, HR) has tailed off in the second half.

The outfield is even more of a disaster. Gonzalez, like I said, can't run too well anymore. Ethier and Kemp miss the cutoff man like they have never heard of the concept. Pierre in center field is the funniest outfielder I've ever seen. A ball hit in the gap is a double. I don't mean a ball that goes to the wall in the gap, but a ball that barely rolls to the warning track, is a double if Pierre picks it up. Furcal moves halfway out onto the outfield grass to take his cutoff throws from the wall, but Pierre invariably bounces the ball no matter how far Furcal goes out. All season long opposition baserunners never stop, or even slow down, in taking the extra base when Pierre has the ball in the outfield, and the league, it seems, doesn't respect the arms of the other outfielders, either.

Last night's game against the Rockies held the perfect example of this. Rockies runner on second, Matsui at the plate. Matsui singles to left, runner on second comes home. Ethier throws the ball over the cutoff man at third. The throw is a day late anyway, even a perfect throw would not have gotten the runner. Russell Martin comes out about 20 feet from home plate toward the mound to intercept the throw, since Matsui is heading for second. Martin's throw hits Matsui as he begins his slide. Kent isn't near the bag, Furcal is just getting there. The ball bounces into short center field, where Pierre has to hustle in to pick it up, since he is still standing halfway out in center. Matsui never stops running around third and scores easily, as Pierre's throw barely makes it to the pitcher's mound. The Little Leaguer in center field couldn't throw the ball from medium center field to home plate, and everyone in the park knew it. The third base coaches of the National League will take up a collection to send Pierre a Christmas gift this year, and for many years to come.

And, if you've watched the Dodgers all year, the missed cutoff by Ethier and the poor throw by Pierre could have been predicted.

That's why the Dodgers have fallen out of the race, and what Kent meant by the tirade about "playing the game the right way." Unfortunately for Kent, he can barely produce in the field, either. The other veteran position players may not make the mistakes in the field, but they aren't getting there to make the play, anyway. Mike Lieberthal has the best gig on the planet. Olmedo Saenz, anyone? Hillenbrand? Sweeney? I can't see Kent or Garciaparra taking on the "wise veteran" role in any situation. Derek Lowe? Brad Penny?

The issue for the Dodgers is this: will this team "rebuild" in Los Angeles? This is a major market team, and I can't remember the dreaded "Rebuilding" phrase ever being used in association with this franchise. When Kent and Gonzales go this winter, and the Ethiers and Kemps and Loneys go to spring training next year anointed as the Dodger starters, the pressure will pretty much be unrelentless for them to produce. They have had it easy this year, they only went around the league twice as a group. As the eminent Dodger old timer, David Wells, said yesterday: "They are going to get humbled by this game." Its what they do after that humbling, however it happens, that will count.

Update: I knew I could count on Jon for a good caning of Plaschke. How does this man hold down a position like this in a major metropolitan daily?

Update 2: Fox Sports claims there's actual rumors that the Dodgers are working a trade of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw for Johan Santana. By VORP (10th with a 58.6 score) or by Win Shares (also 10th, with 18), Santana isn't even a top five pitcher in baseball anymore. If this is true, then Colletti is stupider than I ever dreamed.

Josh Rawitch confuses me:

Ned has repeatedly said for the last year that there aren't any untouchables and now we're to believe that suddenly in one week, the team is going to change course. It just seems a bit odd to me. I truly have no idea if we're going to trade a young player this winter, just as I was not involved in the trade discussions that went on around the deadline. But to characterize this in the fashion it's been characterized and to hypothesize that Matt Kemp is the kid that will be traded just seems really out there.
Boy, I sure seem to remember some reassurances being tossed out earlier. I'll have to break out the LAT archives to find those (and maybe MLB.com), but I coulda sworn that Colletti had all but labeled Kemp and Loney as untouchables.

Update 3: Frequent Dodger Thoughts commenter Molly Knight, apparently a personage at ESPN, gets in her welts at the Kamenetzkys' blog.

By defending themselves in the media after Mr. Kent's barbed comments, rookies James Loney and Mr. Kemp unwittingly cast themselves as targets in the media's assault on youth. For reasons unknown to Dodger fans everywhere, certain veteran newspaper reporters snuggled up to the curmudgeonly Mr. Kent with boxes of Kleenex and abandoned puppies, and sharpened their pens to eviscerate the very young players whose performances have kept the team out of last place.
The kids defend themselves against this baiting (Loney's "who said he [Kent] was a leader?" was a perfect rejoinder), and get pilloried in the press for it. STFU, Kent. That goes quadruple for you, Plaschke.

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If there's a reason to not trade for Santana it's the fact that he'd probably be a rental, not because of his production in 2007. He had his worst season of his career, which is a great time to acquire a guy who had been the best pitcher in baseball for the prior x years. If the Dodgers can actually get him signed it would be a steal. As a Padre fan, I would be pretty bummed to see that trade happen.
I seem to remember Rawitch all but confirming guys like Kemp were untouchable in the meeting before DT Day. Especially when rumors about the Dodgers trading for Dotel were going around.
I agree that cherry picking Santana's worst year (in which he's still very good) is not very persuasive. I'd make that trade if they could extend Santana to a good long term deal. He's a stud.
By the way, that rob wasn't me, Rob (the proprietor).

There's something about Santana's less-than-stellar performance this year that I find unsettling.

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