|2009 Dodgers Preview on Foxsports|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on March 10, 2009
Blake DeWitt was supposed to start the 2008 season in Double-A, but he ended up — partly through attrition — as the Dodgers' starting third baseman on Opening Day. He hit a respectable .264 in 117 games and was supposed to take over at second base for the departed Jeff Kent. But the Dodgers signed Orlando Hudson in late February and he'll push DeWitt back to a reserve role or possibly to the minors.
That sounds a bit like the Dodgers made a mistake signing Hudson when they have a solid in-house option in DeWitt. However, DeWitt's batting average is misleading, he slugged only .383 (even though he got on base well enough with an OBP of .344). Hudson on the other hand hit .305/.367/.450 last season AND he provides gold glove defense. Given his moderate price tag, I'd say that was a good move.
Casey Blake, acquired just before the trading deadline last summer, re-signed with the club for three years and $17.5 million after he failed to generate much interest on the free agent market. Blake hit just .251 after the trade, but his 10 home runs and 23 RBIs were critical to the Dodgers' late-season push to the division title. He also became a leader in the clubhouse.
I stand by my claim that Blake was one of the worst signings this off-season. Three years, really? After all, he will turn 36 this August. But anyway, what bothered me is the claim that his "10 home runs and 23 RBIs were critical to the Dodgers' late-season push to the division title". How exactly did Mr. Sports come to this conclusion? After all, Blake hit .280/.333/.400 in close and late situations and only .190/.269/.259 with RISP (many thanks to Retrosheet for the data). How about 0/8 with the bases loaded (no walks)? I'm sure this contribution was so critical that no other player could have provided it. Oh, and he is a leader in the clubhouse.
Russell Martin remains one of the most durable catchers in the game, and the two-time All-Star has shown no signs of slowing down.
Only that Martin did slow down in the second half. A lot! He went from .294/.394/.436 before the break to .260/371/.336 after the break. His power pretty much went AWOL in the second half.
General manager Ned Colletti appeared to be hanging by the thinnest of threads at midseason last year, the result of a handful of bad contracts and the fact the Dodgers couldn't seem to take charge in baseball's weakest division. But that all changed after the acquisitions of Blake and Ramirez turned the Dodgers' season around and led to the club's first National League Championship Series berth since 1988. Torre is a future Hall of Fame manager, if not a Hall of Fame player — the former MVP came up short on the veterans' committee ballot yet again in December — and he managed to get the most out of a notoriously fractured clubhouse last year. He is simply among the best in the business.
I'm not here to bash Joe Torre. But why gets he the praise for "getting the most out of a notoriously fractured clubhouse" (what does that even mean?), but the blame that his team "couldn't seem to take charge in baseball's weakest division" is on the GM (who should indeed be tarred and feather for signing Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones to ludicrous contracts)? That's not fair, is it?
And now to the best part:
Dodgers officials don't expect newly signed, veteran infielder Mark Loretta to bat .300 or hit 20 home runs. They don't even expect him to play all that much. But what they found perhaps most enticing about the Southern California native is what he brings to a clubhouse that should have a dramatically different personality this year. Gone are the perpetually sour Jeff Kent; Brad Penny, who at times seemed to be focused on everything but baseball; and Derek Lowe, a happy-go-lucky sort who never seemed quite as comfortable in Los Angeles as he had been in Boston. Loretta represents something of a 180-degree turn, the type of leader this team has been seeking since Robin Ventura and Jose Lima departed after the 2004 season.
Mark Loretta - difference maker! I don't believe it. He could have taken Manny, Furcal, Billingsley or any other regular for crying out loud, but he goes with a bench player because he is a leader - in the clubhouse. I believe that good chemistry comes naturally when you are winning, but even if you follow Sports' logic, if Kent, Penny and Lowe had been the problem, it's addition by substraction, what do you need Loretta for? The Dodger already have Casey Blake, who is "a leader in the clubhouse", too, if you recall.
Allowedly, our previews on AHP are by no means perfect, but I think my colleagues are doing a pretty good job, especially if you consider that we do the previews in our free time while the guys on Foxsports get paid for them. I think I can expect a little more under those circumstances, can't I?