Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dodgers Evoke Abbott and Costello: "I Don't Know" Is On Third

The latest entry on (devoid of any post-season coverage, since we were one of two NL West teams to miss post-season play) was a mailbag entry from Ken Gurnick which focused on our third base abyss:

If A-Rod doesn't opt out of his contract and the best free agents are center fielders Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones, which one would the Dodgers pursue? -- Corey N., San Dimas, Calif.

Maybe neither. If the Dodgers try to solve their offensive problems by acquiring an outfielder, it won't solve their third-base situation. I can't believe management is secure turning that position over to either Nomar Garciaparra or Andy LaRoche based on their play in 2007.

One scenario discussed internally is moving Matt Kemp to center field, Juan Pierre to left and targeting a third baseman through a trade. Miguel Cabrera is the obvious impact bat that many teams would covet, although the return of Adrian Beltre would also be an upgrade defensively as well as offensively. Whether either of them, or any other quality third baseman, will be available is another question altogether.

I continue to read that the Dodgers are in need of a power-hitting third baseman. Where does this leave LaRoche? -- Jay O., Bakersfield, Calif.

It leaves him needing to prove he can be a healthy, power-hitting third baseman in the Major Leagues. While his chances with the Dodgers have been limited, so has been his success. Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley, James Loney and Kemp produced pretty much immediately and have earned more secure spots in the club's future.

LaRoche has not, and his tendency to get hurt at the age of 23 might be of greater concern than his lack of production. Back and shoulder injuries like the ones he has can become chronic.

Will Garciaparra be the starting third baseman next year or will he return to first base? -- Dennis M., El Monte, Calif.

Probably neither. Garciaparra had a truly unspectacular 2007 after a Comeback Player of the Year season in 2006 led to his re-signing and the expectation of production in the middle of the batting order. He hit only seven home runs with 59 RBIs, which isn't nearly enough for an everyday player at either corner infield position.

And he hasn't stayed healthy through an entire season since 2003. He's a wildly popular player, but the Dodgers need to make personnel decisions void of emotion. It would be great if Garciaparra could suddenly regain his form of four years ago, or even of 2006, but expecting it isn't logical.

With Olmedo Saenz gone, Garciaparra could be very valuable as a clutch right-handed bat off the bench with the defensive ability to fill in anywhere around the infield. Whether he would be accepting of that diminished role is another huge offseason issue for management, but it's probably time for somebody to find out.

All right, let's get psyched! To recap Kenny G., (1) Don't bother me with center fielder questions, since if we can't get A-Rod we're cooked; (2) LaRoche is not the answer; (3) Nomar should better get comfortable in an Olmedo Saenz, one-at-bat-a-week role, as he isn't the answer at third either. I Don't Know is alive and well and playing third for the Dodgers. Whoo hoo!

I have a signed Adrian Beltre baseball at home that I bought in a charity auction after his kick-ass, 2nd-in-MVP-vote 2004 season. Those were the days.


Damon said...

At least we know Loney is on first

Steve Sax said...



Orel said...

Nice slam on the Giants.

Steve Sax said...



Rob said...

2008 = Groundhog Year for 2007.