Monday, May 11, 2009

Time For The Young Guns To Step Up

The New York Times, weary of covering Yankee Stadium's tendencies for home runs and empty seats, wrote another piece on the Dodgers' youth movement today, and how the Manny Ramirez suspension may give our young stars the chance to take the stage outright:

This would be an opportunity, [Orlando] Hudson said, for the Dodgers’ youthful core — catcher Russell Martin, center fielder Matt Kemp, first baseman James Loney and right fielder Andre Ethier — to show that they are capable of carrying a heavier load.

“We’re going to ride their coattails,” Hudson said, speaking in a staccato that was as quick as his feet on the basepaths. “They better get ready,” he added, “because we’re all jumping on the young bucks’ coattails.”

As Hudson was chattering away, he caught Kemp chuckling as he stood at his nearby locker.

“You laugh all you want till I’m going to jump on your back, big dog,” Hudson said.

Kemp, by way of protest, responded, “I love it.” Love it or leave it, ready or not, whether the Dodgers continue to sail along in the National League West will be tied largely to the performance of the heart of their lineup — Ethier, 27; Kemp, 24; Martin, 26; and Loney, 25.

A year ago, the Dodgers were a middling team when Ramirez arrived from Boston at the trade deadline. But the young players blossomed in the presence of Ramirez. From Labor Day on, the Dodgers were the best team in baseball. They swept the Cubs in the N.L. Championship Series.

This season, with Ramirez batting third, the Dodgers entered Sunday leading the league in hits, average, on-base percentage, runs, walks and doubles, and were tied for the most stolen bases.

How will they operate without the cover of Ramirez?

“I hope they look at it as a challenge,” Manager Joe Torre said of the new Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 batters in his lineup.

“If you asked me toward the end of last year if that confidence level was there, I wouldn’t be sure. But it’s there. They think they’re pretty good in their own right.”

That will be determined soon enough. The Dodgers have played 28 of their first 33 games within the weak West. On Tuesday, they play at the Phillies, then have the Marlins, the Mets, the Angels and the Cubs later this month.

This is a well-written article; I'd encourage you to link through to read the full piece. Writer Billy Witz' assessment of the foursome's personalities is pretty insightful, when he writes later, "Ethier, Kemp, Martin and Loney, who came up together through the farm system, have their own personalities and approaches. Ethier is often his own harshest critic and Loney can drift to the cosmos. Torre draws comparisons with two of his Yankees stalwarts: Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams." Take a look.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go try and find out where Casey Siemaszko is.


Orel said...

Didn't Casey Siemaszko just anger Brian Wilson?

QuadSevens said...

Nice new avatar Orel!

rbnlaw said...

If only Andre wasn't so. . .so. . .paranoid.