Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rosenthal vs. Bizarrosenthal

So I'm reading Ken Rosenthal's Dodgers piece from earlier this week, entitled "Happy clubhouse is key to Dodgers' success". Robothal falls back upon the dubious thesis that "chemistry creates winning," a hypothesis which has little factual basis, and many argue strikes the causal relationship the wrong direction. Maybe winning creates chemistry instead. Chemistry, in fact, is so ephemeral and intangible, that one could link clubhouse chemistry to any winning environment, just as easily as one could correlate lack of clubhouse camaraderie with a losing environment.

In reading the article, one couldn't help but compare how easily the piece could have been written in Bizarro-Dodger World.

Writes Robothal:

To understand just how much the Dodgers' chemistry has improved, consider the friendship between third baseman Casey Blake and center fielder Matt Kemp.

Blake, 35, hails from Indianola, Iowa. Kemp, 24, is from Midwest City, Oklahoma.

Different origins, different generations, different races.

Mutual respect.

Blake on Kemp: "I like the way he plays. I think he plays the game the right way. He's a great teammate. He genuinely cares how others do, genuinely cares whether we win or not."

Kemp on Blake: "He's just a cool guy. I enjoy being around him. Good days, bad days, he's always the same. He has fun all the time. I've never seen his mood change — ever. You don't find many people like that."

Yes, it's easy for the Dodgers to be one big happy family when they own the best record in the majors....

Meanwhile, in Bizarro-Dodger World, Bizarrosenthal writes:

To understand just how much the Dodgers' chemistry has deteriorated, consider the relationship between third baseman Casey Blake and center fielder Matt Kemp.

Blake, 35, hails from Indianola, Iowa. Kemp, 24, is from Midwest City, Oklahoma.

Different origins, different generations, different races.

No common ground.

Blake didn't have a quote to say on Kemp. And Kemp on Blake: "Good days, bad days, he's always the same. I've never seen his mood change — ever. You don't find many people like that."

Yes, it's easy to trace cracks caused by generational differences and stoicism over communication, and realize how this corrosion has led to the fall of the Dodgers, owners of the worst record in the majors....

Hmm. Or what about later, when Rosenthal writes:

And the differences only start there.

Credit Joe Torre, who replaced Grady Little as manager after the '07 season and applied his trademark calming influence.

Credit left fielder Manny Ramirez, who showed the youngsters not only how to have fun, but also the work ethic necessary to attain greatness.

Credit general manager Ned Colletti, who acquired both Ramirez and Blake last summer, then constructed a bench full of high-character veterans during the offseason.

Aha, so the secret to this year's Dodgers' successes is construction by chemical design, right? If so, then how can Bizzarosenthal write this piece:

And the differences only start there.

Witness Joe Torre, whose baffling lineup and pitching changes, as well as strong favoring of veterans (Juan Castro) over youth (Blake DeWitt), leave a clubhouse confused.

Or left fielder Manny Ramirez, whose luster crumbled as suddenly as his two-month suspension for steroid usage began, leaving a gaping hole in the lineup that no one can fill, and exposing what looked to be a promising start from Andre Ethier.

Or general manager Ned Colletti, whose acquisitions of Ramirez and Blake are overshadowed by the gobs of money wasted on non-contributors Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones. At least Juan Pierre was forced into service with the Ramirez suspension, which is more than could be said for Schmidt and Jones. Other veterans signed by Colletti, such as Nomar Garciaparra, block the advancement of promising youth like James Loney, further stoking generational schisms. And "high-character veteran" signings like Mark Sweeney and Gary Bennett don't mean much in the clubhouse when they can't bat their weight.

It's a fine line, right? If the Dodgers had a losing record at this point, the exact same article could be written with many of the same quotes and references, from the perspective of a team lacking any unity. Luckily, in our world, the Dodgers are winning, at a stratospheric pace, defaulting any reporter close to the team into seeing the obvious happiness and support in the clubhouse, up and down the old and young of the 25-man roster.

I think it's a leap to say that chemistry caused the winning, and even more of a leap to say that this chemistry was by design. Winning creates the chemistry, as far as I can tell. Personal gripes about playing time are placed aside in the euphoria of walk-off wins and solid RBI totals and outstanding pitching performances. And it's hard not to get to know your fellow teammate when you're always congratulating him for achievements on the field, and getting congratulations in return for your own accomplishments.

But either way, the Dodgers' major-league leading 40-21 record is reality, and we don't live in Bizarro World. Which is good, because I'd rather read this:

Martin, 26, talks openly about how he has toned down his lifestyle, become more serious about his craft.

Right-handers Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, both of whom are about to turn 25, have emerged as the team's respective ace and closer.

Somewhere, maybe even Kent is cracking a smile.

The Dodgers are a team.

...than this:

Martin, 26, talks openly about how he has tried to tone down his lifestyle and become more serious about his craft.

Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, both of whom are about to turn 25, are struggling to grow up quick in the spotlight of key pitching roles.

And somewhere, Jeff Kent is cracking a smile.

The Dodgers are a mess without him.

art by Ed McGuinness

7 comments:

fanerman said...

I'm still in shock you compared Rosenthal to Superman.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

Rosenthal knows nothing about baseball.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

Pablo Ozuna was just suspended for 50 games. No joke.

Josh S. said...

Hey guys,

I was killing some off-day boredom with Photoshop and made this:

http://twitpic.com/75kxx

It's in no way a masterpiece (I don't claim to be even competent at PS), but it's an idea that's been rattling around in my head for a while. I figured this blog of all places would appreciate the concept.

fanerman said...

Nice one, Josh S.

rbnlaw said...

Josh,
How dare you! Funny though.

The Beard, The Bison, and Ariza all hitting the town. Guess who the designated driver would be.

Steve Sax said...

awesome picture josh s!