Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Peter Gammons Locates The NL West

Credit Peter Gammons for breaking through ESPN protocols and writing a nice piece on the NL West, which he points out is 24 games over .500 in games played outside its division. He also had nice things to say about the Dodgers' core, notably its outfield of Manny Ramirez (about whom you can still taste a lingering bitterness from Gammons, a Red Sox diehard), Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp:

The joke is that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti could be arrested for shoplifting, as in the last two seasons he has acquired Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, George Sherrill, Jon Garland, Jim Thome, Doug Mientkiewicz, Ronnie Belliard and Vicente Padilla and paid them a combined total approximately the equal of the $2.7 million that the team saved during Manny Ramirez's suspension. [...]

For now, the Dodgers hope Garland and Padilla give them innings and support Randy Wolf, Kershaw and Chad Billingsley and allow Joe Torre to wait until the seventh and eighth innings before he has to ready his bullpen. Then, too, they need Ramirez to come back.

Scouts who have watched the Dodgers say Manny has not been able to catch up to fastballs up in the zone since his return, which makes him subject to any conclusions you choose. His OPS from his arrival in L.A. until his suspension was 1.200; it's been .882 since.

But Ramirez's history is that when he has slumped, he has had trouble connecting the leg lift of his (left) front foot and his (right) back shoulder. "That's what's been happening," Don Mattingly says. "The timing is not there, and he's flying open and spinning off and trying to hit the fastball. It's been better lately, so I think that timing will come back.

"As good as some of our young players are," Mattingly says, "they need Manny going well. He picks up everyone's confidence. He makes everyone better."

Not that Kemp and Andre Ethier haven't blossomed as star players. Ethier is Paul O'Neill, right to the point that the only thing distracting him is his self-disgust at making outs.

This past week, 11 scouts took a poll amongst themselves on whom they would take between Ethier and Kemp. Ten took Kemp. "In my mind, watching him hit, play hard, throw, cover center field," says a GM, "he's got to be one of the 10 best players in the game." The astute Larry Bowa says, "He's improved as much in one year as anyone I've ever seen."

Mattingly insists there's a lot more to come. He says that where last year Kemp tried to do everything with his athleticism and essentially hit with his upper body, he has learned to use his legs and has gradually learned to stay back on and lay off breaking balls and off-speed pitches. "There's a lot of Gary Sheffield in Matt, in that he is never afraid," Mattingly says. "He's tough, he never gets intimidated." As Colletti points out, the fact that Kemp's best friend on the team may be Blake says something about his core love of the game.

Or, maybe Kemp just like beards! In any event, it was nice to see the writeup; thanks, Peter, and hope you don't get in trouble with the ESPN brass for not writing about the AL East.


Kyle Baker said...

I saw this, too, and thought I should do a screen capture before the ESPN brass ordered it taken down.

It's strange how Gammons' on-screen persona and remarks differ from the well-thought out and written remarks highlighted here.

Greg Zakwin said...

Gammons chooses to ignore that we gave up 2 top prospects in those deals, one of whom was given away simply to avoid paying money. Details Peter, details.

And since when is an .882 OPS bad for a 37-year-old who missed most of spring training, had some hammy issues (from what I remember) and missed 50 games? Can he do more, yes, but the insinuation that's it's the lack of steroids doesn't do it for me.

I still say it's all of the missed time (maybe 1-5%) but mainly the getting hit on the hand thing. You know, those things tend to hurt.