Sports

This Dodgers slide shouldn’t be surprising but predictable

Entering this week, the Dodgers’ seven game division lead had become a three game lead over the Giants. By the end of the week the Dodgers found themselves 1 game behind the Giants, losing 11 of 12 while scoring only 17 runs over their last 13 games. The season, as everyone knows, is a marathon, not a sprint. Right now the Dodgers appear to be fading and stumbling at mile 13.

In the past six days, the Dodgers have scored two runs. Two. Runs.

The Dodgers’ lack of depth is showing its face – and that face looks an awful lot like Frank McCourt.

As disappointing as this week has been, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Matt Kemp has been injured since May 31, and Andre Ethier was injured Wednesday against the Giants leaving the Dodgers without their two most talented offensive producers (and both being Gold Glove winners), leaving Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to turn to the platoon of Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera, Tony Gwynn Jr., Scott Van Slyke and Elian Herrera. Injuries were the one thing that could sink a promising run in a wide open National League West.

This struck me most Wednesday once Andre Ethier was injured. That same day Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout made an acrobatic leaping catch taking away a home run from the Orioles. Ideally, a Major League club can turn to a bench player to fill in or call up a player from the minor league system if he is ready to play. Talent throughout an organization should be fluid; depth a necessity for any club looking to compete.

The expectation is not necessarily that the replacement would step in and out-produce the starter, but provide enough quality at-bats and run production in the meantime. The expectation is that the player doing the job would have Major League talent and ability. The expectation is that a major league club knows to invest in the minor league system and bring in players to eventually fill the major league roster without needing to break the bank with exorbitant free agent contracts. The Angels, while having their share of busts, have found two players for the foreseeable future in Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo (both of whom will make their first All Star Game appearance).

You can only acquire that talent if you have ownership capable of signing those players to long-term, big-money contracts while, at the same time, invest in the minor league system to stock and produce eventual major league talent.

Frank McCourt, while lining his pockets, sunk the team into bankruptcy forcing Bud Selig’s hand to force the eventual sale of the team. For years, stopgap measures made up the roster. Short term gambles filled a roster hoping those gambles would pay off. Players that come to mind that fit that role: Nomar Garciaparra, Garrett Anderson, Orlando Hudson, Wilson Betemit, Casey Blake, Andruw Jones, Shea Hillenbrand, Bill Mueller and the shell of Brian Giles, just to name a few.

All that and not much was left in the cupboard in terms of minor league talent. Sure, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw came up from the minor league system, but who plays in left field? How many All-Stars have played third base since Adrian Beltré? James Loney is still at first, wouldn’t it be great if there was a prospect ready to play and get a chance?

By Friday, the Dodgers had announced the signing of Yasiel Puig to the largest contract ever for a Cuban defector. Guggenheim is throwing around the dollars to make the Dodgers seem like the Dodgers again by filling the organization with talent.

As Vin Scully pointed out during Saturday’s broadcast, the signing of Puig along with first-round pick Corey Seager is an indication that “the storm is moving away,” and better days are ahead for the Dodgers. We can only hope.

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