What's next, Dodgers? (cont.)
Posted: Monday November 5, 2007 9:44PM; Updated: Tuesday November 6, 2007 12:34AM
Off the Dodgers went on their final road trip of the season. Destination: Colorado. What was thought to be a winnable series became the Dodgers' brick wall. They lost their next three games -- by a combined four runs -- to all but seal their demise (and launch the Rockies toward the stratosphere).
Since then, there has been nothing but finger-pointing in the Dodgers organization -- first at the younger players for not being mature enough, then at the older players for not remaining good enough, and finally at Little for not being finger-pointing-preventive enough.
With the arrival of Torre, the recovery of the Dodger clubhouse might be a fait accompli, but the composition of the roster is anything but. The team probably has one player that no one wants to trade -- catcher Russell Martin, who was the team's most valuable player on the field and perhaps its most mature player off the field -- despite being only 24.
The keys to the mystery of the Dodgers can probably be found in two people: neither of them named Alex Rodriguez.
Matt Kemp, at the age of 23, emerged as perhaps the Dodgers' most dangerous hitter, with an on-base percentage of .373 and slugging percentage of .521. But Kemp has also been ground zero for The Kids Aren't Alright maelstrom, via reports of general cockiness as well as more specific if bizarre accusations. (The Los Angeles Times related a story expressing a veteran's complaint when Kemp moved a trash can.)
Clayton Kershaw, 19, is regarded by some as the top pitching prospect in the entire minor leagues -- a potential staff ace. The lefty struck out 163 batters in 122 innings at the A and AA levels. He is regarded with such awe that some Dodgers chat room commenters avoid even uttering his name, for fear that it might poison his destiny.
Is Torre willing, if not eager, to develop Kemp's considerable talent and manage whatever attitude problems may or may not exist? Is Torre willing to wait a year or two for Kershaw to emerge and become a top-drawer member of the staff, at the risk of his fizzling out? Or will Torre push Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to use them in a package to pursue AL ace Johan Santana from Minnesota -- at the risk of losing Santana to free agency following the season and leaving the Dodgers further from title contention than they are now?
With a 67-year-old Torre on board, does potential become a four-letter word? And in the end, how much influence will Torre have on transactions, period?
A Rodriguez signing would be a game-changer on numerous levels for the Dodgers. But by revealing the team's mindset toward home-grown players on the rise, the fate of Kemp and Kershaw will tell us much more about the direction of the Joe Torre Dodgers than any of the innumerable options awaiting the organization --- regardless of how much input Torre has. Because as Torre would be the first to tell you, no single man -- or manager -- is greater than the team.
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