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After a weak showing in the playoffs last season, the Dodgers tried to overhaul the team with what owner Frank McCourt admitted in the Los Angeles Times last Friday was an underestimation of the importance of character in their players. L.A. then became the train wreck that was waiting to happen. Was anybody surprised that combustible outfielder Milton Bradley and aloof second baseman Jeff Kent (right) didn't get along?
The clubhouse was thrown into upheaval last week when Bradley said that Kent "doesn't know how to deal with African-American people." Kent, in turn, called Bradley's attack "absolutely pathetic." It was the ugly bottom to a 47-69 free fall since April 20. Said Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, a former teammate of Kent's, "I think [for Bradley] to make it a race issue is ridiculous. [ Kent] doesn't discriminate against anybody. He ignores Latinos, blacks and whites equally."
EARNING HIS STRIPES
Outfielder Matt Lawton (left), who was traded from the Cubs to the Yankees last Saturday for a Class A pitching prospect, will finally get to play in important games in September. In 11 big league seasons Lawton had been with only one winning team, the 2001 Mets (82-80). Lawton is a shrewd pickup because he gets on base (.366 on-base percentage) and allows manager Joe Torre to put Bernie Williams at designated hitter, Hideki Matsui in centerfield and Tony Womack on the bench. Womack is likely to be only the third AL player since the mound was lowered in 1969 to have 325 at bats without a home run and fewer than 20 RBIs, joining the Orioles' Mark Belanger (1978) and the Rangers' Wayne Tolleson (1984).
?Twins righthander Carlos Silva, 26, has become a strike-throwing machine of historic proportions. Silva (right) had faced 94 straight batters without issuing a base on balls through Sunday and had walked only eight of the 683 batters he faced all year. Silva will likely become only the third pitcher ever to walk fewer than 20 batters while throwing more than 200 innings.
?Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay purchased a hyperbaric chamber to help speed the healing of a fractured left leg, the result of a line drive off the bat of the Rangers' Kevin Mench on July 8. The injury proved too stubborn, though. Toronto shut down the AL ERA leader (2.41) for the rest of the season, leaving him 20 1/3 innings short of qualifying for the season title.