> APRIL 2006

April 30, 2006
Thank you, say Padres

It's a lot easier to write one of these articles when we can call out one guy and blame him for a terrible loss, but in the Dodgers' 6-5 loss to the Padres on Sunday, who can't we call out? For eight innings, despite only six Dodger hits, things were going great. The Dodgers had a 5-0 lead, and were three outs away from giving Derek Lowe his second win of the season. Three outs away from a rare sweep of the Padres at Petco Park. Three outs away from going above .500 for the first time this season.

Then, however, a guy named Lance Carter entered the game. Thirty seconds later, the bases were loaded. Enter Danys Baez, who had notched saves in the Dodgers previous five victories. Only Sunday, Baez apparently had too many fish tacos during the game. Mark Bellhorn greeted Baez with a single. Then Baez lost his eyesight, walking Khalil Greene (a .200 hitter) and Eric Young (hitting .182). Watching a relief pitcher walk in a run is one of the most infuriating things a fan can experience. Watching him do it twice in a row was enough to make us puke up our lunch, scoop it up with a paper towel, lick the paper towel, and barf it up again. (By the way, we saved the paper towel for Baez. He should be getting it in the mail tomorrow.) With the bases still loaded, Josh Barfield (with a whopping five RBIs this year) and Geoff Blum (who hadn't knocked in anyone) both hit sacrifice flies, and suddenly the game was tied. A five run ninth inning lead against an offensively inept team—gone. Baez was mercifully pulled, and Tim Hamulack came in to strike out Doug Mirabelli. Ten minutes later, however, Hamulack fell apart, walking Brian Giles and Mike Piazza—the bullpen's fourth and fifth walks of the previous inning and a third. A base hit by Mark Bellhorn then ended it, and the Dodgers walked off the field in shock. They can call it shock, but when your bullpen consists of Danys Baez and five guys who shouldn't even be pitching for the goddamn Devil Rays, we call it just the beginning.

Oh, let's not forget that Jeff Kent went 0-5 and is now batting .183, Rafael Furcal went 1-5 and is now batting .198, and J.D. Drew went 0-5, ending his hitting streak, ending his on-base streak, and ending any chance of us ever writing anything good about him ever again.

April 29, 2006
Drew hits fence, doesn't crumble

When J.D. Drew hit the wall in right field in the 4th inning on Saturday night, we figured that was it. He'd come out of the game with a concussion, be diagnosed with a broken neck, and go on the 620-day DL. Surprisingly, he actually picked up the ball and threw it to his cutoff man, holding Mark Bellhorn to a triple. Apparently intrigued by the fact that he could survive physical contact, Drew hit the fence again an inning later. With two out and a man on in the fifth, Drew caught up with a Brian Giles' drive to the gap, snagging it as he rolled against the outfield fence. This time, we were sure he'd go down. He'd catch the ball, flip it to Kenny Lofton, and then collapse in a fetal position, clutching his dislocated shoulder. Amazingly, Drew didn't fall down in pain. Instead, he ran toward the dugout. He's got to go down before he gets to the infield, we figured. But he didn't. He's got to have internal injuries, we figured. But he didn't. He's got to come out of the game just as a precaution, we figured. But he didn't. In fact, Drew drove in the tying run in the sixth inning. Drew has now hit in 11 straight, has reached base in all 20 games that he's played in this year, and—most impressively—doesn't have a scratch on him. While we all know that it'll eventually catch up to him in a big way (possibly getting crushed by a falling scoreboard), the Dodgers are surely enjoying his freakish health for the moment.

April 28, 2006
Steve Howe killed in car accident

Steve Howe, the former Dodger reliever better known for his addiction to coke than throwing smoke, died on Friday morning when his pickup truck flipped over in Coachella, California. He was 48. Howe notched 17 saves in 1980, breaking Joe Black's club rookie record for saves, and posted a 2.65 ERA, good enough to win Rookie of the Year honors. Howe pitched four more years for the Dodgers, putting up great numbers from '81-'83. After getting released in '85, Howe went on to pitch for the Twins, Rangers, and Yankees. He leaves behind a wife and two kids.

We mean no disrespect by this, but Howe's tragic death was a predictable end to a difficult life. Clearly there was more to Steve Howe than what we all know (witnessed by the some of the words spoken today by former teammates and coaches), but unfortunately what most of us know are his troubles. The troubles he had during his baseball career continued once he was out of the game, and you really couldn't be shocked to hear Friday's news. Saddened, yes... a little freaked out by it, sure... but shocked, not completely. There's no indication that Howe was anything but overly tired as he was returning to Southern California from a business trip to Arizona, but regardless, his life was never short of drama. After all, this is a guy who was arrested at JFK when a loaded .357 Magnum was found in his suitcase. A guy who was kicked off of a high school girls softball team as a volunteer coach in Whitefish, Montana for his drug abuse. A guy who, just last year, was critically injured in a motorcycle accident and charged with drunk driving. Howe's problems are well chronicled, and while we don't have enough space or desire to recount them all here, we'll just say this: we wouldn't be surprised if three weeks from now Major League Baseball reinstates him.

(Note: We wanted to write a couple good things about Howe, but when we Googled "steve howe dodgers," and saw that the second listing was our own 'Dodger Douchebags' page, we threw in the towel. So much for compassion.)

(Note #2: Since we seem to be getting emails telling us that it's wrong to make fun of a guy who was killed in a car crash, let's review what we wrote, and if you still think we're making fun of him, you can go to hell. First, we wrote that he died. Then we mentioned some of his baseball accomplishments. Then we mentioned that considering the problems and drama in his life, his tragic death wasn't a surprise. Then we listed a few of his post-career troubles. Then we made a sarcastic reference to major league baseball's ridiculous pattern of reinstating him. Then we pointed out the humor in how our own cynicism came back to bite us. So where, exactly, did we make fun of Steve Howe?)

April 26, 2006
That's why his name isn't Ohouston

The Dodgers may have a losing record, but they're getting cocky. Having overcome ninth inning deficits the previous two nights in Houston, the Dodgers probably felt that their chances were good again on Wednesday. Only problem is they were down by six runs by the time the ninth inning came around. They posted three, but lost to the Astros, 8-5. The way Odalis Perez pitched, the Dodgers never had much chance. Perez, who freakishly began the season 3-0, got whacked back to Earth by Houston. The Astros pounded Perez for 11 hits in just over four innings, beating him for the fourth time in his career.

"I have no idea what it is," said Perez, who has a 12.91 ERA against Houston. "I don't know what happens with the Astros. It's nothing about the field. And it's not the umpires. They called a good game. It's nothing that I know that I'm doing when I pitch against them." Perez later confided in Dodger Blues, telling us his theory. "It's the bitches in the stands," he said. "All those chicks in cowboy hats. We don't have cowboy hats in the Dominican. Come to think of it, man, I've never seen a cowboy hat outside of Texas."

Meanwhile, future Hall-of-Famer Wandy Rodriguez struck out six over seven innings, limiting the Dodgers to just five hits. None of those hits belonged to Nomar Garciaparra. After hitting his grand slam on Monday, Nomar is 0-for-9 and has stranded about 15 guys on base... although to be fair, three of those guys actually killed themselves after having to watch Nomar go Rainman with his batting gloves. So he really only stranded 12.

April 25, 2006
Well, that's five hours you'll never get back

With four hours and forty-eight minutes, there's a lot you could have done. You could have flown from L.A. to New York. You could have watched Gone With the Wind and two episodes of Mr. Belvedere. You could have impregnated your girlfriend, taken a nap, and brought her to the doctor for an abortion. Instead, you spent four hours and forty-eight minutes watching the Dodgers lose to the Astros, 4-3, in fourteen innings. If you didn't, here's what you missed:

  • Dioner Navarro throwing a ball down the right field line, allowing a run to score.
  • Dioner Navarro failing to get in front of a pitch in the dirt, allowing a run to score.
  • Kenny Lofton raising his average from .233 to .306.
  • Nomar Garciaparra going 0-for-6 and putting an end to Monday's euphoria.
  • Pitchers issuing four or five intentional walks per inning.
  • Rafael Furcal botching a routine grounder in the 12th.
  • Odalis Perez having to put down his cheeseburger to suddenly pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the 14th inning.
  • Franquelis Osoria booting a little dribbler up the first base line—but recovering to get the out.
  • Lance Carter booting a little dribbler up the first base line—but recovering to get the out.
  • Grady Little calling for three consecutive pitchouts, essentially walking Lance Berkman to force the winning run to second base for Morgan Ensberg, the Astros' hottest hitter?
  • Grady Little calling for Kenny Lofton to steal second, opening a base for the Astros to intentionally walk J.D. Drew (the Dodgers hottest hitter) to get to Jeff Kent (the Dodgers coldest hitter)?
  • Kenny Lofton showing that while his legs are thirty-eight years old, his arm is fifty-eight.

April 24, 2006
Rest is grand for Nomar

Maybe Grady Little is a genius after all. Concerned about the recent health of half the guys on his team, Little decided before the season that he'd give the old men frequent off days. So far, you can't argue with the results. Kenny Lofton has triples in his last two games, J.D. Drew has homered in three of his last four games, and Nomar Garciaparra—fresh off a Sunday afternoon nap—hit a ninth inning grand slam on Monday night to lift the Dodgers to a comeback win over Houston. Garciaparra's slam came on a 97-mph Brad Lidge fastball, coincidentally the same speed at which everyone in Minute Maid Park exited seconds later. Lidge made the mistake of thinking of walking Jeff Kent prior to Nomar, clearly under the impression that Kent can still hit. (Joke's on him.) For the first seven innings Monday, the joke was on the Dodgers, who failed to get a hit off Andy Pettite. With one swing, however, Drew broke Pettite's no-hit bid and tied the game—albeit briefly. An inning later Takashi Saito gave up a bomb to Fatty Berkman, and the Dodgers were down once again... setting the stage for Nomar's first big Dodger moment. While it's only been two games, Nomar seems to be swinging a good bat... which means one of three things: (1) It's someone else's bat, (2) He's primed to win Comeback Player of the Year, or (3) He's about to break his knee. Whatever the reason, you can bet Little won't play him for the next four days.

April 23, 2006
Couldn't Jerry Morales have saved the flag?

When two protestors ran onto the field at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1967, intent on setting fire to an American flag, there were two things that they didn't know. First, they didn't know how to light a match in the wind. And second, they didn't know that thirty years later, they'd still be hated—not for burning the flag, but for giving Rick Monday the notorierty that eventually led him into the Los Angeles Dodgers' broadcasting booth. In April of 1976, Monday was in his fifth season with the Cubs. It turned out to be his best season, and having endeared himself to Los Angeles by saving the goddamn flag, the Dodgers traded for him after the year. He went on to play eight seasons with the Dodgers, and of course hit that big home run in the '81 NLCS. When Monday retired after getting released by the Dodgers in '84, Dodger fans had no idea that he'd begin haunting them nine years later—not by spooking them with his droopy face, but by NEVER GIVING LISTENERS THE GODDAMN SCORE. Regarding that faithful moment thirty years ago, we ask just one question: Couldn't Jerry Morales, the right fielder for the Cubs, have beat Monday to the punch?

Rick Monday was honored before the game Sunday, and then threw out the first pitch. The Dodgers should have let him stay on the field and start the game at first base. Instead, Olmedo Saenz did, and quickly botched an inning-ending grounder, allowing Arizona to take an early lead. Things got even better for the Dodgers in the bottom of the first, when with two on and one out, J.D. Drew became the first sucker in a decade to fall for the "fake to third, throw to first" move. Just when it looked as if Drew had run the Dodgers out of the inning, though, hits by Saenz, Bill Mueller, and Ricky Ledee gave the Dodgers an early 4-1 lead. Drew later homered, and the Dodgers went on to win, 6-4. Sitting Sunday's game out was Nomar Garciaparra, who apparently needed to rest after playing one game. Never before have the Dodgers had a bigger group of girls. Nomar... Drew... Lofton... It really wouldn't be a surprise if the Dodgers removed the urinals from the locker room.

April 22, 2006
At least Green still blows

With Jae Seo facing the Diamondbacks' Miguel Batista on Saturday night, we expected a few things: (1) That Vin Scully would talk incessantly about how Batista is a poet, (2) That Jae Seo wouldn't last through the fourth inning, and (3) That Shawn Green would bite the Dodgers in the ass with a huge base hit. Well, we were two for three. Sure enough, Scully spoke of Batista's poetry. And sure enough, Jae Seo couldn't get out of the fourth. Shawn Green, however, went 0-for-4, striking out three times, each time with a couple guys on base. While Dodger fans may lament the team's loss, at least there's a little satisfaction in knowing that Green is batting .214 this year with just one home run. (Of course now that we say this, he'll three home runs on Sunday.) Green is a nice guy and everything, but there's something about him that just makes us want to squirt barbecue sauce in his face and smash him over the head with a frying pan. Don't know what it is.

In other big news, Mr. Mia Hamm made his debut for the Dodgers on Saturday and, to the best of our knowledge, didn't tear his groin, strain his Achilles, or do any harm to his ovaries. In fact, he went 2-for-4, and could have easily gone 4-for-4. He made two scoops at first, but also failed to snare a ball that ended up skipping past him in the 4th inning, allowing the Diamondbacks' fifth (and deciding) run to score. As expected, Nomar also spent valuable minutes fidgeting with his batting gloves. Any coincidence that Nomar's first game lasted three hours and ten minutes?

April 19, 2006
Enough Wheaties for Repko

Saddened by the loss of his spring roommate Cody Ross, Jason Repko gathered up the strength on Tuesday to chat online with all seven of his fans. Among the interesting bits of information to emerge from Repko's chat session was the revelation that his favorite food is cereal. Repko told fans that Lucky Charms is his cereal of choice, but after watching him on Wednesday night, it's clear he's been on a Wheaties binge. Repko homered in the second inning off Chicago pitcher Sean Marshall, and then—in a disastrous eighth inning for the Dodgers—air mailed a throw to the plate. Actually, air mail would imply that the ball landed, when in fact it's traveling over Palm Desert at the moment. Repko plays hard, you've got to give him that. But like a piece of meat from Arby's, he's still a little raw. His eighth inning overthrow allowed the go-ahead run into scoring position, and a batter later the Cubs had taken the lead. (It would have been nice to see Jose Cruz throw the friggin' ball home instead of trying to fool the umpire into thinking he made the catch, but after seeing Repko's throw, Cruz was probably a little leary of hitting a fan in the upper deck.) Meanwhile, it was more of the same for the Dodgers. Their offense sputtered through the first five innings, getting only two hits, and the Cubs stole three bases. Danys Baez blew his first save, and Sandy Alomar left the game with what was diagnosed as a 40-year-old leg. Kenny Lofton, however, got a base hit and raised his average to .158. Things are looking up!

April 18, 2006
Offense explodes for two runs

Realizing that he's due for a season-ending injury any day now, J.D. Drew decided to make the most of the moment on Tuesday night. Drew drove in both Dodger runs, including the winning run with two outs in the ninth, and the Dodgers overwhelmed the Cubs, 2-1. A day after being utterly mystified by Greg Maddux, the Dodgers didn't look much better on Tuesday. As Dodger fans slowly decomposed in their seats, Carlos Zambrano and three Chicago relievers limited the Dodgers to five hits over the first eight and two-thirds innings. It wasn't until Kenny Lofton's walk and stolen base in the ninth that fans had reason to pick out their eye boogers and watch the game.

The Dodgers may have eked out a win Tuesday, but it's not looking good, folks. They've scored 7 runs in their last 5 games, and don't appear to be particularly motivated—which is shocking considering that their manager set his sights on a 7-7 start. Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal is hitting .228, Lofton is hitting .091, and James Loney and Dioner Navarro are battling it out at .200. The Dodgers were worried enough that they called a "hitters-only" meeting before Tuesday's game. Rumor has it no one showed up.

April 16, 2006
Easter bunny hits Dodgers with goose eggs

Easter, we've been told, is the Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. On Sunday, the Dodgers' really could have used Christ's bat. (Rumor has it he once hit .313 at Double-A.) Unfortunately, the Dodgers were without Christ, and were shut out by San Francisco, 2-0. The Dodgers managed just three hits, and embarrassing baserunning by Cody Ross killed a Dodger rally in the sixth. Three days removed from being the hero in Pittsburgh, Ross was caught rounding third on a grounder up the middle. Of course, while we're assigning blame, let's not forget about Jae Seo, who balked in a run after making a pick off attempt at first base—with no one covering the bag.

Typically, the Dodgers' timing is out of whack. While their pitching struggled the first two weeks of the season, the team led the majors in hitting. Now that the pitching has settled down, the Dodgers aren't hitting. Three runs a game would have bought the Dodgers a sweep of the Giants. Instead, they scored just a total of four runs this weekend and were lucky to come away with a single victory. The Dodgers were 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position during the series, and seem to have adoped a new policy of swining at the first pitch regardless of how many bounces it takes on its way to the plate.

Sunday's game wasn't without excitement, however. In the seventh inning, former Giant Jeff Kent was plunked in the head with a Brad Hennessey pitch. Seeing stars and believing he was a circus performer, Kent was removed from the game and taken to the hospital. Things got better an inning later when Tim Hamulack (you know... the pitcher on the Dodgers... no, not one of the Asian guys) immediately nailed Barry Bonds on the elbow. While there's a chance that Hamulack wasn't intentionally throwing at Barry, we'd really like to believe that he was—and that he was aiming for his nuts. Unfortunately, the ball hit Bonds on his elbow armor, which would take a shotgun to penetrate. Did you hear that, Hamulack? A shotgun. Wink, wink.

April 15, 2006
Dodgers win, Bonds still alive

Apparently fans in the left field pavilion at Dodger Stadium aren't quite as skilled at smuggling in syringes, batteries, and shotguns as they are beachballs. Two games into the Dodgers/Giants series, Bonds has yet to be pelted with anything, yet to be attacked by a crackhead, and yet to be evacuated by helicopter. It seems that while hatred of Bonds is high, no one is interested in spending Easter in jail. For a few innings on Saturday night, however, it appeared that being in Dodger Stadium might be worse than being in prison. With two guys on and nobody out in the first inning, Rafael Furcal forgot how to play baseball and was doubled off second on a line drive to right. Five minutes later, Steve Finley singled home Ray Durham and the Giants were off to an early lead. The tide soon turned, however, and the Dodgers put up single runs in the third and fourth, taking advantage of Jason Schmidt's wildness. With seven solid innings from Odalis Perez, an insurance run in the eighth, and a nice play by James Loney in the ninth, the Dodgers hung on to beat San Francisco, 3-1. More importantly, Barry Bonds didn't get any closer to Babe Ruth on the Dodgers' turf. Hopefully he'll have diarrhea on Sunday and have to stay at the hotel.

Speaking of diarrhea, Yhency Brazoban learned on Friday that he can spend the next nine months on the toilet... or wherever the hell else he wants to be. There's definitely one place he won't be: in the Dodger bullpen. Pitching to Jeromy Burnitz on Thursday, Brazoban said he felt something pop. Thinking it was just the Southern California real estate bubble, he continued to pitch. As it turned out, it was a ligament in his elbow. Brazoban will undergo Tommy John surgery and figures to be out of commission for at least a year. That's good news for Cody Ross, who gets to remain on the Dodger roster now that there's room for Kenny Lofton. It's also good news for the rest of the league, since the Dodgers now have just two guys in the bullpen with any experience, yet they've got six outfielders.

April 13, 2006
A gift from Cody

We don't know when Ned Colletti's birthday is, but Cody Ross gave the Dodgers GM a huge present on Thursday. Ross, likely to be traded when Kenny Lofton comes off the DL in the next few day, hit two home runs and knocked in seven as the Dodgers beat up on the Pirates, 13-5. Ross is out of minor league options, meaning he'd have to pass through waivers if the Dodgers were to send him to the minors. Instead, given his sudden value, Colletti might actually be able to trade Ross and get more than a pair of socks in return for him. In the fifth inning on Thursday, Ross hit a go-ahead grand slam. In the sixth, he hit a three-run homer. By the seventh, Colletti should have been on the phone. Ross may have knocked in seven runs in a span of a half hour Thursday, but if the Dodgers were to keep him, we guarantee it would take him another three months to drive in his next seven. Trade him. Trade him now.

Some other interesting notes on Thursday's game:

  • Franquelis Osoria pitched an inning, allowed a run, and lowered his ERA.
  • Rafael Furcal went 1-for-4, raising his average.
  • Jeff Kent went 1-for-5, dropping his average below Jae Seo's.
  • Jeromy Burnitz (who homered again on Thursday) would be a future Hall-of-Famer if he only hit against Dodger pitching.
  • It turns out that it's actually possible for Dodger pitchers to hold a lead.
  • Jim Tracy is still a putz.

April 11, 2006
Seo turns PNC into launching pad

Making his first start as a Dodger on Tuesday, Jae Seo didn't disappoint—he did exactly what you'd expect from a fifth starter. Seo gave up five earned runs over five innings, and the Dodgers blew an early lead to lose, 7-6. "The guy didn't really have overpowering stuff," Pirates Ryan Doumit said of Seo. After he's in the league a little longer, maybe Doumit will learn not to insult a pitcher he's just homered off of. And after Seo is with the Dodgers a little longer, maybe he'll learn how to keep the ball in the park. Doumit's home run was one of three hit off of Seo. Not to be outdone, Lance Carter (looking more like Jimmy Carter) gave up a bomb on his very first pitch, blowing the Dodgers' one-run lead. The Dodgers have blown leads in each of their four losses, so this figures to be an enjoyable season. Maybe Cesar Izturis can come back as a relief pitcher.

Meanwhile, although it went for naught, the Dodgers finally displayed some power. Bill Mueller hit two home runs, and Ricky Ledee—a last minute substitution for Jose Cruz—hit one of his own. Cruz came down with "flu-like" symptoms before the game, obviously nauseous after realizing that Jae Seo was starting for the Dodgers. Here's another reason to be nauseous: In 88 at-bats against the Dodgers since his underwhelming stint with the team in '03, Jeromy Burnitz has hit 10 home runs (including one in the first inning Tuesday) and knocked in twenty-one. If he hits for the cycle on Wednesday, we fly to Pittsburgh and set fire to that yellow bridge.

April 10, 2006
It's the Pitts for Tracy

Jim Tracy thought he'd be going to a better place. Pittsburgh, he probably figured, would never be expected to win. The standards would be low, the pressure nonexistent, and the microscope trained not on himself, but rather on organisms in the Allegheny River. If he left a pitcher in a game for all eternity, who would notice? If he played the lefty/lefty game all night, who would care? If he conducted Q&A sessions with himself, who'd be listening? Tracy couldn't wait to take control of the Pirates' ship, it seemed. A week into the season, however, that ship is taking on water—and quickly. After the Dodgers knocked off the Pirates in their home opener Monday, Tracy's team is 1-7. There was even a smattering of boos at PNC Park on Monday (although, to be fair, most of it was coming from Manny Mota's mouth). To add insult to injury, the loss didn't come at the hands of the new Dodgers—it came at the hands of Tracy's Dodgers. Jason Repko homered and tripled, Olmedo Saenz homered, and Odalis Perez gave up just a run over five plus innings. Of course, things haven't changed that much: Jeromy Burnitz had two run-scoring hits for Pittsburgh, raising his average against his former team to something like .800. That's okay, though—he still looks like a moon.

April 9, 2006
Dodgers split in Philly

Playing their first double-header in almost three years, the Dodgers earned a split with the Phillies on Sunday, losing the first game (6-3) and winning the second (6-2). While breaking even isn't particularly exciting, you've got to consider it a success that they played 18 innings without injury. The biggest thing hurting, however, is the Dodgers bullpen. Yhency Brazoban couldn't hold the Dodgers' 3-2 lead in the seventh inning, and Tim Hamulack gave up a walk-off homer to Bobby Abreu in the ninth. Hamulack might have been distracted by a botched balk call during Abreu's at-bat, or more likey, just blows. Only Takashi Saito—making his major league debut at the tender age of thirty-seven—appeared in control in game one, inducing an inning-ending double-play in the eighth inning. With their six runs in the second game, the Dodgers have scored thirty-seven in their first six games—a healthy amount for a team that stuggled offensively last season. On the bullpen, however, the jury is still out.

On Monday the Dodgers face the Pirates in their home opener. Here's guessing that Pittsburgh fans are behind Jim Tracy for a solid six innings... until Grady Little brings in lefty Hamulack and Tracy sends Ian Snell up to the plate to pinch-hit for Sean Casey. Will we enjoy watching Jim Tracy get booed in his new city? Perhaps. Will we then watch every goddamn channel in hopes that we catch a postgame interview with him? Absoultely.

April 8, 2006
Gagne has surgery, begins to resemble Dreifort

A day after being put on the disabled list, Eric Gagne had surgery on Friday to remove a sensory nerve in his elbow. Doctors claim the surgery was significantly less intensive than what was first suspected on Thursday night, and suggested that Gagne could be pitching again in six to eight weeks. If that happens, and Gagne quickly returns to form, we'll gladly eat our words calling for his retirement. Somehow, however, we don't see that happening. And frankly, isn't 6-8 weeks a little quick? We're certainly not doctors, but after all the problems he's had, how 'bout playing it safe? It seems like once a week you hear about a guy coming back too soon from an injury, only to worsen his condition. And in this case, removing the nerve will allow Gagne to pitch without pain, but there's a little side-effect: forearm numbness. Nerves, it seems, exist for a reason. It's great that Dr. Frank Jobe is optimistic, but let's face it, the doc is old. Wasn't he in his mid-50's when he performed the original Tommy John surgery in 1974? That would make him about 97 now. The guy shouldn't be driving a car, let alone slicing elbows. If nothing else, though, at least Gagne has a bunch of old scars to direct Jobe to the right spot.

April 6, 2006
Sadly, he can't save himself

Eric Gagne is done, and we'd like to take this opportunity to pat ourselves on the back. Two days ago, when Gagne suddenly decided to give up his appeal of last year's suspension, we knew the end was near. "His arm is dead and he's hoping that two days of antidepressants and ice cream will bring it back to life," we wrote. Well, all the pills and butter pecan apparently weren't enough. Thursday afternoon it was announced that Gagne will undergo surgery on his elbow for the second time in a year, this time to remove the nerve that was repositioned by shitty doctors last June. There's no timetable for his return, but it's pretty safe to say he'll be back as soon as a new arm grows out of his shoulder.

The saddest part of the whole thing is that the Dodgers are probably better off without him—at least in the condition that he was in this spring. With his velocity down, Gagne talked about how he was "going to have to learn how to pitch." Well, we don't want Gagne to learn how to pitch. The Eric Gagne that wowed fans from 2002-2004 didn't pitch. He threw 97-mph beebees, occasionally dropped in a nasty curve, and—more than anything else —had tremendous confidence in himself. He got off knowing that he could blow hitters away, and fans rode that confidence through some otherwise mediocre seasons. There's no reason for Eric Gagne to have more surgery and return a year later as a middle reliever who's depressed that he can't strike out a number 8 hitter. Whether he'd be pitching in L.A. or somewhere else, that would ruin the legacy that he spent three years creating. It's time for him to wash his goatee, pack his bags, and call it a day.

April 5, 2006
Dodgers to introduce injury-proof uniforms

There are 25 guys on the Dodgers' roster. Three games into the season, 23 of them have been injured. Only Tim Hamulack and Brett Tomko have escaped injury, but that's just because they've yet to play. During Wednesday night's 9-8 loss to the Braves, five Dodgers were added to the waiting list in the trainer's room. Jeff Kent left the game with a bruised tricep (after being hit), Olmedo Saenz left the game with an injured back (translation: he was hungry), Jason Repko was hit in the hand with a pitch (because he didn't move out of the way), James Loney took a line drive off his wrist (immediately screaming like a little girl), and Rafael Furcal bashed shins with Andruw Jones (no, not a black thing). In addition, an usher stubbed his toe and a hot dog vendor fell off the Reserved level and was trampled by the USC marching band. In an effort to stem this rash of injuries, Dodger trainers have designed protective uniforms equipped with airbags set to deploy in the event of any physical contact—whether it be with a ball, an opposing player, or a herpetic fan.

Meanwhile, a few things are becoming increasingly clear. First, Odalis Perez will never become a better pitcher. Each season he says 'this is the year', and then he proceeds to blow a 5-run lead. Second, Franquelis Osoria doesn't belong in the major leagues, regardless of how good a spring training he had. And third, Boston fans were completely justified in their criticism of Grady Little's managerial style (and by 'style' we mean 'retarded excuse for strategy'). Ok, it may be a bit early to jump all over the guy, but too bad, we'll do it anyway. When you've got a tie game in the eighth inning, and a rookie reliever on the mound, you've got to have someone warming up behind him. Period. You don't wait until he gets in trouble, you don't wait until the go-ahead run is in scoring position, and you don't wait until Rick Honeycutt has to slap you across the face with an issue of House and Farm Magazine. When every run is precious, you can't just sit back and look at the pretty mountains in the distance. By the time Tim Hamulack got up in the pen, there wasn't enough time for him to get warm, and Ryan Langerhans made the Dodgers pay, driving in the eventual winning run with a double to right. Not fun to witness... unless of course you're Derek Lowe, in which case you're not watching the game because your ADD kicked in and you're back in the clubhouse making a snack.

April 4, 2006
Loney gets his feet wet, arms too

If the Dodgers had it their way, the sun would be shining, Nomar Garciaparra would be the first baseman, and Eric Gagne would be standing on the mound in the ninth. All didn't go according to plan on Tuesday, but the Dodgers came away with a 5-4 win over the Braves. With the groundskeepers getting more action than most of the guys Ned Colletti signed over the winter, the Dodgers scored early and actually made it stand up. A home run from the most durable guy on the team, J.D. Drew, gave the Dodgers a quick 2-0 lead, and James Loney's walk was cashed in later in the first. After much fanfare, Loney made his major league debut, drawing a walk from John Smoltz. Mariano Duncan congratulated Loney at first base with a lollipop and Grady Little later promised him a trip to Chuck E. Cheese after the game. The 21-year-old played well, getting a base hit in his second at-bat and making a couple nice scoops at first. And with nine innings under his belt, Loney is now the Dodgers' most successful first-round draft pick since 1994.

Meanwhile, Eric Gagne decided to begin serving his two-game suspension that dates back to a game last season when he yelled French obscenities at an umpire while on the disabled list. Gagne says he decided to drop his appeal because the Dodgers have twelve guys on the pitching staff at the moment, but we all know the sad truth: his arm is dead and he's hoping that two days of antidepressants and ice cream will bring it back to life. Danys Baez filled in on Tuesday, and while his physical appearance is a little too tidy for a closer, it was Game Over nonetheless.

Finally, this bit of exciting news for the nine fans who braved the drizzle on Tuesday: the Dodgers are rewarding you by giving you a free Reserved level ticket for one of two crappy mid-week games that are undersold in May. The McCourts are the best!

April 3, 2006
How 'bout a root canal with that enema?

So, anyone for basketball? After Monday's opener, Dodger fans could certainly use the distraction. Hell, even before Monday's opener they could have used a distraction. First, the Dodgers announced that Nomar Garciaparra wouldn't be in the starting lineup—and would likely go on the DL. Then, following in Nomar's footsteps, the singer who was to sing the National Anthem bailed out. And finally, just before game time, hundreds of doves were released into the sky—simultaneously with a blast of fireworks. Before the feathers were scooped off the field, the Braves had scored four runs in the first inning. Before the game was over, they had scored eleven.

Rain began falling in the seventh inning, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to wash away the memory of the first inning. Marcus Giles began the game with a base hit. With one out the fun really began, as Jeff Kent booted a double-play ball, Jason Repko bobbled a line drive (and then overthrew the cutoff man), and Derek Lowe grooved one to Adam LaRoche. Braves 4, Dodgers in trouble. Ten minutes into the game and we'd already seen enough to know we can safely plan our vacations for October.

A few innings later, Derek Lowe thought it would be a good time to try out his favorite pitching technique: starting guys with a mediocre fastball right down the middle. Tim Hudson: base hit. Chipper Jones: base hit. Andruw Jones: home run. Note to Lowe: next time you want to tell people about your pitching patterns, tell your kids, not reporters. Note to Grady Little: If you're at all interested in silencing those who doubt your managerial style, you might want to consider pulling a guy when he's getting shelled. (Witness Bobby Cox, who pulled Tim Hudson in the fifth after he gave up four runs.) Nonetheless, we thank Grady for making our "Days until Grady Little leaves Derek Lowe in too long" countdown a success.

Meanwhile, what's a Dodger loss without a little false hope? As the Braves extended their lead, the Dodgers inched back. Four runs in the fifth, three in the eighth, two in the ninth. The Dodgers knocked out seventeen hits (three more than they had in the entire last half of the '05 season), but left thirteen guys on base. It seemed that Olmedo Saenz stranded most of them—striking out three times before driving in two in the eighth. Ultimately, however, the Dodgers came up a run short. The nausea, the heartburn, the hair loss... it could only mean one thing: Dodger Baseball is back.

As for Nomar, only about 15 million people are muttering under their breaths, told you so. Ned Colletti might have been smiling today in that luxury booth of his, but we guarantee that his shorts were packed with poop. With Lofton down and now Nomar, Colletti's plan is crumbling before his eyes. If anyone in the vicinity of Dodger stadium needs to build a wall, stop by Colletti's office because he's shitting bricks. While people joke about the fragility of the Dodgers' roster, no one—not even us—thought that the injuries would come so soon. We figured May, maybe early June. But Jesus Christ—April 3rd? Give it a week and J.D. Drew's son might be in the starting lineup.

April 2, 2006
Painfully, here we go again

When the Dodgers take the field on Monday afternoon without Kenny Lofton, it won't be much of a disappointment—mainly because we keep forgetting that Lofton is on the team. To his credit, however, Lofton has quickly learned what it means to wear Dodger blue: it means straining your calf muscle before Opening Day. In joining Cesar Izturis and Jayson Werth on the disabled list, Lofton has kindly given Dodger fans a glimpse of what likely lies ahead.

On paper the Dodgers are clearly a better team than they were at the start of last season, but if that paper happens to be a medical chart, there's a legitimate cause for concern. It's really not a matter of whether these old guys will break a hip or two, it's a matter of when. And when they do, the depth of the Dodgers roster will be tested. Thankfully, guys like Joel Guzman, Chad Billingsley, and James Loney are much closer to being able to provide that depth than they were a year ago. (Dan Evans and Paul DePodesta are long gone, but each deserves credit for getting the Dodgers' minor league system up to par once again. Of course, any credit they deserve for that feat is overshadowed by their love for guys like Terry Mulholland and Hee Seop Choi—who, incidentally, was put on the disabled list over the weekend by the Red Sox).

Ned Colletti was obviously well aware of the state of the farm system when he assembled a roster full of guys in their late 30's, and while the hope is that his former Giants stay healthy, there's a certain amount of comfort in knowing who's at Triple-A. It's a strange feeling, as the Dodgers haven't really had a good crop of prospects since the mid 90's when the foursome of Karros, Piazza, Mondesi, and Hollandsworth emerged from the minor leagues. Still, you can't get too excited about a prospect until he turns into more than just a prospect. After all, Wilton Guerrero, Billy Ashley, Angel Pena, and Karim Garcia were once prospects. Now, the four work at Target.

The Dodgers have made wholesale changes over the winter, but with those changes come new questions: Will Nomar fit in at first base without struggling at plate? Will players get shitfaced at Sandy Alomar's 50th birthday party? Will Jae Seo get along with Jeff Kent? Will Olmedo Saenz steal Lance Carter's lunch? Will J.D. Drew avoid contracting the bird flu? There are a lot of unknowns, but at least Dodger fans can find comfort in one thing while they're watching Tim Hudson blank the Dodgers: Cody Ross made the team.

April 1, 2006
He's filthy—literally

The minute Eric Gagne became a closer, there went his hygiene. His hair grew nappy, his goatee unkempt, his hat ridden with mildew. We're not healthcare professionals, but we've always known that the dude is just plain dirty. On Friday, a doctor finally agreed. Gagne arrived at the ballpark complaining of pain in his left ear and Dodger trainers sent him to a specialist (not because they couldn't diagnose the problem, but because they didn't want to touch his filthy ear). After returning to the stadium later in the day, Gagne confirmed the problem: "My ears were nasty." The Dodger closer was diagnosed with an inner ear infection, and outer ear infection, and dirty fingernails. The doctor's recommendation: some antibiotics and an occasional shower.

Unfortunately, the doctor couldn't do anything for Gagne's arm. Pitching one inning on Friday night against the Angels, Gagne gave up a leadoff home run, a double, and walked a batter. It could very well turn out that Ned Colletti's biggest move this offseason wasn't the signing of Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, or Bill Mueller. His biggest move might have been trading for Danys Baez (provided that Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson don't turn into Cy Young winners). While Baez has never been a dominant closer, he's no Jeff Shaw either—meaning that as an alternative to Gagne, he's not a bad option. Of course, it remains to be seen how often Gagne will be able to pitch and how effective he'll be. One thing, however, is clear: it's not Game Over anymore. Once a God, Eric Gagne has turned into a mere mortal... a mere mortal with lots of ear wax.