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Fraternizing with the Enemy: Dodgers Edition

Casey Blake pulls 7 muscles skipping home while Ryan Hanigan can't bear to watch.
Casey Blake pulls 7 muscles skipping home while Ryan Hanigan can't bear to watch.

While I'll leave the stat-colored glasses to JinAZ (he looks way better in them anyway), I figured I'd try my hand at a series preview, with a little (read: a lot) of help from Mike over at the Dodgers blog Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness, which is kind of like the sports blog equivalent of Mike Trout--SO HOT RIGHT NOW. Seriously, this guy is in higher demand than maid uniforms at a Dominique Strauss-Kahn poker night. Major thanks to Mike for taking the time to do this for me, and let's give him a big, warm, SFW Red Reporter welcome.

So without further ado, here's what he had to say (after the jump!)...

RR: We're approximately 1/4 of the way into the season, so who's your first quarter MVP? LVP?

MSTI: You remember Steve Lyons? He hit a robust .252/.301/.340 in parts of nine seasons in the late 80s and early 90s, but is mostly known for dropping his pants during a game and getting fired by FOX for making racially insensitive comments during the 2006 playoffs. Well, karma is biting us back for the privilege of having Vin Scully call our home games by having this lunatic call of the road games, and he’s just atrocious in every way. Basically, imagine all of the stupid things Joe Morgan liked to say, just coming out of a guy who was about 1% of the player Morgan was.

I bring this up because Lyons has said more than once this season that Jamey Carroll is the MVP of the 2011 Dodgers. Now I like Jamey Carroll just fine, and his quality OBP skills and positional flexibility have come in extremely handy in covering for the infield injuries the Dodgers have had over the last two years. But… come on. Matt Kemp’s on pace for a 30/30 season over here. Most valuable player on the team? He’s been trading off with Joey Votto and Ryan Braun for most valuable player in the league.

As for LVP… well, we’ll get to James Loney in a second.

RR: How excited are you for Jerry Sands? Has he wrested LF away from the juggernaut that is Jay Gibbons?

MSTI: Or as I once referred to the Gibbons / Marcus Thames / Tony Gwynn Jr. trio, "JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr."

Sands’ overall line doesn’t look that great (.220 BA, 2 HR), but he’s really picked it up in May, with the second-highest OPS of any regular Dodger hitter. The power hasn’t been there yet, though he’s shown an excellent command of the strike zone, and considering how useless the other three have been, that’s progress. Even if Sands hasn’t blown onto the scene, the total lack of production from everyone else should make it a total no-brainer that he keeps the job for the rest of the year. Still, there’s some concern that they could send him back down anyway, because when you can hold onto several mediocre veterans, why wouldn’t you?

RR: What's the latest on the McCourt debacle? Are we going to see a reality show in the near future? (The Real Teamowners of Chavez Ravine?) If MSTI and Red Reporter pooled our funds, could we make a lowball offer?

MSTI: It gets uglier by the day, seriously. He’s now in the business of desperately trying just to make payroll every two weeks, and the only reason he made the May 31 bill was by calling in advances on sponsorship bills by promising future discounts. It’s an open question if he’ll make the next bill on June 15, but it’s even scarier if he does than if he doesn’t, because lord knows what he’ll have mortgaged to come up with that cash. Bud Selig has put a team in place to monitor all of the Dodgers’ spending, and when Frank’s not busy drumming up cash, he’s outright lying to the media by claiming he has a deal in place for TV rights with FOX that would solve all of the problems if only Selig would allow it. What he’s neglecting to mention is that his ex-wife legally owns 50% of the team, and refuses to approve the deal, so Selig really has nothing to approve.

Worse, the combination of a bad team, a criminal owner, and safety concerns over the Opening Day beating of a Giants fan have led to a massive drop in attendance this year. At this point, we’re openly rooting for McCourt to default on the next payroll, leading to MLB taking over the team. It’s a very odd position to be in, hoping your own team can’t make the bills.

RR: So far so good for Matt Kemp, is this finally his major breakout year? (And how is his CF defense looking these days?) As a follow up question, can we have Matt Kemp, pleeeeeeeaaasssseeeeee?

MSTI: The funny thing about Kemp is, everyone thinks that 2010 was some sort of major disaster for him. And sure, he played poorly in the field, had a low OBP, and set a team record for strikeouts. Definitely not good. But we’re not talking "Andruw Jones 2008," despite how people reacted to it, because if a 25-year-old who still hit 28 homers with an above-average OPS is a Chernobyl-level disaster, then I’ll take it.

As for whether it’s his breakout year, well, I thought his 2009 (26 HR / 34 SB / .842 OPS) was pretty good, but this year does seem like it’s going to be even better. And I’m proud to say that I was 100% confident that it’d happen (see #3) if only because the team finally is rid of the terrible Joe Torre-led coaching staff of years past, and imported Davey Lopes & Tim Wallach to join Don Mattingly on what is probably my favorite staff the club has ever had.

But sure, you can have Kemp. (FanGraphs thinks so, anyway) Just send us Joey Votto, Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco, and take the rest of Juan Uribe’s contract and the deferred payments to Juan Pierre, and we’ll call it a deal. [ed. note: I like FanGraphs' potential price tag much better]

RR: Whither James Loney?

MSTI: Short answer: he sucks.

Long answer: he really, really sucks.

Longer answer: he’s been a huge disappointment, obviously, and no one quite predicted just how bad he’d be this year. Here’s the thing, though – he’s never really been that good. Baseball-reference has him at 3.5 WAR over parts of six seasons. Six seasons! I’m pretty sure that Jose Bautista racked up 3.5 WAR while I was writing this sentence. Loney really enticed us in short stints in 2006 and 2007, where he came up and pounded the ball, giving everyone hope that the power that was never really there in the minors would come as he grew up. But you know how long ago 2006 was? You guys still had Eric Milton and Brandon Claussen in the rotation, and Scott Hatteburg was your starting first baseman. Loney’s never really shown that kind of skill again, with three very mediocre seasons in 2008, ’09, and ’10. He was more or less an average major league hitter in those years, and that’s fine as a shortstop, but with the monsters who occupy first base around the league, that made him one of the worst first basemen around. But since he racked up shiny, sparkly RBI in those years, thanks to the guys on base ahead of him, people attached value to him that was never there.

He’s got one year left of arbitration and is almost certainly in his last year with the Dodgers, but I think some team could buy low on him and be surprised; as I wrote at Baseball Prospectus in April, he’s got massive splits both in terms of home/road and lefty/right. Used correctly, he could show some value. Just not for my team.

Hey, you want him?

RR: Should I pick up Jamey Carroll for my fantasy team?

MSTI: Does your league count OBP? Then sure, his eligibility at 2B/SS/3B is nice. If not, then probably not. His batting average is pretty empty.

RR: How would you grade Donnie Baseball's job so far as manager? He seems to have a case of the Dusty's sometimes when filling out a lineup card (Juan Castro at 2? Really?), but it'd be interesting to hear it from a Dodgers' fan's perspective.

MSTI: I suppose the right word here is… "acceptable." When he was hired, the big concern was his total lack of experience, and even moreso, how much being the star pupil of the Joe Torre School of Inefficient Management would rub off on him. But I think his youth has really served him well, as he’s been able to relate to the players far more than the ancient Torre, and from day one in camp he was clear about his intentions. I’ll grant that there’s been a few hiccups along the way (the day he brought Castro in to pinch-hit with the bases loaded rather than Jerry Sands just killed me) [ed. note: I think we all understand how frustrating that is, with a certain incident involving Josh Hamilton still fresh in our collective memory], but I do think he deserves a massive mulligan for the ridiculous amount of injuries this team has suffered. The proposed starting infield of Loney / Uribe / Furcal / Blake have played together all of twice so far, and Broxton, Kuo, Padilla, and Hawksworth all got hurt within ten days of each other. The fact that this team is even still afloat is a credit to him.

RR: Who are you most afraid of on the Reds, aside from Joey Votto?

MSTI: Does the idea of Aroldis Chapman throwing a 104 mph heater through my nasal cavity count? If not, then I’ll have to go with Johnny Cueto, because ending an opponent's career with a kick to the face is pretty metal. [ed note: glad you went metal here, and not "bush league" or "dickish." Also, I think if Jason LaRue had had a particularly violent sneezing fit his career might've ended too...]

RR: Who is your favorite player on the Reds?

MSTI: Other than Votto, who’s a beast, I’ve always enjoyed the Mohawk-wearing, heart-attack-surviving, lefty-destroying ways of Jonny Gomes. Particularly when he’s trying to play defense, which would be well-served to come with the "Yakety Sax" soundtrack.

RR: As a relatively impartial observer, what are your thoughts on Brandon Phillips? How about Chris Carpenter?

MSTI: Phillips is a tad overrated, though I suppose getting any power from a middle infielder these days is a bonus. Mostly, I like how much his use of Twitter confounds Dusty Baker. I think Chris Carpenter is a cyborg sent back by Skynet to kill us all, based on how many times he’s been injured and then returned even better.

RR: And finally, put your GM pants on. Propose some trades, just for fun.

MSTI: You guys have a quality team, but the starting pitching just isn’t cutting it right now – and neither is Paul Janish at shortstop. When the Dodgers are 15 games out in July, we’ll solve both of those problems for you by trading Hiroki Kuroda and Rafael Furcal for some youth, preferably in the Mesoraco/Yonder Alonso range, but I’ll take what I can get.