Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Midseason Report Card: NL West

What. So it's September. Hardly mid-season. I got it, already. We type (from wheelchairs no less) our content, mail it to a Web-publishing office, who then sends us a draft edit, and we fix stuff, and send it back. It takes time. We promise, though, to have the National League covered by month's end. For real. Anyway, special agent Johnny Utah joins us today, and if you like what he says about America's pastime, then check out what the babealicious Sooze said about the AL Central here, Blanche Feverpiss on the West here, and Rustoleum's slant on the East here. Actually, we don't really care if you liked it or not. We did, and we're not only slow as erosion, we're self-pleasers. Anyway, for the record, our boy Utah is also a fan of exclamation points and all-capping the occasional word.

Bankmeister: First, if you would, tell us a bit about yourself, your history as a baseball fan, and how you've come to embrace the team we all associate with Tommy Lasorda, Steve Garvey, (Editor's Note: I've heard you say before that Garvey is a sore spot since he later went to San Diego, but that's how I'll always remember him, so all apologies.) Steve Sax, Ron Cey, and of course, Fernando Valenzuela. I trust you were well engaged by the 1988 World Series, and I'll assume that since I remember the '81 defeat of the Yankees, that you do, too.

Beyond that, as of today, the Dodgers are a game and-a-half back of the Arizona Diamonbacks (Note: Obviously a few days ago; the reverse is true today.), and if memory serves correctly -- chances are it doesn't, and I'm too lazy to look it up -- that's pretty much been the case since mid-season, give or take a small handful of games. We've got a little over three weeks left in this regular season, and as of today, L.A. hosts Arizona for a three-game series (Note: LA swept that series, 7-0, 7-2, and 5-3). How do you see this division shaking up? If Team Lasorda can't get it done, the Phillies right now have a better record than the Dodgers. I imagine that you're hoping to take the division and rule out the nerve-racking possibility of having to squeak in as a wildcard.

Johnny Utah: Ok, Im a life-long Dodger fan since my father played for them in the 60s and later tried to make a comeback in the Phillies organization. I grew up in Philly watching the likes of Mike Schmidt, but always had the Blue Blood. And yes, Garvey is my boy even though he became a Padre (I still block that out!). The wanker once not only wouldn't sign an autograph for me, but he dropped my pen and wouldn't pick it up! Bastard!

The '88 series was magical for me. I was fresh out of high school and becoming a member of the working force. Man, I remember the Gibby home run like it was yesterday. It was all the sweeter that he hit it off Douche Eckersley. In my opinion, Mickey Hatcher was the MVP of the series but never got the credit. One home run all year, with 2 clutch at bats in the series! Atta boy, Mickey!

Enough with the history lesson; on to the present. It has to be the division or nothing. Ten games out of the wild card would be next to impossible, so nix that out of the equation.

This weekend series is pivotal. Good for me that it takes place in the not-so-friendly confines of Chavez Ravine. I predict the boys in blue take two out of the three and go on to win the division by two games. Why?

First, the Snakes' rotation is totally overrated. The Unit is not what he was. He's not intimidating anymore, although John One Nut Kruk will say different. Brandon Webb has proven in his last two outings that he is not untouchable. He has given up six runs in each of his last two, one of the games in question was to the pillow-bitting Padres. Sit down Webby, you started hot and gave my fantasy team a boost, but...Dan Haren? Gimme a break....

Adam Dunn was a nice pickup, NOT. The friggin guy strikes out more than me at a Victoria's Secret photo shoot! Moot point, just wanted to include.

Why LaLa will take it...

Joe Torre is a really good manager. He has kept Jeff "The Mustache Kent" from causing any grief with teammates. Bonus points there!

The bullpen has proven that even with the loss of Takashi Saito they can shut down the opposition in the closing innings. Kind of a closer-by-committee approach courtesy of Mr. Torre. Chan Ho Park and Jonathan Broxtan have proven themselves in this department.

A quality starting staff: Derek Lowe has been in many a playoff hunt, so there is some experience. Chad Billingsly is going to be a fantasy stud in the next few years, as is Clayton Kershaw. In fact, the Indians wanted Billingsly in a deal for Sabathia, which LA obviously declined. Thank you, Ned Colletti!

The additions of Casey Blake and ManRam: They have both contributed a great deal. Blake seems to come up with key hits in the clutch. Manny always finds a way to get on base now that he is happy with his situation. Even if it is by the ole IBB, he is a strong bat in the lineup the Bums have been missing since Pedro Guererro.

The schedule also points in the favor of LA. More road games, but six against San Diego, six against the Jints, and four at Pittsburgh.

Looming are the fricken Rockies @ five games back. They DID come out of nowhere last year....Not concerned about Jorge DeLa Rosa this year....Matt Holliday would look good in Blue, isnt he a free agent?....I'm just saying

B: Interesting. So, LA has the edge based the non-strength of their remaining schedule, and because the Diamondbacks, are, you say, a tad overrated? Perhaps I can see a shade of that with their rotation, but they've still managed to score more runs than anybody in the division except the Rockies. That means they're either putting some lumber on some seamage, or getting on base and advancing runners, or some combination of both. Therefore, they can remain competitive, even if their pitching is slightly weaker than it looks on paper. Are you feeling confident enough to guarantee an LA division title? Assuming you are, and that that happens, who would you fear most in the playoffs? The Cubs of course have the great record, but they sort of seem to be falling apart right now. Do the Mets pose a threat? How about Milwaukee? They're my dark horse.

JU: Very overrated. They do have the second most runs in the division. However, when they lost the O-Dog Orlando Hudson, they lost a piece of their chemistry. Since he was placed on the DL August 10th, they have seemed to lose steam. I have a lot of love for Steven Drew, baseball's version of Scott Skiles, but he alone won't get the job done. Adam Dunn, as I stated earlier, is a strikeout machine. He is unable to advance runners. Glory hound I say...

With that, I say I'm very confident on a NL West Title. Im trying to stay unbiased, but all signs point to DodgerTown.

Although the starting rotation is shaky, the Phils are the biggest scare. That lineup is fierce. Chase Utley has a career .355 and an OPS of 1.105 against my boys. Russell Martin has been horrendous throwing out runners this year, so Jimmy Rollins becomes even more dangerous. Shane Victorino (who was drafted by LA in '99) finds ways of coming aroung to score. Needless to say, sound fundamental ball is the Dodgers' weakness.

Just advancing to the NLCS will be a victory after the past disappointments.

It will occur, write it down. So says Johnny Utah.

B: NLCS you say? So they get in, win one round of the playoffs, get eliminated, and you're fine with that? I find that hard to swallow. Frankly, I would expect more from someone who's waited 20 years for a Dodger World Series trophy, and even more so for someone who watched a Philly Eagles team come so close for those consecutive years, only to go home disappointed each time.

JU: Geez, Banky. Why do you have to bring Donnie Mac into this?

I'm not saying that I would be satisfied with a one and out. I was just saying that anything less than that would be a huge disappointment. With bringing in Torre, and his ability to manage the team, not winning the division would have Dodger Nation calling for his head.

We Blue Bloods are hungry for a ring! With ManRam, Torre, the pitching staff, and the hot bat of Ethier, it's obtainable.

B: Fair enough, Utah. How do you see the rest of the playoffs panning out, both NL and AL?

JU: For the N.L., I see Dodgers~Phillies in the NLCS, with the Phils winning in six games. In the A.L., I see the Red Sox taking the East, with the Rays getting the wild card. White Sox and Twins tie, with the Pale Hose winning the one-game tie breaker. I'll say the Angels take out the South Siders in the ALCS.

I predict another title for the Angels in five games. They have no glaring weakness.

B: Interesting. No Baby Bears anywhere in the mix? First-round elimination for the best record in baseball?

JU: Not so much; just not sold on the Scrubs (real original I know). I'm not buying this 100 years; it's fate B.S. I hate the Cubs so much that come November I'm writing in Steve Bartman for Prez!

B: Alrighty, then. It's been a pleasure having you with us. If you make it to the Ravine for any playoff ball, be careful. Humberto will find you.