A Series of Firsts for Don Mattingly’s Dodgers

The Dodgers are in the Bronx for the first time since 1981 and for the first time since interleague play began and Don Mattingly is at Yankee Stadium in the visiting dugout for the first time. So I figured, let’s keep it going with things happening for the first time. What does that mean? An email exchange with a girl and my girlfriend: Dodger fan Brittni Michaelis.

Keefe: Your Kings couldn’t defend the Cup. Your Lakers were an atrocity. The Vikings quarterback is Christian Ponder. But when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, your $216 million Dodgers are 29-39 and in last place in the NL West. Last place! In the NL West! Again, that’s … Last place! In the NL West! Even Christian Ponder can chime in and say something sucks when it comes to the Dodgers.

Maybe you’ll blame the ownership group for trading for and putting their faith in players who didn’t pan out in Boston and blamed God for losses (Adrian Gonzalez) or wore out their welcome in Boston (Josh Beckett) or got fat (Josh Beckett) or stopped caring about baseball because they had a kid (Josh Beckett) or spend time on the disabled list with mysterious injuries (Josh Beckett) or former stars that even the Marlins didn’t want (Hanley Ramirez) or a $142 million outfielder who broke down like a dumped Bachelor contestant when asked about the media treatment in Boston (Carl Crawford). Maybe you’ll blame Ned Colletti for being the general manager during the time when all of these moves took place. But if you’re going to blame injuries then you came to the wrong place because the Yankees have watched Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli, Kevin Youkilis, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain all spend time on the disabled list this season.

So if I were to ask you why the Dodgers are 7 ½ games back in the NL West or why they are five games worse than the Padres or why they only have three more wins than the Houston Astros, how would you answer? Actually I’m going to ask you that. Why are the Dodgers so bad and who is to blame?

Michaelis: Well, hello to you too, pal. Thanks for coming out swinging. While you make valid points about the Lakers and Vikings, I refuse to get rattled by you. I refuse.

Despite your ever-so charming wittiness and sarcasm, this Dodgers team is no different from the ones in the past. The issue with this team isn’t the ownership group, injuries or individual players.

Sure, Josh Beckett sucks (0-5 with a 5.19 ERA) and would rather be drinking beers, eating fried chicken and surfing off the coast of Malibu, but can you really blame him? Before he experienced “hand-numbness” and was subsequently put on the disabled list, his last three starts weren’t terrible for him (0-2, 13 IP, 17 H, 12 R, 9 ER, 7 BB, 16 K). But his career might be over because of numbness in his pitching hand, so give the guy a break.

I realize you dislike Gonzalez almost as much as I dislike Jason Schmidt (even the mention of his name makes me angry), but Gonzalez is the only reason why we aren’t 20 games under .500. His stats this season? .303/8/44 with 71 hits. He has a better average (.308), more RBIs (44) and a better OBP (.365) than any Yankee. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well that’s because the Yankees play in a better division and how can he only have 8 homeruns in the NL West?” But I can’t control what division the Dodgers are in, just like I can’t control the air conditioning on the Metro North.

The issue isn’t one player, the issue is the whole damn team. The lack of chemistry, the lack of consistency and most importantly, the bullpen are the reasons why the Dodgers are 10 games below .500. That bullpen is the death of me. It will be the reason why I have gray hairs before the age of 24. It doesn’t matter what our starting rotation does, the slobs in the bullpen can’t do their job. This happens EVERY year.

You know how in Step Brothers, Dale (Will Ferrell) and Brendan (John C. Reilly) interview for jobs with Seth Rogen’s company and they have it in the bag until Dale screws up and farts? That’s like the Dodgers bullpen. The Dodgers lead the league with 15 blown saves. Their closer, Brandon League, has a 5.54 ERA, has put 41 runners on base in 26 innings and has a .308 batting average against. (Where is Hideo Nomo when you need him?) If Andy Pettitte can still pitch at age 41 then Nomo needs to come out of retirement at the age of 44. Come out, come out, wherever you are, Nomo.

Keefe: I’m embarrassed. For someone who is supposed to be an expert on all things anti-Josh Beckett, I can’t believe I forgot about his surfing/body surfing/boogie boarding trip in Malibu with his gut flopping around in the Pacific Ocean. My apologies.

But your response made me realize two things:

1. I miss being able to talk about people like Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford now that they are in the NL West and out of my life.

2. It’s funny how naive you are about the entitled frauds that wear your favorite’s team uniform.

I’m not sure how you or anyone could feel bad for Josh Beckett. Beckett is making $15.75 million this season. So if he made 30 starts, which he has only made once since 2010 and twice since 2008, he would make $1 million per start. But he hasn’t started since May 13 and won’t come close to 30 this season, so do the math. He’s stealing money just like your hero Jason Schmidt did from the Dodgers. Sure, Schmidt only started 10 games (3-6, 6.02 ERA) for the Dodgers in three years after signing a three-year, $47 million deal, but his time on the disabled list likely helped the Dodgers.

I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to see Beckett have no wins, a 5.19 ERA, a 1.500 WHIP and have grown a third and fourth chin since arriving in Los Angeles. The only bad part is I wish he was doing this in Boston because the media and fans there would have destroyed him while in Los Angeles people feel bad for him.

(Here’s the winless Beckett in 2012 talking about missing a start with a back problem, but being seen on a golf course during the time when he was out of the Red Sox rotation. What a guy!)

As for Adrian Gonzalez, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Here’s what your awesome No. 3 hitter had to say following Game 162 in 2011 after the worst regular-season collapse in Major League Baseball history.

“We didn’t do a better job with the lead. I’m a firm believer that God has a plan and it wasn’t in his plan for us to move forward.”

“God didn’t have it in the cards for us.”

“We play too many night games on getaway days and get into places at 4 in the morning. This has been my toughest season physical because of that. We play a lot of night games on Sunday for television and those things take a lot out of you.”

“They can put the Padres on ESPN, too. The schedule really hurt us. Nobody is really reporting that.”

Poor, Adrian Gonzalez. He has to play baseball for $21 million a year and it’s really hard and demanding. It’s not his fault that his teams, whether it be the Padres or Red Sox or Dodgers, have collapsed down the stretch with him as the focal point of their offenses. Why would it be his fault? And why should he be held accountable?

I just can’t wait for the Dodgers to get the “x” next to their name in the standings for being mathematically eliminated and then when Gonzalez is asked about it, hopefully he blames God for the Dodgers’ failures. I’m sure you will appreciate him then too.

Even if the Dodgers’ problems are team-wide like you believe they are, I believe they stem from the “people” they brought in to play for them. Sometimes we all forget that baseball is more numbers and like a wise man once said, “The game has a heartbeat.” And the Dodgers’ heart could use a triple bypass followed by a strict diet.

The sad thing is Don Mattingly will end up taking the fall for this even though the ownership group and Colletti gave him the wrong pieces. How about the Dodgers fire Mattingly and Donnie Baseball comes back to the Bronx and your Dodgers get a new manager? I like that idea.

Michaelis: I’m sure your just fine without the trio of Beckett, Gonzalez and Crawford in the AL East. Remember you still have Brian Boyle, Mark Teixeira, and Boone Logan (LOL). I’m sure those three are providing you with plenty to talk about. Actually based on your Twitter account, I would say you’re faring just fine without the Dodgers trio.

It’s 2013. I don’t care what Adrian Gonzalez did or said in 2011. The Red Sox collapsed, the Yankees didn’t win the World Series and the Dodgers didn’t even make the playoffs, so what is notable about 2011? Time to move on. I’m talking about the 2013 Adrian Gonzalez. You want to rip him for complaining in 2011 then go ahead, but he’s producing and isn’t the problem.

You can’t buy chemistry. Just look at the team across the way from Chavez Ravine. The Los Angeles Angels (or really the Anaheim Angels) tried to do exactly what the Dodgers are and they are failing. It’s a team-wide problem, guys aren’t producing, and the bullpen … I don’t even have a word for it. The bullpen is a grade A disaster.

A wise fellow once said, “Pitching wins championships” and that’s one thing the Dodgers don’t have. Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch 162 games. If he could, the Dodgers would be undefeated. His supporting cast has been laughable and there isn’t much Adrian Gonzalez, Donnie Baseball, Matt Kemp or hitting coach Mark McGwire can do about that.

I would happily pay Josh Beckett to stay away. Ride the bench, eat all the KFC you want, hang 10 on your long board at Trestles Beach. What’s another $15.75 million? Like you said, Ned Colletti already threw away $47 million when he signed Jason Schmidt in 2007 and he only pitched 10 games for the Dodgers! Easily the best pick-up of 2007.

Since Schmidt didn’t work out and Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley are both on the DL (such daggers) the Dodgers starting pitching has been a merry-go-round and really the only three consistent pitchers have been Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers starters look like this.

1. Clayton Kershaw (5-4, 1.84 ERA)

2. Zack Greinke (3-2, 4.22 ERA)

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-2, 2.85 ERA)

4. Stephen Fife (1-2, 3.74 ERA)

5. Chris Capuano (1-4, 5.45 ERA)

6. Matt Magill (0-2, 6.51 ERA)

Ready for the bullpen breakdown? Pull up a chair because you might want to sit down for this one.

Kenley Jansen (2.57 ERA)

Paco Rodriguez (3.38 ERA)

Matt Guerrier (3.58 ERA)

Ronald Belisario (4.78 ERA)

Brandon League (5.54 ERA)

Our closer has a 5.54 ERA. A 5.54 ERA. Brandon League hit the jackpot because of Colletti’s stupidity and signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal last year. How does he still have a job? How do either of them still have a job?

Again, the issue isn’t the Boston trio who came to L.A., the issue is that the Dodgers go after players past their prime and expect them to produce the way they did in the past. (Think Nomar Garciaparra, Andruw Jones and Manny Ramirez.) The Dodgers only bright spots are Kershaw, Kemp (when healthy), Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. If they signed up for a Wiffle ball tournament they would be untouchable. Unfortunately baseball requires nine players.

The Dodgers don’t need triple-bypass surgery, they need a detox. It’s funny hearing this from you, the guy who only likes pasta, pizza and chicken. Maybe you and the Dodgers can sign up for Equinox together? I’m sure they can find the funds somewhere.

Keefe: I’m not sure the Dodgers can afford a monthly membership at Equinox even after getting more than $6 billion in their TV deal. Where are they getting that money? Who is watching them? Do people in Los Angeles even like sports? And if they do, do they like watching a last-place team?

On your point about Kershaw pitching 162 games and being undefeated, well that’s a little farfetched. Kershaw is 5-4 in 15 starts and one of those wins came in a complete-game shutout on Opening Day when he won 1-0 on his own solo home run. So no the Dodgers wouldn’t be undefeated if Kershaw pitched all 162 games. But if he pitched for a team that could actually score runs, then yes that team would probably be undefeated or close to it since the Dodgers average 3.02 runs in games Kershaw starts. Where is the Dodgers’ savior Adrian Gonzalez when Kershaw starts? (I can’t wait for the Dodgers to make a run at the NL West and Gonzalez to show you why he’s an empty-calorie guy as he crumbles in September.)

As for the next two games at Yankee Stadium, Hyun-Jin Ryu scares me because the Yankees have never seen him before and the Yankees are 0-379 in my lifetime when facing a starter they have never seen before. But Hiroki Kuroda gets a chance to go against his former team and when you have a 2.78 ERA in the AL like he does, that usually will translate into good things against an offensively-challenged team like the Dodgers. I like the Yankees in the first game.

In the second game, the bad news is Phil Hughes, who I have zero faith in and who shouldn’t even be a starting pitcher, and who is in his final months being a Yankee and I can’t wait until he is a free agent, is pitching. The good news is he is going against Chris Capuano, proud owner of a 2-6 record and 5.45 ERA. This game could be an offensive gongshow for two teams who have trouble scoring even one run. If Hughes doesn’t lay an A.J. Burnett egg and can keep it close and the Yankees can get into that awesome bullpen you have then I like our chances.

So yes, I’m predicting a two-game sweep from the Yankees, not only because they need it after that horrific West Coast road trip, but like I already knew and you helped confirm: the Dodgers are a bad team.

Michaelis: Actually the Dodgers are first in attendance this season. We don’t have to deal with the wishy-washy suits that the Yankees have to deal with. People in L.A. will actually go to the game regardless of if we’re in first place or last place.

Kershaw going undefeated is farfetched? The Dodgers wouldn’t be undefeated? And here I thought baseball was an individual sport. Yes, the Dodgers need to score runs, they are 29th in runs scored, but again it’s the pitching. The Dodgers have scored 240 runs, but have allowed 289 runs for a -49 run differential. I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure the equation is if you score more runs than you allow, you will win and if you allow less runs than you score, you will win! The Dodgers lineup isn’t producing, but you can’t really blame Gonzalez. No one’s calling him the Dodgers’ savior, but he isn’t the reason we are sitting in last place in the NL West. He is certainly a step up from James Loney.

You know it’s karma. I laughed at you when you said that the Yankees were good, but even you didn’t think they were going to do this well. You wanted them to be .500 when Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira returned, but they’re even better than that with Jeter and A-Rod not back yet and Teixeira returning to the DL. (I hope his wrist is OK.)

From the first chuckle I knew it would come back to bite me in the ass and it did. Or I could blame the Dodgers’ current woes on my lack of team spirit. I haven’t worn my Dodgers socks in a while…

This two-game short lived series should be good. The Dodgers have nothing to lose really, they are 7 1/2 games back and every Dodger fan knows they don’t turn it on until end of August or beginning of September. But the Yankees can’t afford a two-game sweep and possibly be five games back of … the Red Sox! Yikes.

Kuroda’s last five starts have all resulted in losses since apparently the Yankees can’t hit either.But the Dodgers got the luck of the draw in facing Hughes. I’m hoping he has another outing like the one against the Mariners back on May 15 (0.2 IP, 7 ER). JUST ONE TIME, PLEASE! Puig will also be a factor in the series and it will be my first time witnessing the Cuban sensation that Vin Scully loves to watch. Also the Yankees are batting someone named Thomas Neal in the 5-spot so that should be fun.

If Capuano is pitching the series will be split, no matter what the Dodgers do and if suddenly they realize they can swing the bat and hit the ball, Capuano will give up runs and lots of them.

I’m excited to watch my beloved Doyers in the bleachers. I hope Bald Vinny and his crew are nice to me. Donnie Baseball ‘s return to Yankee Stadium should be a great momentous event to help set the stage. Maybe this will be the turning point for the Dodgers? Steal two wins in the Bronx?

I should have made the bet that whoever wins this series gets a free months rent. Things are going to get heated, I can feel it. In the words of the great Vin Scully, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”