15 May 2007

For the love of the game

By Griffster

Today I was going to write about Tomko and about how bad he is and how much I want him off the team. And I will get to that, in a minute. But first, let me explain something about the game and me.

When I watch this game in front of the TV, there's a part of me that is analytical, that sees the outs the Dodgers make come before they happen, and that sees the hits the opposition gets before they happen. That part of me is the part that wants to spew bile after a disappointing loss. That part of me is the part that needs to go to the ballgame more.

Yesterday I was down in the field level, a couple rows back from the boxes on the third base side, out beyond the Dodger dugout. The perspective from there is wildly different from my usual perspective up in my pleb perch in the reserved infield section. Down on field level you don't see the singles until they race out of the infield, but you do see the arches the flyballs describe and the power of a line drive. You do not see the DP the moment the ball leaves the bat, but you do see the speed and quick feet and soft hands of the infielders, and the concentration on the first baseman's face as he stretches for the throw.

The closer to the game, the more magical it is.

In this game, I felt anything could happen. I would not have felt like this if I was watching glumly on the television, but down there with the field before me, the game was real and wonderful.

And this brings me to Tomko. Nobody is closer to the game than the players, and the people who support them: the managers and the front office and the coaches. And this, maybe, is why fans are groaning in frustration and calling for a player's head long before the people making the decisions do. The fan has a removedness, a remoteness, an analytical perspective, a forest view instead of a tree view. They see the numbers and the patterns, not the heart and the effort of the player. They see the big picture, they see the hits and outs before they happen, and they don't want them to happen that way. Sometimes, of course, the fan doesn't see the trees for the forest, but at other times, the perspective of a fan could, perhaps, be ahead of that of those closer to the game in some aspects.

Tomko is not a favourite player of mine. I have never met him, or spoken to him, so I absolutely cannot judge him or his character. Which doesn't stop me from forming an opinion of him, because forming opinions of everything is human. I have to rely on the media to be my eyes and ears, and of course, the media cannot be relied on for this. Still, it allows a perspective of Tomko to filter through to the fans, and this perspective coupled with his on-field doings forms his perception by the fans.

I consider Tomko to be a below-average starter with a below-average approach to the game. I base this soley on what I read about him and what I perceive on the field. Tomko reminds me a little of Jeff Weaver, the Jeff Weaver of the 13.00 plus ERA. Weaver wasn't much of one for admitting mistakes. Even after giving up 6 or 7 runs in 5 or 6 innings with the Mariners, he still insisted that he was doing everything fine, and that he does not understand the bad results he was getting. Tomko tends to do the same thing. I do not read a whole lot of sound bytes from him where he talks about struggling to locate a pitch or losing command of one, like Lowe and Penny, for instance, does. No, Tomko seem to always speak like he cannot understand why hitters got hold of him. For me, that sets off some red lights. If he is not willing to analyze his game, if he isn't willing to think about it and improve, then he can only go worse and worse as the season goes on, because hitters, for the most part, are thinking about him and analysing his game, the better to hit him next time.

After Lowe's loss to the Marlins in the ninth inning, Lowe took the blame for it. And he wasn't to blame at all. Yet, he still looked to his game and took anything less than perfection to be something he needs to improve. When Hendrickson got bad results from pitching, he thought about it, and decided to play the game from the neck up, too. He had some good results. He may not really be a good pitcher, but he's willing to work and try different approaches to at least be the best he can be. Tomko seems a little reluctant to play the game from the neck up. I remember reading quotes ( and they may, of course, not be true, and have been disputed, but still, impressions are formed ) about him not being driven overly to discuss game plans with his catcher. After last night's game he did speak of being "bad", but it sounded kind of generic and hollow. "Tonight it was a little bit of everything. Bad location, bad pitches. Bad, bad, bad." That doesn't sound like a thorough analysis of what went wrong. Of course, who wants to make a thorough analysis right after a bad, bad outing? Nobody, which does excuse Tomko's remarks. Though I hope that he'll think about it more, I find that I do not really care. Tomko is not a very good pitcher and I'll be glad to see his back at the end of this year. I do not really care about whether he improves or not, because I don't believe he can improve all that much, and because I don't want him on the team anymore.

More than enough on Tomko. On to other matters: the team at large. I am worried about Kent's little quote of: "This game is so weird. You can't beat 'X' team and can't figure out why. They played well today and we didn't. We lose." I hope the Dodgers do not just roll over and die to a team based on past experiences. That would be ridiculous. I hope the Dodgers go out there and play for Lowe in today's game and Wolf in tomorrow's. Anything less would be a shame. There is no reason why Team Blue can't hang two L's on Team Red.

Final thought: what is it about the Dodgers and Mondays? Somebody must be playing "I don't like Mondays" in the clubhouse. Maybe this team is just bad at rebounding from day games, which seems a little strange given the fact that there's more rest between games, not less, but they have lost four Monday games and won only two. I was at two of those losses, so I'm not amused and I am not buying any more tickets for Monday games, thank you. Fridays seem a better bet, given that they've lost only one Friday game so far this year and won five. Thank goodness my next game tickets is for the 25th against the Cubs!

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