29 August 2007

Comfort and Ignorance

by Joshua Worley

There is something very relaxing about watching the Dodgers play the Nationals. These are among the most comfortable one-run games I've ever seen. The Nationals aren't awful, because they do have some good players, but there just aren't enough of them. Even when they were ahead Monday, or came back to tie the game Tuesday, Dodger victory still seemed, not quite inevitable, but very likely. When you're suddenly facing Ray King in a tie game, you have to like your chances after all. The Dodgers are a flawed team, but when they play the Nats they are clearly the superior team on the field. That's a very good thing when the two teams ahead of them are playing each other down south. Every Dodger win is a game gained on either the Padres or the Snakes. Right now the Dodgers are a combined 8 games behind the two front-runners. That sure seems like a lot, but as long as that number keeps coming down everything is fine.

It's imperative that the Dodgers finish off the sweep today, because if they don't they will only have gained a single game on the Padres and Snakes combined, which just isn't enough progress, especially given that the Padres have been winning. That, by the way, completely changes the nature of the chase the Dodgers are attempting. Two days ago they were after the Padres only. The Snakes were well out of reach, and in any case the Padres were the much closer target. But unless the Snakes win the last two games of their series with the Padres, these two teams will be separated by just a game in the standings, and the Dodgers will be just as likely to catch one as the other. The head-to-head matchups loom large, of course. Six games left with each of San Diego and Arizona, and at worst you need to go 3-3. But maybe just as important are the 6 left with a bad team like the Giants. Go 5-1 or even 6-0 and you can make up a lot of ground.


Dodger Thoughts and True Blue LA had some interesting posts about baseball general managers in general, and about Ned Colletti and just fired Tim Purpura in specific. I realized after reading these that over the past ten years I've become much more aware of what the Dodger General Manager is doing. With awareness comes thought, and opinions, and pain. Pain for when I don't agree with what the general manager is doing, when it seems to me and many other people that the GM is hurting the team.

For this reason I think becoming aware of the GM has interfered with my enjoyment of baseball. I was happier back when player acquisition and development was murky and magical. The play of the team was the only things that mattered. Isn't that the way it should be? It's about the well-defined game between the lines, not the ill-defined game played on telephone lines.

I'm older now, better able to understand and evaluate what a GM does, and there's more coverage of GMs now than when I was a young fan in the 1980's. There's more coverage of everything in sports, really. Trades have always made sense, of course, but back in the mid 80's free agency was rather mysterious and didn't seem very important, anyway. That's probably because of the collusion that was going on then! I couldn't have named the Dodger GM to save my life, nor told you what he did. If there was a trade or signing, it was always "the Dodgers" who did it. The team was in effect sentient, and if not infallible then at least not a suitable target for criticism. I had no awareness of Al Campanis's Nightline tumble. Fred Claire was the first Dodger GM I became vaguely aware of. It wasn't until Paul DePodesta that I finally started following what the Dodger GM did closely.

It sure seems that I'm advocating an unnatural state of blissful ignorance, doesn't it? I suppose I am, in this one narrow case. Most other advances in my baseball knowledge have made baseball more fun, such as understanding advanced stats. But unless I'm free to choose my favorite team based on the best GM, I'd rather not be aware of all the maddening things GMs do. And I'm not free to choose my team --- I'm a Dodger fan for life. Of course there's no going back. Now that I know that the Dodger GM is important to the present and future of the team, I have to be aware of what he ( or future she ) does. Ignorance can only be blissful when it's not willful.

The twist is that there is so much about what a GM does I don't know. I see the results of a GM's maneuvers, as well as the rumours and speculations about what they might do, and from that I think I understand what his options were, what decisions he was faced with. But I don't think I ever understand the full nature of a GM's decision. There's a lot behind the scenes that us fans never know about.


Matt Kemp made another baserunning blunder last night. If he hadn't tried to steal second, the infallible Russell Martin wouldn't have been caught off third base. Also, Matt Kemp personally juiced the ball that Tony Batista hit for a home run! He's out of control!

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