by Joshua Worley
In the classic short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, everyone is finally equal. Those who are stronger and more athletic than the lowest common denominator are made to bear excess weight, in particular. My question: How much excess weight would it take to make Matt Kemp equal to everyone else? 1000 pounds?
But, tsk tsk, he made another out on the bases. Never mind that grizzled veteran Luis Gonzalez and honorary grizzled veteran Russell Martin also made outs on the bases. Martin probably has an excuse, because he really had almost no time to react on Loney's liner, but Gonzalez really should have seen that the ball Martin hit would fall. This was another of those games where the Dodgers scored fewer runs than they should have. But the inefficient run scoring didn't matter because they outplayed the Cubs by such a wide margin.
After Kemp was picked off, I was really hoping that he would spend the rest of his evening collecting base hits, to make those who would focus again on his baserunning woes look foolish. And he did! 4-5 with a triple: my only lament about it is that I missed the triple because I was doing laundry. Kemp does need to tighten up his baserunning, of course. I don't deny that. The way he's been collecting base hits he'll get plenty of practice.
I'm beginning to think Kemp could hit .330 over a full season even while striking out 20% of the time, because when he does hit the ball he smokes it, and then he gets down to first base so fast. What would be a normal ground out to the hole from another player will be hit hard enough by Kemp to go through, or if it's fielded he'll beat the throw anyway.
Jake Peavy is starting tonight for the Padres on three days rest. Otherwise he would have started Friday to open up the series with the Rockies. The Rockies have to be pleased with this development! From the Dodger perspective, it doesn't much matter, as either way Peavy's next start would come during the Padres' visit to Dodger Stadium. I doubt pitching on three days rest will bother Peavy. The Rockies are only a game back of the Dodgers. They're a team I tend to overlook, but at home they're a beast. Their four game series in Philadelphia next week could be huge in the wild-care race.
Chris Young of the Padres had another rough start. Last time his downfall was walks, 6 of them. This time he had only two walks, an improvement, but he also gave up two home runs. It could be that by his next start he'll finally get back into his groove; the reduction in wildness at least has to be mildly encouraging to Padres fans. Young's next start is scheduled to come in the finale with the Rockies on Sunday, which means the Dodgers won't see him. Is that good or bad? The Padre pitchers figure to be Peavy, Germano, and Maddux, unless they want to push Maddux back to give Cassel another shot at the Dodgers. It appears the Dodgers will have Penny, Lowe, and Billingsley lined up for that important series. But they're all important now: after this weekend every game but three with the Giants is with a rival for one of the precious playoff spots.
It's going to be hard to know who to root for in a lot of these other series. Is it better if the Padres or Snakes win today? For winning the division, a Padre loss is probably better, while for winning the wild card a Snake loss is probably better. But no one really knows yet. Same goes for the Rockies-Padres series this weekend. One would think it's better that the Padres lose, unless at the end of the year the Dodgers miss out on the wild card spot by one game to the Rockies! As long as the Dodgers keep winning everything will be fine. But will they keep winning?
For much of this season the Dodgers seemed to be handicapping themselves into equality with everyone else by taking on excess weight. Every veteran chosen over a more productive young player was like a bag of lead strung around the team's neck. We're almost to the point where the self-handicapping has stopped. Almost. The 200 pound weight of Shea Hillenbrand seems to have been discarded in favor of Andy LaRoche, though Ramon Martinez remains a danger. Gonzalez still gets too much playing time, but at least he's also being benched enough that's he's complaining about it. The senseless starts for Sweeney or Saenz at first base in place of Loney have stopped. The starting pitching is in pretty good shape, with Tomko and Hendrickson cast off. The Dodger starters are better than the Padres or Snakes at this point, by my reckoning, if only because of Chris Young's troubles.
Having cast off their excess weight and embraced their own potential for excellence, the Dodgers could go all the way, unless Diana Mets Glampers shoots them.