WTNYFebruary 02, 2004
Bryan's Thoughts
By Bryan Smith

Surely now it's time to refer to the present as baseball season, right?

The Super Bowl was a mix of horrendous boredom and extreme excitement, almost taking me back to last year's playoffs. Jake Delhomme should never be doubted again, although he got off to a bad start, he more than held his own against a great New England defense. I don't like the Patriots, but I will always respect Bill Belichek's ability to outsmart any coach he goes up against. If he wasn't the Super Bowl MVP, I don't know who was.

Now back to baseball. I want to apologize for not making a post on Friday, but a lack of baseball news, other projects I'm working on (more arbitration stuff to come), and a busy life contributed to a four-post week. Hopefully, it won't happen again...

In the past, readers have accused me on being too hard on the Dodgers (namely Jeff Felix). I think this was fair, as I've spent a good majority of the off season criticizing Dan Evans lack of action. It appears now that Evans was hog-tied, and the Dodgers were doomed from the start. Evans will have to re-interview to keep his job, but my guess is he won't be working in Los Angeles next season. So, I've decided to write what I would do if given the Los Angeles GM position, since I know Frank McCourt will be asking.

First, let's look at what the Dodgers currently have:

Position Players
C- Paul Lo Duca
1- Robin Ventura
2- Alex Cora
3- Adrian Beltre
S- Cesar Izturis
L- Juan Encarnacion
C- Dave Roberts
R- Shawn Green

1. Todd Hundley
2. Jolbert Cabrera
3. Jose Hernandez
4. Bubba Trammell

1- Hideo Nomo
2- Odalis Perez
3- Jeff Weaver
4- Kaz Ishii
5- Edwin Jackson

CL- Eric Gagne
SU- Guillermo Mota
RH- Paul Shuey
LH- Tom Martin
RH- Darren Dreifort/Rick White
LH- Wilson Alvarez

While that is only 23 players, that's really all the players I feel are locks to make the roster. Jose Lima has an outside chance, but Jim Tracy said that Edwin Jackson would have to pitch his way out of the rotation, and Darren Dreifort, Wilson Alvarez, and prospect Joel Hanrahan could also start if needed. I think Dreifort and Alvarez could have positive results in the bullpen, but both will have competition for spots. The bench could have plays like Chin-Feng Chen, Dave Ross, and Joe Thurston on it, but I just don't see that happening.

OK first of all, this is bad. The offense could be irreparable for 2003, but the Dodgers have a very bright future ahead of them. I'll say that Los Angeles has four players in my top 50 prospects (Jackson, Greg Miller, Franklin Gutierrez, and James Loney), which I'll be displaying in February. Los Angeles should be winning divisions when these players hit the prime time, but that's years down the road. Don't trade any of those four players, nor Hanrahan for that matter. Everyone else is available, especially overrated shortstop prospect Joel Guzman.

The Dodgers need to trade pitching for hitting, it's just a fact. In a perfect world, they could acquire both a first basemen and a left fielder, so that Robin Ventura and Dave Roberts could move to the bench, and Juan Encarnacion could go to center. With Eric Karros apparently signing with the A's, it may be too late to trade Odalis Perez in a package for Paul Konerko. But, that should be explored. Travis Lee probably ends up being the first basemen, and I guess the Dodgers COULD do worse (see Randall Simon). If so, they must trade Perez away for a left fielder, and my choice would be Jacque Jones. The Twins need starting pitching badly, and could easily recuperate from losing Jones off their depth chart...it would easily make them the 2004 AL Central favorites.

The Dodgers will have a very good rotation. Edwin Jackson should be considered the favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year, Jeff Weaver should bounce back, and Jose Lima could do very well in the spacious Dodger Stadium. Hideo Nomo was just built for there, and while I'm not high on Ishii, he does bring positives. And any bullpen that has Shuey, Gagne, and Mota will be good, so I wouldn't worry about that.

In the end, I don't see the Dodgers competing for the NL West crown in 2004, but I think they should circle 2005 on their calendar, as they get a lot of players off the books. The Dodgers should be considered the present favorites to land Carlos Delgado and/or Nomar Garciaparra, and will be mixing in Greg Miller and Joel Hanrahan in a rotation that already has Edwin Jackson, Jeff Weaver, and Darren Dreifort. I think Nomo should remain in Los Angeles as well, but we'll see how much Frank McCourt will invest in this team.

I'm skeptical, to say the least, for 2004, but Los Angeles (and Anaheim for that matter) is going to be a very fun place to live for baseball in 2005-2008.