Even the Shangri-Las would know the Dodgers lack a true clubhouse leader
They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad
That's why I fell for the leader of the pack
Hey, at least he was a leader. At least that poor, misunderstood pack had one.
And then there are the Dodgers, who were bad last season and completely devoid of anything resembling a leader in their clubhouse.
It's not like an absolute requirement, but most winning teams have a leader, a dominant presence in the clubhouse.
Typically it's a veteran who has been through the wars, though Derek Jeter became the Yankees' leader almost from the moment he stepped into the clubhouse.
Sometimes leadership is simply an innate quality; sometimes, like responsibility, it is developed when the situation demands it.
If the Dodgers are to regroup and find their winning footing this season, they certainly would benefit from having their own respected leader.
"You touch on a key dynamic," said Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti. "That's part of the characteristic of a club that has to grow."
There are times when a veteran attempts to step forward and it is not well received (think: Jeff Kent), and times when it comes from an unexpected and nontraditional source (think: Manny Ramirez, circa 2008). And times when you expect it to be someone and it doesn't happen (think: Russell Martin).
Last season, the team lacked a genuine clubhouse leader, which you could argue, was a definite factor in their spiral.
"It's hard to go through tough times without a leader," Colletti said. "It takes far more of a collective effort. I think we have players who will respond very well to it, and maybe somebody can come out of the pack to be it.
"But I think when you talk about guys like [Jamey] Carroll and [Casey] Blake, [Doug] Mientkiewicz when he was here, [Rafael] Furcal -- they get it. Are they free and easy to voice an opinion, to capture a room and the attention of everybody? Maybe here and there. It's not necessarily their style.
"In the past, they were really our extra guys -- [Brad] Ausmus, [Mark] Loretta."
It's more difficult for a role player to be a leader, or a starting pitcher (Ted Lilly, Clayton Kershaw) who plays once every five days.
And it is certainly more difficult to step forward and act as a calm, guiding light when you are struggling yourself, which would explain why no Andre Ethier, James Loney or Matt Kemp stepped forward during last season's second half.
"You can't ask somebody to do it who can't do it, who doesn't want to do it," Colletti said. "But from time to time, when you go through what we went through this past year, if guys have had enough of that and they don't want to go through it, they can step forward in that vein too, to safeguard against what they saw last year."
It's not like the Dodgers can suddenly put their troops in an ROTC class. They have what they have, but growth is needed not just on the field, but in the clubhouse.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Top photo Russell Martin. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
Lower photo: Andre Ethier. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times