Once there was a dream. Maybe not the grandest of dreams, but one nonetheless.
The Dodgers went into the season planning on having a starting infield of first baseman James Loney, second baseman Juan Uribe, third baseman Casey Blake and shortstop Rafael Furcal.
Alas, the best laid plans of mice and general managers …
These four guys wouldn’t know how to find each other on the field. Furcal and Blake have been a tag team on and off the disabled list all season. Uribe had his own stint on the disabled list with a left hip flexor strain, re-injured it Saturday and was unable to start Sunday.
"I know there hasn’t been very many where everybody was in there together where we had what we thought would be our starting infield," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
Try two games.
The Dodgers had played 100 games on the season entering Sunday’s game, and their projected starting infield had started together exactly two times all season, both back in early April.
Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue
Rare as water in the desert, and just about as needed, the Dodgers managed one of their best comebacks of the season Saturday.
Down 6-2 after just three innings, they scored three times in the bottom of the inning, tied it in the seventh on a wild pitch and then won it in the ninth thanks to a trio of hit-starved batters.
Rod Barajas snapped an 0-for-22 streak with a leadoff single in the ninth. He was erased on a would-be Trent Oeltjen sacrifice fly, but Jamey Carroll (1 for his last 21) singled and then Rafael Furcal (5 for 49) doubled into the left-center gap to score Oeltjen.
The Dodgers, who were just 3-45 when trailing after six innings, had rallied for a 7-6 victory before an announced crowd of 34,590.
It was only the third time all season the Dodgers have come back from a four-run deficit.
This is what happens when a team’s downward spiral continues, game after game. When the results are too familiar, when the offense is perpetually limp and the losses mount.
You start to wonder. Wonder if they’ve lost their edge, if subconsciously they have given up.
All season long, despite everything, Manager Don Mattingly has correctly stated that the Dodgers have continued to play hard, that he remained proud of their effort.
Only now, the Dodgers are showing the first signs of a beaten team. A team that clearly doesn’t have enough weapons, knows ownership is not committed to winning and was never going to bring in that extra star.
The weak at-bats look like an epidemic, player after player. The fire dimmed to a mere spark.
Mattingly remains convinced his team is still playing hard, that the growing level of frustration has not seeped like a virus into their effort.
Right, that was the problem. The hitting coach. No possibility it was just lousy players.
No matter. In an oddly timed move, the Dodgers fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland on Wednesday morning, just a couple hours before their afternoon game in San Francisco.
They named Dave Hansen as interim hitting coach. Previously Hansen served as Pentland’s assistant, with the title of hitting instructor. Which was the same title Pentland had the previous three seasons, serving as Don Mattingly’s aide.
Now there’s little doubt the Dodgers are a miserable hitting team. In Major League Baseball they rank 27th in runs, 26th in slugging percentage (.361), 22nd in home runs and 17th in batting average (.250).
Desperate times call for desperate questions, and Dylan Hernandez asks a pointed one in Monday’s edition of The Times:
Do the Dodgers have to sweep the Giants in the three-game series that starts Monday night in San Francisco?
The Dodgers open play in the City by the Bay a staggering 12½ back of the Giants in the National League West. Opportunities to drag themselves back in the race are becoming precious. Could this be their final shot?
-- Hernandez also has Manager Don Mattingly’s passionate defense of struggling shortstop Rafael Furcal.
-- The Wall Street Journal reports that injured Giants fan Bryan Stow’s lawsuit against the Dodgers could make him the largest unsecured creditor. Manny Ramirez is currently the largest at $21 million.
-- Forbes’ Mike Ozanian writes that purchasing a bankrupt Major League Baseball team has proven a good investment.
-- Mike Petriello of MikeSciosciasTragicIllness said struggling Juan Uribe’s biggest problem is his penchant for swinging at balls out of the strike zone, which for him are at 41.7%.
-- So much for that thought: MLB.com’s Peter Gammons said Hiroki Kuroda will not accept a trade to an East Coast team.
-- Scout.com has a list of 20 top midseason prospects, and it doesn’t include any Dodgers.
-- ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson said the Dodgers offense looked sadly familiar in Arizona over the weekend, and looks overmatched pretty much every game.
-- The Times’ T.J. Simers thinks General Manager Ned Colletti deserves his share of blame for how the team has performed.
-- ESPN’s Jim Bowden, a former general manager, reviews each GM heading toward the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. His take on Colletti: Can wheel and deal with the best of them.
-- And I already miss "Friday Night Lights." A great overview by Grantland.com’s Robert Mays.
-- Steve Dilbeck
I mean, other than 2014 in the case of Uribe.
These are currently the Dodgers' table-setters, though the crumbs they're leaving behind couldn't nourish a rat.
Both were having a miserable season anyway, but they've approached nonexistence since returning from the disabled list.
Uribe came back from a strained hip flexor June 6 and has hit .189 with one home run and seven RBIs since. Sadly, his average isn't much off the .220 he was hitting before the injury.
And that production looks almost lofty compared with Furcal, who has hit .097 without an extra-base hit since returning July 3 from his latest injury. The injury-prone Furcal is batting .175 on the season.
Last season, Furcal was an All-Star. Last season, Uribe had a career year in leading the Giants to their unexpected World Series title.
Six games to determine whether the Dodgers become sellers or buyers at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. Odd in itself, an entire season’s perspective able to go either way because of a handful of games in July.
Making it stranger is the repercussions of either scenario not appearing all that significant.
If the Dodgers sweep through Arizona and San Francisco to become buyers, just what are they supposed to buy? I mean, with the team in bankruptcy court and all. It’s not like they’re going to add a significant player (read: contract).
And if they decide to become sellers, just exactly what to they have of interest to dangle?
The name most mentioned is Hiroki Kuroda, who would be a swell addition to a contending team in need of a good starter. Only Kuroda has a no-trade clause in his contract and I can’t see him approving a trade unless it’s to a glamour franchise like the Yankees or Red Sox. Why would he? He seems to like it here and there’s always the possibility of him returning for another season.
Other vets don’t look too enticing. Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal are having a disabled list contest. Juan Uribe and Ted Lilly are too expensive. Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles and Rod Barajas are not going to bring much or save much.
The Dodgers should be willing to deal James Loney, but despite his turnaround, his run production isn’t going to have teams lining up with intriguing prospects.
They’re not going to deal young stars Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, but probably would have to listen if teams came hard after Andre Ethier. He’s making $9.5 million this season, with one more year of arbitration before he can become a free agent. Still, it would have to be an impressive offer. The Dodgers already have one outfield position they can’t fill.
Their major prospects -- Rubby De La Rosa, Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands -- are so few it makes no sense to deal them.
So the only thing they would likely accomplish by becoming sellers at the trading deadline is to dump salary. Everybody excited about saving Frank McCourt some extra cash?
General Manager Ned Colletti said he’s undecided whether to become buyer or seller and will used the month’s final days to make his determination. Any other year, and this is a fairly big deal. This year, not so much.
Ownership is in limbo and the franchise is without direction. If MLB wins temporary team control July 20, the Dodgers might have more funds available to acquire someone, but still hard to fathom it taking a sub-.500 team further into debt.
The team is adrift with no one at the helm. It’s a sad, wasted season and selling off a veteran or two ultimately does little but help McCourt. Very strange.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: All-Star pitcher Clayton Kershaw (right) seems untouchable in trade talks, but All-Star outfielder Andre Ethier might be a different story. Credit: Denis Poroy / Reuters
They did it.
The Dodgers went into All-Star break in fourth place, soaring out of last place with a 4-1 victory over the San Diego Padres, who now occupy the bottom position in the National League West.
Behind two home runs by Andre Ethier, the Dodgers extended their winning streak to a season-long four games and improved to 10 games under .500.
The Padres looked like a team determined to prove no team is worse than theirs, as the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the third inning on a two-run throwing error by Chase Headley. With no outs and bases loaded, Headley made a diving stop on a sharply hit grounder by Matt Kemp.
Headley elected to throw home from one knee, but delivered the ball far right of catcher Rob Johnson, allowing Tony Gwynn Jr. and Rafael Furcal to score.
The Dodgers increased their lead to 3-1 in the fifth inning on a solo home run by Ethier. The home run was the eighth of the season for Ethier, who will be one of three players to represent the Dodgers at the All-Star game.
Ethier homered again in the eighth inning.
This was Ethier’s first multi-home run game of the season.
Dodgers starter Ted Lilly won for the first time in five starts, as he held the Padres to one run and four hits in five innings.
-- Dylan Hernandez
Photo: Dodgers left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. slides home safely ahead of the throw to Padres catcher Rob Johnson after a single by Matt Kemp in the third inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press
The Dodgers put veteran third baseman Casey Blake on the disabled list for the third time this season, this time because of a sore neck, and activated shortstop Rafael Furcal.
It still isn't clear whether it's a pinched nerve, arthritis or some other problem that's causing Blake's pain, but putting him on the DL should "give him the time to try to get it right," Mattingly said.
Blake was on the DL earlier this season because of back problems, then had surgery for a staph infection on his left elbow.
Furcal had been expected to be activated Sunday, and there was speculation that rookie shortstop Dee Gordon would be sent back to the minor leagues to make room for Furcal.
Now, Gordon is still on the team but it's unclear how much playing time he will get if the Dodgers don't make another roster move.
"I haven't thought about it too much because things kind of changed" with Blake, "but we don't want [Gordon] to be here and not play," Mattingly said. "If Dee's here, he's got to play."
Here are the starting lineups for Sunday's game:
Rafael Furcal, second baseman.
Sort of, kinda, could be.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers are considering the possibility of playing Furcal some at second base when he comes off the disabled list.
That would keep rookie Dee Gordon in the lineup at shortstop, and push the Mighty Mite second base combo of Jamey Carroll (.300) and Aaron Miles (.307) to the bench. Unless, of course, Casey Blake by some chance is actually back by then and Juan Uribe has gone back to second and pushed the two out.
Yeah, it could get complicated, but Mattingly said he spoke to general manager Ned Colletti about the possibility of playing Furcal at second prior to Friday’s game against the Angels. Hey, it can’t hurt to at least have options.
"If I have to do it to help the team, I’ll do it," Furcal said.
Mattingly had apparently not spoken to Furcal about the possibility before addressing the media Friday, something of a rookie manager hiccup.
Furcal met briefly with the media following Mattingly’s daily media session, and afterward Mattingly quickly sought him out.
Gordon has played only 15 games, batting .268 with eight runs and four stolen bases. But he’s brought an energy and speed to a team in dire need of it.
Furcal has been on the DL since June 4 with a strained left oblique. Furcal, 33, has been dogged by injuries and is in the last year of his contract and hitting .212. He is expected to begin a rehab assignment Monday or Tuesday.
In over 1,400 major-league games, Furcal has played second base 34 times.
Blake is not on the DL but is battling a pinched nerve in his neck. He has had a cortisone injection, and although he has pinch hit, he has started only twice in the past two weeks.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal can't quite snag a grounder in the third inning of an interleague game against the New York Yankees at Dodger Stadium last season. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times