True or false? The Dodgers' chances of repeating as NL West champions were ruptured right along with Pedro Guerrero's left patellar tendon when the leftfielder caught a cleat trying to abort a slide four short days before the season opener.
Before answering, consider this: Guerrero, who has injured his left leg twice before, will be out for at least three months, or half the season. Erase half of his stats from 1985, and the Dodgers would have finished ninth in the league in home runs, instead of fourth, 10th in RBIs instead of sixth, eighth in runs scored instead of fifth, and heaven knows where in the standings.
"Because God delays doesn't mean he denies," said manager Tommy Lasorda, just a few hours after Guerrero had curled up, screaming in pain, on the ballfield. "God put up one stop sign, that's all."
Lasorda has a lot of praying to do if he's going to replace Guerrero's .320 average, 33 home runs, 87 RBIs and the hole in the fourth spot of the batting order. "It's important to fill Pete's shoes, but we're too good a team to rely on any one man," said catcher Mike Scioscia.
That's the attitude. Until Guerrero wrecked his knee, the Dodgers' lineup had been more settled than it had been in years. Now, enter the emergency medical platooning squad of Reggie Williams and Franklin Stubbs. Williams is the rookie who was likely to platoon with Ken Landreaux, now on his own in center, and Stubbs was the 25th man and so was saved from the cut.
But don't write the Dodgers' obituary yet. L.A. pitchers had the best ERA (2.96) and the most shutouts (21) in the majors last year, and the front office has paid dearly for those stats—nearly $5 million this year just for the starting five. Asked to rank the Dodger rotation, Orel Hershiser (19-3) said, "The best in baseball." However, when asked the same question about the Dodger bullpen, Hershiser said, "That's a loaded question." Tom Niedenfuer, Jack Clark's friend, will hold the fort.
There is still hope. The two Mikes (Scioscia and Marshall) may be able to save the offense—both had career years in 1985—if they get a lot of help from Bill Madlock. Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Guerrero is trying not to think about the pain in his knee. "Why go crazy?" he says.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
Walk/strikeout ratio of 3.67 highest in NL since Dave Cash (4.15) in 1976.
Batted .274 vs. righties, .176 vs. lefties, 2nd largest difference in NL.
Hit .232 in 47 games in leadoff spot, .316 in 84 games batting 8th.
Batted 14 times without a hit in LIP situations with runners in scoring position.
He got over the bends nicely: .251 in 110 Pirate games, .360 in 34 Dodger games.
Hit eight of his 33 home runs against one team, Houston.
Batted .140 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Yearly batting averages vs. lefties since 1982: .211, .238, .278, .287.
April ERA of 0.21 not the best start of his career; had a 0.20 April in his rookie season.
Had major leagues' best record (13-2) in games against teams with winning records.
The Dodgers won all five games in which he did not get a decision.
Either very good or very bad: 1.21 ERA in his wins, 7.03 ERA in his losses.
First pitcher to lose team's last two postseason games since Deacon Phillippe in 1903.