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2 Los Angeles Dodgers A lot of quality pitchers, but good karma seems to be in short supply

March 26, 2001
March 26, 2001

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March 26, 2001

Baseball 2001 Preview

2 Los Angeles Dodgers A lot of quality pitchers, but good karma seems to be in short supply

After an early spring workout, backup infielder Dave Hansen sat
in a corner of the Dodgers' clubhouse in Vero Beach, Fla.,
noodling on a travel-sized electric guitar. He ran through
several standards in the amateur guitarist songbook before
launching into a riff from the Beatles' Come Together. How
fitting. Who would've blamed rookie manager Jim Tracy if he'd
dashed from his office, gathered his players in a circle and
requested that Hansen start strumming a little Kumbaya as well?

This is an article from the March 26, 2001 issue Original Layout

At that point in spring training outfielder Gary Sheffield's
schizophrenic I-want-an-extension/I-want-a-trade/I-want-to-stay
saga was in full swing and third baseman Adrian Beltre had yet to
eat his first solid food since suffering a ruptured appendix in
January (he will likely be out until May). Things would get worse
a day later, when rightfielder Shawn Green sprained his right
thumb (he is due to return this week) and Hansen, the team's best
bench player and Beltre's fill-in, broke a bone in his left hand.
That injury all but killed Hansen's chances of being ready for
Opening Day--and his guitar playing for the time being. "I've
never seen a team have such ugly body language," one longtime
National League scout says. "It's as if all their hopes and
dreams of having a good season have gone down the drain."

All this tumult for a team that wasn't exactly renowned for a
stable clubhouse in the first place. Tracy inherits a squad with
baseball's fattest payroll ($110 million) and a black cloud not
unlike the one that perpetually hung over the Addams family's
mansion. The Dodgers haven't won a playoff game since 1988, the
franchise's longest drought in 60 years, and the new skipper is
their fifth since 1996. Welcome to your first major league
managing job, Mr. Tracy.

Tracy will attack this mess with a relentlessly upbeat presence.
After spending seven seasons as a minor league manager, he
latched on as a member of Felipe Alou's Montreal staff in 1995.
In '99 Dodgers G.M. Kevin Malone brought Tracy to Los Angeles to
be Davey Johnson's bench coach. "I believe you can build a good
foundation for yourself when you spend time in the minor
leagues," says Tracy. "Plus, I've been here for two years, so I
know the personnel very well."

That means he's aware that the 2000 Dodgers played a brand of
baseball that surely had Walter Alston spinning in his grave.
Only the Padres committed more errors than L.A.'s 135. If a
Dodger crossed the plate, it was likely at a trot: 43.1% of the
club's runs came on homers, the second-highest percentage in the
league. "To me there's a game within the game," says Tracy. "I
want our team to know what it has to do to win."

To that end he preached a back-to-basics message in camp. Defense
and baserunning were stressed, and drills included bunting
contests in which everyone on the roster took part. "I can't
remember the last time we had a bunting contest around here,"
says first baseman Eric Karros, an 11-year veteran.

Despite their plodding style, the Dodgers can't be dismissed as
contenders, not with starting pitchers such as Kevin Brown, Chan
Ho Park, Darren Dreifort and Andy Ashby. But good pitching alone
isn't going to cut it in what may be baseball's toughest
division. If injuries continue to dog the every-day players, all
the successful hit-and-runs and well-executed bunts in the world
won't be enough to prop up the offense.

Most important, Tracy must find a way to keep a semblance of
harmony. "I told the club what my expectations were before the
first workout," he says. "To come together and play the game
unselfishly."

That's a tune the Dodgers may not be able to carry.

--S.C.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Is it possible L.A. will win a playoff game for the first time since '88? No, unless Green and the Dodgers do a better job of catching the ball.COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK SHEFFIELD

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Dodgers

"Stuffwise, the top three starters are as dominating as any in
baseball. Kevin Brown still has that power sinker, he competes
like a son of a bitch and has the body of a 20-year-old. Darren
Dreifort has scary stuff. Maybe now that he has the big
contract, he'll relax and turn the corner. If the light ever
goes on for Chan Ho Park and he finds some consistency, he can
be as dominant as anyone in baseball....Despite the circus
surrounding him, Gary Sheffield looked great this spring. He has
a lot of pride, and he'll play well. It's not for his team, but
sometimes that's O.K....Tom Goodwin is a base stealer, but he
doesn't do the things a leadoff hitter should. He needs to take
walks, hit the ball on the ground and improve his on-base
percentage. Defensively he covers a lot of ground....The Dodgers
need to get better behind the plate. Chad Kreuter is
serviceable, but he doesn't throw great....Mark Grudzielanek is
a decent offensive player, but his range is limited and his
hands aren't good. He's a push--his offense and defense balance
each other out....Alex Cora is steady defensively, but he adds
nothing at the plate. I wouldn't be surprised if the Dodgers
look around for another shortstop....Losing Adrian Beltre is a
blow. They'll use Dave Hansen as his replacement, but that
severely weakens the bench. Hansen is a great pinch hitter, plus
you can leave him in the game and he won't kill you at
third....Jeff Shaw is still a good closer--their bullpen
weakness is a lack of lefties."

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 86-76 (second in NL West)
Manager: Jim Tracy (first season with Los Angeles)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

CF Tom Goodwin L-R 117 .263 6 58 55
2B Mark Grudzielanek R 210 .279 7 49 12
LF Gary Sheffield R 44 .325 43 109 4
RF Shawn Green L 46 .269 24 99 24
1B Eric Karros R 92 .250 31 106 4
3B Adrian Beltre R 135 .290 20 85 12
C Chad Kreuter S-R 240 .264 6 28 1
SS Alex Cora L-R 296 .238 4 32 4

BENCH

OF Bruce Aven R 293 .250 7 29 2
OF Marquis Grissom[1] R 298 .244 14 62 20
IF Dave Hansen L-R 328 .289 8 26 0
C Paul LoDuca R 374 .246 2 8 0
IF Jeff Reboulet[1] R 399 .242 0 14 3

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Kevin Brown 4 13 6 7.0 0.99 2.58
RH Chan Ho Park 7 18 10 6.6 1.31 3.27
RH Darren Dreifort 61 12 9 6.0 1.36 4.16
RH Andy Ashby[1] 143 12 13 6.4 1.45 4.92
RH Ramon Martinez[1] 255 10 8 4.7 1.65 6.13

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Jeff Shaw 52 3 4 27 1.34 4.24
RH Terry Adams 207 6 9 2 1.41 3.52
RH Mike Fetters 161 6 2 5 1.20 3.24
RH Matt Herges 120 11 3 1 1.27 3.17
LH Onan Masaoka 280 1 1 0 1.41 4.00
RH Gregg Olson 337 0 1 0 1.59 5.09
RH Eric Gagne 198 4 6 0 1.64 5.15

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)

"Despite the circus surrounding him, Sheffield looked great this
spring."