The '05 Dodgers stink.
And you probably shouldn't invite Milton Bradley and Jeff Kent to the same fondue party.
Both these things are true, but they are not related.
For the better part of a week now, I haven't been able to open a newspaper or visit a Web site without reading about how the Bradley-Kent incidents reveal a debilitating chemical imbalance at the heart of the Dodgers. The team is bad, so the theory goes, because its character is deficient, because it's made up of combustible Bradleys and cantankerous Kents who don't mesh and don't hang with each other. The team would be better, so the theory goes, if only these boys were Boy Scouts, if only they would gather 'round the campfire singing songs and swapping stories.
That's sweet, but it's also pretty much bunk.
The Dodgers' failings aren't nearly so mushy or pop psychological. They're actually quite transparent. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following:
• Their single best player, Eric Gagne, pitched 13.1 innings and posted just eight saves this year; and his replacement for much of the season, Yhency Brazoban, despite the mellifluous way Vin Scully pronounces his name, has been ugly (5.82 ERA and .276 BAA).
• Bradley and J.D. Drew, guys good for .835 and .931 OPS, respectively, have each missed 40-plus games due to injury. And Jose Valentin, Odalis Perez, Brad Penny, Jayson Werth and Wilson Alvarez, all of whom were counted on to be key contributors, have spent considerable time on the shelf as well. In fact, according to Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus, the club had lost 984 days (fourth-most in the bigs) to the disabled list as of a week ago.
• Groundball pitcher Derek Lowe has found his home-run groove, giving up 26 of them, including 15 in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, through 28 starts.
• Jim Tracy thought starter Edwin Jackson was ready, and Paul DePodesta believed Scott Erickson had a heartbeat. Both were sadly mistaken.
• Meanwhile, Tracy and Depo are at philosophical odds. One is more inclined to think traditionally, and the other is more interested in divining and exploiting market inefficiencies. That means guys like Hee-Seop Choi (who might be a very inexpensive source of power should he ever, you know, get some at-bats) get stretched like a pair of Levi's between two plow horses and never get in any kind of a flow.
• The defense has committed 85 errors, turned only 116 double plays (both rank in the bottom third of baseball), and treated the fans in the stands to hundreds of cheap, wholesome laughs the likes of which we haven't known since Dick Van Dyke was tripping over ottomans.
• Cesar Izturis stopped hitting in June (and never really walked to begin with), but he and his .302 OBP stayed in the leadoff spot until injuries in late August finally sat them down.
• Overall, the Dodgers hit .256 as a club (as bad as the Clemens-starving Astros) and score just 4.28 runs a game.
And on and on it goes.
All of it pretty obvious. All of it baseball stuff. Some of it bad luck. Some of it bad decision-making. Some of it bad players making bad plays.