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Dodgers Spent a Lot, but Had Little to Show

Baseball: Holes in rotation and lineup, plus Malone-Johnson infighting was too much to overcome.

October 02, 2000|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Chairman Bob Daly talked himself into a corner, General Manager Kevin Malone talked too much and Manager Davey Johnson too little.

But the 2000 Dodgers made strides despite another season of communication malfunctions and management infighting.

The Dodgers (86-76) completed the season Sunday with a 4-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium, finishing second in the National League West by 11 games, with nine more victories than in '99.

More was expected after Daly increased the payroll to $98 million, and more might have been accomplished had the general manager and manager worked together.

Chavez Ravine is not big enough for Malone and Johnson, whose stormy partnership divided the organization.

Daly, who tried to broker peace, acknowledges he might have only made things worse with strong comments at the All-Star break about the club's poor play and Johnson's questionable strategy.

That inspired Malone to increase his criticism of Johnson, saying the Dodgers would have won a division championship with anyone else pushing the buttons.

Players had issues with Johnson too, citing his lack of communication as a hurdle to success.

How did the Dodgers improve?

"Sometimes you saw what our talent was capable of doing," said left fielder Gary Sheffield. "When you look at [pitcher] Kevin Brown, a guy like Hot Rod [catcher Todd Hundley] and a talented young guy like [third baseman] Adrian Beltre, those are guys a lot of teams would want. But with everything that happened, we would have had to have no question marks to win [the West]."

The Dodgers had glaring holes in the rotation, bullpen and everyday lineup. A prospect-thin farm system and bloated payroll limited the club's flexibility, and the Malone-Johnson turmoil didn't help.

"No question about it, we should have accomplished more this year," second baseman Mark Grudzielanek said. "Everyone is disappointed because of the way things could have turned out.

"We know we're capable of being a much better club than how we played at times."

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Sheffield, Beltre, Hundley, Matt Herges, Mike Fetters and the top three starters.

Sheffield matched Hall of Famer Duke Snider's franchise record of 43 home runs, becoming the first Dodger to hit .300 with 30 homers, 100 runs batted in, 100 runs and 100 walks in two different seasons.

Beltre, 21, committed too many errors--23. But he contributed offensively, rebounding in the second half and batting .290 with 20 homers and 85 RBIs overall.

Hundley reemerged as an offensive force, batting .284 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs in only 299 at-bats. Hundley is revered in the clubhouse for his toughness and dedication to teammates.

Herges was the club's biggest surprise.

The 30-year-old rookie reliever was 11-3 with a 3.17 ERA, pitching 110 2/3 innings in 59 appearances. Fetters was 6-2 with a 3.24 ERA and five saves in 51 appearances. The bullpen would have collapsed without their efforts.

Kevin Brown (13-6) was typically dominant, leading the league with a 2.58 ERA.

Chan Ho Park reverted to form under the guidance of veteran catcher Chad Kreuter.

Working primarily with Hundley's backup, Park (18-10) had a 3.27 ERA and 217 strikeouts. The hard-thrower, 27, is one of the game's top young pitchers.

Darren Dreifort (12-9 with a 4.16 ERA) proved his critics wrong, displaying consistency.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Enough to derail the club's playoff hopes.

Right fielder Shawn Green struggled under the weight of his six-year, $84-million contract. The left-handed batter did not produce as expected, hitting .269 with 24 homers and 99 RBIs. Green is a hard worker and positive clubhouse presence, but he didn't deliver enough this season.

Dodger leadoff batters were last in the league in batting average and on-base percentage most of the season, prompting Malone to trade Todd Hollandsworth in a four-player deal to reacquire Tom Goodwin. Goodwin, owed $7 million, is a good center fielder, but he must improve offensively.

The Nos. 4 and 5 starters were 11-26 with a 6.28 ERA. Malone was unable to acquire pitchers to bolster the rotation, and the $15.6-million contract Carlos Perez signed looks worse by the minute.

Perez was 5-8 with a 5.56 ERA--while making $5 million--after going 2-10 with a 7.43 ERA last season. The left-hander underwent season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder and is owed $7.5 million next season.

The Malone-Johnson situation provided another distraction for a team that already had too many.

WHAT NOW

Johnson is expected to be fired and Malone retained, though Daly and Graziano say they have not made any decisions.

Daly, who wants to emphasize pitching and defense, is determined to re-sign Dreifort, one of the most coveted pitchers in this free-agent class, and persuade Park to sign a multiyear extension before he becomes eligible for free agency after next season. It won't be easy.

The Dodgers plan to improve the rotation, hoping to add a proven free agent. Kevin Appier is their top choice, and Eric Gagne should be ready to help.

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