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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Dodger Roster Move Under the Microscope

May 18, 2003|T.J. Simers

For the first time in four years, the Lakers won't be dominating everyone's attention deep into June, thereby putting the spotlight on the Dodgers earlier than usual. For those who haven't been keeping up with the punchless boys in blue, let me get you caught up:

The leadoff hitter has a sore hamstring, and so the Dodgers put Dave Roberts on the disabled list Saturday and the team that cannot score added another pitcher to the roster.

The team that cannot score elected to replace Roberts at the top of the order with Adrian Beltre, a guy who can't hit and who has the second-worst on-base percentage on the Dodgers' roster. I'm guessing the manager pulled names out of a hat before the game.

Nancy Bea Hefley, Dodger Stadium organist, also reported to work Saturday despite a sore hamstring. "It's my pedal leg," she said, and yet she didn't miss a beat all night long. (What does it say about a team when the organist displays more true grit than the starting center fielder?)

Micro-Manager Jim Tracy told the media before the game, "Andy Ashby is an important part of this club." Asked to repeat that -- in order to give him a chance to not sound so ridiculous -- he said, "Andy Ashby is an important part of this club." Tracy has used only Steve Colyer, who was sent to the minors and then brought back, less than Ashby to date.

Tracy was asked for his assessment of Beltre's hitting recently. "Improved," he said. Beltre hasn't had a hit since Wednesday.

The Dodgers came into the game having scored fewer runs than any other team in the National League, and more than only the woebegone Tigers in the major leagues. They were tied with Detroit for fewest home runs in baseball with 26 -- and they added another pitcher to the roster rather than a hitter. Why? I asked the micro-manager. "An extra arm is more beneficial," Tracy said, and I presume so he doesn't have to use Ashby.

Isn't there a hitter in the Dodger system who could help this anemic offense? "We're starting to swing the bat batter," Tracy said, and I hope he doesn't mean he's going to start swinging a bat too. "I'm beginning to see signs of the hitters coming around in the middle of the lineup." By my calculations -- not counting Beltre -- the team's four best hitters in the heart of the lineup are hitting a collective .188 on this home stand. Maybe Tracy considers that a sign of improvement.

"I see our offense swaying to the plus side," Tracy said.

I worry he also might be seeing a big rabbit named Harvey at times too. Brian Jordan hasn't hit a home run since April 3. In Paul Lo Duca's previous 722 at-bats, he hit 11 home runs -- which means he hits a home run at the rate of one every 66 at-bats. He has gone 52 at-bats without hitting one, suggesting some time next week he might get one. This season Lo Duca has one more home run than I do. That inspired him -- he just hit a ball that barely went over the fence for No. 2 this season.

Someone asked if I knew Tracy had won his 200th game as Dodger manager Friday night. I asked Tracy how many games he has lost. Josh Rawitch, the team's assistant PR director, immediately piped up and said he'd get that number. I've never seen a team so eager to let the media know just how many games its manager has lost.

The Angels and Dodgers both started Saturday trailing division leaders by 5 1/2 games. Question: Which team has the best shot of making the playoffs? Careful. The Angels must climb over Seattle and Oakland to win a title or wild-card berth, while the Dodgers have only ... ah, who am I kidding?

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NEXT THING you know Ashby will win the Cy Young: The Dodgers had two home runs -- a regular offensive explosion -- to score four runs and win. Beltre, of course, went hitless, but Hefley sounded great on the organ.

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BEFORE SATURDAY night's game, the fans were asked to devote their attention to DiamondVision and a replay of the highlights from Friday night's game. The highlights of the Dodgers' 2-1 win lasted 20 seconds -- giving the fans in Dodger Stadium the feeling of what it must be like to sit through a hockey game.

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A WEEK after his controversial remarks about Annika Sorenstam, a motivated Vijay Singh has the lead going into the final round of the Byron Nelson. It must be true what they say: "Behind every successful man, there's a good woman."

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ESPN'S OUTSTANDING football reporter Len Pasquarelli reported recently there is a clause in Carson Palmer's contract with Cincinnati that says he'd have to return his $10.1-million signing bonus if he makes critical remarks about the horrible Bengal organization. So much for free speech.

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TOO BAD the Bears didn't think about putting a muzzle on Cade McNown a few years ago. The former UCLA quarterback, who turned off most of his teammates in Chicago with a brash demeanor and inability to back it up on the field, has been released by the 49ers. McNown, who hasn't thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2000, signed with the Bears for $8.5 million over seven years with a $6.1-million signing bonus.

Maybe McNown and Ryan Leaf can get together, play a little golf and talk about the good old few days they had in the NFL.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Steve Kim:

"You're a loser, T.J. I stopped reading your columns about four months ago. Hopefully your daughter didn't get any of your genes, because if she did, she'll end up a loser just like you."

Now that I'm off "Around the Horn" and making less money, it looks as if she's going to get all my hand-me-down genes.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com

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