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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

They're missing the signs

Commentary: Critics don't seem to consider the possibility that the Dodgers trail the NL Championship Series because the Phillies are simply a better team.

October 15, 2008|Ross Newhan | Special to The Times

It's unbelievable, truly unbelievable.

This is what the archives serve to remind me that I have read over the last week:

* The Dodgers lost Game 1 of the National League Championship Series to the Philadelphia Phillies because starter Derek Lowe was allowed to stay in too long.

* They lost Game 2 because Philadelphia's Brett Myers was permitted to pitch inside with impunity and Chad Billingsley didn't respond.

* They won Game 3 because Hiroki Kuroda did pitch inside, throwing a fastball over the head of Shane Victorino in the process (of course, none of the scribes telling Dodgers pitchers they need to send a message to Philadelphia hitters have ever stood at the plate against a head-high fastball, or seen their son in the dirt after being hit in the helmet by a major league fastball, as I have).

* They lost Game 4 because this time starter Lowe wasn't allowed to stay in long enough.

My head is spinning, and I need to ask:

Has anyone stopped to think that the Dodgers are trailing, 3-1, in the series because Philadelphia is a better and more complete team?

Does anyone realize that Manager Joe Torre isn't operating with a full complement of postseason-caliber players?

Can anyone recall that only two months ago the Dodgers were a sub-.500 team trailing Arizona in a National League West that didn't exactly resemble Appaloosa and the only difference between that Dodgers team and this one is Manny Ramirez?

I mean, Ramirez is having one of the greatest stretches of big-time hitting any of us has been fortunate to see or will be fortunate to see again, but by now his back must be bending from the load.

How far and for how long can one man carry a team?

Of course, the way he's hitting there's still a possibility that he can tote the Dodgers into the World Series, but they will have to come back against a team that boasts the last two winners of the league's most valuable player award, an array of All-Stars, a closer who hasn't blown a save this year and a balanced bullpen and bench.

Yes, the Dodgers had it all together and swept the Chicago Cubs in the division series. The commissioner didn't require a saliva test, so we're not quite sure how that happened except we're all aware that the Cubs have to cope with decades of historical baggage in October, as well as the opposing pitcher.

Maybe the Dodgers can win three in a row again and salvage this series with the Phillies, but consider what they will be looking at and for once they have played their final game.

* With Lowe headed to free agency and no assurance Brad Penny or Jason Schmidt will be back, they will need to acquire at least one starting pitcher.

* With Takashi Saito's elbow becoming a prolonged issue and Jonathan Broxton lacking the reliability of Jonathan Papelbon, they may need a closer and definitely have to rebuild the bullpen with healthier and more versatile arms.

* With Jeff Kent heading into retirement as a pinch-hitter, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake eligible for free agency, Nomar Garciaparra enduring another season of injuries and Blake DeWitt yet to play a full major league season at one infield position, who is on first is the only question that can be answered definitively about the 2009 infield.

* Then there's Ramirez, also eligible for free agency. If owner Frank McCourt, as I recently wrote, doesn't take equity out of his new Malibu mansion and hope that the Ramirez of late '08 will hold up for four or five more seasons, as performer and personality, he will be back where he was two months ago with a floundering offense.

These are the shortages, outages and plain facts with which Torre and the Dodgers are dealing.

So, second guess if you must, dissect if you want, but keep one verifiable aspect in mind:

If the Dodgers had beaten the superior Phillies, or if they rally to beat them in what will now take seven games to do, it would have been an upset or will be an upset, pure and simple.

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