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T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers, is home-field advantage vital? Bet the house on it

L.A.'s a different team at Dodger Stadium and needs to seize on every edge in the postseason.

September 20, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

Former Dodger Brad Penny had already given up a grand slam, back-to-back homers, seven runs total, and the third inning wasn't over Saturday as he walked off the mound.

Welcome back to Dodger Stadium, Penny having his way with the Dodgers in San Francisco six days ago, but now hearing from Toby Keith over the sound system singing, "I ain't as good as I once was."

And now you know why I told Joe Torre he's nuts.

The Dodgers are a different at home. They had the best record in baseball for much of this season because they are different at home.

The Dodgers are going to clinch the division title in the next week, and they already have two more wins than the Cardinals, three more than the Phillies for the best record in the National League.

If they continue to win, they will have the home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which goes only five games, and then the home-field advantage in the seven-game series leading into the World Series.

Most knowledgeable baseball folks give the Dodgers no chance of advancing in the playoffs because the Phillies and Cardinals have better 1-2 pitchers at the top of their rotations.

So why wouldn't the Dodgers take advantage of every advantage offered -- beginning with Dodger Stadium? Only one team in the National League has more wins at home this year than the Dodgers, and that's the Giants, who can't hit unless urged on by their fans.

Washington was at home to beat USC. Two years ago the Lakers got waxed by the Celtics in Boston, the home-court advantage playing a big role.

"Basketball is different," Torre said, although he had to admit, "all the courts are the same, so I never could understand why one or the other made that much difference."

It's the fans, the atmosphere, I suggested.

"Aghytadg," Torre said, or something to that effect. "I'm not saying it's not nice to have the fans, but I'd rather have a player that I need."

How's that for a headline: Torre to fans -- We don't need you. It would have been much better had he just said, "You win the argument."

I say emotion might very well make up for the lack of pitching that everyone else says will do in the Dodgers. Do you want Manny Ramirez playing a strange left field? OK, he does already, but in a strange park?

I say players compete all season long, adrenaline more than ever kicking in for the playoffs. November is a good time to rest.

A couple of years ago I had this same disagreement with Mike Scioscia, who is almost always wrong, and he is nuts.

The other night he was crying about a ball that wasn't called a strike and carrying on as if he had been sent to his room without dinner. Everyone else in red took his lead, the Angels very much the poor sports and losing their cool. I also blame it on Gary Matthews Jr.; you know, just because.

Anyway, Scioscia decided to rest his players rather than go all out for home-field advantage a few years back and so the Angels opened in Fenway Park and lost the series.

"I agree with Scioscia," Torre said, probably because he was once an Angels broadcaster. "I did the same thing against the Angels when we had the chance to win the home-field advantage."

And what happened?

"We lost the series," Torre said.

Torre continued to plead his case, one thing working in his favor, he's won more postseason games than any manager in baseball -- 80. And lost 54. No telling how many playoff wins he might have now had he worked harder to stay home.

"I disagree -- just because you take out your regulars doesn't mean you're not trying to win," he said. "There are Sundays when we play Brad Ausmus at catcher and Mark Loretta and. . . ."

"And if I'm buying a ticket, I feel cheated."

"Aghytadg," said Torre or something to that effect, while saying it comes down more to pitching in the last week of the season, and so keep an eye on whom the Dodgers start on the mound once they've clinched the division title and the home-field advantage is the only thing in question.

If Charlie Haeger gets the call, the Dodgers are throwing it.

"I think the team that opens at home in the playoffs is under more pressure," Torre said, and if that's the case, then why not start the season with a team cheer: "Let's win a wild-card berth and start the playoffs on the road"?

"You start out at home and you're supposed to win," Torre said. "In this sport it's not that bad to start on the road."

I told you he was nuts.

--

DON'T KNOW if it will wear thin, but I caught Jameson Moss' act, which has him lip-syncing "Don't Stop Believing" on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard, and it was hilarious.

Moss is a Dodgers season ticket-holder, and to start off the eighth inning the Dodgers play the Journey song, the camera settling on Moss whose histrionics really get the crowd roaring -- cheering almost as loudly as when they posted USC's loss on the scoreboard.

Someone want to explain that?

--

I'M HAPPY to report that Ramirez, who was unable to catch a fly ball to start the game, successfully caught an elevator after the game to make an early exit from the clubhouse and avoid the media.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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