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T.J. SIMERS

Marcus Thames can't field, can't hit righties, won't talk about it . . . are you excited yet?

New Dodgers left fielder hits a home run every 15.58 at-bats. Unfortunately, he gets very few of those, thanks to his defensive shortcomings and the fact he plays only against left-handers. The Dodgers aren't even sure how his last name is pronounced.

March 21, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers left fielder Marcus Thames hits a home run every 16 at-bats.
Dodgers left fielder Marcus Thames hits a home run every 16 at-bats. (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )

From Phoenix

They stay for a while, sharing the common trait of taking themselves very seriously, before they just disappear.

Go right down the list of head cases, and I won't even mention the name of Gary Matthews Jr. But how about Kevin Brown, Chad Kreuter, F.P. Santangelo, Kenny Lofton, Esteban Loaiza, Brian Jordan, George Sherrill, Jason Phillips, Odalis Perez, Andruw Jones and now Marcus Thames?

Marcus who?

According to Dodgers' propaganda, this no-name thumper hits a home run every 15.58 at-bats — ranking him 27th in baseball history. Yowza!

Now you would think anyone ranked 27th in baseball history in anything would be a household name, but in his own clubhouse no one seems quite sure how to pronounce his name.

The Dodgers, while gushing about his stats, instructed everyone in their propaganda to call him "Tims," while Tims tells everyone else his name is pronounced "Tems."

I just know this: It's hard to believe such a monster with the bat would be available as a free agent and so cheaply the Dodgers could afford to sign him.

It can't be long before Frank McCourt starts selling tickets to Thameswood.

So I thought I might talk to Tims/Tems on Monday. Ordinarily I don't like to start off a week talking to stiffs, but that leaves so few Dodgers to interview these days.

And besides, the Dodgers have assured me this stiff is different from all the others they have lined up to play left field. This guy can hit home runs with more regularity than anyone else they have. In fact, he's only 442 behind Manny Ramirez.

As big a hitter as the Dodgers' propaganda suggests, it's odd, though, that he's bounced around between the Yankees, Rangers, Tigers and Yankees again during the last nine years before coming to the Dodgers.

Maybe it's because he's averaged only 44 games a season on defense, prompting an obvious question.

"Are you that horrible on defense that teams don't think it's worth playing such a home run threat?'' I asked by way of introduction.

Maybe somebody else wastes time schmoozing with Tims/Tems, but he's a one-year rental who has some explaining to do. How bad are you on defense that teams don't dare risk playing you?

Tims/Tems just smiled.

I asked again, because I remember my dealings with Lofton, who would never answer the first question. Eventually he would, while also complaining, "You never write down what I say."

I always told him the same thing. "You're boring, but I come back hoping one day you might say something of interest."

When I came back on Tims/Tems, he sat silent. I can see one problem he might have on defense if everyone is relying on him to yell "I got it."

He said he wasn't going to talk to me because I hadn't introduced myself. That would have allowed him to pull out the little card the Dodgers' PR department provides players advising them how to get a running start on Page 2.

I can't imagine this is the first time in 10 years that Tims/Tems has been asked why he stinks on defense, thereby limiting his time as a regular player.

Unable to answer, he just stood and walked away.

All he would have had to say was, "It's now a Dodgers tradition to play left fielders who can't play defense," and everyone would have gotten one last laugh at Manny's expense.

Or, he could have said it's all part of GM Ned Colletti's master plan to get the team ready for the World Series when the Dodgers will require a DH. Or, he could have said, "Plaschke wanted Bynum traded, but I was with Page 2 all the way."

Instead he curled up into a ball, and I didn't even ask him about his anemic .248 lifetime batting average.

Now it's one thing to think outside the box when you don't have much money to spend, but does Colletti understand designated hitters are best employed in the American League?

When I ask Don Mattingly about Tims/Tems' horrific problems on defense, the manager says, "I'm not going to say he's [crummy] on defense. He's not a Gold Glove outfielder . . . he's OK. All we've asked Marcus to do is what he's supposed to do."

You can see what a motivational speaker Mattingly can be when it's necessary.

"All we will ask him to do," Mattingly says in giving it another try, "is to play up to his capabilities."

So right away I want to know, "Who won't you ask to play up to their capabilities?" I'm expecting him to say Matt Kemp, but he says he wants the best out of everyone.

He goes on to say Tims/Tems' problems go way beyond criticism of his defense. "Maybe it's because he doesn't hit righties as good as lefties," Mattingly says.

So now we understand the Dodgers have a guy in left who can't catch, can't hit right-handed pitchers and can't answer questions about his obvious shortcomings.

And folks considered Manny a mess.

Colletti says the team has a hot prospect in Jerry Sands, so he didn't want to "clog up" left field with players who could play, thus the present mishmash.

The Dodgers haven't won a title in 23 years, so what's the rush?

Mattingly says Tims/Tems will start against left-handers, while indicating he has no idea who will start against right-handers. He probably has to call Joe Torre first.

But as you can see, excitement is building for opening day — maybe opening day a year or two from now.

WITH SIX days remaining in the Dodgers' stay here and 10 days before he starts paying players, McCourt has yet to make an appearance at the Camelback complex.

If the owner doesn't want to watch the Dodgers, it's hard to make the case that fans should buy tickets to see them play.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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