Sarah's Take: Dodgers fans face tough decision
With the All-Star Game a week away, Dodgers fans have a difficult decision to make in the Final Vote for the last National League representative. Both first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and right fielder Yasiel Puig are among the five candidates on the NL's Final Vote ballot.
Clayton Kershaw became an All-Star for the third time in his six-year career. Although Kershaw doesn't have the number of wins that he should have because the Dodgers haven't supported him well offensively, he still has the lowest ERA in baseball. Kershaw also has the second-most strikeouts in the league, trailing only rookie sensation Matt Harvey of the New York Mets.
During May and most of June, especially when A.J. Ellis had a strained oblique and was on the disabled list, Kershaw struggled with the location of his pitches and hung more curveballs than usual. Nevertheless, he performed better than most starters. In his last two outings against the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies, he has been brilliant.
Historically, Kershaw has toiled in May and June. Even with a subpar performance for him so far this season, Kershaw deserves to be an All-Star, and he should have more wins after the break as the Dodgers' offense has started to find its footing.
Adrian Gonzalez might be the most overlooked Dodger this season. He was the cornerstone of the mega trade with the Boston Red Sox. Although obtaining him didn't carry the Dodgers to the postseason last season, he has played an important role on the team.
When the rest of the team couldn't hit with runners in scoring position, Gonzalez did. He has provided power throughout the season, even when the Dodgers couldn't depend on another player homering. His .296 batting average entering Monday has helped the Dodgers create scoring opportunities. Other than Andre Ethier, Gonzalez is the only position player from the Dodgers' Opening Day lineup who hasn't either been on the disabled list or demoted. Although he's had some defensive shortcomings, he has provided a steady presence at first while the rest of the Dodgers' infield has been in flux.
Before Wednesday, when Puig backed into the right-field wall at Coors Field and bruised his hip, he definitely belonged in the All-Star Game. I don't care if he has been in the Majors only a month; he has been one of the most exciting players who has come to the Majors in the last two decades. He had the second-most hits in his first month for a rookie in Major League Baseball history, just behind Joe DiMaggio. He has brought a new kind of intensity to the game that baseball fans enjoy watching. Puig received the most write-in votes to go to the All-Star Game since 2006 for Freddy Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won the batting championship that year.
I'd love to see Puig in the All-Star Game, but his offensive production has decreased since his hip injury. Though the injury isn't serious enough to keep him out of the lineup, it's definitely bothering him. On Thursday, when he scored from first on Gonzalez's double, he limped around third but remained in the game. On Thursday and Friday he had one hit, and Saturday he struck out four times. Baseball people will argue that the opposing pitchers are figuring out how to get Puig out, and he will have to adjust to maintain his dominance. This might be so, but I think the bruised hip is bothering him more than he lets on. He definitely would benefit from a day off.
On Saturday, general manager Ned Colletti acquired Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins for three Minor League pitchers. I know the Dodgers have lost both Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett with season-ending surgeries, and Colletti perceives the starting rotation as a weakness for the Dodgers, but obtaining a mediocre right-handed starter with a lifetime ERA of 4.44 and depleting the Minor League system is not the answer to strengthen the starting rotation or ensure the Dodgers will have a postseason berth.
I thought the Dodgers' starting rotation was stabilized when Stephen Fife joined it. And yes, Chris Capuano has had a couple of rough outings -- one in Denver, which is known as a hitter's paradise. Even though Fife was charged with Saturday's loss against the Giants when the Dodgers committed three errors and scored only two runs, Fife has been solid. He deserves more Major League starts.
I know rumors had said that every team in the NL West had an interest in Nolasco. So what? If either the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Giants acquired him, it wouldn't have hurt the Dodgers because he is easily scored upon. The Dodgers didn't need him.
The Dodgers needed those three Minor League pitchers. The are rumors that Colletti wants to obtain at least one more reliever to strengthen the wobbly bullpen before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31. What if he can't? Every team with playoff aspirations wants to strengthen its bullpen, so the competition for good relievers will be fierce.
Although the Dodgers acquired Carlos Marmol earlier in the week, they sent him to Triple-A to straighten out some mechanical problems.
The Dodgers could have used those Minor League pitchers, especially when the roster is expanded. Last May, when the new ownership took over, they said they were committed to bringing back the Dodgers tradition of developing their young players. So far, they have depleted the farm system further. This trade is a prime example.
Hopefully, Nolasco will pitch better for his hometown Dodgers than anywhere else he has been.