Lakers playing their best when it matters most

The regular season bores the Lakers.

Every year, the Lakers lose focus like a five year old in an algebra class. While it’s frustrating to the fans, the Lakers have proven that they know what they’re doing. Better to start slow and finish with a flurry.

Maybe they just mirror the laid-back lifestyle of their hometown, and maybe they have a flair for the dramatic, but the 2011-12 Lakers have saved their best basketball for the playoffs – when it matters most.

Coming off an abbreviated training camp, with a new coach, new system, and seven new players, the Lakers battled through relentless trade rumors, an injured Kobe Bryant, and an infamous MWP elbow to finish strong and confident heading into the playoffs.

The Purple and Gold have scratched the surface of their potential at times, but those scratches have turned into open wounds lately. Whether is a triple-double from enigmatic Andrew Bynum, or useful production from the bench, the Lakers are starting to realize what they’re capable of.

Why Now?

Until the “elbow felt round the world,” MWP was playing more like the Ron Artest of years past. Oftentimes the target for the amnesty clause, MWP had a horrendous start to the season. Not only was he out of shape – he was just bad. MWP shot 28% from the field and 16% from behind the arc in the month of January, averaging a paltry 3.6 points per game.

MWP was a black hole at the small forward position. He was too slow to defend and a detriment to the offense. But, as the season wore on, MWP got in shape and made more shots. He averaged 5 points per game in February, 8.3 points in March, and 14 points per game in April.

Another knock on the Lakers during the early parts of the season were that they are too old and slow to compete with the run and gun Thunder. Then the trade happened.

The Lakers shed Derek Fisher, Luke Walton, and Jason Kapono for Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill, and Christian Eyenga. Not only did they get younger, but they got quicker and more skilled at the point guard position.

Schedule Woes

Older teams like the Lakers suffer the most in a shortened season with a compacted schedule. Especially when they play 17 games in the first full month of the season. The monthly breakdown for games is as follows: December (5), January (17), February (13), March (17), and April (14).

Now compare that with the number of times the Lakers scored over 100 points. Dec (0), Jan (3), Feb (3), March (9), April (7). Let’s go even deeper and see how many 100-point games the Lakers had with Sessions on the roster. Before Sessions, the Lakers scored 100 points in 11/43 games. With him, they reached 100 points 11 times in 23 games.

And keep in mind that Bryant missed seven of those 23 games.

It is also worth noting that the Lakers were completely spent last year when they met their demise in the second round. Continued deep playoff runs and offseason basketball commitments finally caught up to them. Kobe and Pau learned from that and are focused and fresh.

The new system, new coach, new players, limited practice time, and a condensed schedule combined for a slow start. At that time, Fisher and MWP contributed next to nothing in terms of offensive output and perimeter defense.

But in the final two months of the season, the Lakers started to figure it out. MWP played himself into shape and wasn’t an offensive liability. Sessions added quickness and scoring, while taking some of the pressure off of Bryant. What used to be the worst point guard/small forward tandem in the NBA became productive and efficient.

A Team Effort

As for the bench, there’s no coincidence that they found their game around the time Bryant sat out seven games with an injury. Go back to the 2000-2001 season where Bryant missed a plethora of games toward the end of the year. When he came back, that squad went on to dominate the playoffs winning 11 consecutive playoff games, and 15/16 overall.

When Bryant is out, the Lakers move the ball more and the rotation opens up. Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill get more minutes, and minutes breed consistency and confidence.

Most teammates naturally ceed their shots to Bryant. They are pressured to make their limited shots because if they don’t, Kobe won’t be happy.  When he’s out of the lineup, players get a chance to be themselves and generate offense using the entire team. The seven games Bryant missed this year allowed the rest of the team to remember what it was like to be basketball players.

By sitting out of games, Kobe witnesses what it’s like to be a part of the offense, and not the offense itself.

Transition is tough and breaking old habits can be painful, but the Lakers have found their identity and trust each other now. It’s a good thing because if there’s one thing that Lakers fans have learned over the years, is that it is not how you start the season, but how you finish it.

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Shabazz, Bourjos, Paul, Bynum, and World Peace – Oh My!!

In case you missed it, Wednesday was a big day for Los Angeles sports.

Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos hit an inside the park home run against the Twins – the first insider of his career. Coincidentally, Bourjos hit his first career home run last year at Target Field.  Unfortunately, Jared Weaver got rocked, and the Angels lost to the Twins 6-5.

Star high school basketball recruit Shabazz Muhammad chose UCLA over Kentucky and Duke, giving Bruin fans something to be optimistic about. Considered by many to be the best player in the nation, Muhammed joins a loaded freshman class.

Andrew Bynum grabbed a career-high 30 rebounds, and Metta World Peace scored 26 points on 10-15 shooting (5-8 from behind the arc), and the Lakers beat the Spurs in San Antonio without Kobe Bryant, 98-84. Being the kid that he is, Bynum mentioned an unmentionable in the post game interview, catching KCAL off-guard. This was reminiscent of when Shaq dropped some questionable language in his KCAL interview with John Ireland way back in 2004 against the Raptors.

The Lakers ran away with this one. Let’s hope Kobe heals and takes note of how the ball flows and moves when his teammates don’t defer to him every time down the floor. World Peace’s 26 points and overall aggressiveness was a welcome site for Laker players, coaches, and fans.

Chris Paul dropped 31 points, including the game winning layup with 10 seconds remaining, and the Clippers beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Both LA teams make up a game on the Thunder and the Spurs, while staying 1.5 games apart.

And the Dodgers kept up their winning way with a 4-1 win over the Pirates. Chad Billingsley, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, and Javy Guerra allowed one collective run, while the offense held its own. Don’t look now, but the boys in blue are 5-1.

All in all, it was an odd day, but a good one for Los Angelenos.

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Dodgers Opening Day Shines on Everyone

Opening day at Dodger Stadium was special for so many reasons. It marked the 50th anniversary of Dodgers Stadium, one of MLBs crown jewels, and the third oldest baseball stadium.

The inaugural 1962 Los Angeles Dodger squad was honored before the game, giving the old timers one more chance to shine.

Clayton Kershaw pitched a gem – striking out seven in seven innings pitched.

Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra pitched two scoreless innings surrendering only one hit, while striking out three and securing a win and a save.

Andre Ethier returned to his old “Mr. Clutch” form of 2009 with what ended up being a game winning home run with two out in the bottom of the eighth.

But, what has to be the most promising morsel to take away from Tuesday’s game is Juan Uribe’s three hits. Yeah, I know, it’s only been five games, but before facing the Pirates, Uribe was batting .083 with a .154 OBP. Now, those numbers aren’t too far from Uribe’s career stats and his woeful 2010 campaign – and far cry from what what the Dodgers envisioned their $21 million dollar man to amass.

What a difference three at bats against the Pirates make, because Uribe is now batting .267 with a .313 OBP. If you asked Dodger management and Dodger fans if they would take those stats over the whole 2012 season, they would say yes faster than a Dee Gordon stolen base.

Uribe is career .252 hitter with a .297 OBP and 155 home runs. He only hit four last year.

If the Dodgers want to be serious about winning the NL West, they will need Uribe to produce. I’m not talking about posting Evan Longoria numbers. Uribe needs to hit at least .250 with a .300 OBP and 15-20 home runs.

Sprinkle in some timely hits, a la his magical postseason with the Giants in 2010 and Uribe can start living up to everyone’s expectations.

So, with everything going on Tuesday at Chavez Ravine, Uribe’s 3-3 performance might just be the most important.

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Cleveland Holds the Key to the 2012 NFL Draft

With the fourth pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select…….

Almost every mock draft around has the Browns selecting one of four players: Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, Louisiana State’s cornerback-extraordinaire Morris Claiborne, or up-and-comer Texas A&M quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

It’s no secret that the first two picks will be spent on quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, and it would be a stretch if Minnesota didn’t draft the number one offensive lineman, Matt Kalil. So what does Cleveland do?

Trent Richardson can be the cornerstone of the Browns offense for years to come.

Unfortunately, Cleveland has many holes and whoever they grab with the fourth overall pick will be a premium talent. But at the end of the day, it’s just one pick, plugging only one hole.

Cleveland also holds the 22 overall pick that it acquired from Atlanta in the Julio Jones trade. Not many pundits and prognosticators have taken this into account when compiling their mock drafts. This allows the Browns to address two glaring weaknesses on the first day of the draft.

It’s plain to see that the Brown’s lack offensive firepower. Running back and former Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis signed with the Chiefs, leaving the 29th-rated offense without a single offensive threat.

Starting left tackle Joe Thomas is the best player on the offensive side of the ball, and would be blocking for running backs Monterio Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya. Colt McCoy will be calling the shots under center, but who will he throwing to? Greg Little? Mohamed Massaquoi? Josh Cribbs? All fine players, but not number one receivers.

If available, Michael Floyd would be a steal when the Browns select at 22.

The Browns need a complete makeover at the offensive skill positions, thus bringing Richardson, Blackmon, and Tannehill into the mix for the fourth overall pick. Tannehill seems to be a stretch, and most likely is a smoke screen to get the Dolphins to trade up. Blackmon and Richardson would immediately breath some life into the anemic offense, but which one is the right one?

This part is easy. Because the depth at receiver is deeper than running back, Richardson should be the Browns pick. Remember that the Browns have the 22nd pick – a spot where Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, Baylor’s Kendall Wright, or Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill might be available.

Richardson would be a cornerstone behind Thomas, and Floyd/Wright/Hill would give McCoy a speedy, top-flight receiver, while providing balance and firepower to the Browns struggling offense.

Not everyone is sold on McCoy as the quarterback of the future, but you can’t evaluate him fairly given the dearth of weapons around him. Drafting Richardson and Floyd/Wright would give the McCoy some much needed help. If after the season the Browns brass isn’t sold on McCoy, the franchise will have an opportunity to select several high-caliber quarterbacks in the 2013 draft.

Colt McCoy needs offensive firepower in the worst way.

Finishing towards the bottom next year is not a far-fetched idea, and might actually benefit the Browns. Ask Brows fans if they would go through another painful year in which they had Richardson and Floyd/Wright for a chance to strike gold with USC’s Matt Barkley.

I’m guessing they wouldn’t mind. Even if Barkley is not available, a plethora of potential franchise quarterbacks will be. Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, Arkansas’s Tyler Wilson, West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray could all potentially go in the first round.

So go ahead Cleveland, get your offense on and draft a cornerstone running back and elite receiver. Take Trent Richardson with your first pick.

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Dodgers Sold, Now What?

We knew this day would come. We knew that despised Dodgers owner Frank McCourt would sell the team, and we knew that the new regime would be loaded. So what happens next?

The sale will bring fans back to the stadium and blow away the the dark cloud  that had settled over Chavez Ravine for the past eight years. Spring is in the air and optimism is riding higher than the cost of a Dodger Dog. This is the honeymoon period, and Magic Johnson is looking damn good.

But what happens when the games begin and people get a glimpse the product on the field? Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp are stars, and no doubt worth the price of admission. But what will admission cost? Will the prices go down? Will beer be cheaper? Will concession lines move faster? Will the price for parking become reasonable? Will Juan Uribe hit his weight? Can Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano be relied upon? Will Juan Rivera catch a pop fly? Can Andre Ethier stay healthy? Will James Loney tank half of the season? Will Dee Gorden reach base consistently? Will the tw0-headed monster of Mark Ellis and Adam Kennedy produce?

As you can see, there are more questions regarding this team and this franchise than hate letters in McCourt’s mailbox. Enjoy the honeymoon Dodger fans, because real, everyday life is about to smack us all in the face.

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Lakers Trade Derek Fisher, Rip Off the Band-Aid

There’s no denying what Derek Fisher meant to the Lakers with his ability to make big shots. He was also the calm and approachable ying to Kobe Bryant’s cool and intimidating yang.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned over the years is that teams who hold on to the past end up mortgaging their future. By trading Fisher to the Rockets and Luke Walton to the Cavs, the Lakers have retooled their aging roster. Essentially, the Lakers have ripped off the band aid.

What Lakers fans are experiencing right now is the initial wince after the band-aid has taken some unfortunate hair with it. Once everyone opens their eyes, they will see that the wound is not as bad as it was thought to be, and that everything will be okay.

Unlike the New York Yankees, who have held on to legends far after their prime, the Lakers have cut ties with arguably the most popular and favorite Laker of the past 16 years. Do you think the Yankees would jump at the opportunity to unload A-Rod two years from now, or Derek Jeter now? If it weren’t for the fans reaction, you bet they would.

Not only did the Lakers get a younger, more athletic and productive point guard, but they fandangled the Cavs into taking on Walton’s contract. I am not the only person who thought that dumping Walton’s $6.1 million of deadweight was virtually impossible.

In one hour, the Lakers shaved a combined 19 years off of their roster (not counting Jason Kapono and Christian Eyenga) making them more athletic and dynamic – two things they will need when facing upstarts like the Thunder.

I know it hurts now, but the sting will wear off and the Lakers will be a better team.

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Trust the Big Guys

Please Kobe, trust your Bigs. They tower over opponents and shoot the ball with remarkable efficiency. They don’t need 31 shots to score 30 points. Andrew Bynum was 6-8 from the field for 19 points and Pau Gasol was 6-11, also for 19 points.

In case you didn’t check the box score after the embarrassing loss to the Wizards yesterday (I don’t blame you), let me be the bearer of bad news. You took 31 shots and made nine of them. If you combine the last two games (both losses), you’re 17-57 for a dismal 30 percent.

I understand that you won’t give peace a chance, or if your long-time running mate Derek Fisher has lost your trust when it comes to shooting the ball. I’m not even defending the pathetic play of the bench. All I’m saying is that you have two teammates that can straight-up ball.

You took four times as many shots as Bynum did yesterday, while he made just one shot fewer than you. If Bynum was to hoist 31-32 shots per game, the dude would be scoring 40 points with ease. Even Gasol would drop between 30-40 points given the amount of shots you hoard for yourself.

And the worst part of all is that you know this. Whether it’s your ego, or the subconscious attitude of an elite scorer, you need to trust the few of the guys in the foxhole that can shoot.

This isn’t anything new. Do you remember Shaq vs. Kobe? Inside-out vs. shoot at will? Humility is a positive trait that will help you win games and get that sixth championship that you so desire.

So go ahead Kobe and pass it to your Bigs. Whether you know it or not — you need them.

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Appreciating Matt Kemp

It’s too bad that the Dodgers aren’t headed to the playoffs, otherwise Matt Kemp would be the easy choice for NL MVP. After coming off of a somewhat disappointing year (if you can call 28 HRs, 89 RBI and 19 SB a disappointment) Kemp has rebounded to have an amazing 2011 season that will end in career highs across the board.

With just over 20 games left to go, Kemp has already set career marks in HRs (32), RBI (105), SB (37) and BB (69) and he’s doing all of this without any protection in the lineup. Kemp doesn’t have Prince Fielder, Matt Holiday or Ryan Howard hitting behind him so opposing pitchers don’t have to pitch to him. Since 2008 and 2009 when Manny Ramirez was in the Dodgers lineup, Kemp has seen the amount of strikes thrown decrease from 50.6% to 46.1%.

And yet, that hasn’t stopped Kemp from terrorizing opposing pitchers. Part of the reason why Kemp has been hitting the ball with authority this year is because he seems to have a better idea of what’s going on at the plate. Not only is he swinging at more strikes 71.1% compared to 65.2% in 2010, but he’s making contact with pitches thrown outside of the zone. Last year, Kemp made contact with only 58.5% of pitches outside the zone and struck-out 25.4% of the time. This year, Kemp is making contact on those same pitches at a 65.7% rate and striking-out only 22.7% of the time.

Simply put, Kemp is making more contact with bad pitches, thus putting the ball in play and striking-out less. Last year, Kemp had and OBP of .310 – his worst mark since the .284 OBP he posted in his rookie year. So far this year, he’s getting on base at an obscene .401 clip, putting him in the top eight in all of baseball. I mentioned earlier that he is making better contact with pitches outside of the strike zone, but Kemp is also walking more with a career-high 11.7% walk rate. Compare that to 7.9% in 2010 and 7.5% for his career and it would be safe to assume that either Kemp is seeing the ball better, anticipating what the pitcher will throw, and/or exercising improved patience.

So how valuable is Matt Kemp to the Dodgers? He ranks first in the NL (fourth in MLB) with a 6.8 WAR followed by the 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto’s 6.5 mark. In terms of creating runs, wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) measures how many runs a player has created compared to the league average which is set at 100. Kemp ranks fourth in MLB with a 167 wRC+ rating. That means that Kemp has generated 67 more runs than the average baseball player.

Throw in the fact that Kemp has 37 steals this season and has only been caught 9 times compared to his 2010 totals of 19 steals and 15 times caught stealing. Maybe dating Rihanna was a distraction or maybe Joe Torre’s constantly changing lineup messed with Kemp’s concentration and dedication because Kemp has been the most consistent offensive force on the Dodgers and a top-five player in almost every offensive category in all of baseball.

Kemp might not with the NL MVP because of the Dodgers struggles, but it would be interesting to see how much farther down the standings the Dodgers would slide if Kemp wasn’t there. That might be a reality if the Dodgers don’t pony-up a seven-figure contract for Kemp when he hits the free-agent market in 2013.

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Dodgers should add prospects at the trade deadline

It is safe to say that at 46-56, the listless 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers are not going to make the playoffs. The season was lost before it even begun due to a combination of injuries, inept handling of the roster and a total meltdown with Frank McCourt.

They are 13 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants and 12.5 games out in the wildcard standings and barring a miraculous finish, the Dodgers are dead in the water. With that said, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti’s slogan should be “everything must go, with the exception of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.”

With the future of the Dodgers in limbo, shedding payroll and adding prospects should be their modus operandi. The ideal scenario would be to dump deadweights like Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal and James Loney for prospects, but that may be a pipe dream due to heavy salaries, injuries and pure ineffectiveness.

Hiroki Kuroda Dodgers pitcher

Kuroda could help the Dodgers by waiving his no-trade clause

It’s time for the Dodgers to address the impending voids at first and third base, shortstop, leftfield and the last two spots of the rotation. Dee Gordon looks to be the obvious replacement at short and either Trayvon Robinson or Jerry Sands will get the nod in left. However, Sands could be groomed to play first or third, which would be a boon for the Dodgers.

Acquiring young infield talent that isn’t far away from reaching the big leagues should be the priority, but with such a depleted farm system, the Dodgers should look to refill the cupboard anyway possible.

The Dodgers payroll will shrink from $119 million in 2011 to $46 million in 2012 but several players will face arbitration including Kemp, Kershaw and Andre Ethier. Simply put, the Dodgers should keep that young core and sell what they can for prospects.

Of their tradable assets, Hiroki Kuroda, Jamey Carroll and Furcal are the most likely targets, while getting rid of the under performing and oft-injured Juan Uribe (and the $16 million remaining on his contract) would be a luxury.

Carroll has garnered interest from the Brewers and would be a slight upgrade over Yuniesky Betancourt and his whopping .272 OBP. Asking for Class A second baseman, Ryan “Scooter” Gennett would suffice and give the Dodgers an option at second when Uribe’s contract is up.

Kuroda is the Dodgers best trading chip and is garnering interest from the Rangers, Indians, Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox. But who will those teams part with for Kuroda? Whoever trades for Kuroda would also have to pick up at least $6.6 million remaining on his contract (including his signing bonus that will be paid-out in 2012-13) making it a double-whammy of prospects and cash for the righty. It is worth noting that Kuroda has a no-trade clause and is willing to exercise it for teams on the East Coast.

Here is a list of possible trading partners:

Jesus Montero Yankees catcher

Acquiring Jesus Montero from the Yankees would be huge

Yankees: Catching prospect Jesus Montero hasn’t lived up to the hype this year in Triple-A, but would be a huge acquisition for the Dodgers. The Yankees would be remiss to trade him for a rental, however, they are wafer-thin at pitching and could use a quality 3-4 starter. Anything is possible. Heck, the Dodgers traded Carlos Santana for Casey Blake a few years ago and look how that has turned out. Let’s just hope that Russell Martin keeps producing.

Tigers: After Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Tigers staff is questionable at best and Kuroda could really help them hold on to first place in the American League Central. Third baseman Nick Castellanos is a blue-chip prospect, but far away in Class-A and won’t reach the big leagues for a few years yet. Francisco Martinez also plays third in Double-A and is having a fine season.

Wil Middlebrooks Red Sox third baseman

Wil Middlebrooks would be a nice fit at third

Red Sox: Witch Clay Buchholz and Dice-K on the shelf (Dice-K is out for the year), the Red Sox need to add a starting pitcher badly if they want to keep their postseason momentum alive. Fortunately, the Red Sox have a deep and prosperous farm system and can afford to trade a few prospects at the deadline. With Adrian Gonzalez manning first and Kevin Youkilis at third, the Sox could trade 1B prospect Lars Anderson and/or 3B prospect Wil Middlebrooks. Injured SS Jed Lowrie is another low-cost option and is a proven player.

Indians: The Tribe need pitching and they need it bad. Unfortunately, they have called up hot prospects Lonnie Chisenhall (3B) and Jason Kipnis (2B) and will be reluctant to include them in a deal. However, they do have a plethora of arms in their farm system and the Dodgers could always use a solid, young pitcher.

Rangers: The Rangers are also loaded with pitchers, but have two good SS prospects in Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas. Profar is only 17, but is very athletic and is rated the second-best prospect in the Rangers system. Third basemen Mike Olt is having a good year in Class-A and along with the strong arms in the Rangers organization, could be worth a look.

One might think that some of these prospects might be too coveted by their respective organizations, but if there’s one thing history has taught us, is that teams are willing to make whatever moves they deem necessary to not only make the postseason, but make some noise in it as well. Let’s hope for the Dodgers that one of theses teams takes the Kuroda bait.

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Dodgers: Jamey Carroll vs. Juan Uribe

When it comes to signing free agents, Ned Colletti has a Jekyll and Hide personality. He spends tons of Frank McCourt’s money (or shall I say, he uses McCourts’ AmEx card) on players that have their worst seasons (Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones and Juan Uribe just to name a few) on the Dodgers, yet he finds retreads and castaways at bargain prices. There just isn’t a middle ground anymore.

You would think that a general manager of a major league team would know who to spend money these days, but Colletti failed that test yet again when he signed Uribe to a three-year, $21-million contract this past off season. Uribe is set to make approximately $5-, $8- and $7-million through 2013 with a deferred $1 million in 2014.

Yes he did hit 24 home runs last year for a total of 154 in his career, but that does not excuse a horrendous lifetime OBP of .299. Uribe has never played a full season and has hit more than 20 HRs four times in his 10-year career. As for his 2011 campaign, Uribe has played in 49 games and has 3 HRs, 21 RBI, 12 runs and sports a .222 batting average. His OBP is under .300 at .287 and his slugging percentage is a whopping .327 giving him a .615 OPS.

Juan Uribe and Jamey Carroll

It takes two to justify the signing of one

And all of that can be yours for only $5,295,910. Thanks Colletti.

Uribe had one of his best seasons last year for the rival Giants and that’s what fooled Colletti. Good ‘ol Ned saw those stats alone and thought that Uribe would be producing at that rate until his 34th birthday. Even Giants fans who loved Uribe for his World Series contributions knew that a three-year, $21-million contract was too much.

But, the Dodgers panicked just like they did with Jones and Manny.

On the other hand, Colletti has proven to be deft in the low-rung free agent market. When the Dodgers signed superstar utility man infielder extraordinaire, Jamey Carroll in 2010, it was like Colletti was given a gift card to Big Lots. Sure you’re going to get a DKNY shirt for $10 bucks, but it’s the DKNY shirt that nobody bought at the department stores.

Well, that forgotten DKNY shirt has a better fit and is more of a go-to article of clothing than that sequined Ed Hardy shirt that you paid top-dollar for. Carroll is not flashy or glamorous, but he has been a tremendous value and a lifesaver for the Dodgers in 2011.

At $2,285,627, the 37-year-old Carroll is a bargain in MLB terms — especially when you consider his production. In 66 games this year, Carroll has a .315 average with 0 HRs, 8 RBI, 33 runs and 5 stolen bases. Carroll is getting on base with a .381 OBP and for a guy that has no pop  (12 career home runs), Carroll’s .384 slugging percentage is .057 points higher than Uribe — and Uribe had twice as many homers last year than Carroll has in his career. For a detailed comparison of the two, check out this ESPN post.

Before we get carried away about Carroll’s accomplishments, it’s worth noting that he is having an above average year by his standards. So far in 2011, Carroll is sporting a .363 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is above his career average of .327. His slugging and on-base percentages are also above his career averages so the odds are that there will be a small decline in his numbers as the season wears on. Carroll has received most of his playing time due to injuries to Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Uribe and if all three of those players are healthy simultaneously, Carroll’s playing time might diminish.

The bottom line is that Jamey Carroll plays every day, can play three positions, hits for average, gets on base and scores runs and costs half as much as Uribe. If you combine Uribe and Carroll, you get a second baseman who is hitting .275 with 3 home runs, 29 RBI, 45 runs, 6 stolen bases and a .334 OBP. Looking at it this way kind of justifies spending a combined $7,581,537 for your second baseman.

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