New Dodger players don’t quite cut it in the eyes of fans

Daily Sundial

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General Manager Paul DePodesta must have seen the famous Abbott and Costello skit during the off-season and thought it would be a good idea to apply it to his team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, with so many new faces, heartbreaking goodbyes and new uniforms, Dodgers fans are not only wondering who’s on first, but who’s on second, third, left, right, and on the mound.

It’s torture as a fan to enter Dodger Stadium early in the season knowing that you must be prepared for a series of losses in the 162 game stretch. But not only will Dodger fans such as myself have to suffer loyally beside their team throughout the season, we will also have to spend a good part of the early season trying to figure out who our team is to begin with.

You would think that the Dodgers first post-season win since 1988 would have been proof enough for DePodesta to leave the structure of the team alone and watch the fans fill the bleachers to witness the their first championship in 16 years.

After all, nothing comes to mind as missing from the Dodgers franchise last season other than an alarm clock to wake up the bats every once in a while.

Alex Cora and Cesar Izturis composed one of baseball’s best double-play duos ever. Paul LoDuca settled nicely behind the plate, giving the Dodgers one of the most productive catchers since “you-know-who” was traded to the Mets, and Shawn Green seemed to mold himself into any new position the Dodgers’ big shots decided to place him in, whether it was first base or right field.

Adrian Beltre, one of the few Dodgers players to have worn nothing but Dodger blue his entire career, did it all. He carried the team offensively and turned third base into a brick wall.

With Jose Lima on the mound and Eric Gagne warming up in the bullpen, nothing in the world would have been able to quiet down the more than 50,000 fans nestled in Chavez Ravine, or so you would have thought.

The unthinkable was able to hush the Dodgers fans.

The Dodgers couldn’t wait for the offseason to get rid of LoDuca. After all the shuffling, I don’t even know where Green is anymore, and Beltre is but a distant dream of an era when teams actually took the time to develop their own players. Izturis is probably writing Cora postcards about how much he wishes he were here. Lima is off with the Royals now, and Gagne is on the disabled list.

After the mayhem of trading and selling, Dodgers fans don’t even have the names on the back of the jerseys to recognize the new faces. On the Los Angeles Times website Tuesday, a picture of the team celebrating a four-run campaign in the ninth inning to win the game floated above the story, and I, a Dodger fan for 23 years, couldn’t recognize one player.

I admit, I did not follow the offseason trading puzzle like a good Dodger fan should have, and for my sins I do repent. But can you blame me? When it comes to train wrecks, some people can’t seem to turn away from the wreckage. When it comes to the Dodgers, I’d rather look away until the worst (I hope) is over.

Now, instead of being the highly energized stadium it was when Lima pitched the Dodgers to their lone postseason win last season, Dodger Stadium will resemble a version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” gone horribly wrong. The Dodgers just can’t seem to hold on to any of their players long enough for fans to grow accustomed to them.

As team members and fans look for someone to lead the team, nobody comes to mind. I doubt there is anyone in the franchise who’s been with the team long enough to know where the bathroom is, let alone lead the team to victory. Some have started looking toward Milton Bradley, but unless you think airborne Gatorade tanks are a good form of productive motivation, think again.

This is not to say that some miracle can’t happen and the Dodgers can’t etch out a path of success in this 2005 season. Dodgers fans are not exempt from delirium.

Yet there is not much optimism left over after one of the best defenses in baseball was ripped to shreds. Even with an offense that seldom woke up and rallied, the Dodgers defense was able to keep the team afloat into the postseason last year. Defense was the only thing the team had, and it carried them far.

If the first few games of the season are any indicator, fans better get ready for long at-bats from opposing teams.

Defensive errors cost the Dodgers their season opener, with their brand new third baseman, Jose Valentine, complaining he lost the ball in the third base chalk line. The ball and the chalk are the same color, Valentine tried to explain.

There will be plenty of time for explaining during the rest of the season. Valentine is probably saving his good explanations for after the all-star game, I hope. That is of course if he stays on the roster long enough.

Perhaps it was a good idea to remove the names from the players’ jerseys after all. It could serve as a provisional witness protection program for the players throughout the ominous season ahead of us.

But maybe no one will notice. Maybe when news reports start pointing out the fact that Los Angeles went from making the least amount of errors to being one of the worst teams in baseball in less than a year, everyone will think they are talking about the Angels.

I’m still trying to figure out who’s on first.