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Batter Up

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As each new season approaches I'm usually rooting for one or two particular players to do something positive in the upcoming season. While I'm a diehard Dodger fan it is the makeup of the team that has always driven my rooting interest. Some teams command my attention more then others. I sleepwalked through the post-Piazza years until Fox sold the team and the 2004 team really caught my attention.

Many times the players I've picked to root for end up disappointing me or they are never given the chance I want them to get. In 1973 Lee Lacy was my root for player, I had taken a liking to Lee Lacy when he ripped a ball up the middle off of Tom Seaver in something like his 2nd major league game. He failed to impress in 73 and lost the 2nd base job to Davy Lopes and history shows that was the right decision. In 2005 I wanted Hee Sop Choi to take the reigns at 1st base to ease the heat on Depo after the trade, and also because I liked the soft spoken big guy. That also did not work out well. Last year it was Boom Boom Betemit . Maybe these guys should pay me not to root for them.

But hey, I'm not always the kiss of death.  In 1974 Jimmy Wyn was my guy and that turned out well. In 2004 Adrian Beltre was my guy and for one season he was the original Boom Boom, as he carried the team into the playoffs.

This year I have two players I want to see impress. One is Andruw Jones, mainly because I lobbied for him to be our center fielder and I hate to be wrong. The 2nd is Juan Pierre. Ah, just kidding, though I expect somewhere, someone is rooting for Juan Pierre to become the guy he was with the 2004 Marlins. No the 2nd is Kuo, I've taken a huge liking to this southpaw and even though the odds are against him I'm still rooting for the breakout I hoped would happen in 2007. The expectation is that Kuo will get caught up in a numbers game and we will lose him to Oakland, or he simply blows out his arm again. I'm rooting against expectation.

At one time Kuo was the only reason to get excited about Dodger prospects, even though he only pitched a few innings in the low minors, he was the BA top Dodger pitching prospect. Then surgery after surgery derailed his career. His career appeared to have followed the same path as Kiki Jones and  Dan Opperman. It was with delight in 2005 while perusing the minor leagues that I noticed he was back. He moved quickly up the ladder, pitching only a few innings at each level but totally dominating, even more important he was healthy. He got the call in 05 but failed to impress Tracy and was quickly relegated to the same world that was inhabited by Hee Sop Choi. A world where the team would lose game after game but instead of playing Choi or Kuo to give them needed experience, Tracy would trot out Jason Philips. In early 2006 Kuo was put back into the rotation in AAA and regained his command. In Sept he put together an excellent set of games in a close pennant race to close out the season and then pitched the best game in playoffs. He looked poised to crack the rotation in 2007 but he got hurt in spring, didn't tell anyone, sucked, hit the DL, then AAA. He did get the call to the Dodgers but he didn't stay long. He got into some games but he was still hurting and by June 29th his season was over. Now it is reasonable to assume that Kuo will never be able to stay healthy enough to be of any use. However I can't shake Sept 2006 and I'm holding out hope he can get enough starts to show us a another one of those bat flips.

Lefthanders Matt Riley and Kuo who are both competing for a spot on the team have had 5 Tommy John surgeries between them. I'm not even sure where they found the 3rd ligament for Riley.

Then we have the flip side to players I'm rooting for. This year that would be Jeff Kent. I won't be honest if I say that I'm not actively rooting for him to fail. I am.  I can understand if that bugs a great many of you since your Dodger fans and rooting for a key Dodger to fail is almost treason. Still I can't change who I am and I'd have been one happy Dodger fan if Jeff Kent had just retired. His surly demeanor has always bugged me, but when he was signed in 2005 I thought it was a great pickup. In hind site I wish it had never happened. He was having an excellent year with the bat when the team collapsed due to injuries and an idiot manager, but instead of being the veteran leader and helping them through the tough times he decided the best way to help out was to bait a guy who has been fighting anger management issues his whole life. That didn't work out so well and thus ended Milton's Dodger career. Milton shares plenty of blame in how he handled the situation but why should there ever have been a situation to deal with?  In 2006 Kent was hurt quite a bit but saved his biggest dagger for the playoffs when all his veteran baserunning acumen couldn't help him figure out that Betemit had smoked the ball and he should have been ready to score and instead embarrassed the team with a baserunning boondoogle the Brooklyn Bums would have been proud of. Of course in his mind he did nothing wrong other then the fact he wasn't able to score from 2nd on a ball that hit the wall in the RF corner. Something I'd never seen happen in 39 years of watching baseball nonstop. In 2007 he decided to wait until his contract had vested and then blasted the only group of players who were actually hitting. Maybe he was correct in that the kids needed to focus on what it takes to win or whatever his rant was about, but going to the press? Was that the action of a leader who wants to help the team come together during a tough time or the action of a divider who only wanted his opinion to be heard?  For years I've heard that these things will be taken care of internally. So what was Kent's agenda that he went public with his dissatisfaction with the kids? I don't know but to me it spoke volumes about Kent and just cemented my dislike.  Then I remember how many times I've been wrong about anything. So now I'm confused.

Which is the perfect way to start a new baseball season.