By Don Wanlass
The acquisition of Brian Dozier and John Axford at the July 31 trading deadline did not have Dodger fans jumping up and down with joy.
Of course, when you are standing on the ledge of a tall building, waiting to jump off as your team falls out of first place on the last day of July, it isn’t safe to jump up and down anyway.
There must be something in the psychological makeup of a fan (remember the word fan derived from fanatic) that makes them pessimistic by nature.
And with the Dodgers in a three-game tailspin in which they have scored just three runs and collected just nine base hits, the more pessimistic fans — the ones who call radio station KLAC after losses — are sure the season is over, no matter who the Dodgers acquired.
The Dodgers just acquired a second baseman — Dozier — who will solidify the biggest hole in the Dodgers lineup, which has been wherever the second baseman hit. Dozier is hitting only.224 this year, but that’s a 17-point improvement over Logan Forsythe. When you compare Dozier’s 16 home runs to Forsythe’s 2, there is even more reason to be optimistic.
The Dodgers tried to pry Dozier out of Minnesota after the 2016 season. When they couldn’t get him, they got Forsythe.
By all accounts, Forsythe was a popular teammate in the clubhouse. He was a good-fielding second baseman. He just didn’t hit enough.
Dozier can hit for power as his 42 home runs in 2016 prove, but he is only a .248 career hitter. Like most modern players, he strikes out more than he walks and, when he strikes out for the fourth time as a Dodger, he will go over the 100-strikeout mark for the sixth straight season.
But Dozier has been acquired to improve the weakest link in the Dodgers batting order. If he does that, and the Dodgers win the National League West, the trade will have been a success.
The Dodgers gave up Forsythe and two minor leaguers to acquire Dozier, who can be a free agent after the season. It was a typical Dodger trade. Low risk with possible high reward.
The other trade deadline deal was similar. Axford, a veteran relief pitcher who has pitched for seven different teams in 10 Major League season.
At one time, Axford was a closer, collecting 46 saves for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 and 35 in 2012. He had 25 saves for Colorado as recently as 2015, but Axford is not joining the Dodgers to save games, unless Kenley Jansen has been used three games in a row.
He is joining the Dodgers to make it easier for manager Dave Roberts to get from the starting pitchers to Jansen. With the Toronto Blue Jays this season. he was 4-1 with a 4.41 earned run average. He has given up six home runs and 20 walks in 44 innings while striking out 50.
The Dodgers have been trying to find someone to fill the role Brandon Morrow filled last year and Joe Blanton did in 2016. Unfortunately, relief pitchers are notoriously inconsistent.
Two years after he went 7-2 with the Dodgers with a 2.48 ERA, Blanton is out of baseball. Morrow signed with the Cubs in the offseason, where he became the closer. He has 22 saves, but also has spent time on the disabled list.
With two months to go before the playoffs, the Dodgers are half a game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West. Colorado is right there in the division race as well. All three teams are in the wild card race as well.
The Dodgers should have the hitting. Justin Turner has been injured most of the season, but he is almost healthy. Last year, he was the team’s most consistent hitter. This year, Matt Kemp has taken his place.
Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor haven’t hit as well as thye did last year, but Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal have improved from last season.
The Dodgers continue to lead the National League in home runs and with Manny Machado and Dozier in the lineup, that should continue
The Dodgers are getting Hyun-Jin Ryu back in their starting rotation in two or three weeks, meaning they will have to put one of their reliable starters in the bullpen.
Last year’s phenom, Julio Urias, is almost back from shoulder surgery, giving the team another extra arm. It will be up to team president Andrew Friedman and Roberts to juggle the roster, the batting order and the bullpen pecking order to put the Dodgers in the best position to win.
But it’s baseball and you never know which way the ball is going to bounce once the game starts. That’s why we watch.
BUDDING RIVALRY: The Rams and Chargers haven’t been here long enough to develop a rivalry.
The Clippers and Lakers never developed a rivalry because the competition is usually one-sided. For years the Lakers dominated the competition against the Clippers and the Clippers have dominated the last five years. It will take a playoff series between the two teams to create a tense intra-city rivalry.
The Dodgers have never cared about the Angels and never will.
In Los Angeles, there are two rivalries: USC and UCLA in anything and the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks in hockey.
But a third rivalry is rapidly developing between the expansion Los Angeles Football Club and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The two soccer teams met for the second time July 26 in Banc of California Stadium, LAFC’s new home in Exposition Park. Playing in front of a raucous sold-out crowd, the teams battled to a 2-2 tie in the second game they have played against each other.
The first game came in March when the Galaxy spotted LAFC a 3-1lead and roared back in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut with the team.
Ibrahimovic scored two sensational goals in the last 10 minutes and the Galaxy won, 4-3.
The Galaxy again spotted LAFC a lead only to score two goals to tie the game and miss an opportunity or two late that could have given them a win.
Things got crazy in the stands during the game with several fights, a few arrests and fans destroying seats and other items.
LAFC went so far as to issue a statement after the game, saying the team is committed to a safe, positive and welcoming environment at Banc of California Stadium and that anything less than that would not be tolerated.
LAFC is currently in second place in the Western Conference. The Galaxy is one point behind.
The two teams meet again Aug. 24 at StubHub Center. That will be an interesting game to see.
A TROJAN PIONEER: The first player to play tailback at USC for coach John McKay died last week.
Willie Brown, who came from an athletic family in Long Beach, died from cancer complications in Carson. He was 76.
Brown played at USC when in the early 1960s when the best college players still played both offense and defense.
On the Trojans 1962 national championship year, Brown was the leading rusher and also led the team in interceptions. The Trojans began using the I formation in 1961, with Brown usually lined up behind fullback Ben Wilson, giving Trojan fans an inkling of what was to come with Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Charles White and Marcus Allen as USC earned the nickname Tailback U.
That was the year I became a Trojan fan. Bill Nelsen, who split quarterback duties with Pete Beatherd, was from my hometown, Pico Rivera, and the Trojans dominated most of the competition that year.
Hal Beldsoe was an All American at tight end (he also excelled at defensive end) and Damon Bane was an All American linebacker (and a guard on offense) and the Trojans went 10-0, giving up only 55 points all season on their way to the Rose Bowl, where they defeated No. 2 ranked Wisconsin, 42-37, to win McKay’s first national title in only his third year at USC.
Brown moved to flanker the next season, Garrett’s sophomore year, and eventually played defensive back for the Rams before returning to USC to coach from 1968 to 1976. He was inducted to the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Brown also was a talented baseball player, playing center field and shortstop for the Trojans. He was all-conference in 1963, hitting .352 for the team that won the College World Series.
His brothers, Oscar and Ollie, had careers in baseball, Oscar playing for the Braves and Ollie playing for the Giants, Padres, Athletics, Brewers, Astros and Phillies.