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SPORTS DIGEST: Two games in, Dodgers are already aggravating fans

The Dodgers have played all of two games that count this season and already they are aggravating their fans the way they did all of last season.

The Dodgers started the season on the right foot with a 14-3 victory over the San Diego Padres April 3. The Dodgers hit four home runs and Clayton Kershaw pitched like Clayton Kershaw. And they were playing the Padres so no reason to get too excited and start planning for a parade in late October or early November.

Then, after those same Padres shut out the Dodgers the next night, 4-0, it was time to cancel those parade plans and what are we going to do with our inconsistent lineup. A journeyman left-hander, Clayton Richard, blanked the Dodgers over eight innings, allowing only five hits.

In other words, Clayton Richard looked like Clayton Kershaw. Richard now has a career record of 54-53. Kershaw is 127-60. Both reached the majors the same year, 2008.

Last season, the most aggravating thing about the Dodgers was the way they hit left-handed pitching, or didn’t hit left-handed pitching. They were the worst team in the majors against lefties, possibly because their lineup was overwhelmingly left-handed. But even the right-handed hitters like Justin Turner couldn’t hit lefties last year.

Now one game is a miniscule sample size, but the Dodgers couldn’t hit Richard, a .500 career pitcher, in their first game against a left-handed starter.

Instead of hitting four home runs like they did the game before, they grounded into four double plays.

The Dodgers traded for new second baseman Logan Forsythe to help solve their problems against lefties and Forsythe had two of the Dodgers’ five hits and also walked once.

The Dodgers are inconsistent hitting the ball because their lineups are inconsistent and that is the front office’s fault. Team President Andrew Friedman and his lieutenants have too much say in who plays every game and who bats where.

They need to set the roster and let manager Dave Roberts manage that roster.

Joc Pederson hit a grand slam home run opening day and drove in five runs. His reward was a seat on the bench the next day. Kike Hernandez started in center field in place of Pederson.

Pederson is one of the top young hitters in the organization. In two full years with the Dodgers he has 51 home runs.

Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw jogs to the mound to face the San Diego Padres on opening day April 3. Kershaw gave up a run and struck out eight in seven innings of work in the Dodgers, 14-3 win.
(Photo by Jon Soo Hoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Hernandez is a journeyman utility player. He can play the infield or the outfield, and did so for Puerto Rico’s team in the recent World Baseball Classic. But he is never going to be in Pederson’s class as a baseball player and the Dodgers need to stop pretending he will be.

They have a better chance of winning with Pederson in center field. They have a better chance of winning when everyone comes to the ballpark each day with an idea of where they are playing and where they are hitting in the lineup.

In the old days, if a team opened the season with 14 runs in a game where everyone in the starting lineup, including Kershaw, had at least one hit and scored one run, everyone but the pitcher would have been in the lineup the next day and in the same place in the batting order.

But the Dodgers juggled the lineup, moving Forsythe from fifth to first and Adrian Gonzalez from fourth to sixth. Franklin Gutierrez — a .257 career hitter with 353 runs batted in in more than 900 career games — was hitting fourth for crying out loud.

The Dodgers have the overall talent to win the National League pennant this year and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Friedman and company have done their job. They’ve acquired so much talent that the Dodger Triple A team in Oklahoma City has more talent that some other major league teams.

They need to let Dave Roberts manage that talent and they need to let that talent go out and play. The best eight players should play every game unless someone needs a rest. You will never convince me that Kike Hernandez is more of a threat against a left-handed pitcher than Joc Pederson.

UCLA forward TJ Leaf has announced he will leave UCLA after one year for the NBA. Leaf was the Bruins leading scorer this past season and is projected as a first round draft pick in most NBA mock drafts. (Photo by Nick Koza)

ONE AND DONE: With the defections of UCLA star freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf to the NBA, let me go on record as saying I’m tired of the NCAA’s one-and-done rule for college basketball players. Change the rule so it resembles the baseball rule.

High school baseball players are eligible for the Major League Baseball draft every June. Once drafted, players have the choice of signing with the team that drafted them or attending college. Once they accept that college scholarship, though, they are stuck for three years in college before becoming eligible for the draft again.

There are some loopholes. A player can quit the four-year college he attended as a freshman, transfer to a junior college and then become eligible for the draft after only two years out of high school, but for most players, it’s three years.

That’s what college basketball and the NBA need to resolve. The NBA doesn’t want to draft kids out of high school. They would rather see them go play in the NCAA for a year to grow up, physically and mentally, before drafting them.

But most college players are no more ready for the NBA after one year in college than they were after their senior year of high school.

The real problem with the system is that kids think they belong in the NBA when they don’t. Ball and Leaf are both projected to be first round draft picks and will play in the NBA next year.

But last year, more than 60 players declared for the NBA draft who still had college eligibility left. That doesn’t count college seniors and all of the international players that are eligible to be drafted.

The NBA draft consists of 60 players. Sure, there are chances for kids that don’t get drafted to sign as free agents and make a squad the hard way, but too many players would benefit from an extra year or two of seasoning in college ball.

USC guard Shaqquan Aaron, a redshirt sophomore, has declared for the draft, leaving two years on the table. Under my plan, Aaron could jump to the NBA anyway but, three years after high school, Aaron still hasn’t found a fit with a program. He attended Louisville as a freshman, before sitting out a season after transferring to USC.

At USC this year, he mostly came off the bench, starting some games when Bennie Boatwright was out with an injury.

You probably won’t hear his name called on draft night and he will probably end up in Europe or Asia.

Just because you are a good travel ball player as a teen, doesn’t mean you will end up in the NBA and more kids need to understand that.

The girls volleyball team at George Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles has received a $1,000 grant from California Casualty Chairman Emeritus Thomas Brown. Shown during the check presentation, from left, are assistant coach Jennifer Villaryo, California Casualty Field Marketing Manager Jana Charles, volleyball head coach Jemel Floyd, Principal Dechele Byrd and California Casualty Field Marketing Manager Issa Guerrero. (Courtesy photo)

$1,000 GRANT: On a more positive note, the girls volleyball team at George Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles has received a $1,000 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grant. Washington High is one of 10 California schools each receiving $1,000 this year.

The funds will be used to purchase jerseys and other equipment that the coach said will enhance the players’ spirit and confidence.

Washington is one of 79 public schools in 33 states receiving a total of $83,000 this year. Since its creation in 2011, more than $580,000 has been awarded to 500 athletic programs across the nation.

The grant is named after California Casualty Chairman Emeritus Thomas R. Brown, who is a champion of helping more student-athletes learn valuable lessons that carry to other aspects of life.

Other California middle and high schools with an unmet need can try for next year. Applications for the 2017-18 California Casualty Thomas R. Brown Athletics Grants are now being taken at www.calcasathleticsgrant.com.

The deadline for consideration is Jan. 15, 2018.

 

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