Want to blame something for the Dodgers' poor start?
There are similarities between the Dodgers' current injury woes and those of the first half of last season. They've just been obscured, or become tough for some to acknowledge, during a seven-game losing streak that has left the Dodgers with a 13-20 record.
Through 33 games last year a scrappy Dodgers club with a mid-range budget was thriving at 22-11. Observers frequently used the word "overachieved" in conjunction with the team's success.
"This is not at all reminiscent of last year. We were 30-13 last year," catcher A.J. Ellis said, citing the team's record on May 22, 2012. "This is not even close to what it was like last year."
The Dodgers won their 30 th game a year ago with a lineup featuring Ellis, Dee Gordon, Elian Herrera and Andre Ethier, all of whom were on the field for the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
The rest of the lineup that day was no juggernaut. Bobby Abreu and Adam Kennedy now are out of baseball. Tony Gwynn Jr. is in Triple-A. The starting first baseman and pitcher, James Loney and Aaron Harang, respectively, were traded in the process of the Dodgers' makeover from a patchwork $105 million roster to a $230 million powerhouse.
The combined annual salaries of the nine players in the Dodgers' lineup Wednesday: approximately $78.35 million, according to the website Cot's Baseball Contracts.
That doesn't include the team's second-highest paid player, left fielder Carl Crawford, who was benched with a strained hamstring and reduced to a pinch-hitting role in the ninth inning.
"It doesn't matter who's on the lineup card, who's on the mound that day," Ellis said. "This is the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is the big leagues. It's time for us to step up."
They've done it before, and with far fewer resources at their disposal.
The Dodgers went 9-5 last May when center fielder Matt Kemp spent two weeks on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Kemp came back for two games before he aggravated the injury again. The Dodgers then went 10-6 before going into a tailspin in mid-June as the effects of injuries and a shallow minor-league talent pool finally caught up to the surprise National League West leaders.
It was only later in the 2012 season when manager Don Mattingly acknowledged his team might have overachieved at the outset.
Whether it's karma or something else, "underachieved" is an appropriate word that probably will be applied in hindsight to the start of this season.
"I can't let my club think that we can't win because we've got some guys banged up," Mattingly said. "It's been a little bit of a rough patch obviously with the number of guys (sidelined). I don't know what you really do about injuries. It's not something you can coach or teach, or anything else. You deal with it and you just have to keep doing."
"I feel like a broken record when I say it myself, but we really can't feel sorry for ourselves."
Mattingly said he believes the turning point this year came April 11 in San Diego, when the Padres' Carlos Quentin charged pitcher Zack Greinke after being hit by a pitch. Greinke fractured his collarbone in the ensuing brawl.
The Dodgers were 6-3 after that game but have gone 7-17 since. Their .213 batting average and three home runs with runners in scoring position haven't been enough to offset injuries to five starting pitchers -- Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Stephen Fife -- and starting infielders Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis.
"At this point, we don't seem to be able to get that big hit," Mattingly said. "We don't seem to be able to get those type of hits yet. We've been walked off plenty, but we haven't been able to get those hits."
The Dodgers have won four one-run games this season. At this point last year they had won nine one-run games, including five in their final inning at the plate.
Where does the blame lie? Not with the manager, said Kemp and Ellis, two of the clubhouse leaders.
"It's not the manager's fault," Kemp said. "He's not swinging the bat."
"We're just not getting it done right now," Ellis added. "Nothing going on down the hall in the manager's, coaches' office -- this is all about the players. It's all going on in here. It's up to us to step up." ___