The Dodgers need a spark
The past few years watching Dodger games has become a bore. Most Dodgers look as if they are just going through the motions with little enthusiasm. The manager and coaches sit on the dugout bench like bumps on a log. This lack of enthusiasm is partly responsible for the Dodgers not reaching the playoffs and the fans questioning if the players care about winning or just collecting their enormous salaries. In 1999 and 2000 fans found reading The Los Angeles Times about the Dodgers more interesting than watching or listening to them in action. The Dodgers need somebody to show emotion during the game.
As most baseball fans do, I enjoy watching or listening to a baseball game. Seldom I find baseball games boring no matter if they are high scoring or pitching duels. However, in 1999 and 2000 the Dodger games became dull. At first I believed I was burned out because I listen or watch at least 180 Dodger games a year including spring training. This is not true. In 2000 I watched the New York Mets during the playoffs and World Series and enjoyed it. As my analytical mind does, I tried to figure out the difference. I came to the conclusion that the Mets showed much more emotion rooting for each other and the Dodgers have not done that since 1988.
When I became a Dodger fan, Tommy Lasorda was a new manager. Everybody who is a baseball fan knows how enthusiastic Lasorda can be. His unsinkable enthusiasm influenced his players. Because Steve Sax was so enthusiastic, nobody questioned his desire to win. Mickey Hatcher, who tripped on the base paths more than half the time, had so much desire to win that he would crawl to the next base after he fell. Kirk Gibson showed his frustration by hitting his head with his bat. Even conservative Orel Hershiser pumped his fist after a win.
Something changed after the 1988 season. Developing health problems caused Lasorda to lose some of his enthusiasm. This affected his players. Sax was gone to free agency. The Dodgers lost some of their spirit and started not winning divisional titles.
Four full seasons have past since Lasorda has retired as a manager. Bill Russell, Glenn Hoffman, and Davey Johnson have managed the Dodgers since then. Only Hoffman, who managed the Dodgers less than three months, did not sit on the dugout bench like a bump on a log. The 1996 season, which Lasorda started managing, was the last time that the Dodgers went to the playoffs. Although the Dodgers have had much talent, they have not had enough enthusiasm to reach the playoffs.
Some fans think players should be self motivated and enthusiastic because they make millions. Major leaguers are self motivated, or they would not have reached the major leagues. However, their enthusiasm fades after 100 games when their bodies are tired and hurt. They need a manager who values enthusiastic play.
The Dodgers no longer have a player with endless enthusiasm. I am not criticizing them. Some people do not feel comfortable showing their emotions in public. The Dodgers need a player, as Sax and Hatcher were, with boundless enthusiasm. Because enthusiasm is contagious, an exciting player will help enthuse the rest of the team. Though such a player is difficult to find, Kevin Malone needs to seek one.
The 2001 version of the Dodgers needs to show their love for baseball. Hopefully, Jim Tracy will show his emotions and some enthusiasm in the dugout and locker room. When a player hits a home run, scores a run, makes a great defensive play, or pitches a great game, his teammates need to genuinely congratulate him instead of going through the motions. On the field if the Dodgers look like they are doing their best on every play, they will get less criticism from the fans and the media. Fans need to cheer more and criticize less to keep the Dodgers motivated.