washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > MLB > Preview

3. LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H15

Roughly nine months ago, the Dodgers had emerging superstar Adrian Beltre at third base, all-star Paul Lo Duca at catcher, a resurgent Shawn Green in right field and ace reliever Guillermo Mota dominating the eighth inning.

Now, they have none of those players. What, exactly, do the Dodgers have, then? A mess of a team that probably won't come close to repeating as division champion. A defensively downgraded infield at the precise moment when sinkerball specialist Derek Lowe comes on board. An injury-prone cornerstone hitter (J.D. Drew) to replace a younger, better one (Beltre).

_____ Breakdown _____
 baseball
Lineup
SS Cesar Izturis
LF Jayson Werth
RF J.D. Drew
2B Jeff Kent
CF Milton Bradley
1B Hee Seop Choi
3B Jose Valentin
C Jason Phillips
Rotation
RHP Brad Penny
LHP Odalis Perez
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Jeff Weaver
RHP Scott Erickson
Closer
RHP Eric Gagne

Best move: Taking a chance on retread Scott Erickson, who pitched his way into their starting rotation this spring.
Biggest loss: Letting 3B Adrian Beltre walk away without much of a fight.
Top rival: San Francisco Giants.

___ Team Capsules ___
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
NL East
NL Central
NL West
1. Cubs
4. Mets
4. Reds
   
 
AL East
AL Central
AL West
 


Well, one suspects Washington area native Paul DePodesta should be given the benefit of the doubt. Dude graduated from Harvard and everything. And for all the criticism he got for last July's deadline trade that sent away Lo Duca and Mota, the Dodgers still won the division.

And in DePodesta's defense, he works for an owner, Frank McCourt, who seems loath to spend. Still, the decision to let Beltre walk was a real head-scratcher because it was not about the money -- as proven when the Dodgers turned around and gave similar dollars to Drew.

The Dodgers have almost nothing they can count on these days, not even closer Eric Gagne, who missed nearly a month of spring training with a bum knee. Top starting pitcher Brad Penny, too, might miss the start of the season. Turnover is a given in baseball, but DePodesta has turned over nearly half the Dodgers' roster since taking over 15 months ago. The question is: Does he know what he's doing?


© 2005 The Washington Post Company