Deep beneath the RFK stands, in a room tucked behind the visitor's clubhouse, Dodgers Manager Jim Tracy is talking about a trade deadline that came and went, leaving his National League West as bad as when last weekend started.
"What took place during the deadline, when you look at the Giants or the Padres or the Diamondbacks, you look around and say Jimminy Christmas! Where was the big deal?"
In a division crying for improvement, the four teams wallowing their way to the worst winning finish in recent history did little on the final days of recent trading to make themselves better. Which is why this week, Tracy sat in his office pleased with the idea that his Dodgers are still very much alive for the postseason.
The team playing the Nationals this week went 11-17 in May, lost eight in a row in June and went 11-17 in July and still it is closer to first place, at just four games out, than Washington. If the Nats were in the NL West, they would be in first place by 5 1/2 games and printing playoff tickets.
But teams like the Nationals were kept from the trades that might have put them over the top. In another year, General Manager Paul DePodesta obviously not adverse to making creative deals, the Dodgers might have been willing to part with a starter like Jeff Weaver or Odalis Perez. They might have even traded second baseman Jeff Kent, as long as he was willing to go. Any of those players could have helped a Washington team desperately in need of help.
The Dodgers, though, felt the need to hold on to everything they have. San Francisco actually picked up outfielder Randy Winn from Seattle with the hope he can add some offense down the stretch. The Padres, after picking up third baseman Joe Randa, spent the trade weekend trying to find a replacement for catcher Ramon Hernandez, who has a bad wrist. To know just how bad things are in this division, the Diamondbacks are starting Claudio Vargas every fifth day.
"I did think about [how strange this race is] for awhile," said DePodesta. "Now I just look at it and say 'we're four out.' Our whole team is ravaged by injuries."
Indeed the Dodgers have lost J.D Drew and Eric Gagne for the season. Milton Bradley and Jose Valentin have been out for much of the year and the Dodgers have been trying to make do despite a multitude of small injuries that have kept players out for two and three weeks at a time. Before the year many thought this was not as good a team as the one that won the NL West last year, but with that nucleus intact, there is little doubt Los Angeles would be in first by about eight games right now.
The Giants are clearly not the same without Barry Bonds and the Padres -- expected to be the best team in the division -- have had a few critical injuries like Hernandez's and one to top starter Adam Eaton. But more importantly, they have had mediocre performances from players who were supposed to be good, like third baseman Sean Burroughs, who they recently demoted to Class AAA. Arizona, with a decent collection of offensive talent, has languished somewhere in the middle of the muck.
Which is why Tracy was sitting in his office the other day, rattling off the results after the eight-game losing streak in July, pulling out a couple of Dodgers wins to show just how much his team had fought back.
"That stuff starts to add up," he said. "Especially when you're talking about a four-game difference in the loss column."
He then went on to complain about the games that were lost after Gagne went down, games that were blown in the late innings as the bullpen tried to remake itself.
"If I have a worst-case scenario, I am still sitting here in two months and I'm still bitching about this stuff," he said.
He's probably right. The Dodgers have won seven of their past 14. In most cases this is called treading water. In the National League West these days, that's called a pennant charge.