Q&A with Michael Schwartz; Discussing the Dodgers and the N.L. West


Today we had the great pleasure of interviewing Dodgers Insider Michael Schwartz, who is an associate reporter for Dodgers.com and MLB.com. He has been writing for the Dodgers for all of the 2008 season and was a reporter for the Diamondbacks last season, so he obviously knows a lot about the Boys in Blue and the rest of the N.L. West. Here it is:

Q: Did the Dodgers make the right move in acquiring Greg Maddux?

I’d say so. He’s not costing very much in money and prospects, and he stabilizes the rotation with Penny’s status iffy for the rest of the season. That, and he will be such a plus on the four days he does not pitch in helping the rest of the young staff that there really isn’t much downside to this deal. The one negative would be he doesn’t pitch very deep into games anymore, but that would likely be the same thing with Stults or Johnson anyway.

Q: How much will the Dodgers miss Brad Penny?

They certainly miss the Brad Penny from last year who was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, but they won’t miss the guy who basically hasn’t won since April. They’ve already spent the better part of the season coping without him so they should be OK, espcially now that they have Maddux to take his spot. With his injury still kind of being undefined as to what exactly is causing the pain, they’re in the perfect position of not counting on him at all but having anything he does contribute the rest of the year be considered a bonus.

Q: Takashi Saito has missed the last few weeks with a right elbow sprain. How important is it for the Dodgers to have him return healthy.

I’d say it’s a good deal more important than Penny since you have the coverage with Maddux. With the way their reliable arms like Broxton, Kuo and Park have blown games in the last week, the experience and talent of Saito would be a huge boost to have back in that ‘pen. Think of how good a bullpen would be with
Saito closing, Broxton handling the eighth and then Park, Kuo, Wade and Beimel being the bridge guys. Then you wouldn’t have the juggling of late-inning relievers we’ve seen the last few weeks, even as they have been winning. It could be argued he’s the most important of their injured players (Furcal,
Penny) to return.

Q: Is Matt Kemp a permanent solution in the leadoff spot?

Well, obviously the ideal solution would be Furcal leading off and Kemp hitting second in my mind, but with they lineup they’re throwing out now I think he’s definitely the best option. Of course you could play Pierre, but as Torre said with the amount of power the lineup now has, his ability to create runs isn’t
as important as before when the offense wasn’t scoring. Therefore, it’s better to have Ethier and his pop in the lineup, which leaves Kemp as the only logical leadoff option. And with his combination of power, speed and batting average, he may not be a prototypical leadoff hitter like Furcal or Pierre, but I think he works well up there.

Q: Should Andre Ethier play everyday over guys like Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre?

No question, in my opinion. Jones is obviously out of the pitcture until September while he gets his mind right in Triple-A on his “injury” assignment. If somehow he shows flashes of being the real Andruw Jones you’d have to think about giving him some time, but since he has given us no reason to believe that
it doesn’t seem like a reasonable option for now. As for Pierre, he’s great at what he does, but he has no arm in the outfield and has no power. Ethier, on the other hand, is tied for the team lead in home runs and ranks third in the NL in slugging percentage in August, just ahead of a guy named Manny. The way he’s played, he has to be in the lineup every day.

Q: The season is now four months in. Has Joe Torre made a significant impact on this team?

In terms of wins and losses maybe not, as they have pretty much the same record as last year at this time. But who knows if the Dodgers would have felt comfortable to go out and get a Manny Ramirez if they didn’t have a mangager like Torre who they knew would be able to deal with him? His biggest value may
be seen in the future both the rest of the season with the way he will be calm under pressure during the stretch run and a potential playoff appearance and in future years when the principles Torre and his staff have taught the young guys like Kemp, Loney and Ethier really sink in.