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  Sun, August 1, 2004


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No Johnsons, no magic
Speculation on how rookie Dodgers GM's meddling will affect a winning team
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun


Your team has won 21 of 26 games. So, what do you do?

If you are Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta, you basically tear it apart.

The rookie GM made four deals, involving 14 players, in the final 18 hours leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline of Saturday at 4 p.m.

We're not sure how many Dodgers were wearing name tags in the visiting clubhouse yesterday at Petco Park in San Diego, but it must have seemed like spring training.

And DePodesta didn't do all he wanted. And there's the problem for the Dodgers: They made the deals which were supposed to lead to the big ones and ... pffft. Nada.

Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Randy Johnson agreed to waive his no-trade clause, but the Dodgers and Diamondbacks could not agree on players to make a deal. As well, Colorado Rockies catcher Charles Johnson declined to waive his no-trade clause.

The Dodgers went looking for a stud arm and a middle-of-the-lineup bat in Johnson and Johnson, and DePodesta built up the necessary stockpile to obtain the two.

Now that the Johnsons have stayed put, are the Dodgers better today than they were three days ago?

First, L.A. completed a six-player deal with the Florida Marlins which sent catcher Paul Lo Duca, reliever Guillermo Mota and outfielder Juan Encarnacion to the Marlins for righty Brad Penny, first baseman Hee Seop Choi and minor-league pitcher Bill Murphy.

We've never been big into this clubhouse chemistry, since most players complain that the bus was a minute late or the sun was too bright after winning in the 10th to run a winning streak to 18 games.

However, having been around the Dodgers some, we know how valuable a piece of the 25-man roster Lo Duca was. When you talk to most catchers they bring up their RBI totals and their homers, but when you talk to Lo Duca, he speaks about his pitching staff, first, second and third.

The Dodgers added four-time Gold Glove outfielder Steve Finley and catcher Brent Mayne from Arizona for minor-leaguers Koyie Hill, Reggie Abercrombie and Murphy. Finley would drop his no-trade clause only if he was guaranteed to play centre field, so Dodgers manager Jim Tracy had to clear that move with centre fielder Milton Bradley.

L.A. dealt lefty reliever Tom Martin to the Atlanta Braves for minor-leaguer Matt Merricks and shipped outfielder Dave Roberts to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Henri Stanley.

Stanley reports to triple-A Las Vegas and Martin to class-A Vero Beach. No help there.

L.A. refused to include righty Edwin Jackson in a deal to acquire five-time Cy Young winner Johnson. The Dodgers had offered the Diamondbacks Penny, outfielder Jayson Werth and minor-league pitchers Chad Billingsley and Chuck Tiffany.

What's the total effect?

- The Dodgers are weaker behind the plate with a platoon of Dave Ross and Mayne compared to Lo Duca.

- Their bullpen is not as strong after moving Mota and Martin and not replacing them in deals, although they think Darren Dreifort will fill Mota's spot. Dreifort failed to protect a 2-1 lead in the eighth Saturday against San Diego and the Dodgers lost 3-2.

- They added a fifth starter in Penny, a first baseman in Choi and an outfielder in Finley.

- Shawn Green, the former Blue Jay, returns to right field with the departure of Encarnacion.

DePodesta said his team is better now that it was. Plus post-season experience has been added which, according to DePodesta, maintains "club chemistry."

Post-season experience helps only if the Dodgers play in October.