Questions for September... and Beyond

September is here and the Dodgers are still rolling. The Diamondbacks can't get it together and are now more than a week-and-a-half out of first place. The rest of the NL West is hopelessly lost. Yet, there are some lingering questions about the Dodgers for the home stretch of the 2013 regular season... and beyond.
A healthy Kemp would make for a crowded outfield, which is a good problem to have.
Juan Ocampo
What can we expect from #27?

We're still waiting for Matt Kemp to return from the horrendously stupid ankle injury he suffered a month ago while stepping awkwardly on home plate. He lollygagged on the play and his rush to redeem himself in the eyes of the baseball Gods further complicated his difficult season.

Hopefully, Kemp will use his September to find his groove, just in time for the playoffs. There's no pressure, since there are already three healthy, everyday outfielders in Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier. In a best case scenario, we'll soon have to debate the merits of forming a lineup with four productive outfielders.

The good news is, the worst case scenario is simply the status quo for the Dodgers, who have propelled themselves thus far without any meaningful contribution from Kemp. If his 2013 is a wash, so be it. He's in the prime of his career and there's no reason to expect anything less than a great 2014.


Puig doesn't like to toot his own horn, but you know he's not sitting when Kemp returns.
Juan Ocampo
I love glove. Will Don control himself?

It's easy to say Michael Young is going to be a pinch-hitter who rarely starts, but what in Mattingly's behavior leads you to believe he'll restrain himself with another veteran contributor? He finds plenty of justification to sit Juan Uribe or Mark Ellis, or make them the victims of mid-game double switches, in favor of Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker or Jerry Hairston.

Young has a glove forged of iron, with hands carved from ivory and glazed in butter. I don't want to see him on defense, no matter what the standings say. He's here because his bat improves his bench, has all of that veteran leadership yadda yadda yadda in spades, insert bullshit clich├ęd line about clubhouse presence here, and because Ned Colletti might have forgotten it's not 2007 anymore.

Fine, another veteran to help a team that's on a pace to win close to 100 games feel better about themselves, if that's what you think we need. Whatever, just get some hits off the bench and leave the glovework to competent professionals, please.

Will Mattingly earn an extension?

Don Mattingly is a manager who will be graded heavily on whatever the Dodgers accomplish, or don't accomplish, in the postseason. It's as simple as that. An early exit out of the playoffs, and the Dodgers have an excuse to shop around for another manager, and they shoudl. If Mattingly wins it all, he opens the door for an extension, and they should give it to him.

Not all managers are under this type of extreme pressure to win it all, but can you see the Dodgers extending Mattingly after a quick exit in the Divisional Series? Can you see them offering a three or four year deal after a 4-1 series loss in the NLCS?

To be clear, I'm generally on board with Mattingly, thanks to the team's performance this summer. He handles the clubhouse and the personalities about as well as anybody in the game, which is an absolute must in today's game.

I've harshly judged a couple of instances this season where Mattingly was seemed to be at odds with a player, only to see that player respond positively in every way possible in the games that followed.

His handling of personalities is one thing. His game management, with those ham-fisted double-switches in the middle innings and mind-boggling use of the bunt, is another. Others might make exceptions, but I'll make it clear and simple: Mattingly needs to win the World Series, then he can stay, double switch to his heart's desire, and bunt in the fourth inning with no outs and runners on first and second all he wants.

The Dodgers are on cruise control. Hanley Ramirez usually has time during a game to get his hair did.
Jon SooHoo
Other questions...

Which Chris Capuano is going to hang out this month? Capuano's consistent inconsistency is a marvel. He'll either go out to the mound and give up six runs or he'll throw seven shutout innings and strike out eight. He's unpredictable, but at this stage in the season, that's bordering on irrelevant.

Fifth starters aren't needed in October, anyway, so Capuano can continue to surprise us each fifth day in September with whatever pitcher he decides to be. Let him run out the clock on his contract and we can be done with him.

What are the plans with Dee Gordon? Young might play bad defense, but Gordon is a liability in the field. His only strength is speed, but Mattingly doesn't like to run too often and Dee has gotten thrown out on one-fifth of his career steal attempts. I'm beginning to wonder whether he'll be on the 40 man roster out of Spring Training next year, and what justification there would be to keep him.

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The Dodgers are playing the Rockies in Denver this week, where Dinger the Dinosaur, the lamest mascot in the history of professional sports, will again stalk TV viewers from behind home plate.

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