August 24, 2005
He Who Holds the Conch Shell
Who would you want as the leader?
On the face of it, it is a simple question. But it's anything but simple. Choose between Milton Bradley and Jeff Kent. Can you do it in a heartbeat? Did you have a moment of uncertainty? Would you rather not choose?
Issues of race relations aside-- and that's pushing quite a load to the side-- the bizarre truth is, the National League West pennant is still up for grabs, and the only question worth asking seems to be can the Dodgers get it together to win the division and make the playoffs? For the real fan, the Boys in Blue could make like the Oakland A's of the '70s if they want, as long as the end result extends the season beyond October 2.
Still, the question persists. Is the man the majority of the Dodgers follow the fiery Bradley, talented yet perpetually misunderstood, with a trail of burned bridges from Montreal to Cleveland? Or is the real leader Jeff Kent, a potential Hall of Famer to some (I have my reservations), a tough, no-nonsense professional ballplayer with his own checkered past where teammates, motorcycles and car washings are involved.
Both men exhibit a great passion for the game, and both men have led by example. But let's face it, neither man is Jackie Robinson or Pee Wee Reese or Roy Campanella or Gil Hodges or Jim Gilliam or Kirk Gibson when it comes to being something more than mere deeds and/or pronouncements that the mantle of leadership has been handed to them. This isn't Milton's team or Jeff's club any more than it is Oscar Robles's or Olmedo Saenz's. It's Jim Tracy's ragtag town militia, bloodied but unbowed, living to fight another day if only because the enemy, in this case the San Diego Padres, doesn't have the decency to allow them to crawl off and die in peace.
Over the past 48 hours I have heard more than one sports radio talking head ask, "Where would the Dodgers be without Kent?" Where, indeed? It's an odd question to ask when the team is 11 games under .500 on the campaign, as if Kent's numbers alone are the only reason Los Angeles is remarkably in contention for anything and not battling Colorado this week to stay out of the NL cellar. Faint praise by any other name.
As for Bradley, I'm choosing to take him at his word when he says that the other players gravitate toward him. He's been on the DL quite a bit this season, and he's had a lot of company, so it's possible that he's deluded enough to think that those moments of bonding in the training room make him the leader of the pack. However, he did say that he had been given the conn by the GM, the manager and the owner, while Kent offered up no such ringing endorsements. Pity that no one has bothered to ask Bradley, "Say, do you have that in writing?"
So, to answer my own question... Well, I wish I could say, "Mike Edwards is the man!" Alas, he's been sent down to Las Vegas to bask in the wonderful desert heat. (But it's a dry heat!) Ten years in the minors should have gotten him something more than a summer in purgatory. So I'll have to go with Hee-Seop Choi. He seems like a pleasant, hard-working fellow. The fans like him, and there's a chance that he doesn't know enough English to get himself into too much trouble. Let's make him the captain. Could the situation get any worse?
Posted by Andrew Torres at 7:00 AM