SportsDodgers

Dan Haren still isn't the answer

Los Angeles DodgersColumnSportsBaseballMajor League BaseballDavid PriceDan Haren
Who's after Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the Dodgers' rotation?
Acquiring David Price makes sense for the Dodgers who have a hole in their starting rotation

The crazy notion pounded as loud as the ball Matt Holliday drove to the base of the center-field fence in the first inning, a shot that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a lead before the Dodgers had even broken a summer Missouri sweat.

The best starting rotation in baseball needs another starting pitcher.

The unlikely idea burst open four innings later, like the home run fireworks exploding through the thick sky, snaking red plumes that draped a colorful canopy over a smiling Holliday and a scowling Dan Haren.

The best starting rotation in baseball needs another starting pitcher.

The Dodgers began baseball's traditional second half Friday at the same spot they ended last season, at dreaded Busch Stadium, against those bewitching Cardinals, with a game that exposed their most tender of spots.

Dan Haren, in yet another failed audition to be the fourth Beatle, gave up three runs and eight hits in an effort that pulled Don Mattingly from the dugout before the end of the fifth inning. It was a hole too big against a bullpen too strong, and the Dodgers eventually lost, 3-2, to fall percentage points behind the San Francisco Giants back into second place in the National League West.

The ball is now in the weathered palms of Ned Colletti, who has until the July 31 trading deadline to deal with one of those age-old pitching rotation rhymes, only it's not so cute when it involves your rotation.

Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu ... and then who?

It was supposed to be comeback kid Josh Beckett, whose no-hitter and 2.26 earned-run average are offset by the fact that he creaks when he walks and could fall into little pieces at the first stiff wind, not to mention he hasn't pitched in two weeks with a bad hip. That leaves Haren, whose Friday performance featured a fat pitch Holliday banged for an RBI double in the first, and another one he hammered for a two-run homer in the fifth.

Said Haren of Mattingly: "I haven't earned his confidence and I understand that."

Mattingly just shrugged and said, "OK … pretty typical outing."

Calling it "typical" is nice, but not good. Haren has endured three consecutive losses with an 11.57 ERA during that time, raising his overall ERA to 4.30, or nearly a run higher than any of the Dodgers' Big Three.

This is a problem because they need to be a Big Four. They are going to need four strong arms to survive a September pennant race even in a lousy division, and they are certainly going to need a foursome to survive an October that was sabotaged last season without one.

During last autumn's postseason, they needed a fourth starter twice, and both times it knocked them to their knees. The first time, they didn't trust anyone, so they used Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest, a move that perhaps messed with his arm enough that he later gave up seven runs to the Cardinals here in their National League Championship Series clincher. The second time, they reluctantly gave the ball to Ricky Nolasco, who lasted just four innings in a loss to the Cardinals and Lance Lynn, who was fittingly the same pitcher who beat Haren on Friday night.

Don't be fooled by their rotation's baseball-best 3.08 ERA. They need to be better even if — and especially if — it comes with a Price.

Here's hoping the Dodgers reported interest in the Tampa Bay Rays' former Cy Young Award winner David Price is real. And here's hoping that Colletti will remain true to his history and be unafraid to trade two of the top three prospects that will be required to land him.

Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias are all seemingly headed toward stardom from places like Albuquerque, Chattanooga and Rancho Cucamonga. But they are not there yet. Price, at age 28 and in the prime of his career, is there, and proven, and available because he will be a free agent after next season and the small-market Rays can't afford him.

The Dodgers need to take him off their hands, and they need to do it now. Some fans won't like it. Some experts will criticize it. But come October, everyone in town will love it, the Dodgers throwing out a seemingly unbeatable rotation that should make them the favorites to win their first World Series championship in 26 years. Come October, David Price could also make fans forgive, if not temporarily forget, the season-long TV debacle that is slowly crushing ownership's credibility.

Once upon a honeymoon, those owners promised they wanted to win at all costs. Well, guess what? Acquiring David Price represents all costs.

"We think we're in a good spot, we think we have some legitimate players coming in," Colletti said Friday. "But I'm not saying we wouldn't do it."

Of course Colletti would do it because he's done it before. How do you think he has built teams that have made the postseason four out of the last eight years? He has been unafraid to trade prospects for proven talent and has really been truly burned only once, by giving away catcher-infielder Carlos Santana to Cleveland. But even then, in that trade he acquired Casey Blake, who led the Dodgers to consecutive NLCS appearances. Colletti might eventually also regret the trading of Miami pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and Boston pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, but for now, he's way ahead, and bringing a World Series title to town would keep him there forever.

"If there's something out there that makes sense, I think you've got to take a shot at it," Colletti said.

David Price makes great sense, ring sense, parade sense, even if Mattingly is openly reluctant to part with the kids.

"I'd hate to see us unload a couple of our guys down there that I've watched enough to know, you've got quality guys coming," Mattingly said Friday, speaking for many farm-system fans. "I don't think you give those guys away for a temporary anything."

October success is not temporary. October spoils can last forever. These Dodgers have a chance at that forever. The Angels took that chance Friday with the savvy acquisition of closer Huston Street. It's the Dodgers' turn.. They need a Big Four. David Price would make it giant.

Follow Bill Plaschke on Twitter @billplaschke

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles DodgersColumnSportsBaseballMajor League BaseballDavid PriceDan Haren
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