One man is looking just beyond the hood ornament and the other is considering obstacles four intersections down the road.
While Jim Tracy tries to salvage what remains of his worst season as Dodger manager, Paul DePodesta is busy projecting the team’s fortunes through 2009.
Tracy met with his players before a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Bank One Ballpark, emphasizing the importance of giving 100% even though Dodger playoff chances are minuscule.
No manager wants to say to his team, “If you can’t be in first place, you want to finish second,” and to stay motivated “for the integrity of the game.” But there Tracy stood, talking about consolation prizes.
DePodesta, in his second year as general manager, spent the day on the telephone in his hotel room setting the foundation for off-season trades and free-agent signings. His laptop balanced on a knee, he tinkered with a spreadsheet that forecasts the Dodger roster the next four years.
“You always have to look that far ahead and plan that far ahead,” he said. “If you are going to give a four-year deal to someone, you’d better know how it’s going to look.
“We won’t make a free-agent signing or a trade until we’ve run those scenarios.”
Adding a slugger and a reliable starting pitcher are the top priorities, but DePodesta is making no promises. Not after his three-team, 10-player blockbuster brainstorm involving the New York Yankees and Diamondbacks fell through in December. Not when he knows the free-agent market is thin.
“We are always looking to make that significant move,” he said. “That won’t change.”
He’s isn’t in denial about Dodger needs. A glance at the standings tells him the team is 67-83 and in fourth place in the National League West for the first time all season.
But he believes the team will improve for reasons that don’t involve bringing in new players.
“A healthy Eric Gagne and a healthy J.D. Drew will make a big difference,” he said. “And we definitely have young players who we can expect will get better.
“So some improvement will come from them. Some improvement will come from being healthy. And some improvement will come from moves we make.”
The Dodgers can only hope DePodesta’s plan produces better results than Tracy’s talk.
Derek Lowe, whose earned-run average was under 1.00 in his last five starts, gave up three runs in the first, needing 50 pitches to get through the inning. Lowe (11-14) lasted only three innings, throwing 92 pitches.
“It was my inability to throw the ball inside for strikes to their left-handed hitters,” he said.
The Diamondbacks (68-83), who moved into third place by half a game, added a run against Edwin Jackson in the fourth.
Rookie left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who gave up a home run to Barry Bonds on Sunday, struck out five in two hitless innings, lowering his ERA from 81.00 to 11.57.
“Today was a new day,” Kuo said. “I just cleared my mind and tried to throw strikes.”
Rookie Jonathan Broxton, who made eight appearances earlier in the season before being sent back to double A, struck out two in a scoreless eighth.
“Our bullpen was very impressive and they were all kids,” Tracy said.
Jeff Kent homered to lead off the seventh, his 28th of the season and 26th as a second baseman, pulling him within one of Davey Lopes’ team record at the position.
But the Dodgers managed only three other hits against Javier Vazquez (11-15) and two relievers in losing their fourth in a row and sixth in seven games.
Catcher Dioner Navarro sat out the game to be with his wife and newborn son, who is ill. He could return in time for tonight’s game, but Tracy said, “It’s obvious he needs to be with his wife and that little boy.” ... Drew’s surgery on his right shoulder and right wrist went well Tuesday. “It was nothing real extensive,” Tracy said.... Gagne is with the team and has begun playing catch. . . . Reliever Wilson Alvarez was activated from the disabled list.