This youth movement has officially gotten old.
I thought it would work, I really did, but I admit today that I am wrong.
By using the last couple of months to integrate, the Dodgers have done nothing but alienate.
This mixture of kids and veterans is no longer charming, it’s combustible.
The fans are mad. The front office is mad. And now, their future Hall of Fame second baseman is stomping and snorting mad.
In the wake of a barely-show-up loss Thursday in Colorado, a fifth consecutive defeat that essentially ended their playoff hopes, quiet Jeff Kent quaked.
Using words like “perplexing” and “curious” and “bitter,” he took veiled shots at Manager Grady Little and direct shots at the Dodgers’ kids.
“You can use all your fingers on your hand and point around,” he told the media in Colorado after the 9-4 loss. “There’s many things that have happened that are perplexing. Many things that have happened that are curious.”
When asked if those things included Little’s daily lineup and decisions, Kent said, “Everything.”
This also, apparently, includes the younger players on the team, about whom Kent said, “I don’t know why they don’t get it.”
I thought it would work, I really did.
When the Dodgers lost starting pitchers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf to injuries in the middle of the summer, when the middle of the order struggled and Rafael Furcal’s ankle ached and there was nobody who could play third base, it became clear the Dodgers would have to trade a prospect to contend for a championship.
At that point, at the end of July, Ned Colletti made the decision that old-fashioned Dodgers general managers used to make.
He decided to keep the kids even if it meant losing the championship. He committed to developing a team capable not only of sudden impact, but staying power. He wanted to take the Dodgers back to the future.
And, sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Watching James Loney learn to hit home runs. Watching Matt Kemp learn to watch the first pitch. Watching Chad Billingsley pitch smarter and Andre Ethier swing bigger and Jonathan Broxton survive failure.
The Dodgers weren’t going to win enough games, but surely they would win enough fans. What they would lack in focus, they would make up for with fun.
Turns out, the clubhouse has been more eccentric than eclectic. The kids have driven veterans crazy with mistakes. The veterans have driven their manager nutty over lineup decisions.
The fans have turned on nearly all of them, howling at Little, chastising Colletti, booing the first bad pitch, begging for the sort of mass firings they once abhorred.
And now, the Dodgers’ most celebrated player is spraying around blame like it was a 2-and-0 fastball.
This is a team that, if its nucleus is left intact, could contend for several upcoming seasons. But this is also a team that will apparently barely survive the next week.
Human nature happened.
A youth movement works only when the veterans are flexible enough to move. The Dodgers veterans, it turns out, were not.
Although they won’t say it publicly, neither Kent nor Luis Gonzalez nor Nomar Garciaparra is thrilled that they have lost playing time to the kids, even though most of the kids were outplaying them.
This worry about careers and numbers has quietly bred the sort of discontent that decreases patience for rookie mistakes.
When Andy LaRoche strikes out three times in a big loss in Colorado the grumbling is louder because he has done so at the expense of the benched Garciaparra.
When Kemp doesn’t arrive at the park on the early bus like a good rookie ought to, he is scrutinized more because he is taking Gonzalez’s place.
Kent is watching his chances for a world championship disappear. Gonzalez is mourning his chances at 3,000 hits (he’s still 501 short). Garciaparra just wants last season back.
“I’m running out of time,” Kent said. “A lot of kids in here, they don’t understand that.”
What else happened?
Little’s attempt to be everyone’s friend happened.
Little was put in a difficult position as the leader of a transitional team in a clubhouse that suddenly wasn’t buying the transition. He is a player’s manager on a team that craved a player’s nursemaid. He tried to adjust.
The result has been some lineups that belong in a spring training clubhouse, some pitching decisions that baffle the staff, and a general uneasiness that became downright tension when the kids got tired and the Dodgers started losing.
I am still convinced that Little has done a good job in trying circumstances, and that, as Colletti promised, the manager deserves to return next year to lead this talented group toward seemingly certain contention.
But Kent’s comments show Little has lost a part of the clubhouse he must win back before that can work.
As for Kent, he will make noises about retiring, especially since the Dodgers will reduce his playing time next year while playing Tony Abreu. But I’ve got 9 million reasons he will return, his option having vested on Thursday, not coincidentally the same day he publicly complained.
In case he is wondering if the Dodgers bosses were listening, I’ve got three words for him.
They’d better be.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.