LOS ANGELES -- One scout called it "Rotisserie Baseball." Another said, "I don't see much thought put in about how these guys were going to be as teammates."
Even if nobody was copping to it, you could see the Los Angeles Dodgers were dealing with some of the growing pains that come from lopping off one-third of your roster and grafting in its place a quarter-of-a-billion dollars worth of mercenary talent. They kept telling us how good they were, but they couldn't come up with any evidence.
How do we know it wasn't working, aside from the 2-5 record since the mega-trade with the Boston Red Sox? Well, the (at least) three closed-door meetings in the last few days seem to be a pretty good clue.
Manager Don Mattingly got his whole team together after Thursday night's game to get some things off his chest. The following day, according to MLB.com, Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti met with the newcomers in Mattingly's office. And, according to a source, the Dodgers also convened for a meeting before Saturday's game.
You wonder whether, at some point, every player had to say his name and tell the group a story from sixth-grade camp.
At some point the Dodgers need to become a team rather than assemblage of expensive parts, or it's doubtful anyone is going to be paying much attention to them in a couple of weeks, other than to pick over the wreckage. Maybe 90 percent of baseball is the sum of individual battles, but there's that 10 percent -- the subtleties of when to run, the relationship between a pitcher and catcher, the feel between double-play partners -- in which chemistry counts for something.
Maybe Saturday's 2-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was a turning point in building this thing back into a coherent unit. It sort of felt like it.
A new guy, Josh Beckett, pitched stalwartly into the seventh inning. A member of the old guard, Andre Ethier, had the key hit. A new guy, Brandon League, got the save while the old-guard closer, Kenley Jansen, is down. A semi-new guy, Hanley Ramirez, had the other meaningful hit.
The Dodgers shopped for the ingredients over the past five weeks. Saturday they finally hit blend.
"We're trying to get to know each other," Beckett said. "In this clubhouse, the guys are great. We're having fun, but we haven't been having too much fun out on the field lately."
And Saturday was inches away from getting thrown onto the scrap heap of recent disappointments. Who knows, it might have been the final straw. The Dodgers were hanging on for dear life in the eighth inning when it looked as if they'd get a tap-in run to give themselves some breathing room. Their two best hitters, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp, couldn't get a fly ball deep enough to drive in Shane Victorino from third.
Victorino tried to force it and wound up being tagged out in a violent collision at home plate with catcher Miguel Montero. It made for tense theater in the Dodgers' dugout.
"I enjoyed that a lot," Mattingly quipped.
But the team feel resurfaced. When League allowed a hit on the first pitch of the ninth inning to the leadoff man, Paul Goldschmidt, you could feel a sense of dread building in the stadium. But League struck out the next two batters, essentially picking up two of his new teammates with a clean ninth inning.
That's what teammates are supposed to do.