With the continuation Saturday of Jonathan Broxton's nightmare second half, allowing the game-winning homer in the Dodgers' 5-4 loss to San Francisco, we double-down on the Russell Martin question and ask whether another member of the Dodgers' core of homegrown talent will be playing for another team next season.
Broxton's situation is not identical to Martin's. Broxton's decline is more recent, and the potential to bounce back stronger. Though Broxton has always insisted otherwise, it's still hard to imagine that something physical isn't at least partly responsible for the onslaught of baserunners and bummers in the past two-plus months: 41 baserunners and a 7.25 ERA in 22 1/3 innings since the June 27 Yankee game, 32 baserunners and a 0.83 ERA in 32 2/3 innings before that this season. So you shouldn't close the door on Broxton's career as an effective reliever any more than you should have closed the door a year ago on Chad Billingsley's career as an effective starter.
But the fact is, relievers that are effective over the longterm are exceptions to the rule. And thanks to the two-year deal Broxton signed January 19, he is set to earn $7 million in 2011, his final year before free agency. No matter where you stand on the question of Broxton's abilities to play or the McCourt ownership's ability to pay, you can imagine that the Dodgers might think twice before giving Broxton that kind of dough now. And Broxton still has plenty of ability to bring something in a deal.
So in addition to the uncertain Dodger futures of free agents like Hiroki Kuroda and several others, add Broxton to a separate list that includes Martin (declining performance), James Loney (disappointing power) and Matt Kemp (you know the drill). Four players that at the start of 2009 were cornerstones of the Dodgers' future, with combined 2011 salaries in the neighborhood of $25 million. In my mind, the question is not whether the Dodgers will trade one of them, but whether they will trade all of them.
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In the near-term, this has been something of a nine-lives season for the Dodgers, but Saturday's loss knocked off yet another. With National League West-leading San Diego losing its ninth-straight game, and backup outfielder Jay Gibbons hitting a three-run home run, the Dodgers were close to moving with seven games of the division lead, a day before beginning a three-game series with San Diego.
Ted Lilly's one-hitter through six innings turned into a home run fest. The Dodgers hadn't allowed four homers in a game all year, but Lilly (two), Octavio Dotel and Broxton accomplished the feat in 2 1/3 innings. Los Angeles did not allow a single in Saturday's game until Cody Ross' ninth-inning hit, right before Juan Uribe's final blow.
Here's a description of the fateful pitch from Broxton, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
"I'm assuming [Uribe's] looking for a fastball, he's going to cheat a bit, get the barrel ready, try to catch the fastball out in front," said catcher Rod Barajas. "We threw slider, it didn't break. It just spun, stayed over the middle plate. Obviously, if he was looking for the fastball, he was able to react."
"Well, it just hung, straight down the middle. It didn't move like it should have," said Broxton. "He capitalized on a mistake."
It was the first time Broxton had ever given up a ninth-inning lead on a home run at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers then put the tying run at third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn't score him.
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