Hoffarth: Maybe Dodgers have decided it’s no more Mr. Nice Guys

first_imgPHOENIX >> Not to get sidetracked from the real reason we’ve made this journey to the Arizona badlands. This is all about making sure the Dodgers raise the roof on an NL West-clinching celebration, even after someone in charge just decided that Clayton Kershaw isn’t allowed to pitch in the game that can make it all official.It was our own morbid curiosity that led to a side trip to Cooperstown on Tuesday afternoon. Several hours, mind you, before Matt Kemp’s four-hit, three-RBI night energized a 9-3 Dodgers win, snapping a three-game slide and cutting that magic number thing from four to two with today affording the first opportunity to make it a done deal.Alice Cooperstown, to be more specific, is the rock-n-sports brew establishment in which fabled Phoenician Alice Cooper claims some ownership and full naming rights. It’s on the corner of First and Jackson, in a heavily industrial area behind the downtown sports facilities, just left of that obtrusive tumbleweed.This also appears to be headquarters for the Waitress Protection Program. Any food server employed there has to wear the same black dripping mascara under their eyes as tribute to the now-65-year-old shock rocker. Welcome to our nightmare.The main menu attraction — and you can look it up, as it’s already been featured on “Man Vs. Food” — is a 22-inch, one-pound, all-beef wiener, crammed into an unwilling baguette and called “The Big Unit.” Former Diamondbacks Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, another co-owner of the joint, subleased his nickname to honor that food product.Now if someone orders the heart-stopping delicacy, standard operating procedure calls for someone to ring a fire alarm, the staff help gets hysterical and screams “Big Unit!” and the poor slob who ordered it (without signing a waiver) is embarrassed enough he is paying $16.99 for the privilege but now must receive a room full of blank stares.Peter Munoz and his cousin, Rene Munoz, didn’t dare draw any such attention to themselves as they parked themselves at the bar, quietly downing a beer and watching sports stuff on the big screens a few hours before the first pitch.By their appearance, the two San Gabriel residents were unmistakably Dodgers fans, and hardly the only ones there. We’re told this is an establishment that gladly accommodates a healthy share of disillusioned L.A. visitors, especially those blindly willing to part with their money and dreams this time of year. The Munoz party of two calculated a few weeks ago that the Dodgers could baguette the NL West title during this two-day window. They took time off from their jobs as the manager of a car dealership and a bank teller, sprung for a plane flight, hotel room and other incidentals and thought they have a shot of seeing these Dodgers make history. They could fly home today to brag.The Dodgers’ Billion Dollar Babies did not comply.“I’m not going to panic,” said Peter, clutching a 1988 Kirk Gibson Dodgers jersey that he hoped to get signed by the current Diamondbacks manager helping to prevent his joyful experience.“Frustrated? Naw. No worries. They’ll be fine. They aren’t going to be the ‘95 Angels.”(Quick history lesson: That Angels team had a double-digit lead in the AL West in mid-August, lost nine in a row in mid-September to fall out of the lead, scrambled back to tie on the last day, then had a one-game playoff, only to lose 9-1 to Seattle and … wait for it … Randy Johnson).The Munozs, before running out of time, money and patience and needing to leave after Tuesday’s game, did see something rather historic — Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez were in the starting lineup together for just the 10th time in 2013.Not a moment too soon. Kemp seemed to scold Puig for making one of his showboat throws from deep right field all the way to third base in the bottom of the first when runner Adam Eaton had plenty of time to tag on a fly and move up on the play.With the postseason all but here, is that the kind of play you want to injure a shoulder on?Again, they might not be talking October, but they’re playing for it, with all health precautions accounted for.This decision to move potential Cy Young winner Kershaw out of his regular spot, give him three extra days off and then let him go Saturday in San Diego instead was simply to cut down on his wear-and-tear, said manager Don Mattingly. Kershaw is due to start two more games during the regular season. So why not just shift it?If it also helps set up the rotation for the postseason, where Kershaw could start Game 1 of an NL Division Series in early October, so be it, Mattingly added.“That (positioning for Kershaw) would be a benefit,” he said, “but we haven’t thought that far ahead.”Please.Kershaw had some pushback on being pushed back, saying his health is fine, he’s worked hard last offseason to get to this position, and “there’s an anxiousness to win” on the team now that he could help alleviate. Instead, Stephen Fife has the honors.Wouldn’t having Kershaw stay in his regular spot give the Dodgers the best chance to seal the deal? You haven’t been following Kershaw’s season lately.Seems like most of his 14 wins have required tight-rope walking, and he’s been an innocent bystander in most of his nine losses, as evident as well by his MLB-best 1.94 ERA.The 25-year-old who also leads all of baseball in innings pitched (223) has lost four straight decisions to the Diamondbacks. “That’s not guaranteed either,” Kershaw said about how he’d be a prime choice to be a losing-streak stopper, a role that Zack Greinke assumed Tuesday as he stayed unbeaten in 10 starts since July 30.Kershaw did guarantee he’ll “get stir crazy” until his next start.The same way Dodgers followers are already slightly shaken, but not stirred up enough to get too crazy yet.The light is at the end of this desert storm. Party-sized tables await at Alice’s restaurant. Waitresses who can’t wait any longer either are standing by ready to set off the big-dog alarm.Order up. It may not be a Dodger dog, but it’s the next best thing.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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