Sarah's Take: Baseball's human element

Sarah's Take: Baseball's human element

This season, the Dodgers have been riddled with injuries. It seems almost every position player -- and some pitchers -- has been on the disabled list. Sometimes teams have many injuries while at other times teams are injury free. Over my years of watching baseball, I can't predict which teams will have injuries and which teams will not. These injuries have damaged how the Dodgers perform.

Although general manager Paul DePodesta likes to use a computer to help him predict how his team will do, baseball is unpredictable. I will be the first person to defend the use of computers for everyone. After all, I am using two computers to write this article, and sometimes I feel like I live on the computer. However, I sometimes think DePodesta relies too much on his computer and his specially-designed programs when he chooses players. I sometimes wonder if he understands the human aspect of baseball. I don't believe any computer program can predict which team will win the World Series.

The importance of the human aspect of baseball to a team's performance is hard to comprehend. Sometimes I feel we as fans and members of the media forget baseball players are human beings. We talk about how injuries hurt the team and not how much pain the particular player is in.

When it was announced that Eric Gagne might need a second Tommy John surgery, most people were moaning and groaning about how long Gagne was going to be out. I even received an e-mail from a fan complaining when I said Gagne was overworked. After all, he makes multimillions, so he could pitch every day if the Dodgers needed him. I was disgusted with his attitude. Pitching is an unnatural motion. I marvel at any pitcher who avoids major arm injury during a long career.

When I heard Gagne needed another elbow surgery, I was concerned that his brilliant career might be over. The rehabilitation process is long and painful. I dislike seeing anyone struggling to get healthy. Although I enjoy watching him pitch, I am more worried about the quality of his life after he finishes playing baseball. I want him to be able to lead a normal life, including playing with his children.

When I heard about the results of Gagne's surgery on Friday, I can't explain the relief I felt. Although I am thrilled that he will be ready for Spring Training, I am happy that he does not have to go through such a long and painful rehabilitation period. Anybody who has been through any kind of physical therapy knows how painful and lonely it can be. Getting on a pitching mound again is more of a challenge than facing Barry Bonds with the bases loaded. I know he is up to the challenge, but I will never say he is earning easy money while he is on the disabled list.

To me, the injuries and a lack of chemistry are causing the Dodgers to struggle. No computer can predict these things, no matter how DePodesta programs it. At no time this year have the Dodgers had the lineup that DePodesta envisioned in January. The injuries have helped to weaken the team. DePodesta could not have known that the players would not like playing together unless he asked about their personalities. He didn't because that small thing doesn't affect how they play. Does it?

Losing Jose Valentin has left a gaping hole at third base. Although Antonio Perez has done an admirable job filling in for Valentin, he is not the same type of player as Valentin. I have noticed that sometimes he has trouble fielding his position. Valentin is a power hitter, while Perez is a contact hitter with almost no experience in the Major Leagues. This week, Tracy benched him for making a base-running mistake. Though Perez has a much better average than Valentin, the Dodgers were relying on power to score. Without power, the Dodgers don't have offense to win games.

When fans look at the Dodger outfield, we just shake our heads. I enjoy watching young players, but long ago, I realized teams need a mixture of young and experienced players in each area in baseball. After Milton Bradley went on the disabled list and J.D. Drew injured his knee, the Dodgers were left without an experienced outfielder. Jayson Werth is the most experienced outfielder, playing in the Major Leagues for about a year. The Dodgers expected most of their offensive production from the outfield, but they don't have it now. Werth was supposed to produce power, but before Wednesday his power seemed to be nonexistent, and he has been striking out a lot. Although Jason Repko has shown the ability to hit for power, his batting average is below .200. The Dodgers want to keep Jason Grabowski on the bench because he can be an emergency catcher. They called up Cody Ross on Friday to play in the outfield, but he is unlikely to produce much offensively.

It is difficult to develop chemistry when over half of the team has been injured. However, I don't think the Dodgers would have developed chemistry even if everyone had been healthy. At the beginning of the season when everything was going their way, the Dodgers showed signs of having good chemistry, but now it looks like they don't know what chemistry is. I perceive the Dodgers don't enjoy playing together. I don't see many players enthusiastically congratulating each other after they score or make an awesome play. I sometimes see a heated discussion between two players in the dugout during a game. I don't see either many smiles or much fun or excitement surrounding the Dodgers nowadays.

Although I understand statistics play an important role in baseball, I often wonder if DePodesta relies too much on his specially designed computer program instead of examining the entire player. As all Dodger fans I would love to see DePodesta trade for a few players to help the Dodgers' cause, but I wasn't exactly thrilled to read that DePodesta had personnel feeding data into his program to evaluate which players to get. In my opinion, the Dodgers need players with good baseball skills but with enthusiasm for the game, spirit to lighten the mood in the clubhouse, and the ability to provide leadership for the younger players. Since DePodesta is a young general manager, he will make mistakes. Hopefully he will learn from them.

Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger Place. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.