Needed: urgency and chemistry

MAX MUNCY is the Dodgers’ best slugger with 28 home runs and 76 RBIs. The Dodgers face the Padres this week in a series that each team really needs to win (Flickr/Ian D’Andrea).

If you can imagine the big league baseball season as a race, the “gun lap” usually begins with the onset of September. Labor Day – or close to it – signals that anybody wanting to keep playing into October needs to step up his game, to play with – as a MLB manager said recently – “a sense of urgency.”

That sense of urgency really applies to the Dodgers, who will open a three-game series with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday. Despite having a scorching run – nine wins in 10 games – the Blue Crew has been unable to make up enough ground on the San Francisco Giants, who lead the NL West by 2.5 games.

The Padres are fading, having lost eight of 10 games, but can cling to a little bit of hope in that A) they remain just one game back of a wild card spot and B) they have defeated the Dodgers seven of 10 times this season.

This “Urgency Series” takes place in San Diego, with Tuesday and Wednesday’s games at 7:10 p.m., followed by a finale on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. After that the Dodgers come home to Chavez Ravine for a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies Friday through Sunday.

The problem with chemistry

A good friend of mine wanted to go into medicine, but struggled to pass chemistry and that was a dream deferred. Could that be the problem with the Angels, who – after being swept in Cleveland over the weekend, fell to two games under .500 – are just about done with any playoff hopes?

Scoring two runs in three games is pretty sad, especially after sweeping the Tigers in three in Detroit. It all adds up to another disappointing season for long-suffering Halo fans.

We can blame it on injuries, bad luck, free agency, bad decisions in the front office and curses, but those things happen to every team.  The fact remains that the Halos have not made the post-season since 2014 and not had a winning record since 2015.  That was two presidents ago.

Take a look at the Angels’ roster. How many players’ names are familiar to you? How many have been around for more than a season or two? How can you build team chemistry – also known as spirit or bonding – with the sort of revolving door dugouts and bullpens the Halos have had?

I’m not trying to pin the blame on Joe Maddon; he’s got a solid record managing other teams, winning two World Series crowns and being named Manager of the Year three times. Maybe the problem lies with the influence of “Moneyball,” in which everything is decided by statistics and the intangibles are disregarded.

In any case, the Angels have a little over a month to prove me wrong, starting Tuesday in Baltimore, beginning a three-game series through Thursday. Let’s see if they play with any urgency now. Or pass this chemistry test.

“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.





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