Don Mattingly is not a cockeyed optimist. He is plain spoken and admittedly frustrated that his team with a $200-million-plus payroll has an awful record and is in last place in the National League West. Yet the manager remains hopeful the Dodgers can somehow get back into the pennant race with more than half the season remaining.

“The reason I think that is is because we have the starting pitching, one through three, that can dominate and allow us to run off some winning streaks,” Mattingly said. “I’ll stack our top three starters up against anybody’s top three. If we could just solidify the No. 4 spot, I think we’d be fine. When you have the starting pitching we have, you always have a chance to win, but we need to get on a winning streak and do it pretty soon.”

The Dodgers do have an ace in left-hander Clayton Kershaw (2.59 FIP). Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.09) has adapted quickly to the major leagues in his first American season. Right-hander Zack Greinke (3.83) hasn’t lived up to being one of the highest-paid pitchers in the game after signing with the Dodgers as a free agent in the offseason, but he also had his season derailed early on by a broken collarbone.

As Mattingly said, all are capable of winning a lot of games. However, Kershaw is living proof that pitching great does not necessarily result in wins, as his record is a pedestrian 5-4. The Dodgers are going to need more than three above-average starting pitchers if they are going to mount a comeback in the NL West, and that’s where the questions lie.

Ned Colletti gave Brandon League a three-year, $22-million contract to stay on as the closer, a move that raised eyebrows all around the game. Mattingly removed League as closer and gave the job to Kenley Jansen, who held up for a while last season until he got into the bad habit of giving up untimely homers. Jansen has been the closer for less than two weeks, and he is again being victimized by the long ball.

The offense has plenty of big names, to be sure, but Mattingly hasn’t been able to write all those names on the lineup card at the same time. Balky hamstrings have sidelined left fielder Carl Crawford and center fielder Matt Kemp; it’s the same problem has plagued shortstop Hanley Ramirez all season. The rest of the offense has been wracked by inconsistency and underperformance, which is why the Dodgers are scoring just 3.53 runs a game, which is 13th in the NL and 27th in the major leagues.

“We’re going to have to score more runs on a consistent basis,” Mattingly said. “We've got Hanley back. We're hoping to get Matt and Carl back soon—or at least one of them. So you're hoping at some point to be able to throw more runs up there and support that pitching.”

Perhaps that will happen, but it seems it’s up to the top of the Dodgers’ rotation. Thus, it would seem that most of the responsibility will fall on the Dodgers’ top three starters. Kershaw isn’t giving up but is also realistic about the big task ahead of his team.

“We need to start winning some games,” Kershaw said. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to say, but sometimes it’s the toughest thing to do. We can’t keep winning one, losing one, winning one, losing one. We’ve dug ourselves such a big hole that we’ve got to put some winning streaks together. We can talk about it all day, but we’ve got to start doing it.”

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer insists that his team will not release reliever Carlos Marmol, regardless of how poorly the former closer keeps performing. However, after Marmol blew another save Sunday against the Mets while filling in for closer Kevin Gregg, who was rested after pitching in four straight games, his teammates had had enough. Even left fielder Alfonso Soriano took a shot at Marmol while talking to the Chicago Tribune after the 4-3 loss in which his close friend gave four runs in the ninth inning.

“When Alfonso Soriano says something bad about someone, you better sit up and take notice because you won’t find a better teammate than Sori,” a Cubs insider said. “I think Jed and Theo (Epstein) and ownership need to rethink their position. No one in that clubhouse has one bit of confidence in Marmol anymore, and his trade value is zero. Would you want him pitching for your team in a pennant race? The Cubs need to release him, eat the money, and realize that sometimes there is addition by subtraction.”

Marmol is making $9.8 million this season in the final season of a three-year, $20-million contract. The Cubs would be on the hook for a little over $5.25 million if they were to release him now.

Rays right-hander Alex Cobb became the second pitcher to be carried off on a stretcher this season after being struck in the head by a line drive Sunday. The Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ also was carted off last month as he, too, was skulled, also at Tropicana Field. Major League Baseball wants pitchers to begin wearing head protection as soon as next season, either in the form of a batting helmet device without ear flaps or a Kevlar protective liner to be placed inside the hat.

“We’ve got to come up with a solution, and the sooner the better,” said a head athletic trainer. “Sooner or later, there is going to be a real tragedy if we don’t start protecting the pitchers.”

The subject of whether the Athletics should be allowed to move to San Jose can be debated endlessly. One can take the Athletics’ side, that they need to move into a better market, or one can take the Giants’ side, that San Jose is their territory and they have rights. Regardless, it is a subject many people in baseball have tired of.

“The absolute inertia shown by the commissioner’s office on this matter is ridiculous,” a high-ranked executive of one MLB club said recently. “I’m not in favor of franchises moving, but it’s clear that the Athletics need to get out of Oakland. It isn’t just a money grab. They truly need a new stadium. The Coliseum is the biggest dump in the game. It’s a blight on the whole sport.”

Scouts’ takes:

Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu: “He’s the Korean Fernando Valenzuela. He doesn’t look like an athlete, but the kid can really pitch.”

Giants left-hander Barry Zito: “His home/road splits are so severe that it’s clear that he’s going to have to play for a team with a pitcher’s park if he’s going to even be a serviceable starting pitcher. If he’s smart—and he is—he’ll factor that into his decision when he becomes a free agent in the winter.

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas: “He’s a really intense kid, and it works against him. There is so much tension in his swing that he’s giving himself no chance to succeed.”

Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton: “There isn’t anyone who could command a bigger haul in a trade than this guy. I’d give up my whole farm system for him because you’re talking about a guy who is heading to the Hall of Fame, and his career is just getting started.”

Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar: “The Rangers are wasting his athleticism by playing him in left field. What they should do is play Profar at second base and move Ian Kinsler to left field, though I realize that’s it easier said than done with a veteran player who isn’t very open to switching positions.”

Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells: “The clock has struck midnight, and he’s back to being Vernon Wells again.”

Mariners catcher Mike Zunino: “In a perfect world, he would have stayed in the minor leagues a little longer, but he’s got so much talent and such a good feel for the game that he’s going to hold his own in the major leagues and learn as he goes.”

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Kinsler is coming off as very selfish here, but he knows in his heart of hearts if he lets the baseball world move him to the OF he'll probably never be looked at as a 2B again. It's not Alfonso Soriano exactly, but it's in the neighborhood. His value will go way down in the eyes of most if he gets pigeon-holed as a LF-DH type. Michael Young is/was the consummate team player and pro. Kinsler? Not so much. I don't know him at all, but he doesn't seem to have the confidence of a Michael Young in terms of switching positions for the good of the team. Before Profar was successful at the ML level he didn't want to move to 1B either when Moreland's ability was in question...At least Soriano had no choice; he was a lousy IF, but Kinsler is at least passable at 2B. All that said, I can see both sides of it...He's just trying to hold his ground; thing is it could get him ejected from a very favorable situation if he pisses off Nolan Ryan...
The Rangers should dump Kinsler on the Orioles... maybe for Ryan Flaherty, who's happy to play anywhere, or Nolan Reimold...
Sorry, but you obviously don't follow the Rangers. Michael Young was happy to move to short, when A-Rod left, whined about moving to 3rd, for Andrus, because he couldn't see the signals, and felt like he wasn't involved, then cried like a baby, when Beltre was signed, and it was obvious that he was the odd man out. Wash bailed him out, by putting him in the lineup every day, last year, though he was one of the worst hitters in the league. Kinsler, is one of the top 3 2nd basemen in the AL(with Cano, & Pedroia). When initially asked to move, he thought he'd be OK with it, but had 2nd thoughts during the off-season, and told the team he'd be uncomfortable about it. Ian Kinsler is NOT Michael Young, indeed.
Kinsler signed an extension with Rangers through 2017 with a team option for 2018. I don't think he has to worry about losing any "value" since the extension was 5yrs/$75M.

As pointed out elsewhere, Young was not happy moving to 3B for Andrus and had to actually be talked into it by Kinsler. Guess he just needs to find a mirror.
I saw Zunino behind the plate yesterday, and I'd say he has the stuff to succeed. He called a great game, his arm to second was great (gunnining down a runner in the fifth that the umpire blew the call), and did a good job blocking the plate (despite giving up a run to Trout on a wild pitch that hit the ground in the wost spot).
The exaggeration comments about Stanton are ridiculous. Hall of fame? Give me a break
Indeed - these guys aren't even famous. Sure, anyone who reads BP knows who Stanton is, but if you were to look at the general population, I'd guess that 99% of the people in the U.S. have no idea who he is. You could say the same of any pro athlete.

They should call it the Hall of Statistical Achievement or the Hall of Baseball Excellence or something. That would be a more accurate name, and would also be a way around the whole steroid thing.
Manny Machado, on he other hand...
Thank you Agent007, for noticing that my Hall of Fame "they're not even famous" post was a joke (a fact evidently lost on, or immaterial to, the "negative" raters), and posting a quality reply joke, e.g., "sure, everyone knows who Manny Machado is, his fame knows no bounds, etc."

Stanton is the 10th youngest player to hit 100 homers. Four of the other nine are in the HOF, two of the others (Griffey and Pujols) will be and a third (A-Rod) would be except for PEDs. So seven out of the other nine had HOF-worthy careers, Andruw Jones is close and Tony Conigliaro got hit in the face. I don't think the scout is out of line.

1.Mel Ott, Giants -- 22 years, 132 days
2.Tony Conigliaro, Red Sox -- 22 years, 197 days
3.Mathews -- 22 years, 292 days
4.Alex Rodriguez, Mariners -- 23 years, 16 days
5.Andruw Jones, Braves -- 23 years, 62 days
6.Johnny Bench, Reds -- 23 years, 161 days
7.Albert Pujols, Cardinals -- 23 years, 185 days
8.Hank Aaron, Braves -- 23 years, 191 days
9.Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners -- 23 years, 206 days
10.Stanton -- 23 years, 221 days
Saying it's up to the top of the Dodgers' rotation is tough. Looking at the stats from Kershaw's first 15 starts so far, his "average game" looks like this:

- 7.1 IP, allowing 1.7 runs
- 3 runs scored by LAD hitters
- 1.9 IP by the bullpen, with a RA9 of 5.20
Now this is what is meant when you say someone knows what they are talking about. The Dodgers are a very poorly constructed club, all or nothing. Well, so far, it's nothing. And Kershaw pays the penalty.
This continues to be the best regular column on the site. You guys should take the scout's takes and use them as a template for the Annual commentary. Too often the annuals recently just seem like a restatement of the stats on the page; real opinions about the player that are difficult to quantify should go into the comments.