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Have you known a friend who you would like to help, but you find out you cannot help in any way?  And you finally conclude that if this person is ever going to be freed from his problem, this guy will need to go to a mental health professional as a starting point?

This is how I feel about my friends the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Again they are struggling at this time of year, as they seem to every season early in the going.  Then they usually surge back, big time.  But this time, I would like to help make a surge back with part of what I could possibly do for ‘em – mentally.

Because the Dodgers clearly have practically everything else going for them.  They certainly have the best razzle-dazzle president of operations in former Tulane University outfielder Andrew Friedman  and they truly have the best player-personnel manager in baseball in Dave Roberts.  It is no triviality that they lost their great hitting shortstop Cory Seager for the season and they have been hit with light injuries to some regular pitchers.  But the Dodgers better not start making excuses for not carrying the pitching depth that every major league team must have to cover for the usual light pitching injuries. And as for losing Seager, that has been compensated to some degree by the almost miraculous return  of star outfielder Matt Kemp in his old and best form.

So don’t give me that there is anything physical wrong with the Dodgers early in this season.  It is all mental.  And that is where I am coming in. 

Dr. Sharp says to develop more synergy with Clayton Kershaw and his middle relievers:  Like many heroes who seem to have been developed in the Mount Olympus mold, the great pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s strengths seems to also alternate as his weaknesses.  For example, there is no athlete on any field who is probably as competitive as Kershaw.  But it is his competitive nature that always pushes him too far when he should know when to stop.

Kershaw is known to even visibly argue in public with his manager.  This happens  when the latter is leaning toward giving him rest in the games where Kershaw is clearly beginning to sag.  The unfortunate result of this is that it makes his managers and coaches reluctant to fight him until he finally stays in too long and so often – pitching tired – he injures himself and then loses a month or so of playing time.  This happened again and again on the mound this year, and it falls again into a pattern of the Dodgers once again beginning very slowly into a new season.

One solution that would undoubtedly work against this pattern would be if Kershaw were to develop a better relationship with the Dodger middle relievers.  He clearly has not even tiny, tiny confidence in them taking over his daily assignments on the mound, and they know it, and it hurts their capacity to help.

My solution is that Friedman and Roberts have Kershaw room with his middle relievers when they are taking road trips. They would then have to sleep in the same rooms together, eat their breakfasts with one another with a half hour at least of breakfast conversation and just develop some kind of a relationship and comfort level with each other.  This would especially apply to Dodger middle relief pitcher Pedro Baez.  Baez has become so nervous about taking over the pitcher’s mound from Kershaw that he is practically becoming a mental case on the mound.  This does not have to be.  And certainly the Dodgers fans  have got to become smart enough to never boo Baez when he is simply trying to follow Kershaw’s act, the best he can, since no one can really follow Kershaw’s act.

Dr. Sharp says to strengthen the father and son relationship between Dodger outfielder Ysiel Puig and Dodger batting coach Turner Ward.  The most athletically talented Dodger Ysiel Puig seems to be also the most emotionally volatile.  That happens often among artists, because they have artistic energy to spare and what is spared can sometimes be difficult for others to deal with.  Puig has not only benefited from his close relationship with batting coach turner Ward as a batter, but also as a newly born American son who only a little over half dozen years ago came to America from Cuba with little else in his name but the clothes on his back.

Ward is usually identified by Dodger fans as the man Puig kisses in the dugout whenever Ysiel runs in from a home run he has hit.  Ward has been given the credit for not only turning Puig into an All-Star batter, but he has also turned past rookies Cory Seager and Cody Bellinger into sun devils at the plate as well.  And this season he is has been doing just that with the 27-year-old new Dodger infielder Max Muncy as well.

Ward is a very rare coach who was no natural hitter himself when he was a player – he struggled at every step of the way.  But his value to the younger players on the Dodgers has been to teach them with innate kindness the art of patience with their struggles.  This is probably why Puig – the young player who probably needs an American father more anyone else in baseball – has found his American father in Coach Turner Ward.

Dr. Sharp says to build up incentives for batters to put the ball in play when players are on base.  By making this recommendation I am actually assaulting the present practically record setting trend of batters striking out when their teammates are on the bases.  They are doing this because they are trying harder and harder to hit home runs, but they are ending up striking out so much more often.  This has really been happening this year to Cody Bellinger and other Dodgers who seem to have taken on the identity of “sluggers” instead of  being “baseball players.”

Surely Bellinger and good home run hitters like him need to take their huge whacks, but they have plenty of opportunities to do this when there are no players are on base, or perhaps when there is a rather slow runner at first base. In that case, there is certainly so much less to lose when they strike out (which they will), But the odds are so much more in their team’s favor when they concentrate on just making contact with the ball when runners are on base, and this is especially important when the lead runner is particularly fast-footed.

There is certainly the danger of a double play when just making contact with the ball with runners on base.  But when you look at the box score of double plays the next day, you will be surprised at how few double plays are pulled off – typically just one, maybe two at the most.  But even double plays have allowed runs to be scored in some cases.  In contrast, unless you go back to the time of Jackie Robinson when Jackie was stealing home at a strike-out, there is now zero chance of bringing in a run when you go down with a massive strike out.

Here is where a team psychologist would come in handy in the Dodger clubhouse at getting the ball in play more frequently.  I would draw up a daily record of batters that get the ball in play most often with runners on base, and give them credit for it.  This would include even players that just ground our but advance the runner on first base to arrive safely on second base.

As I have written this column, I keep wanting to think that Dodger president of operations Andy Friedman is reading it.  How about it, Andy?  Can you just part with a little more of your unlimited Dodger money to hire me as your team psychologist?

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon