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Series Fourteen: Marlins at Dodgers

The weekend series was so disappointing that we won't even get into it here (if you really need a fix, go over to Gaslamp ball, where they have a nice review of the weekend - well, as nice as it can be considering how reality went for Fish fans).

Unfortunately for us, it doesn't get any easier as the mascot interview series nearly falls apart for the first time with this Dodgers series. Sure, we moaned and complained earlier in the year that we weren't particularly fond of some of the opponents' mascots (like the Rockies' Dinger). But with the Dodgers, it's different. For example, on just about every team's website there's information about the team's mascot. We find this very helpful for basic biographic information. You'll notice at the Dodgers site though that there's no information about a mascot. In fact, the kid's page features a Shawn Green bobblehead doll. Green isn't even a Dodger anymore. Apparently the Dodgers don't care about kids.

So we had to dig deep here. Really deep. Some of you will probably say that we went off the board to find the mascot to talk to for this series.

Now we introduce former Dodgers' AAA mascot, Duke, from the Albuquerque Dukes.

: Thanks for having me here today. It's been awhile since I've been involved in anything related to pro ball.

FishStripes: Yes, lets talk about that for a minute. Baseball has quite a history in Albuquerque, especially in association with the Dodgers, but that's all changed.

: Yes, it most definitely has. A few years back the former owner of the Dukes had to sell the team so that he could finance another minor league club that he owned. The new owners of the Dukes chose to relocate them to Portland, Oregon.

Unfortunately, that left me out of a job and without a team to follow.

FS: But there's baseball back in Albuquerque now. You have the Marlins AAA affiliate actually.

: Yes, that's certainly true. But it's not the same. For one, I'm no longer part of the organization. Plus, they're now called the Isotopes, which plays off of an episode of The Simpsons of all things.

The new name is nothing like our original name (my name in fact). Dukes is a name etched in Albuquerque history. Albuquerque is known as the Duke City because it was named for Enrique de La Cueva, the Duke of Alburquerque, Badajoz, Spain. The city, minus an "r," was founded in 1706.

FS: So I see. But you've continued to follow the Dodgers. Have you started to follow the Marlins as well?

: Yes, I have. It's a funny thing about this game. After all the years I've spent with it, I just can't quit the habit, despite how rough the game - rather the lack of it - has made things for me in the recent years.

FS: Sounds rough. No one wants to hear about that though, so tell us a little bit about the upcoming series.

: Ok, well, I'm really looking forward to this one. While the Marlins are scuffling, having just been swept in San Diego, so are the Dodgers. They've just lost two of three to the Braves and three of four just before that in St. Louis. Granted, those are three good ballclubs that the Marlins and Dodgers just faced, but since both teams have post-season aspirations, neither fared too well.

As you Marlins fans know, hitting has been the problem for the Fish. Not so much hitting I suppose, but scoring runs is the problem.

It's actually been a similar problem for the Dodgers - as it was last year. When they score, they score in bunches, but they don't always score. In each of their last 10 losses they've scored no more than 3 runs.

FS: That does sound familiar. What's also familiar are the names on these two rosters.

: Yes, that's true. Obviously everyone remembers last year's trade that brought Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi to the Dodgers and sent Paul LoDuca and Guillermo Mota to the Marlins. But there are other connections as well.

Former Marlins' manager John Boles was a member of the Dodgers' front office last year, but he's not with the club this year.

However, since I side tracked us to the front office, I think it's interesting to note that the Dodgers have one of the future stars of the GM business in VP and Asst. GM Kim Ng. She could become the first female General Manager in the game.

FS: Interesting. Totally not related to what we were talking about, but still interesting.

You mentioned both team's inability to score runs at times. That sure seems like it could continue in this series as the pitching matchups are phenomenal. Tonight features Brad Penny against Brian Moehler. Tomorrow's game features World Series (with the Red Sox) hero Derek Lowe against undefeated Dontrelle Willis. On getaway day, the Dodgers will send Jeff Weaver out to oppose Josh Beckett.

: We could be looking at three close games here, but I see the Marlins taking the series. I expect the Dodgers to win tonight - despite how surprisingly effective Moehler has been. After that, the Marlins should come back and win the next two.

FS: The Marlins chances will probably be helped based on the availability of Eric Gagne, the Dodgers all-everything closer.

: Well, unfortunately for the Fish, Gagne is back. He missed the early part of the year with an elbow injury, but he came back this past weekend. He is appealing a suspension that he incurred while on the DL - for arguing with an umpire - so it's tough to say exactly what his status is for this series. If the commissioner's office denies his appeal quickly, I suppose he might miss two games in this series.

FS: Former Marlin Hee Seop Choi has been off to a good start so far this year. We miss doing the Hee Seop chant. What should we expect from him in this series?

: Well, Choi has played well this year. It's much the same of what you saw of him in Florida. He has tremendous power and also strikes out very frequently. He hasn't hit lefties well so far this year, so I'd expect him to sit tomorrow night against Willis. The D-train can throw off the best of hitters, and I don't think the Dodgers will want the young lefty to put Choi into a funk. Choi hit .500 last week and knocked in 7 runs - all with an OPS of 1.350, so it will be tough to sit him, but it may be for the best.

FS: Speaking of sitting someone being for the best, what do you make of the Marlins current situation with Mike Lowell? Lowell got the day off yesterday in San Diego - with Cabrera filling in at third. There's been some speculation that Cabrera could play third again tonight and/or more frequently over the course of the year.

: Well, if that happens, I don't think it's a good thing. Most importantly, over a 162 game season, having both Mike Lowell and Miguel Cabrera in your lineup gives you the best chance to win. Possibly equally important is the impact of moving Cabrera around.

This is a kid who reached the majors as a third baseman, after being signed as a shortstop. Because he was ready for the majors but was blocked in by the Marlins strong left side of the infield, he learned to play outfield in Double A. In the majors he's played quite a bit in left and in right field. All things considered, that's a lot to expect from a 22-year old. People knock him for his defense, but he's been asked to do a lot.

The Marlins would be wise to find a position for Cabrera and keep him there. Left field is the most sensible place for him - particularly with Encarnacion patrolling right quite effectively. Stationing him somewhere will allow Cabrera to learn one position thoroughly and it will also keep him from being distracted from his hitting - which is really the most important thing.

If the Marlins truly have a need at third base, even if it's just to give Lowell some rest here and there, they might consider calling up Josh Willingham, who's played some third for Albuquerque this year. Willingham could add some versatility to the bench - versatility that's lost when Easley is forced into regular duty. If Castillo ends up on the DL, I expect to see Willingham join the big club.

FS: Thanks, Duke. Hopefully we'll get a good series here. At the very least, I know you'll enjoy the opportunity to watch the two teams you follow the most closely play each other.

: Actually, before I go, I'd like to say something about Milton Bradley. He's a guy with a bad rap, and it's a bad rap that he will fully admit he has earned through his actions. He's a guy who could be worth cheering for - or at least worth watching. He has all the talent in the world, but he's also done a lot of work since last season on controlling his anger and in correcting the things in his life that need to be corrected. I don't have a link to them, but in last week's and in the May 23rd issue of ESPN the Magazine there's some good coverage of what Milton's done.