LOS ANGELES--The Los Angeles Dodgers' controlling owner didn't look or sound overly preoccupied Friday when asked about his team's underwhelming performance.
"We have a lot of time," Mark Walter said.
Walter repeated the thought several times before the Dodgers' 69th game of the season, a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"After last year, I'd feel stupid if I panicked this year," he said. "Who knows if we can do it again, but... "
The Dodgers entered Friday as the second-place team in the National League West, 81/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
Last season, they went into their 69th game as the worst team in their five-team division, 71/2 games behind the first-place Diamondbacks.
"Look at where we were last year at this time," Walter said. "We were much, much worse. I'm not saying that's how I want the years to go, but we're above .500."
As Walter spoke, the Dodgers remained in search of stability. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez returned to the lineup and catcher A.J. Ellis was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list, but right-hander Chad Billingsley was diagnosed with a partially torn flexor tendon, indicating his season might be over. Sidelined left fielder Carl Crawford was sent to resume his rehabilitation at the team's spring-training complex in Arizona.
Walter was told the Dodgers are unlikely to replicate their historic 42-8 run from last season that vaulted them into first place.
"But," Walter said, "at this point, we're still in it. They wouldn't talk about it as a miracle if we came from behind and won the division."
Reminded the Dodgers are pursuing a significantly better team than they were last season, Walter said, "But they might have a cold streak, too. Baseball does seem to have streaks. We get on a hot streak, they get on a cold streak, and now we might be talking about a race."
Naturally, Walter disagreed that this season was shaping into a disaster.
"But," he acknowledged, "obviously we're disappointed so far."
The Dodgers opened the season with a record $240-million payroll.
"It's more than money," Walter said. "We feel we have a really good group of men who can play this game."
But Walter offered no possible explanation for why his team isn't playing better.
"I don't know," he said. "If I knew the secret, I'd try to fix it.
He said he finds it curious as to why his team has a far better record on the road than at home. The Dodgers are 22-14 on the road and 14-19 at Dodger Stadium.
"If you knew we had this road record, wouldn't you think we'd be running away with this?" he said. "That's hard to understand."
While disappointed with the results, Walter said he was satisfied with the work of Manager Don Mattingly, as well as the baseball operations department.
If Walter has one regret, it's that 70 percent of Los Angeles still can't watch the Dodgers on television. Of the major cable distributors, only Time Warner Cable carries SportsNet LA, the new regional sports network co-owned by the Dodgers.
"We're frustrated about it, too," Walter said. "I feel really sorry about the fact that we can't get everybody to be able see it. We're working really hard to get it done.
"I think there's a lot of communication going on. I'm optimistic."
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