Monthly archives: April 2008
April 30 Game Chat
The Chad Billingsley High-K, High-ERA Conundrum
Caleb Peiffer of Baseball Prospectus offers this assessment of Chad Billingsley (in part by comparing him to his opposing starting pitcher tonight, Scott Olsen):
Billingsley and Olsen have been almost complete opposites so far this season. The Dodgers' young right-hander has fanned nearly 14 batter per nine so far, yet his BABIP stands at .449, the second highest in the majors behind Florida's Andrew Miller. Olsen has the fourth-lowest BABIP, .187, but has struck out less than 3.5 men per nine, an even more steep deterioration of his strikeout rate than last season's drop from 8.3 K/9 in 2006 to 6.8. The easy explanation would be to say that Olsen has been lucky and Billingsley unlucky. While luck is almost certainly behind Olsen's run, however, there could definitely be more to Billingsley's high BABIP than misfortune, despite the fact that the Dodgers rank 26th in the majors in defensive efficiency. As Marc Normandin suggested in his Tuesday chat, one possible explanation is that Billingsley's wildness (5.7 UBB/9) has forced him to venture into the center of the zone with fat pitches on hitters' counts, leading to solid contact. Billingsley's BABIP will fall, of course, but it will take a significant improvement in his control in order to bring that BABIP and his high RA back down.
One thing to keep in mind is that Billingsley hasn't been walking five batters every game. He walked three in the second inning April 8 and three in the fifth inning April 19. Otherwise, he has walked seven in 18 2/3 innings, which is a pretty harmless rate (and, of course, the total body of work this year that we're analyzing is miniscule anyway). You can't ignore those meltdown innings, but it's interesting that they are relatively isolated - if damaging - events.
Peiffer adds the following regarding Blake DeWitt:
One player Billingsley probably can't blame for the hits that have been piled up against him is rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt. Entering the season with a strong defensive record in the minors at the hot corner, DeWitt has been excellent. With just one error in 165 2/3 innings, he leads all major league third baseman in fielding percentage, DeWitt's range factor per nine (3.72) also leads all major league third basemen, and he ranks fourth in zone rating. DeWitt has been surprisingly able with the bat as well, as he has thus far outperformed his PECOTA projection with a .270/.361/.365 line in 72 PA, better numbers than Garciaparra has put up in his last 500 PA, and also strong enough to carry DeWitt's defensive play. As sad as it is to say, the once-great Garciaparra's recent injury might actually help the Dodgers more than it hurts them.
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Vin Scully and Ralph Branca: friends forever, writes Kit Stier at MLB.com.
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Update: Go to Bronx Banter for Alex Belth's post, "Ten Essential Baseball Books."
The Rime of the Ancient Sportswriter
Alone, alone, all, all alone
Old media faced new media tonight on HBO's Costas Now on a playing field about as level as the Swiss Alps. Considering how the debate was framed, with the most controversial Deadspin posts that Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger could find facing off against the great W.C. Heinz, Deadspin editor Will Leitch ran into an avalanche yet came out spun around but standing strong.
I have always had tremendous respect for Costas, whom I worked under at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as a researcher, and he did acknowledge that not all blogging is created equally, paying lip service (though little more) to the idea that there are some intelligent blogs out there. But tonight's debate revealed the limitations of mainstream media in examining its own value. Their sanctity is taken as a given, their merits unquestioned. Sure, they say, there are some good blogs - a minority, of course - to go with the overwhelmingly noxious. But would they dare point out that there are some poisonous sportswriters - a minority, if you like - to go with the truly angelic? Not tonight. There are mainstream writers that understand this, but I guess they mostly keep to themselves.
At one point, Costas wondered aloud whether Deadspin would run an item based on something fished out of an athlete's garbage. Leitch correctly noted that it would depend on a case-by-case basis, but either because of his own restraint or Bissinger's constant interruptions, he did not point out that many major newspapers wouldn't hesitate for an instant to do the same thing. Did no one tonight see where the Roger Clemens-Mindy McCready pablum got its legs? Where is Bissinger's jeremiad against the New York Daily News?
Leitch was pinned into such a corner that he was actually forced to state for the record that Deadspin is not a crusade to get every sportswriter in America fired - a situation analogous to forcing the Jamaican bobsled team to reassure frightened Alpine countries that they will still be able to win Olympic medals - all while Bissinger indicated how happy he would be to see blogs wiped off the face of the earth. And what's kind of sad is that this is what passes for a progressive national discussion on new media in sports.
The fact is, even as the consumption of information migrates online, even as the economics of the business are forever altered, a quorum of readers and writers are still interested in truth. Journalism is not dying. It may be evolving, but it's not dying. It's living and breathing - breathing fire at times, just like it always has. (Or was Charles Foster Kane modeled on a blogger?) What decay there is isn't the bloggers' fault, it's the business model's, as well as that of some of the leadership.
Without a doubt, there's vitriol out there on the Internet. But that's not the medium; that's some of the messengers (especially if you're going to count, as Bissinger did, the most acid commenters as bloggers). You can find hate speech and irresponsibility around every corner of the universe, and it's telling that by far the most hate-filled person in the debate tonight was the man who has spent 40 years "perfecting his craft." What an advertisement for convention he was. Cloaking his venom in the concept of protecting integrity, when he brought so little integrity to the debate himself, was embarrassing if you weren't too snowed to realize it.
How do you spend decades reading and writing and not grasp that every medium, from theater to film, from television to print, from cave drawings to the Internet, has its strong and weak? You do that when you are the very thing you so deride in others: biased, and more in love with the sound of your own voice than the possibility of hearing truth in others.
You don't have to put in too much time to move into the top 100 on the all-time Los Angeles Dodger plate appearance chart (at Baseball-Reference.com). Active Dodgers on the list:
44) Jeff Kent: 1,754
The top 25 is another story. Bill Buckner holds that spot with 3,081.
Willie Davis is No. 1 with 8,035.
Update: Jonathan Broxton is unavailable tonight and went to have an MRI, Tony Jackson reports.
Vincent Scully '49
Fordham's radio station, WFUV 90.7 FM, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this evening in New York.
"I'm deeply grateful for these honors and consider myself extremely fortunate," Scully said in the press release. "I was at Fordham when they started their FM radio station 60 years ago so I consider it a real privilege to have been there at the beginning."
Fordham previously honored Scully in 2000 with an honorary doctorate (and a special Fordham uniform, below).
Update: The Baseball Hall of Fame will unveil a new Jackie Robinson plaque Saturday that updates his legacy.
"When he earned election to the Hall of Fame in 1962, Jackie Robinson totaled a career worthy of inclusion based on performance alone," said Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "Now, 46 years later, his impact is not fully defined without mention of his extreme courage in breaking baseball's color barrier. The time is right to recognize his contribution to history, not only as a Hall of Fame player, but also as a civil rights pioneer."
Costas Meets the Bloggers
Straight from Acerbia, HBO's Costas Now is scheduled to have a segment on bloggers and sports media tonight, according to Ken Tremendous/Michael Schur of Fire Joe Morgan, who was interviewed for the show.
Life on the West Coast: Not That There's Anything Wrong With It ...
I love it when Eastern transplants blame a West Coast mentality for the ills of Los Angeles. Let me emphasize that this is no big deal, but consider Derek Lowe's interview with Tony Jackson in this morning's Daily News:
So if a curse isn't responsible for the Dodgers having gone almost two decades without a reason to really celebrate, then what is?
Like almost everyone else in Southern California, Derek Lowe has his own theory.
"Having played on both coasts, I can see how people might get lulled into something when they play on the West Coast," the Dodgers right-hander said. "It's a laid-back atmosphere and we draw great fans. It's always sunny and 75 degrees. You can very easily get lulled into an attitude of, 'Whatever happens, happens.' I can definitely see how that could happen.
"I'm not saying that's the reason they haven't had success for 20 years. They have had all kinds of different teams, and I can't explain how they haven't won here. For the talent they have had here over 'X' amount of years, to have won one (postseason) game, when they were already down 2-0 in the series?
"Some people who have played this game for a long time say there is a certain mentality out here, that it's more about entertainment than winning.
"I'm not saying that's true, but a lot of people say that about Southern California."
Derek Lowe is from Dearborn, Michigan. In the current starting rotation, only Tijuana's Esteban Loaiza is from the Pacific time zone. In the everyday lineup, Jeff Kent is the only Californian - the next closest is Andre Ethier from Arizona.
So I guess this is gonna be the Dodgers' year - if us mellow Southern Californians in the stands don't ruin it for everyone. Perhaps it's a generational thing. Look at the Lakers since 1988; they haven't won a thing - oh, wait ...
And to think I was under the impression that Dodger fans had started booing too much.
(It seems almost too perfect that on the same day, Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise informs us that the Dodgers have hired sports psychologist Dana Sinclair. Would an East Coast team have the granolas to do that?)
Update: And now my Variety compadre Mike Schneider passes along the news at Franklin Avenue that Travel + Leisure magazine and its readers hate Los Angeles.
The Long View
My most devastating breakup occurred eight days after the 1994 baseball strike began (with the Dodgers trapped in first place in the National League West) and barely a year after I had turned my life over for the second time to reinvent my career. I was feeling mighty low.
What a relief it was when the strike ended and Dodger games resumed in '95, replete with Mike Piazza and Raul Mondesi and Hideo Nomo. Soon that year I got a job as a production assistant on a sitcom, moved up to writers' assistant and even got some jokes into the show's second script. Things were looking up except on the relationship side. I was still feeling mighty low, and continued to for quite some time.
By October 2000, the strike was ancient history, but the Dodgers were on a treadmill. My already-peaked screenwriting career had arced from completed, produced scripts directly into a brick wall. And there I was, happily married. The plot twists of those six years caught me completely by surprise.
Nothing I feared happened. Everything I didn't fear happened.
The last thing I would have expected 14 years ago was that I would find myself on the eve of celebrating my eighth wedding anniversary with my lovely bride before the Dodgers brought home another World Series title. But here we are. Once upon a time, I did speculate on Dodger Thoughts that you never know when 100 years of Cub-like ineptitude will begin, but we're about 20 percent there. What will my life be like when (if) the Dodgers finally break through, when I'm 40 or 80 or 120? Will it provide unencumbered joy or temporary relief?
Here's my question for you: What do you want most in your life right now, and do you think the Dodgers will win the World Series before or after that happens?
Truly, Madly, Deeply
It's amazing, isn't it? Last year, the Dodgers lose seven in a row to Colorado. They get pounded; they get edged. This year, a reversal: a three-game sweep for Los Angeles. This year, when an error and walks load the bases, Jonathan Broxton gets a double-play ball. This year, Todd Helton's ninth-inning fly ball off Takashi Saito stays in the park.
Was there extra determination on Saito's part to not let Helton beat him again, and was that determination greater than Saito's last September to keep the Dodgers in the pennant race? The math doesn't seem likely, but who knows? Was it something conscious or mindless that influenced the synapses that caused Saito and Russell Martin to choose a certain pitch to throw and Helton a certain pitch to prepare for, that caused the microscopic differences between how Saito gripped and released that baseball then and now, and the infinitesimal variances between the timing and path of Helton's swing one time and the next?
So often, wins and losses are reduced to an aphoristic "Who wanted it more?" Did Helton want it more in September? Did Saito want it more on Sunday? I initially dismiss this idea as after-the-fact rationalization, but maybe there's something there. It can be a factor - one factor. There can be atmospheric pressure in the air above right field and in the minds of the ballplayers.
We break down every ballplayer's ability for analysis and expectation, we grow boyishly hopeful or tiredly cynical, but baseball remains a mystery that would stymie the combined efforts of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, of Sam Spade and Eddie Fitzgerald. We can know more than anyone would want to about a batter and a pitcher until that ball rips into its pneumatic journey toward the bat. Then, it's a case of William Goldman's "Nobody knows anything," adapted from the silver screen to the green diamond.
No matter what we learn, baseball remains America's greatest unsolved mystery.
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In Honor of Hot Aprils
Kershaw: Five starts, 25 2/3 innings, 17 hits, 10 walks, 31 strikeouts, 1.40 ERA, 0-3 record.
Valenzuela: Five starts, 42 innings, 22 hits, nine walks, 35 strikeouts, 0.21 ERA, 2-3 record.
At least in April 1981, Valenzuela got five wins to go with his 0.20 ERA.
Valenzuela began the 1985 season with 41 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. In the 42nd inning, he was working on a one-hit shutout against the Padres when Tony Gwynn homered to give San Diego a 1-0 victory.
Valenzuela finished the year with a career-best 2.45 ERA.
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I'm not really buying the logic for giving Esteban Loaiza today's start over Hong-Chih Kuo. According to the beat writers, Dodger manager Joe Torre said it was because Kuo could warm up in the bullpen more quickly. That might just be a way for Torre to spin a loss of faith in Kuo for the moment, but taken on face value, the explanation isn't satisfying.
You shouldn't decide who you want to pitch the majority of the game based upon who you might think will warm up more quickly for the minority. The only scenario where this even matters is if the relief pitcher in question is going to enter the game in the middle of an inning.
If you think Loaiza is just going to do a better job than Kuo as a starter, fine. I don't, but whatever. But even if you're talking about having the best available pitcher enter a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the middle of an inning, is that more important than the pitcher who is responsible for getting the first 12, 15, 18, 21 outs?
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Update: Vin Scully's commencement address to the Pepperdine senior class took place Saturday, and Dodger press coordinator Colin Gunderson has the writeup.
The mantra of Scully's address was "very difficult, but possible." In those four words he punctuated a day that symbolizes the end of a rigorous course of study and the beginning of opportunity, and the promise of purposeful life. ...
After regaling the crowd with his examples of conviction, he used a passage from Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" to reinforce the belief in one's determination.
"The world breaks everyone, but people come back stronger in the broken places." ...
Pregame Entertainment: Robin Hood
Robin Hood, a great-paced, unsung hero of a show, has its second-season premiere tonight on BBC America. Depending on where and how you get your television, it might be on as soon as 6 p.m. - perfect for just before tonight's game. Otherwise, look for re-airings later in the evening or the coming week. I'll (hopefully) be watching after the game.
DeWitt Expected to Return
When Dodger folks finally went to bed early this morning, Nomar Garciaparra was expected to head for the disabled list with what now is being called a strained left calf, necessitating and allowing for the recall of Blake DeWitt. Andy LaRoche has just started his rehabilitation assignment and is not due to be healthy until May.
Rushed back from the DL earlier this month, Garciaparra had a .314 on-base percentage and .323 slugging percentage in 35 plate appearances.
Looking at the schedule, the Dodgers need a fifth starter again by May 3 at the latest, then not again until May 17, then not again until May 27. Speculation is growing that by the end of that period, they may be ready to recall a starting pitcher from AA if the spirit moves them.
On the other hand, perhaps Jason Schmidt will grab the spot by then. Schmidt threw 70 pitches Friday, notes Doug Padilla of the Daily News, including 40 in a simulated game.
Martin Returns to Third Base
Nomar Garciaparra suffers a strained abdomen in the ninth inning, and with Blake DeWitt now in the minors and Chin-Lung Hu already in the game at second base, Russell Martin returns to play third base, his original professional position.
Martin played 40 games at third base for the Gulf Coast League Dodgers in 2002, then had one more game in 2003 in A ball as he converted to catcher.
On the first pitch with Martin at third base, Gary Bennett didn't get under Takashi Saito's pitch, allowing it past him for a game-tying passed ball.
Earlier in the game, Andruw Jones left the game with a contusion after fouling a ball off himself. If this game were to go enough, people might see Fernando Valenzuela back in the outfield.
Update: After tying a Los Angeles Dodger record by reaching base in his first six plate appearances, Martin wins it in the 13th with a sacrifice fly.
April 25 Game Chat
A Baseball Life Cycle
In theory, I had come to the Yankees ready to play ball "from Day One." The idea that my history didn't give me the benefit of the doubt was disconcerting. Because there was this younger kid, who played a little better than I did that spring and who would certainly be less expensive. I'd had a bad week, and he'd had a good week, and that made all the difference.
I understood that I was now entrenched on the other side of the bell curve. I was sliding downward into the "long in the tooth" spiked pit. My competition's relatively minimal major league experience had become more valuable, in a way, than my library of experience. Somehow I had missed the transition point in my career where my value to a team had intersected with the value of a new kid on the block.
There was a time in Philadelphia when, as a young player, I had replaced the veteran Lenny Dykstra as the new center fielder in town, much to the dismay of the Philly faithful. But I felt I had plenty to offer. Maybe I wasn't as wise as Lenny in terms of game experience, but I thought I made up for it with enthusiasm, newness and energy.
So I understand the cycle. ...
The Dodgers recalled 24-year-old pitcher Cory Wade and optioned Blake DeWitt.
Jonathan Meloan is enjoying life as a starter so far: 21 2/3 innings in four starts for AAA Las Vegas, 1.66 ERA, 20 strikeouts.
Jacksonville's Yhency Brazoban finally got hit tonight: three runs in an inning. James McDonald started and allowed three runs in four innings,
The Positivity Train
Wednesday's appeal to have fun during the game wasn't an attempt to turn this blog into the online version of Pleasantville. It was more to remind all of us, myself included, not to overreact to the bad stuff. Because there's always going to be bad stuff.
Anyway, we weren't particularly tested - the biggest lesson learned was that the Dodgers could in fact beat a big-name pitcher. Hopefully, we won't be tested for a while. But when that time comes, it's nice to keep some of the bitterness out, even if disappointment or dissatisfaction comes.
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The Dodgers really seemed to hit the ball square Wednesday night. It'd be nice to have more power, but what really gets frustrating is when the team can't even muster more than a couple line drives. I feel like if you wait for good pitches and then hit the ball hard enough, eventually it will pay off, even if the hits stay in the park. Some days you can't find a hole, but solid contact sure increases your chances.
Another nice reprieve Wednesday was from allowing the four-run inning. In 21 games this season, the Dodgers have given up four runs in an inning seven times. Never more than four, but still, four's plenty.
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Thursday Night TV Chat
No spoilers ...
GIANT MAYOR THREATENS DODGER STADIUM DESTRUCTION
TARGETS FANS IN OUTFIELD BLEACHERS WITH HIS INDISCRIMINATE HAND
LEVIATHAN ENLISTS DODGER OWNER TO AID EVIL ANNIHILATION
FEARFUL STADIUM DRAINED OF ALL COLOR
OH WAIT - THEY'RE JUST LOOKING AT A SCALE MODEL OF THE REVAMPED DODGER STADIUM
Dodger Stadium as CityWalk
Here's a link to the Dodgers' latest official announcement about renovating the amenities of Dodger Stadium, with a 2012 target date. The bullet points:
So if this all goes as envisioned, will you arrive earlier for a game? You could probably line the parking lot with $100,000 bills and I still probably couldn't get my family to the game more than a few minutes early, but that's my own struggle. On the surface, this sounds pretty nice, even as I hear the whirring of the credit card receipts being printed out for attendees. (In fact, the more that I think about it, I might need those $100,000 bills just to afford entry.)
Here are photo galleries and a video, narrated by a bespectacled Vin Scully. Looking at the images, it seems like a rather radical redesign of the area behind the outfield will take place, which implies rather radical changes to the parking there - including possible parking garages.
It's interesting that the video implies that a case needs to be made for these improvements and for faith in the McCourt ownership. Scully's concluding words: "Ah, paradise saved."
Update: The nitty-gritty details:
The Dodgers are at the beginning of what will be a year-long environmental and public review process for the plan. The process will formally begin when the City issues a notice of preparation (NOP) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The NOP is expected to be released in late spring 2008. The NOP will summarize the Next 50 improvements and the proposed areas of study for the environmental impact report (EIR). For 30 days after the NOP's release, public comments will be provided on the proposed scope of analysis. Thereafter, the City will prepare and release a draft environmental impact report (EIR) for public review and comment. The draft EIR is expected to be released in the fall of 2008. Public comments will be incorporated and addressed in the final EIR which is expected to be released sometime in late 2008/early 2009. Following that process, approvals for the plan will be considered in public hearings by the City of Los Angeles.
Moneyball was never about choosing statistical analysis over scouting, contrary to how some people interpreted it (whether or not they read it). It was about pursuing competitive advantages, often in the face of conventional wisdom, and certain kinds of statistical analysis were simply examples of this at the time.
At True Blue L.A., Andrew Grant makes an interesting argument that game stats are reaching their limit as a weapon for general managers, who will need to find other ways to make themselves useful.
Am I saying that we should go back to thinking Juan Pierre is a good player and that Bartolo Colon totally deserved that Cy Young award since he lead the league in wins? Of course not. I'm saying that an organization can no longer be primarily stats based and find any kind of success without having a gigantic payroll. I'm saying that there's very little competitive advantage to be gained from stats based analysis.
The problem is that there's too much information out there now. Ten years ago if you wanted to find something like expected BABIP you would have to hire and independent stat provider and do all the calculations around it yourself. Now, any jerk with a blog can go to The Hardball Times, plug four numbers into a spreadsheet and get an answer in seconds for free. Want to know the league leader in line drives allowed last year? Give Baseball Prospectus 30 bucks and find out the answer. This has lead to some great things. People out there can take this information, produce new and interesting studies, and give it away all for free. But when you can get all of this for the cost of a Baseball Prospectus subscription and a couple of books, why bother hiring someone to do the same thing?
Grant suggests that the pendulum has swung back in favor of scouting - while wondering about how well the two sides, which aren't meant to operate in exclusion of each other, can be further united.
For stat guys to mean more than 100 dollars worth of reading material and an internet cable, they need to change their ways and do more than the average blogger can do. I think the breakthrough will come from finding out someway to quantify scouting data, and how to incorporate that into projection systems. How much does a prospect's bat speed really matter? What flaws in pitching mechanics are fixable and what are career enders? Does someone's time in the 40 in high school mean anything at all? These are questions that you can't just answer with an internet connection, you need data that only a collection of big league scouts can acquire. The guys that are willing to embrace this kind of analysis are the ones that can thrive, and the ones that think knowing what SNLVAR stands for will gives them an advantage over anyone will fall by the wayside.
Major-league teams already explore this to some extent, obviously, but I suspect there's room for growth. And as a mediocre statistican and a beyond-terrible scout, I can see the sense of this.
Take Andruw Jones, for example. I have preached that based on his statistical record, in the context of what we know about major-league players, it's more likely that he's been in a slump that can be corrected through adjustments, rather on some career-ending bender. Not that he'll regain his peak, but that he can still be valuable. But if someone were able to make the same kind of objective evaluation of how he looks, if someone could remove some of the guessing and hope out the equation before deciding how much to pay or play him, that could be very relevant and persuasive.
In other words, instead of merely saying "Jones looks terrible at the plate," you actually have a measurement on a scale, or a placement on a graph, to show what his mechanical ailment is and how likely it is to be cured. You'd diagnose his swing like you diagnose an injury or illness.
Not that there isn't some mystery in treating health ... which leads to my own additional point. Another destiny still being manifested in baseball is the medical frontier. There remains a great deal of guesswork when it comes to how likely a player is going to be hurt and how long his recovery times will be. Medicine may always be a combination of art with science, but it's another area that may offer more opportunities for competitive advantage than things like on-base percentage do. The risk-reward ratio is still there for the tinkering.
Of course, this all presumes that you are paying to things like on-base percentage in the first place.
As I reread this post, I feel my writing is pretty muddled. But I just thought there were some issues here worth pondering.
You Feel So Good to Me
Remember, we're gonna have fun tonight. Things go wrong, so all we're gonna do is enjoy the things that go right.
Update: According to Tony Jackson of the Daily News, the Dodgers may have decided that Hong-Chih Kuo is better suited for the warm-up-quick life of the bullpen ... after having previously decided that he was not as well-suited for that life (earlier this month) ... after having previously decided that he was (before Spring Training) ... after having previously decided that he wasn't (last year, before he got hurt) ... after having previously decided that he was (a year or two before that, right?).
See, isn't this fun?
Also, Yhency Brazoban is going to get a brief stop in AAA before possibly getting called up.
Update 2: Not quite yet for Brazoban.
Dodger Stadium at 100?
The next iteration of Dodger Stadium will be previewed at a press conference Thursday, and Bill Shakin previews the preview at the Times:
The Dodgers plan to unveil their most extensive stadium renovation yet Thursday, a project that would transform the area behind the outfield into an entrance promenade featuring restaurants, shops and a Dodgers museum.
In a letter sent today to season-ticket holders, owner Frank McCourt and President Jamie McCourt said the improvements would "give the stadium a chance to remain viable and perhaps see its 100th birthday."
The letter did not detail the renovations, but the plan would enact a vision Frank McCourt made when he bought the team in 2004 -- to transform at least part of the Dodger Stadium parking lot into an area offering dining and shopping for fans who arrive early and stay late, avoiding pregame and postgame traffic. The Dodgers would generate additional revenue as well. ...
You Know It Makes Me Wanna Shout!
Remain calm! All is well!!!
- Animal House
Look - I can put together more reasons not to worry about the marching band being stuck in a dead-end alley and the Dodgers tripping over the 10,000 marbles in the street, I really can, but you've probably heard enough of that from me for the past couple of weeks. These guys have been Faber College foulups without hardly any of the fun, and it's wearing most of them out, and it's wearing most of us out.
The Germans have bombed Pearl Harbor, boys. Tonight's showdown with the first-place Arizona Omegas absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
LET'S DO IT!!!
Or at least let's get a toga party out of it ...
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Los Angeles: Injury Town
In following the Lakers this season, I've waited like everyone else for the return of Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza from injuries. The fact that their recoveries have taken a long while, relative to initial expectations, evokes the Dodgers to no end.
In the Times, Jonathan Abrams writes about the NASA-inspired treadmill designed to help players like Bynum and Ariza.
The treadmill is replacing swimming pools and other methods for players recouping from leg injuries. Instead of a player running in a pool, where water lightens their body weight but also alters how fast an athlete can run in place, this new treadmill allows them to retain their natural stride and reduce the weight on their injury.
"Pools are kind of like that old 'Far Side' cartoon where the scientist has an equation that says 'Step 2', then a miracle happens," said Jack Irving, vice president of sales and marketing for Alter-G, based in Menlo Park.
It's all well and good, except ... is the treadmill actually working?
At least the Lakers aren't rushing these guys back, and it seems like Jason Schmidt is back to taking his time.
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Remembering Lyman Bostock
The tragic end of Lyman Bostock's life is recalled by Jerry Crowe in the Times. For those of us who lived through it, it's an oft-recalled story, but if you don't know it, you must.
I can still remember my sister, who was going through her biggest love-of-baseball phase at the time and actually competed with me for the sports section, waking me in my bedroom one morning - it had to be a weekend - with the news that Bostock had been killed.
Well, He Was
But now Andruw Jones is 0 for 3 through five innings tonight, while the rest of the Dodger lineup is 13 for 23. I guess if you've gotta be wrong ...
Hey, Wait a Minute: Jones Is Dodgers' Hottest Hitter
Believe it or not, chalk it up as a reflection of the team or not, but Andruw Jones leads the Dodgers in OPS for the past seven days. His 1.119 surpasses even Rafael Furcal's 1.109. Jeff Kent is at .974 and another early season slumper, Russell Martin is close behind at .964.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, this coincided with a 3-for-23, zero-walk slump by James Loney, as well as a combined .536 OPS from third basemen Blake DeWitt and Nomar Garciaparra.
Jones has seven strikeouts in his past 23 plate appearances, including three on Sunday, but he also has had two singles, two doubles, a triple, a homer and four walks. It's a reminder (that we often advance on behalf of a player like Matt Kemp) not to focus completely on how a batter makes an out. Just because he can look awful at certain times doesn't mean he's awful all the time.
What this means for the future, I don't know. Hopefully, good things.
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The Dodgers have scored exactly one run in three consecutive games. The Los Angeles Dodger record is five games, by the 1968 team from May 10-14. Second on that list: the 1968 Dodgers, who followed their record-setting streak with a four-game streak May 18-20. Here are their run totals for the entire 12-game period: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 0, 6, 1, 1, 1, 1. They had three 1-0 victories in that time, two won by Don Drysdale and the other in the 12th inning by Mudcat Grant in relief of Don Sutton.
Trivia: Who hit the only home run for the Dodgers during that 12-game drought?
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Something else I didn't know: Wes Parker batted leadoff for the Dodgers more than 100 times. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Baseball-Reference.com?
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Dodger Series Recap
Is the Offense Offensive?
Every time the Dodgers score a run or less in a game, questions start flying about what's wrong with the offense, no matter how recently the hitters pounded the ball. After all, the Dodgers have been held down for a whopping two games in a row now, so the fur necessarily is flying.
Here's the run distribution for the Dodger offense so far this season, with 10 percent of the games played:
The Dodgers have played 17 games this season. In nine, they've scored below four runs, and in seven they've scored more than four runs. Overall, they're averaging 4.2 runs per game. Call me crazy, but to me this describes a functional National League offense.
Most of the time - though this weekend in Atlanta is an exception - they've hit the pitchers you'd expect them to hit and struggled against those you'd expect them to. They've had players hit above their heads and players hit below their toes. They've been inconsistent, but inconsistency doesn't imply incompetence.
Here's the runs-allowed distribution this season for the Dodgers:
Nine games below four runs, eight games at four or above, 3.6 runs allowed per game. Again, in general, the better the opposing offense, the worse the Dodgers have done.
The reason the Dodgers are three games below .500 and a rather stunning six back of Arizona is pretty simple - they haven't matched up the good offensive games with the good defensive games in any sort of ideal fashion. In games decided by two runs or less, the Dodgers are 2-5.
Now, whether the Dodgers will pitch and hit consistently enough to turn this around, I have no idea. This could be an aberration, or a frustrating pattern that will continue for the next 145 games.
But what gets tiresome is when you hear people say after a poor offensive game, "The Dodgers have no offense," or talk about how the team needs to juggle the lineup to turn things around. Guess what: Baseball teams don't score six runs and allow two every day of the week. They struggle. Some struggle more than others, but they all struggle.
Even Arizona ... once in a while.
If Arizona keeps playing like this, there's gonna be no catching them. If.
It might be a good time to remember 1982, if only for the heck of it. The Braves started the season 13-0; the Dodgers 5-8. And by the end of the season, the Dodgers were one Joe Morgan homer away from playing past game 162.
Not saying it'll happen - I'd sure rather be in Arizona's shoes right now. But try to hang in there.
Samples from the Dodger splits page at Baseball-Reference.com:
Add your own to the list. It's a small sample size showcase!
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In this interview with Steve Garvey, in which Garvey toots his horn rather emphatically for his Hall of Fame candidacy, WFAN hosts Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo point out that Garvey's performance needs to be evaluated for the era that it took place in (compared to the more offense-happy era that followed). Yet what happens when analysts try to do exactly that? Too often, people jump down their throats.
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Stanford grad A.J. Hinch, Arizona's director of player development, explains minor league pay at his blog:
Regardless of the signing bonus received after the draft/signing, each player in the minor leagues has the same initial salary structure. It is designed to pay players at different rates depending on what level they are playing. For non 40 man players, the salary begins at $1100/month in Short Season/Class A. Salaries in AA increase to $1500/month while AAA gets a jump to $2150/month. We pay those salaries only during the 5 month season, so the paychecks for the players begin in April and end in the first week of September. The only players that may differ from this scale are minor league free agents signed for AA/AAA or players on the 40-man roster but playing in the minor leagues. Those players are on a completely different scale and many of them have much more comfortable salaries (albeit much less than the big leagues). ...
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Preventive measures: The Dodgers need to have a rule that states that no pursuit of an out is worth Rafael Furcal getting in a collision. Furcal collided with Andruw Jones tonight. Both players stayed in the game - fortunately. Somehow, the Dodgers need to keep Furcal safe as he runs with the big boys. I know it's not always easy out there, but outfielders need to call for the ball or get out of the way.
(First two links above via Baseball Think Factory.)
Amateur in Game Only
I am turning pro, and I am hiring an agent. No going back now.
Well, here we are. Fifty years since the Dodgers' first game in Los Angeles. Read more about it with Brent Shyer at Walteromalley.com.
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From Dylan Hernandez of the Times, the latest gab about Rafael Furcal's healthy resurgence and whether he will resign with the Dodgers:
Furcal says he wants to remain with the Dodgers, though he doesn't want to concern himself with talk of a new deal until the end of the season. Until then, he's leaving the matter in the hands of his agent, Paul Kinzer, who visited Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti during spring training and has had a few follow-up conversations.
Kinzer said the 30-year-old Furcal was looking for a long-term deal that would allow him to "finish his career there."
"There's no deadline," Kinzer said. "We'll give them every opportunity to sign him."
Said Colletti: "We want him to be a Dodger, so at some point in time, we'll sit down and sort it out."
Furcal was discussed at length in the comments this week. People are thrilled about his 2008 start, but opinions vary on how long a contract the Dodgers should offer.
Up ... All ... Night
Colorado ..... 000 000 000 000 010 000 000 1 - 2 14 1
Rafael Furcal has scored 14 runs this month (he also scored an additional run March 31 to open the season). According to research by commenter Eric Stephen, the Los Angeles Dodger record for runs in a month is 29 by Jim Gilliam in June 1959 and Davey Lopes in May 1979.
Player Name Month Year Runs Gilliam, Jim June 1959 29 Lopes, Davey May 1979 29 Beltre, Adrian August 2004 28 Willis, Maury May 1962 28 Green, Shawn June 2002 27 Guerrero, Pedro June 1984 27 Guerrero, Pedro June 1985 27 Davis, Tommy July 1962 26 Marshall, Mike Sept. 1985 26 Willis, Maury July 1962 26 Crawford, W. May 1970 25 Davis, Tommy May 1962 25 Davis, Willie July 1962 25 Garciaparra, N. May 2006 25 Green, Shawn May 2000 25 Guerrero, Pedro July 1985 25 Sheffield, Gary June 2000 25
April 17 TV Chat Thread
No spoilers ...
Consulting with Kuo
Dodgers vice president of broadcasting and public relations Josh Rawitch checked in with pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo on Wednesday about the pronounciation of his name. (Kuo's, not Rawitch's.)
"He said that there are a few different ways that it can be said and/or pronounced but that he'd prefer this one, as it's what he's always been called since coming to the States," Rawitch wrote. "He did mention that on his passport, he thinks it says Hung instead of Hong but that he didn't want to change it and confuse people."
Nomar Garciaparra is in tonight's starting lineup for the Dodgers. The most recent assumption has been that Ramon Troncoso would go down to the minors instead of Blake DeWitt, so that DeWitt could back up Garciaparra at least until Andy LaRoche's return, but we'll soon see. Chin-Lung Hu could take on that role, and DeWitt could go down.
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Welcome back to the bigs, Joe Thurston. Boston called him up to replace another former Dodger, Alex Cora, who went on the disabled list.
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Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner
From Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe:
The only news so far is that the White House has released the menu for the dinner tonight that the pope is skipping. Here's what His Holiness will miss: Morel-encrusted Diver Scallops, Ramp Spatzle, Angel Hair Asparagus Bisque, Duo of Veal, White Truffle-Potato Dumplings, Baby Carrots and Boletus Mushrooms, Heirloom Lettuces and Candied Pumpkin Seeds, Spring Squash Carpaccio, Styrian Pumpkin Oil Vinaigrette, Raspberry Crisp and Mint Coulis.
Even though the pope won't be there, all the Catholics on the Supreme Court will, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas. And the big name tonight will be Tommy Lasorda, the former Dodgers manager.
Now, does Lasorda get to meet the Pope earlier in the day, or will this be like that episode of Wings when Fay contrives to keep alive her streaking of touching every first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt?
Kuo vs. Guo
Ken Arneson jumps over from Catfish Stew to provide this linguistics lesson.
There is some debate in the comments on Dodger Thoughts about whether Hong-Chih Kuo's last name should be spelled/pronounced Kuo or Guo. For those who are interested, I believe I can shed some scientific light on the issue.
First of all, let us begin by stating that there are not two, but three different sounds involved in the discussion. Let us define those sounds using the terminology of linguistic science.
Smiles, Everyone, Smiles
Gosh, twice in the past four games, the Dodgers have romp romp romped. What to think, what to think.
In games tonight and last Saturday, the Dodgers have outscored their opponents, 22-3. The rest of the season, they've been outscored, 48-40.
Tonight's game could hardly have started much worse for the Dodgers, with Hong-Chih Kuo allowing a single and two outs later throwing 10 consecutive balls, on the way to walking three batters and forcing home a run. But Kuo turned it around, striking out the next five batters and allowing only one more baserunner before reaching his current pitch-count limit of 75 after four innings.
Deposed starter Esteban Loaiza came in, and did exactly what you would hope for, saving the bullpen by going the rest of the way in relief - becoming part of an interesting piece of Dodger trivia along the way. Tonight marked the first time since July 31, 1991 that a Dodger reliever pitched at least five innings in relief, finished the game and got the victory. Kevin Gross was the last to be on a list that also includes:
The Dodger offense made it easy for Kuo and Loaiza, with six batters reaching base at least two times and six getting an extra-base hit, including Russell Martin's first homer of the year. Another slumping hitter, Andruw Jones, had a single, a double, a walk and a deep fly out to left field.
The one sour mash tonight: Tony Abreu has been sidelined again from his rehab in Vero Beach, according to Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise, "due to the lingering aftereffects of offseason surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle."
Jackie Robinson Day
In honor of Jackie Robinson Day, allow me to present Robert Landry's portrait of him. You might remember Landry's rendering of Sandy Koufax from December.
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Is Jan Levinson crazy, or too crazy? Read my thoughts about Melora Hardin's character and "The Office" at Season Pass.
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Hong-Chih Kuo's first scheduled start of 2008.
A Thin Line Between Love and Hate
.256 batting average
.216 batting average
This post isn't meant to put DeWitt down at all. Challenged to perform in the major leagues ahead of schedule, he has done more than anyone could have expected.
But it is telling how expectations influence evaluations. Some people will be sorry to see DeWitt go, even though LaRoche, who many considered to have punted his opportunity in 2007, arguably performed better at this stage of his career than DeWitt has.
LaRoche had a lower slugging percentage but a higher on-base percentage than DeWitt, and as far as I know, studies show that on-base percentage is more important. (This ignores for the moment that LaRoche has a better track record for power in the minor leagues and is expected to show more power in the majors.) LaRoche accomplished this while also not getting as lucky as DeWitt on balls in play has. Defensively, both fielded their position well, I believe, but feel free to offer your take.
DeWitt's play this season has been nothing but a bright spot for the Dodgers, but I'm sure there are some people starting to believe that he has leapfrogged LaRoche in the pecking order. Once LaRoche is healthy, I don't feel that's the case. If there's a lesson from DeWitt, maybe it's about what can happen if you take a young player, put him in the lineup, and leave him alone instead of having him looking over his shoulder. Maybe.
It is fair to note that LaRoche OPSed .634 in his final 61 plate appearances of 2007. The Dude abides, and the league adjusts. I look forward to seeing if LaRoche adjusts back in 2008 - that is, when Nomar Garciaparra isn't in the field ahead of him.
Every Which Way They Lose
Last place. It's no fun. Hopefully for the Dodgers, this will be rock bottom. Hopefully, Takashi Saito's most devastating blown save of the season will be in April this year, as opposed to in September, like last year.
And Thatís Why You Never Bet Against Manny Mota
In the same inning (on the final day of the 1977 season) that Dusty Baker hit his 30th homer of the year to make the Dodgers the first team to have four players with 30 or more, two lesser-known power threats, Glenn Burke and Manny Mota, also homered. All three came off J.R. Richard, making it perhaps the most improbable Dodger round of round-trippers until the 4+1 game.
The homer was the final one of Mota's career. Here's what Ross Newhan wrote about it in the Times:
Mota, batting for pitcher Roberto Castillo, had hit Richard's second pitch of the inning into the Los Angeles bullpen for his 31st career homer and first since the '72 season, when he had five.
It was the 120th pinch hit of his career and he said, "After I had flied out to right last night Tommy John said to me, 'The next time why don't you see how far you can hit one.' When I saw the outfield swing to right today, I said to myself, 'OK, take one pitch and see if you can pull it, see if you can hit it hard.' It was a great feeling to run clear around the bases for the first time in five years."
Mota's homer wasn't such a great feeling for (Davey) Lopes. When (Tommy) Lasorda sent Mota to the bat rack, the manager turnted to Lopes and said, "Wouldn't it be great if Manny hit a pinch hit homer?" Lopes looked at him incredulously and said, "If he hits a home run I'll buy everyone on the team a steak dinner."
When Mota connected, Lopes collapsed on the top step of the dugout in a feigned faint. He later reflected on the homer, smiled and said, "I know the Phillies can't beat us. We're lucky. We're just too lucky."
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On the occasion of his 58th wedding anniversary, Lasorda plays How I Met Your Mother.
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The Genius of Greg Maddux: Dodger-Localized Version
Exhibit 1: Today's game.
Exhibit 2: From Tim Keown's feature at ESPN the Magazine:
When Brad Penny and Maddux were teammates on the Dodgers, during the last two months of 2006, they had a conversation one day that led Penny to reach a stunning conclusion: This guy knows my stuff better than I do. It was eerie, really, how easily Maddux dissected Penny's repertoire and suggested ways to maximize it. Penny, figuring he'd take advantage of the situation, asked Maddux to call a game for him against the Cubs. And so, on the night of Sept. 13, Penny glanced into the dugout before every delivery and found Maddux, who signaled the next pitch by looking toward different parts of the ballpark. Penny threw seven scoreless innings with no walks and beat the Cubs 6-0. "Maddux probably won't tell you that story," Penny says. He's right.
Bring the Peace
I've been trying to figure out how to write the first sentence of this post for 20 minutes. So we're gonna let that be the first sentence, and now we'll see if I can break though on the third sentence.
My problem is being forced to write about a topic I don't want to write about. My problem is that in the preternaturally warm morning following the most dominant Dodger victory of the season, the dominant feeling is aggravation.
I expect Matt Kemp to start in the outfield today and that he will get a majority of starts this week when the Dodgers play Pittsburgh and Atlanta. So I don't even know that there's a reason to write about him. If I wait long enough, maybe the problem of him sitting on the bench will just go away. But there's enough doubt to just wear me down.
I don't want to talk about Juan Pierre. I don't want to read about Juan Pierre. I don't want to even think about people like Joe Torre saying such nonsensical things as he did to Kevin Baxter of the Times: "I can't concern myself with power right now. We have to do more of making things happen. We're not hitting. We haven't been able to put things together."
I am perfectly willing to listen to a thoughtful discussion of how Matt Kemp hasn't drawn a walk this season and how that relates to his ability and potential. I am perfectly willing to listen to any thoughtful discussion. But to have to hear Pierre being trumpeted over Kemp as a solution to an offensive crisis - I can't. I just can't.
If you played each player 162 games, Kemp could go walkless, striking out 150 times, and still be more productive than Pierre. I just started to explain why, but I erased the sentence. Running down the reasons for the umpteenth time is running me down.
As befits a team that is 5-6 overall, 5-3 when not playing the current best team in the league and 3-5 when not playing probably the worst, there's been plenty in the good and bad columns for the Dodgers so far this year.
Sampling of the good:
Sampling of the bad:
In my opinion, the season's first two weeks turned sour not with the browbeatings in Arizona on Monday and Tuesday, but with Wednesday's and Friday's games, when the Dodgers lost the one game of the Diamondback series they should have won, then coughed up a rare lead over San Diego's Jake Peavy and wasted a five-run offensive performance. Smashing ERA kingpin Chris Young of the Padres on Saturday should have been the antidote - particularly on a snappy night when I took my kids to the ballpark to help celebrate the sixth birthday of a friend.
Instead, I'm left with the following image.
In the fourth inning Saturday, Pierre walked and stole second. With Ethier at the plate, Pierre broke for third - he had the base stolen easily. But Ethier launched a rocket toward Academy Road.
Pierre popped up from his slide to see the ball in air. He took a couple of steps back toward second base, on the theory that if the ball were caught, he'd need to go back. But in the next second, he realized that he was getting a free ride to home plate. He bowed his head and began the slow jog home.
I'm not going to begin to project what Pierre's reaction was - for all I know, he could have been doing cartwheels in his mind that Ethier had just knocked Young out of the game. I'm just talking about the image I saw, the image of a home run being hit and the basestealer looking disappointed.
It's the tension evoked by that image that taints my feelings about the Dodgers this morning, a tension between the speedy and the powerful, the scrappy and the strong. Why should there be that tension, especially when there's a uniter languishing half-used that can bring the peace?
In Saturday's game, Jones scored three runs without a hit - the most runs scored without a hit by a Dodger in 25 years, since Steve Sax in 1983. The Los Angeles Dodger record is four runs without a hit, by Jim Gilliam on September 25, 1960. (Search achieved via Baseball-Reference.com.)
April 12 Game Chat
Kuo Grabs Rotation Spot
Gurnick also speculates that the team is biding time for a Clayton Kershaw callup in a month or so.
Update: Robert Daeley at The Trolley Dodger reports on Friday's Dodger Blogger Night at Dodger Stadium, which I was unable to get to.
Consumer advocate T.J. Simers wins one for the riff. And the raff.
After that, could bringing back Cool-a-Coos be so hard?
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Nomar Garciaparra will begin his rehabilitation assignment Saturday with Las Vegas 51s in Sacramento, Tony Jackson tells us in his new-look blog.
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Guerra Leaves Dodgers
I'm late in reporting this, but Dodger den mother Luchy Guerra, who kept an eye out for the welfare of countless Dodger minor leaguers, has left the organization to form her own company, Athlete Life Management Group, writes Tot Holmes at LADugout.com.
"I don't consider this a farewell, rather a change in how I bring my professional services to all teams," she wrote. "I will be offering, among other things, passport and visa services, relocation, cross-cultural communication and life support to players."
Guerra was assistant director of international player development. In 2003, she was named Rawlings Female Executive of the Year by Minor League Baseball.
News on Raglani and Dunlap
As previously reported, minor leaguers Anthony Raglani and Cory Dunlap are no longer on any active Dodger organizational roster. Today, I learned from the Dodgers that Raglani has retired, while Dunlap's placement on the suspended list for being out of shape was essentially confirmed.
The 24-year-old Raglani, who had 21 homers, 85 walks and an .830 OPS for Jacksonville in 2007, retired "to pursue other interests," Dodgers assistant general manager of player development De Jon Watson said in a brief interview.
"Cory didn't follow the organization's policy," Watson added, "I am undecided on his return."
I also asked Watson about the pitch count limits for Dodger minor leaguers like Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald - the latter was pulled after pitching four innings of one-hit, shutout ball Wednesday. "All of our starters are on a pitch limit until their third start," Watson said. "Then that number will be increased."
Today, Kershaw went five innings in his AA game, allowing two runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out eight.
Finally, a quick shoutout to ex-Dodger Edwin Jackson, who pitched eight innings of two-hit shutout ball to defeat Seattle and lower his ERA after two games to 0.64.
Update: Commenter El Lay Dave passes along this extended Matthew Burglund interview with Raglani from the Indiana Gazette, which reveals that Ragalani retired rather than report for a third season in Jacksonville. Here's an excerpt:
Calling it the "toughest decision" of his life, the Indiana native has decided to quit his baseball career with the Los Angeles Dodgers after a contentious spring in which Raglani says the team lied and misled him.
The Dodgers, who selected Raglani in the fifth round of the 2004 amateur draft, asked the outfielder to report to Class AA Jacksonville for the third consecutive season. Raglani, who will turn 25 on Sunday, thought he deserved to be in Class AAA Las Vegas, which is where he said the ball club originally told him he would play this season.
"I was under the impression that I was going to Las Vegas," he said. "I went into (spring training) and everything that I had been told was that that I'd be going to Triple-A. Then they told me about a week and a half ago that I'd be back in Jacksonville. I had decided a long time ago that I did not want to go there for a third straight year. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with the organization." ...
After being asked to report to the Suns, Raglani and his agent unsuccessfully lobbied the Dodgers to release him from his contract. They then asked the team to trade the outfielder, but that effort was also fruitless.
"They said they were unable to work anything out," Raglani said. "I'm skeptical of how hard they tried."
Los Angeles holds Raglani's rights for another two seasons, meaning he cannot simply sign with another ballclub.
"I had no other choice," Raglani said of his decision. "I just decided that I didn't want to be a Dodger anymore. If I don't have a chance to play with another team, I'll move on and see what else is out there for me. I'll turn another page." ...
While Raglani's baseball career is likely over, he says he's moving on to other things. He has re-enrolled at GW, and he needs to complete one semester to earn his degree in business economics and public policy. He hopes to graduate this summer and soon after find a job in politics. And, he married his college sweetheart, Molly, in November, and the couple has settled down in Washington, D.C.
But Raglani wouldn't rule out a possible return to baseball. Should the Dodgers decide to grant him his release, he'd be interested in signing with another team. ...
30 Rock and Office Chat Thread
Remember: No spoilers for West Coast viewers ...
Regular Dodger Thoughts chat can continue in the thread below.
Update: My Season Pass post for Variety on the two shows can be found here.
What Is the Power of Autographs?
I can remember my dad coming home from a business trip and giving me a piece of yellow note paper with Lynn Swann's signature on it. I can remember pinning next to that autograph on my bulletin board a folded piece of white ruled notebook paper with Earl Campbell's handwriting, procured while he filmed a Skoal commercial on our school's football field in 1980 - though I don't have the actual memory of him signing it.
I can remember being solicited for an autograph at an airport in my early 20s by a young boy, remember signing my name in confusion and then taking in the look of disappointment on the boy's face as he realized I wasn't who he thought I was. He never told me whom he thought he had, and to this day I don't know.
In my entire lifetime, I don't think I've ever sought an autograph of my own more than once or twice. It just hasn't been my thing - perhaps it's shyness. As a boy, I collected many things - baseball cards, ticket stubs - but never autographs. Yet I recognize that for many people, they are treasured things - and I'm not talking about the business of selling them. As mere keepsakes, they have power.
But I can't say I'm not perplexed by this power. Is the source of it evidence of an encounter with greatness or celebrity? If so, how does that power transfer with the autograph - how does it retain its significance after you've passed it on? Is it somehow greater than a photograph of or with a celebrity? Is it somehow greater than pure, unadulterated memory? At their core, what makes autographs special?
These questions arise because of a controversy at Dodger Stadium, chronicled by T.J. Simers of the Times, about people - or more to the point, kids - finding dramatically reduced access to autographs this year. There's a lot of anger circling the issue. I'm not surprised by it, but I can't say I share it, because I still don't really quite comprehend autographs. They're simply not a part of the ballgame experience that I care about. In contrast to my desire for a foul ball, for example - I'd surely be up in arms if I got one this weekend and the Dodgers suddenly decreed I needed to throw it back, as in olden times - I'm dispassionate about them.
Perhaps what I wonder most about autographs is about children's interest. Nature or nurture: Do kids instinctively want autographs, or is the desire coached from elders?
I guess if someone handed me a bonafide autograph of Abraham Lincoln, I'd think that was pretty jaw-dropping. But I don't find myself needing Russell Martin's autograph, or Manny Mota's autograph. On the other hand, I find myself kind of wanting R.J. Reynolds, or Roy Campanella, or Zack Wheat. Not that I'd ever ask anyone for them. It's a very idiosyncratic, strange thing.
I hope this issue resolves itself properly, but mostly for the sake of peace in our times and happiness for our young ones and all that. It's probably my own flaw, but I'm not sure I'm in step with the majority position that there's an intrinsic need or right to get autographs at a baseball game. I don't contest it; I just don't share it.
Bummer of a Birthmark, Hal
In the middle of today's game, I found myself hoping to write ...
See, it wasn't so bad. The Dodgers just split six games on the road against two contenders for the division title.Instead, the team sprung a leak in Phoenix - an error by James Loney (who did homer) in the fourth, and Hiroki Kuroda finally wearing down in the sixth helped Arizona complete its sweep - and it's going to take a little longer to turn this ship around.
The Big Matchup
Hiroki Kuroda vs. Micah Owings. And I'm talking at least as much about Owings at the plate against Kuroda than on the mound.
Forgiveness Over Bitterness
A prolonged ovation in Fenway Park today greeted the bete noir of the 1986 World Series, Bill Buckner, who was invited to throw out the first pitch at Boston's home opener. Here's how the former Dodger was graciously introduced:
"How happy we are amidst this celebration and joy that this Red Sox alumnus has come back to join us. He amassed Hall of Fame-caliber credentials in his 21-year major-league career, and the Red Sox would never have won the 1986 American League pennant without him. Won't you please welcome back to Boston and let him know he is welcome always, No. 6, Bill Buckner."
Buckner's not really a Hall of Famer, despite his 2,715 career hits, but considering the grief he has gotten over the years, this was certainly a "welcome" gesture. (Thanks to Josh Wilker for the link.)
* * *
Funny note from Jeff Parenti of the Press-Enterprise:
... Monday night's California League game between Boston affiliate Lancaster and Dodgers affiliate Inland Empire was suspended at midnight with the score tied 3-3 in the top of the 16th inning. ...
Adding to the fun, the Dodgers and Red Sox made a trade last night with L.A. sending triple-A pitcher Eric Hull to Boston for single-A shortstop Christian Lara of Lancaster.
As a result of the deal and the suspended game, Lara will have started the suspended game on Lancaster's bench but will finish the game in a 66ers uniform.
* * *
Parenti's colleague Diamond Leung notes that Russell Martin is getting a rest today:
Rafael Furcal, SS
Rest in peace Estella Aaron, mother of Hank.
Hull Is Robertsed to Boston
Eric Hull's next opportunity for success will come in the Boston Red Sox organization. The Dodgers traded the fine-performing 28-year-old minor-leaguer to Boston for 22-year-old Christian Lara, who had a .325 on-base percentage in A ball last year but is 8 for 23 with three walks this season. At age 19, Lara was named Gulf Coast League Red Sox player of the year.
The Dodgers also parted ways with Nook Logan, Wilkin Ruan (not again!), Brian Shackelford and Alfredo Simon, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. And True Blue L.A. notes that Anthony Raglani was placed on the restricted list and Cory Dunlap suspended, for reasons momentarily unknown.
Loaiza and Park - Pray for Dark
At least the Dodgers made a game of it in the sixth.
* * *
J.D. Drew's first 28 plate appearances as a Dodger: 0 for 25, three walks, five strikeouts.
Andruw Jones' first 28 plate appearances as a Dodger: 3 for 26, two walks, eight strikeouts.
So there's that ...
* * *
Juan Pierre's career batting average is now .3006.
* * *
Dodger Thoughts, October 3, 2007 (Comment 60):
I want (Mike) Piazza to be our backup catcher and I want Delwyn Young to learn to be our emergency catcher so that both can pinch-hit at will. How's that???
Well, I got half of it.
* * *
Great Joe Morgan story from Joe Posnanski.
Hitting by Pitching
ToyCannon at True Blue L.A. brings up the struggles of some National League West closers during the season's first week. To that, I add this: Check out what NL bullpens did during Week 1. The Dodger bullpen is tops with a 0.98 ERA and an opponent OPS of .467 in 18 1/3 innings.
In overall pitching, the Dodgers lead the league with a 1.70 ERA and .536 opponent OPS. However bad the Dodgers' hitting looked last week, their rivals' hitting was usually worse.
* * *
This Story Should Just Be About Defense
Two great defensive plays today by Chin-Lung Hu and Rafael Furcal helped the Dodgers overcome Furcal's sixth-inning throwing error and enabled the Dodgers to beat San Diego, 3-2, on Hu's ninth-inning RBI single off Trevor Hoffman.
The Dodgers' team hitting stats weren't robust this first week of the season, but we knew the pitching in the National League West was going to be tough. What matters is that the Dodgers' hitting, pitching and defense has combined to give the team a 4-2 record. Defense could really be the unsung hero of this team.
And that's really all I want to say ... except that now, we have that other issue to deal with again. From Diamond Leung at the Press-Enterprise:
Despite Juan Pierre going 0 for 4 with four flyouts, Joe Torre liked the plate appearances and will start Pierre against Dan Haren tomorrow in the Diamondbacks' home opener. "He had pretty good at-bats," Torre said. "He hit them at people."
I've been trying to be mellow about Pierre starting in place of Kemp, but this is starting to raise the kind of dander Head & Shoulders doesn't eliminate. Look, Matt Kemp looked as clueless today as you could ever fear, drawing air on two swings against Hoffman before taking a called strike down Bison Avenue in the ninth. But the idea that Pierre has earned a fourth start in seven games remains troubling, because ...
I believe in spot starts. I don't always like the timing of them, but I believe in the concept. But - as I admit many readers here predicted - the Pierre situation has moved beyond the spot start into something more self-defeating.
Pierre's getting a start Monday because Pierre's outs Sunday were prettier - they floated like gossamer instead of disappearing coarsely into a black hole behind home plate. But Pierre's loverly outs don't change the fact that both Pierre and Kemp need to make adjustments in their offensive game - and once those adjustments are made, Kemp will be miles more valuable.
Torre has insisted up to today that Kemp is the starter, but he's got a funny way of showing it. Russell Martin was 2 for 20 when he got his game-tying seventh-inning double. He got that opportunity because he was a starter. Kemp deserves the same chance to rebound. He has earned it.
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I'm scheduled to be on KABC 790 AM at approximately 8:30 p.m. tonight to talk more about blogging, though I hope we can segue into a Dodger discussion ...
Happy Birthday, Grandma Sue
Aaron Weisman was born April 5, 1908, and Sue was born April 7, 1910. They married in 1930. My grandfather passed away in 1994, but in addition to the 100th anniversary of his birth this weekend, we're celebrating Grandma Sue's 98th birthday, alive and well.
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Maybe I'm getting soft, but I actually didn't think it was a big deal that Juan Pierre started over Matt Kemp today. Peavy isn't exactly the best medicine for a slumping hitter. I'd still rather see Kemp play, but I just sort of wrote it off.
Certainly, though, there are others who feel more strongly about it. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com gets some quotes on the matter.
Joe Torre: Kemp will "play most of the time. I didn't think Jake Peavy was a good matchup for him."
Kemp: "I'm trying to do too much. I just need to let the game come to me. Shoot, I know I can hit. I need to get back to my game plan. I know what I have to do. I'm not worried at all. It's just my approach. I'm trying to get 10 hits and 10 RBIs in one at-bat. You can't do things like that. It's going to turn around real quick."
At the bottom of the story, Gurnick adds the following paragraph:
Pierre is making his second start in five games after losing the left-field job to Andre Ethier. General manager Ned Colletti said he received a call from Pierre's agent asking for clarification of his role and Colletti said he delivered a message that the better Pierre performed in the opportunities he had, the more playing time he was likely to earn.
That makes sense, of course, but again, again, again, Pierre needs to be evaluated relative to what is expected of the other outfielders, not in a vacuum.
Turn the Beat Around II
San Diego has won 10 of the past 11 games Jake Peavy has started against the Dodgers. The only loss in that stretch was the 4+1 game.
During that time, Peavy has thrown 77 1/3 innings vs. Los Angeles with a 1.86 ERA and 79 strikeouts, while allowing 71 baserunners and six home runs.
Kuroda Makes Like Maddux
Seven innings, 77 pitches, 53 strikes, three hits, no walks, one home run, nine groundouts, four strikeouts, eight air outs but only one of any distance besides the homer. Nice debut, Hiroki.
Turn the Beat Around
It's not as bad as you might think, but it could still be better. Dodgers vs. Padres since 1988:
Season series won: 8
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A full organizational depth chart can be found at True Blue L.A.
Rich Man, Poor Man, Blogger Man, Thief
You know what the funny thing is about the whole stereotype about bloggers living in their parents' basements? After college, when I became a full-time sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, I moved back home to my parents' house in Woodland Hills, 10 minutes from the office, for two years. Yet during my entire blogging career, I have been a homeowner.
Today on Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner, I was asked to offer my perspective on the issue of blogger credibility and credentialbility. I understand what's prompting the questions: There's increasing discussion on whether bloggers should be allowed locker-room access, in a world where moments before my introduction, New York Times columnist Murray Chass had expressed the all-too-common view basically comparing bloggers to the Ebola virus. Nevertheless, it's fascinating to actually find a need to defend an entire class of people - especially when the attacks are coming from a class of people that is supposed to be professional, insightful, objective and open-minded. (Yes, that passes muster with the Irony Committee.)
So what's my response? It's not rocket science. Some bloggers are better than others, just like some sportswriters are better than others. Some have earned credibility and credentials, others haven't. Rather than compare the very best mainstreamer to the very worst online writer, as Chass implicitly did, I think it makes more sense to note the obvious - that there is a mix of quality in both camps.
Steiner - whom I gather doesn't live and die with Dodger Thoughts but was enough of a reader of this site that on Opening Day 2006, he actually came up to me to introduce himself, honed in on a reason why this concept seems so difficult for some longtime journalists to accept. He speculates that it's about territory, that established reporters are responding negatively to bloggers out of fear of ceding part of their turf. This is not an economic era where you want to concede that unpaid volunteers can come anywhere close to doing your job.
But beyond self-preservation, it's important to realize that condemning a medium, at least in this case, is bush-league. The medium doesn't decide whether to tell a story in a thoughtful, responsible or entertaining fashion; the messenger does. (Well, I'll concede that David Simon has caused me to reconsider this belief, but not in favor of the mainstream journalists.) In any case, trust me: There are good and bad messengers everywhere.
My roots are in sports journalism. I had my first story published in the Los Angeles Times in 1986, covered my first major league baseball game in 1987 and was full-time in the profession by the end of 1989, nearly 13 years before I began blogging. I value how hard it is to be a sportswriter, and I emphasized to Steiner today how that many bloggers rely upon the work of mainstream sportswriters to launch their posts. For that matter, I understand job insecurity. I was the hot new prodigy on staff in '89 - by '92, there was a hotter, newer prodigy, and I was on my way to being marginalized at the ripe old age of 24.
But I expect reciprocity. If I've done a good job as an outsider looking in, I expect respect, not dismissal. First, some of the analysis done by bloggers is flat-out better than anything you'll see from a major paper - and it's done without the support system of a major paper, often without any renumeration whatsoever. In some ways, it's harder work.
Second, while there's value in interacting with the players and management of a baseball team, I can testify that there's often value in not interacting with them. It can give you a level of objectivity that is often missing from mainstream reporting. And at a minimum, many kinds of analysis don't require a locker-room presence, yet can be of tremendous value when done right.
There is no good reason for an Us vs. Them mentality when it comes to mainstream reporters and bloggers. The readership benefits from their combined presence, and really, short of the sportswriter who doubles as a great blogger, one isn't going to take the other's job away. (You certainly won't see me on the Dodger beat for a local paper anytime soon.) Bottom line: A multitude of opinions and a more open debate of the issues are good things. We aren't witnessing the downfall of written baseball coverage; we're witnessing a flourishing, a tremendously rich era to live in. We should cherish this time.
Some people realize this: Steiner, for one. There's no reason to be so uptight about outsider writers. Yes, it's a rough go right now for journalists, but don't blame the bloggers for it. They're not making any more money than the journalists or taking their jobs, believe me. Forces beyond our control are killing the industry.
In the meantime, if there's one thing I could live without ever hearing again, it's that stereotype of bloggers working in their underwear from their parents' basements. I mean, I've had it. I'm not going to sit here and let mainstream baseball writers, who spend, God love 'em, 2,000 hours a year inside a ballpark, tell me that I or my blogger colleagues need to get a life. We have lives, thank you very much. Many of us have day jobs - many of us need day jobs - and many of us spend our weekends with our families and friends rather than with A-Rod and Jeter, and we see a world beyond the baseball field. Not saying that the mainstreamers don't - just that we do. Our passion for baseball drives us to write about the game, but hardly monopolizes our existence. If anything, we might have the perspective that insiders lack.
But don't let me dictate to you who's good and who isn't. Judge for yourself. Just judge after you've read an individual's work, not before.
Stay in School, Kids
Vin Scully has been confirmed as graduation speaker at Pepperdine University (Seaver College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, to be exact).
The date is April 26. Don't know if Pepperdine is prepared for matriculation crashers.
Park Replaces Chavez on Roster
Having turned their pitching staff upside down Wednesday, the Dodgers turned to Chan Ho Park to shore up the bullpen, purchasing his contract while designating Angel Chavez for assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. (Gurnick also has a progress report on Jason Schmidt, who threw 40 pitches from the mound during a bullpen session before the game.)
Blake DeWitt's third-inning hit Wednesday seemed to prevent Chavez from seeing any game action. He was in the on-deck circle to bat for Hong-Chih Kuo, but when DeWitt got on, Joe Torre turned to Tuesday night hero Pee Wee Young in the scoreless, rain-threatened game.
It's entirely possible that after the 10-day DFA period, Chavez will accept a minor-league assignment. We'll see.
Bochy conferred with Lincecum, pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner during the delay. Lincecum reminded them he often sat through rain delays during high school and college games in Washington. But even Lincecum later admitted he had not returned after a delay as long as Wednesday's.
"That," he said, "was a first for me."
Lincecum also acknowledged the move might be viewed as risky, "but it doesn't feel like it to me. My arm felt good. People have called me a freak of nature before. This will give them another reason."
Had the delay gone a few minutes longer, Bochy said, he would have gone with another pitcher. That's what Torre did.
You Be the Manager: Deleted Scenes
So now Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers are pitching in relief, in the rain.
It's like Joe Torre and Bruce Bochy lined up behind each other in the slow line at the checkout stand, then switched ... into the other slow line.
I can't necessarily say the moves to shelter Lincecum and Billingsley from the storm, by holding them off from making starts during a potential rainout, backfired. What the strange managerial tactics did produce, among other things, was a chance to see Hong-Chih Kuo as a starting pitcher again, and Kuo did well. He walked the first two batters, then scattered a hit, a walk and an error (by Rafael Furcal) over his three innings.
And the Dodgers scoring a run in the bottom of the fourth off Lincecum lined up rookie reliever Ramon Troncoso for the win - and Billingsley, in theory, for the one-to-five-inning save.
Update: But now Billingsley has allowed the tying run to score. Here in inning five, we're back at square one ... sort of. The tarps have been pulled out with one out in the fifth, and the game is not yet official.
The question is, what kind of weather reports were Torre and Bochy getting that they thought the situation had improved as of the fourth and fifth inning?
Update 2: KCAL Channel 9's Jackie Johnson said at 8:56 p.m. the rain should be "short-lived."
Update 3: The Giants push across a second run in the sixth inning off Dodgers swingman Esteban Loaiza. Billingsley ended up pitching a third of an inning, while Lincecum came back after the rain delay and went four.
Bowa Suspended After Animation
Third baseman Wes Helms was designated for assignment by the Phillies, but they have 10 days to try to make a deal, perhaps forestalling his emergence in a Dodger uniform. The key for about Helms is to realize that he would probably be one of the 25 best Dodgers today, but perhaps not in a month. ...
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has blogged about the Coliseum game. ...
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Rafael Furcal, SS
Update: Hong-Chih Kuo has replaced Chad Billingsley as tonight's starter. Reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise, it's because of the possibility of rain shortening tonight's game. Vin Scully speculates that Torre might be saving Billingsley for a makeup game Thursday, though I didn't realize tonight's rain was supposed to be that substantial.
Good News for the Offseason: Friday Night Lights and an Office Spinoff
Both are targeted for early 2009, writes Josef Adalian of Variety.
Update: The details of NBC's long-rumored FNL deal with DirecTV have begun to crystalize. From a press release:
"DIRECTV would have exclusive rights to the season's 13 new episodes beginning Wednesday, October 1 on DIRECTV's entertainment channel 'The 101.'
"NBC would begin broadcasting the Season 3 episodes of the Peabody Award-winning drama on Fridays (9-10 p.m. ET), starting soon after NBC's telecast of the Super Bowl in 2009. "
Update 2: The Office spinoff will premiere in the post-Super Bowl slot.
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In the bottom of the sixth inning tonight, Dodger third base coach Larry Bowa threw a tantrum that would have been national news had Milton Bradley done it.
It happened after umpire Ed Montague ordered Bowa to get back inside the coach's box. Bowa took exception, and Montague ejected him quickly. It then fell upon Joe Torre to restrain Bowa, and quite honestly, Torre was barely strong enough for the task. Trying to get at Montague, Bowa pushed Torre into Montague - though no serious damage was done.
"That vein in Bowa's neck could have held a screen up in the Coliseum," Vin Scully pricelessly commented. "Easy, Larry - you get into a thing like that, you wind up getting suspended."
Tonight's game was scoreless at that point, by the way, but the Dodgers loaded the bases on a single by Andre Ethier and walks to Andruw Jones and James Loney. Giants pitcher Matt Cain had thrown 113 pitches - perhaps it will be a mark of the 2008 Dodgers that they work pitchers - so even with Juan Pierre due up, the Giants went to the bullpen and brought in left-hander Jack Taschner.
Forcing the Dodgers to pinch-hit Matt Kemp for Pierre would seem to be a dream, but as Vin pointed out, Taschner has been better against righties in his career. I'd still take Kemp over Pierre against any pitcher in that situation, but as if Vin were predicting it (basically saying that Torre was playing into the Giants hands) the Giants won the battle. Kemp struck out, and the game went into the seventh inning still 0-0.
The first three Giants batters in the seventh got singles, the third hard off Derek Lowe's leg, knocking him out of the game. And Lowe flung his glove against the dugout wall.
We never thought it was going to be a smooth ride, did we ...
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Two runs (charged to Lowe) came in off Joe Beimel, who sandwiched a strikeout by allowing a bases-loaded walk and single, but Ramon Troncoso, making his major-league debut, induced a double play to end the frame.
Blake DeWitt had another proficient at-bat, leading off the bottom of the seventh with a single. Mark Sweeney pinch-hit for Troncoso and singled.
Then, with Rafael Furcal up, Torre sent DeWitt and pinch-runner Chin-Lung Hu on a heartstopping double-steal, with DeWitt barely beating Bengie Molina's throw and barely hanging onto the bag. This could have been the first big baserunning boner of the young season. Instead, it set up Rafael Furcal's game-tying two-run single, followed by Furcal being caught overrunning first to make the first baserunning boner of the young season. (Hu looked certain to score the tying run even if the throw from the outfield had gone through.)
We never gave up, did we ...
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It went all the way to the bottom of the ninth, deuces wild: two on, two out, two balls, two strikes to Delwyn Young. Except he's not Delwyn Young, as Vin tells us. Per a conversation Vin had with Young's grandfather, no one in the family calls him Delwyn - instead, they call him Pee-Wee.
Young grounded one to the right of 36-year-old second baseman Ray Durham. Durham smothered the ball but did not come up with it cleanly. He threw late to first, and first baseman Rich Aurilia threw late to home plate - Furcal sliding home with the second great baserunning moment of the young season.
Vin: "Pee-Wee is bigger than a Giant." Ah, yes. Dodgers win, 3-2.
Juan Pierre starts ahead of Matt Kemp tonight, with Andre Ethier moving to right field. Pierre is batting seventh.
I don't miss making the daily outfield updates like last year.
Jon Weisman's outlet
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About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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