Monthly archives: September 2008
No more chapters of 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die on the wall
Well, that's it! The copy for my book has been sent to the publisher.
*Except for some post-deadline words following the conclusion of the 2008 season.
I'd tell you to keep your eye out for more updates, but trust me, you won't be able to miss 'em.
Thanks to everyone for their support. Hopefully, I'll be seeing a lot less of the other side of
Dodgers Announce NLDS Roster
Catchers (2): Russell Martin, Danny Ardoin
Tony Jackson of the Daily News has some notes, and Josh Rawitch adds that Furcal is currently expected to start. But keep in mind that changes to the roster can still be made as late as Wednesday morning.
* * *
Dodgers used in recent playoff series:
* * *
Update: The Dodgers announced their Game 1 starting lineup:
Are You Confident? Sexy?
1 - no chance
Is confidence sexy? You tell me.
Dancing Homer Becomes a Dodger
In this column and this blog post, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News writes about how Emmy-winning writer Ken Levine and his partner David Isaacs made up the nickname "Isotopes" for a Simpsons episode - a nickname that Albuquerque's minor league franchise adopted to replace its old nickname of "Dukes."
This year, Levine became the Dodgers' current talkradio co-host, and just recently, Albuquerque reaffiliated with the Dodgers. Now, to borrow from another show, it's all in the family:
You think the Albuquerque Isotopes is a funny name? So does the guy who helped make it up. He's right up there in the Dodger Stadium press box with the radioactive grin.
Funny thing is, in a system where Hollywood scriptwriters base a lot of their survival on residual checks, Ken Levine will probably never see a cut of the phenomenal merchandise sales the Dodgers' new Triple-A affiliate has generated since it came into existence in 2003.
Doh, as Homer Simpson would say.
"We never thought anyone would really name a team the Isotopes - we did it as a joke," Levine said of himself and writing partner David Isaacs, who penned an episode of "The Simpsons" that aired way back in its second season, 1990, called "Dancing Homer." ...
Now it's full circle for Levine, a Valley native who grew up embracing the Albuquerque Dukes as the farm team of his beloved Dodgers. And he'll get to talk about them nightly during the season the radio.
"I look forward next year on the Dodgers post-game show to talk about how the minor-league teams have been doing, and then say, ' 'Topes win!'" said Levine. ...
I actually bought an Albuquerque Isotopes T-shirt years ago. I'll be wearing it with even more pride going forward.
Update: Josh Rawitch has made the Dodgers' official postseason media guide available at Inside the Dodgers.
The Dodger Thoughts 2008 Postseason Guide
So, here they are, the Los Angeles Dodgers. C students of the postseason, baseball's nothingdictorians. Barely a .500 team ... but they can dream.
No one should be favoring the Dodgers against the Cubs in their 2008 National League Division Series, who outscored their opponents by more than a run a game. But since the Dodgers do have the starting pitching capable of shutting down an opponent and a slugger capable of rallying them with one swing, it might be worth at least seeing who's who and what's what.
And away we go ...
Martin slumped in the second half again, but he actually put together a pretty decent September (.424 on-base percentage) and he caught some dugout Zs once the Dodgers clinched last week. He enters the postseason as someone who can initiate or extend a rally. Ardoin replaced Bennett, the opposite of a complete player (incomplete? uncomplete? noncomplete?) months ago, and does what you ask of a backup catcher. The Cubs probably won't see Ardoin unless something goes really right or really wrong for Los Angeles. Minor leaguer Ellis made his first career start Sunday.
Loney played in 161 games this season but because of recent inconsistency, he gave way to Garciaparra in two starts against lefties last week (both of which produced home runs). With second baseman Kent also limping back into the swing of things as another option at first base, there's a good chance Loney will be in a platoon arrangement. Still, expect Loney to get most of the at-bats at first base.
For his part, Kent has been given to good and bad streaks that left him an average hitter at best this year. Given his shaky knee, he will give up starts at second base to surprising rookie DeWitt, who hit Death Valley at midsummer but OPSed over .900 in September.
Historians will gasp, but forever will it be written that the regular shortstop for the 2008 NL West Champions was none other than Mr. Berroa. While the Kansas City kastoff had his moments, Furcal will be an improvement upon him just by being upright. Whether Furcal can remain that way is another matter. An MVP candidate through the first month of the season, Furcal had two hits Saturday, rested Sunday and remains the biggest question mark on the roster.
In his two-plus months with the Dodgers, Blake showed solid power at third base but not that much production in the way of getting on base. At a minimum, he's someone Cubs pitchers have to be careful of.
With those seven potentially on a roster together for the first time, Sweeney might finally be pushed off the 25-man squad after surviving the year with the seventh-lowest OPS+ by a non-pitcher in Dodger history (minimum 100 plate appearances). Sixth on that list is a name the Cubs might recognize: Daryle Ward. With at least two first basemen on the bench for every game, Sweeney would cost countless amounts in excess baggage if the Dodgers tried to check him on their flight to Illinois.
The presence of Furcal already eliminated the slick-fielding Hu, who might well have been the most approriate 25th man, from the NLDS. Ozuna, who was designated for assignment August 27 but then cleared waivers (shock) and returned, could still grab the final roster spot, but with Garciaparra available as an emergency shortstop behind Berroa and Furcal, it really doesn't make sense to include Ozuna's weak bat-and-glove combo. (Maza and LaRoche are no longer with the organization.)
Kemp set a Dodger season record for strikeouts, lost a chunk of points off his batting average and can look lost at the plate sometimes. And then you look again, and he's just lashing and dashing. He has grown into his center field position nicely, looking positively graceful at times, and in doing so makes his .280 EQA more than tolerable. The media will be looking to pick on him - hopefully he can play a gaffe-free series.
Ethier, a streak hitter throughout his first three seasons in the majors, absolutely caught fire as the season wound down, turning in a banner year. Again, I'm feeling media-conscious: Don't let the TBS announcers try to convince you he simply rode the Ramirez coattails - Ethier did plenty on his own. Even if he slumps, he's an absolute battler at the plate. It also should be mentioned that Kemp and Ethier combined for 27 outfield assists.
Was Pierre watching the 2004 World Series? His best chance to shine will be in the Dave Roberts role, which he is nicely suited for - much more than that of starting outfielder. Fortunately for the Dodgers' sake, the team finally found three outfielders it was happy to start in Pierre's place. It was never personal.
Ramirez hit. Jones did not.
Young, as noted before, is finding himself having to make a case for inclusion on the roster. His numbers frankly didn't turn out that great this year, and his defense is suspect, so it's not as if banishing him from the roster turns him into Jean Valjean. But his potential is higher than the alternatives. Repko and if he's amenable, Tiffee will cheerlead from afar.
Lowe was sensational in the second half: a 2.38 ERA, including 0.59 in September. The Cubs didn't have to wait that long to struggle against him, going 4 for 23 with two walks and two double plays in seven scoreless innings against Lowe on May 28 - in a game the Dodgers lost by allowing runs in the ninth and 10th innings. The Cubs will come out ready to lumber, but if anyone were primed to follow Jose Lima as the second winning Dodger pitcher of the past 20 years, it's Lowe. As always, infield defense behind him will be critical.
And yet, the true ace of the staff this year was Billingsley, who turned 24 in July. Billinglsey struck out a batter an inning while posting the fifth-best adjusted ERA in the NL. (Game 1 Cubs starter Ryan Dempster was third at 153.) Billinglsey has exceeded his career high in innings by far, but like many other Dodgers he picked up some rest, throwing two innings in a tuneup run Saturday.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Kuroda led qualifying NL starting pitchers in FLAKE - which is a technical term but should be self-explanatory. His range of performance never let you be certain of what to expect; the potential for utter greatness or disappointment is more than present. Still, he was good more than he was bad.
Those three should carry the Dodgers through the maximum five-game series, allowing Kershaw and Maddux to grab a couple of chairs in the bullpen. Whether or not the young lefty is suited to make a pressure appearance in the middle of the inning is unclear - although it's worth noting that even with his control issues, his on-base percentage allowed was still less than that of Beimel. Meanwhile, Kershaw brings that great strikeout potential. Still, he might be the last guy chosen to appear - and that's before considerations of resting his young arm are factored in. Maddux is certainly an intriguing choice to use in relief against his original team - he certainly isn't going to walk anyone - but he still is risky enough to likely remain a reserve to the reserve.
Park has been on the Dodgers all season and a pleasant surprise at that for the most part. Had the absolutely scintillating Kuo been healthy, the Dodgers might have been forced to push either Park or Proctor off the roster, and while Proctor has looked fairly solid coming off a long (and shamefully overdue) disabled list stint, Park has really struggled the past two months. Even if the case for including promising young McDonald founders on his propensity at this stage to allow fly balls in droves, Park still shouldn't be allowed to grip a baseball in Wrigley Field.
While Kuo and Penny sit on the sidelines - one trying to work his way back for a potential NL Championship Series appearance, the other wondering about his contract status - Wade quietly continues as a middle-relief savior for the Dodgers. Something interesting to note is that Wade has been a lot luckier than Troncoso, who was left off the roster. Opponents are hitting .216 on balls in play against Wade, .350 against Troncoso, even though Troncoso gets more strikeouts and grounders. Wade has been magic all year; the Dodgers are hoping it doesn't run out, as he definitely will join Beimel, who hasn't allowed a home run in a team-record 103 games since July 21, 2007, as a regular element out of the pen.
The marquee names of the Dodger bullpen are Saito and Broxton. Like Furcal and Kent, the 38-year-old miracle from Japan has been making a late-September comeback from injury. While Dodger fans will be eager to see him back in the games, it's not as if he isn't fallible, not with three losses and four blown saves. But the goal here isn't to put Saito down - not when he's striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings and allowing an OPS below .600. The point is that Broxton does the same. If it's true that Broxton does so a little less effectively in save situations, that point has been vastly overstated. The bottom line is, if the Dodgers have a lead after seven innings, the team could hardly be in better hands, even if those hands have white knuckles.
No one else will figure in the Dodgers' postseason plans. Stults could have been filling the Maddux role but for one bad start in Colorado that submarined what had been a fine season for him. Johnson was something of the opposite - he was ineffective far more than he wasn't and has joined Penny in going home. Elbert briefly looked like he might make a stab as another lefty in reserve, but couldn't control that reborn arm of his enough to gain Torre's confidence. Maybe next year. Brazoban is trying to get his career back together, while Falkenborg, Loaiza and Sturtze are no longer in the organization – as players. Sturtze has made the unusual decision to remain as a second bullpen catcher for the Dodgers.
But the hitting? Hard to say. The last time the Dodgers played the Cubs was June 8, nearly two months before Ramirez joined the team. In their seven games against Chicago, Pierre had the most plate appearances (and OPSed .563). Hu, Maza and Berroa combined at shortstop to go 1 for 24 with one walk. On the other hand, though Loney and DeWitt also struggled with sub-.600 OPSes, Kent, Martin, Ethier and Kemp all hit well. The point is, this is not the same Dodger offense the Cubs faced earlier this season. Replacing Pierre with Ramirez and inserting Furcal could transform Los Angeles.
Whether this is a Dodger team that will perform any better than the May-June 2008 Dodgers, or for that matter the 1989-2007 Dodgers ... there's just no way of knowing. Several hopeful Dodger teams in the past 20 years have gone ever so gently into that bad night. The Dodgers somehow have to change that.
It starts with Lowe and Ramirez. Anyone can be a hero, but those two have been going so well for so long that they are poised to make an impact that Dodger fans haven't seen in a generation of postseasons. For them to reverse their two-month-old hot streaks right here and now would bring a confounding agony to Dodger fans.
Dodgers-Cubs Starting Times
Games will air on TBS. Times listed are Dodger Standard Time.
Wednesday: 3:30 p.m.
Game 4 (October 5) and Game 5 (October 7) to be announced, if necessary.
The Final Day of the Regular Season (Day 1)
If Brewers win the wild card, Dodgers play at Cubs.
Rays will play either Twins or White Sox.
* * *
* * *
I still can't get over how Greg Maddux threw fewer pitches in six innings Saturday than Jake Peavy threw in one inning (the fifth) on Thursday.
In other news: Manager Nomar Garciaparra and bench coach Mark Sweeney have given A.J. Ellis his first major-league start today, and Tanyon Sturtze has been named pitching coach.
There's actually more to talk about, but I just wanted to get this up there ...
Greg Maddux: six innings, 47 pitches
Dodgers had 61 strikes, 20 balls in nine innings.
Eighty-one. Good number.
* * *
Maddux is now eighth all-time in career victories, breaking a tie with Roger Clemens.
* * *
Chad Billingsley finishes his regular season with 201 strikeouts in 200 2/3 innings.
* * *
Manny Ramirez entered Saturday batting .400 as a Dodger, but went 0 for 2. If he went 2 for 3 Sunday (though he probably will rest), he would be back to .400. There hasn't been a .400 hitter with as many at-bats as Ramirez in the National League since Bill Terry in 1930.
* * *
Ramirez also walked once, leaving his on-base percentage at .489. He would need to reach base in five consecutive plate appearances to reach .500 as a Dodger. Even if Ramirez sits out the game, he would still have the highest non-Barry Bonds on-base percentage by a player with 225 or more plate appearances since Arky Vaughan in 1935.
* * *
Bill Shaikin of the Times points out that the Dodgers might be paying their Game 2 lineup a grand total of $2.5 million in salary.
* * *
Now for the bad news. Hong-Chih Kuo warmed up tonight in the top of the eighth inning, but then headed straight for the dugout and clubhouse. Hopefully, it's nothing serious, but that would seem to eliminate his chance of being on the National League Division Series roster. In a related note, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports that Clayton Kershaw will pitch out of the bullpen in the first round.
Rafael Furcal, on the other hand, went 2 for 4 (with a caught stealing). If his body will let him out of bed Sunday morning, he's a good bet for the playoffs.
Nomar Garciaparra has been appointed manager for Sunday's finale by Joe Torre, writes Jim Alexander of the Press-Enterprise. Tommy Lasorda has been demoted to No. 3 ...
* * *
Bob Timmermann runs down the latest with the remaining playoff spots at The Griddle.
The Phillies escaped a bases-loaded, one-out ninth inning today with a 4-3 victory to clinch the National League East, but like the Dodgers, the undecided NL wild card race leaves Philadelphia without a set opponent. But at least the Phillies know they'll be home.
According to the Dodger press notes, on Monday, the Dodgers will fly to Chicago or Philadelphia for the NLDS. If there is a one-game tiebreaker between Milwaukee and New York for the wild card, the Dodgers will likely depart Los Angeles at 4 p.m. and once the winner of that game is decided (in a timely fashion, one presumes), the plane will be routed to the correct city - Chicago if the Brewers win, Philadelphia if the Mets win. If the city is known by tomorrow, the Dodgers will leave sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
* * *
Dodger Fan Choices for All-Time L.A. Team
Pedro Guerrero isn't on the team, and Rick Monday is. Well.
And it certainly gets a little dicey when a Hall of Famer gets left off the pitching staff.
Press release follows:
Farewell, Paul Newman
One of the greats ... maybe it's not cool to say this anymore, but my favorite film of his is still Butch. "Who are those guys?"
We'll miss you ...
* * *
* * *
The Griddle has the scoop - here are the games that still matter. Over the next two days, the Mets need to gain a game on Milwaukee or two games on Philadelphia to create a National League tiebreaker; the Twins and White Sox just kinda have to keep doing what they're doing.
If You Care About Cupcakes
I'm not assuming that the Dodgers will play the Cubs, but FYI:
Record against teams .500 or better:
Record against teams below .500:
Interestingly, the Dodgers have a .595 winning percentage against sub-.500 teams before and after August 1. That eight-game losing streak really mucked up the works.
* * *
The Dodgers are having a pep rally Sunday at Dodger Stadium from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Dodgers alumni, musical entertainment, $2 pricing for Dodger Dogs and other popular items - and an appearance by the team itself, assuming their game in San Francisco doesn't go 20 innings. Admission and parking are free, free, free. Seems like a good occasion for an impromptu Dodger Thoughts gathering - maybe, if the kids feel like hot dogs for dinner, we'll stop by ...
* * *
Weather permitting ... revel in the tension of others!
Change the Mental Scenery
It's not just that the Dodgers have only won one playoff game since 1988. Since 1981, the team is 3-8 in playoff series openers (i.e., Game 1s) and 7-18 in playoff road games. Take away 1988, and the Dodgers are 3-16 in playoff road games since 1981.
Just stealing Game 1 on the road next week would be a huge breath of fresh air.
The Winners Dividend
Some of you might remember the Losers Dividend. Tonight, we have the Winners Dividend: baseball for baseball's sake, a game with no stakes, played under the stadium-lit glow of success.
Enjoy it - and in addition, feel free to talk unencumbered about the season premiere of a certain wonderful comedy in the thread below.
* * *
The Office Season Premiere Chat
I'm still figuring out how I'm going to handle TV chat this season - I planned to resolve this by October 1. In the meantime, here's an open thread dedicated to The Office season premiere and anything else televised you might to talk about.
Remember - no spoilers about anything that hasn't aired on the West Coast.
Do You Believe in Slightly Above-Average Teams Winning Somewhat Below-Average Divisions? Yes!
We celebrate the hit, even though we're rooting for the run. We celebrate the run, even though we're rooting for the win.
And today, at 2:32 p.m., we celebrate the division title, even though we're rooting for the bigger prize.
Congratulations, Dodgers and Dodger fans. Being the best in anything over 162 games is no easy road. Live it up!
* * *
Here's my speculation on the Dodgers' National League Division Series roster:
Remaining spots (4)
Save It for Later
Just to stay vigilant for a little while longer ... if the Dodgers take things for granted and stumble in the next two days, and Arizona ekes out two wins, well, that won't mean the Dodgers are blowing it, but I guarantee it'll be enough for panic to set in. Dodger fans should be happy, but stay cool.
* * *
Without too much going awry, Philadelphia, New York and Milwaukee could end up in a three-way tie. Less likely but still possible, there could even be a three-way tie between Houston, New York and Milwaukee for the wild card.
Now, Houston has a makeup game to play against the Cubs on Monday if necessary. So potentially, we might not know until the p.m. of that day whether a three-way tie exists. And then it would take at least two more games to break it: The Astros, based on their superior record in direct competition against the other two teams, would play the winner of a Mets-Brewers game.
In a three-way tie between the Phillies, Mets and Brewers, the Phillies and Mets would play a tiebreaker game for the NL East title, with the loser then hosting the Brewers in a wild-card winner-take-all.
* * *
And I mean, giddy up.
It was practically a carnival at Dodger Stadium Wednesday night - putting aside the fact that the team was down after 3 1/2 innings and still nursing a slim lead through 7 1/2.
But Arizona once again released some of the pressure with an early evening defeat, and then the Dodgers went pachinko all over the place. By the end of the game, Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez had homers (Ramirez amazingly tying Matt Kemp for second on the team), and Garciaparra, Casey Blake, Chin-Lung Hu and James Loney had doubles (the latter giving the Dodgers three players with 35 or more doubles in a season for the first time ever).
And, the Dodgers had 25 baserunners in all.
And, Jeff Kent made his first appearance since surgery and singled.
And, Rafael Furcal resurfaced from an absence so long that the Dodger Stadium scoreboard forgot he was hitting .366, instead listing him at .000, and just missed doubling before striking out against knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.
And, Furcal played an inning of defense and walked off the field under his own power.
And, I almost forgot to tell you:
The Dodgers are in first place, and will remain there for the rest of the year with one more victory or Diamondback defeat.
Those same Dodgers who have lost consecutive 1-0 extra-inning Sunday games have also scored ...
This won't mean anything starting next week, when the Dodgers have one guaranteed game, but it sure beats the alternative, don't it?
This kind of pleasure can be fleeting, so for now, let's revel in the possible. There's nothing like playing past Game No. 162, and that's where the Dodgers are headed.
* * *
Despite appearances this week, Loney and Garciaparra are not in a strict platoon, Joe Torre said, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Torre insisted before and after the game that Loney is his first baseman and he doesn't have a platoon, but the manager doesn't apologize for going with the hot hand, as Garciaparra is 9-for-19 with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs.
"I don't want to get into that," Torre said. "I'm trying to nurse Nomar. I don't want to fall into that trap where we overuse him. He's a nice weapon to have."
* * *
Brad Penny's 2008 season, if not his Dodger career, are done. Penny was placed on the 60-day disabled list so that Furcal could bound off of it.
Kershaw XXI: Kershama Lama Ding Dong
Rafael Furcal has been added to the Dodger bench, writes Tony Jackson of the Daily News, though the team still needs to remove someone from the 40-man roster to make room for Furcal.
Neither Furcal nor Kent figure to start in a game, and it's still questionable how ready either is to pinch-hit. But since the Furcal move actually involves making a transaction, you might see him take a swing and figure out whether it takes two weeks for him to recover from it.
* * *
Tonight, I finally for the first time get to see Clayton Kershaw pitch in a game in person.
Here's the score-by-innings in Kershaw's 20 starts this season. The first inning has been his biggest hurdle.
First inning: 0.7 runs per game
Kershaw averages 2.5 runs allowed (and five innings) per game.
* * *
Minutes to Memories
After playing approximately 25,000 minutes of regular-season baseball in 2008, the Dodgers are closing in on extending their year. I'm going to save any profundities I might come up with for another minute. For now, it's still one game at a time. One game at a time.
* * *
Stretch - Arms Strong?
So far, my September 5 comments haven't been much to write home about. Let's see what Chad Billingsley can do tonight.
* * *
Choose Your Streets of Fire-Inspired NL West Title-Pursuit Anthem
"I Can Dream About You (If I Can't Hold You Tonight)"
Dodger Thoughts: Where optimists and pessimists are served daily! Try our Happy Meal - or our Sad Meal.
Not Bad for a Fourth Outfielder
The Dodgers' nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, presented to the top offensive performer in each league, is Andre Ethier, reports Michael Schwartz of MLB.com.
A full ballot for the fan vote can be found here. Not sure Ethier will beat Albert Pujols, but maybe he can top Lastings Milledge.
A New Twist on 1980?
Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit (one of my favorite non-Dodger blogs) looked at the tentative pitching matchups for the remainder of the season and realized that in a winner-take-all National League West playoff game, the starting pitchers would be 23-year-old rookie Max Scherzer vs. 20-year-old rookie Clayton Kershaw.
But which would be the truer twist on 1980 - aside from the Dodgers winning? The once-in-a-generation phenom starting for the Dodgers, or James McDonald: the relatively unheralded September callup who pitches shutout ball in relief and then makes his first major league start in the season's 163rd game? In a way, McDonald fits the prototype better for those still bitter about Dave Goltz.
Not that I'm saying McDonald will make the start. That's just crazy talk, right? Even if Kershaw is tired ... ?
* * *
The Margins Take Center Stage
One leaping and two lunging catches Sunday deprived James Loney of three potential hits with runners in scoring position, and separately, Angel Berroa was waved home and thrown out at the plate with one out, two baserunners behind him and Manny Ramirez on deck.
Then in the 11th inning, a Giants pitcher steals second base and goes to third on a close-enough call at first base before scoring, and that's it. The Dodgers lose a 1-0 extra-inning game that otherwise would have given them five victories in their past eight attempts, just like they lose a 1-0 extra-inning game that could have meant six victories in their past eight attempts.
By these slim margins, slim as the margin that allowed Nomar Garciaparra's game-winning catch of an Arizona line drive on an earlier Sunday, grand fears are raised among the populace. By these slim margins, the recovery of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, the demotion of closer Brandon Lyon and the Diamondbacks' six victories in the same eight-game stretch become meaningful.
An Arizona comeback has always been possible, just like a Dodger comeback was possible from the same deficit three weeks ago. But still, the Dodgers remain favorites. Going into Sunday's game, 15 results remained in the National League West race, and the Dodgers needed things to go their way in five of them. Today, 13 results remain, and the Dodgers need things to go their way in five of them. Arizona needs nine good things out of 13 just to forge a tie.
It's not about character flaws. It's all part of the ebb and flow of a 162-game season that wasn't over a week ago, despite what some people believed, and isn't over now.
The Immature Shall Inherit the Earth
One year ago this weekend, the Dodgers' chemical imbalance became a sensationalized news story - our local baseball team's version of Something-Gate. Suddenly, Dodger Stadium emerged as a branch office for the paragons of morality known as sports columnists to pass judgment and render virtual verdicts.
This youth movement has officially gotten old.
I thought it would work, I really did, but I admit today that I am wrong.
Now it's important to note that later in his column, Plaschke gave context to his assertion.
A youth movement works only when the veterans are flexible enough to move. The Dodgers veterans, it turns out, were not.
But that was buried in the column, typical of media coverage that for months and months locally and nationwide, stretching into the 2008 season, targeted the younger Dodger players, questioning their character at almost every opportunity.
It didn't matter that past and present Dodger veterans like Luis Gonzalez or Kent could be as prickly as anyone on the roster. It didn't matter that the younger players were the true talent center of the team. When the kids misbehaved, they were tearing down the Dodger franchise from the inside.
Those kids needed to be taught a lesson. Yeah, that's true. But instead of looking at it as, "Of course they need to be taught a lesson - they're kids," the prevailing attitude was, "Who do those kids think they are, believing in themselves when they need to be taught a lesson? How dare they be talented but occasionally immature!"
Over most of the past year, many of us lived in fear of the possibility that because they weren't Mother Teresa, some of these young Dodgers would be dumped in trade for less talented and/or decaying players who, however selfish or ill-behaved they were, had at least played in the majors long enough to earn the right to be selfish or ill-behaved. Essentially, this didn't happen. Several minor leaguers have been traded, but that's another story - relevant, but forgive me for not addressing it here.
Today, the Dodgers find themselves on the verge of heading to the playoffs led by a core that includes 2007 youngsters Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton - all of whom were simplistically lumped together despite their wide spectrum of behavioral traits - along with 2008 newcomers like Blake DeWitt, Cory Wade and Clayton Kershaw. The second-most important midseason pickup, 34-year-old Casey Blake, hasn't had an ill word to say about anyone, young or old. And the spiritual leader of the group is, by some accounts, the most immature player in baseball, Manny Ramirez, who has offended people before and will offend people again, but meanwhile has also not only been the most remarkably productive midseason acquisition in Dodger history, but has also provided practical guidance on hitting and emotion to the young Dodgers.
Everyone has talent. Everyone is flawed. How hard is it to look at the two side-by-side and take a big picture, instead of focusing only on the negative for some and the positive for others?
The Dodgers are happy now because they are winning. If the team were losing, no doubt Dodger insiders and outsiders would look at the behavior of Ramirez and the kids (who are rapidly becoming not such kids anymore) in a harsher light. There's no doubt that this is still an immature club in some ways. Immaturity isn't a virtue. But as a vice, it needs to be put in perspective. It's not always that harmful; in fact, sometimes it just doesn't matter at all.
* * *
Speaking of youth: Congrats to the young Tampa Bay Rays, along with the Chicago Cubs, on joining the Angels in clinching playoff spots. Those are the three teams I'll be rooting for if the Dodgers fall short.
September 20 Game Chat
Milk Carton Man
* * *
Greg Maddux cruised through Colorado, then got smashed by San Francisco. This was a typical week for Maddux since coming back to Los Angeles - he has had six starts and allowed two runs or less in half of them.
It's easy to see that the 2008 Maddux is a pitcher who is going to give you inconsistent results. You might get a good outing from him; you might not. You could say the same thing at this point about Clayton Kershaw or Hiroki Kuroda. There's a difference by degrees, but the concept is the same. Even Chad Billingsley has a bad start once in a while. It happens. You look at your list of candidates, you weigh the odds and you take your chances.
My question this morning is, how did Eric Stults drop off the list completely?
On July 21, Stults entered his start in Colorado with a 2.67 ERA for the Dodgers. He left it with a 3.18 ERA. The Dodgers have not let him pitch for them since.
Stults went to the minors immediately after the Colorado game, in which he couldn't hold a huge lead. Pitching in AAA, he made six starts and held his opponent to three runs or less in four of them. On the road, his ERA in this stretch was 2.08.
Stults all along has been having the best year of his life in 2008 - a combined ERA at the two levels of 3.68 - but my point isn't to argue that he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. I just don't understand how he fell so far out of favor so quickly. While nearly every other Dodger pitcher gets enough rope to lasso the moon, Stults was on a leash tighter than Nomar Garciaparra's hamstrings.
From August 19 to September 17, Jason Johnson, another pitcher who began the year in AAA, was ineffective in six of seven outings. But Stults hasn't even entered a game in relief. The Dodgers have used 17 pitchers in September; Stults is not one of them.
This might not be a central question for the Dodgers in the final nine days of the regular season, especially with an off day on Monday, but I don't think it's an irrelevant one. I don't know if Stults is better than Maddux - certainly it's a rare confluence of events that they could even be considered in the same sentence - but I suspect Stults might be better this year. I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that a pitcher with a 139 ERA+ could help the team in the stretch run. (And don't forget that two years ago, when he truly was out of his league, he had a huge September victory in New York over the Mets.)
So what if the guy isn't going to the Hall of Fame. So what if he isn't perfect. This year, Stults has been a good pitcher for the Dodgers, one who merely had the temerity to have one bad game at Coors Field (like that's never happened to anyone before). Why isn't Stults in the game?
Is he so inconsequential that he's hurt and no one bothered to tell us, or even notice?
September 19 Game Chat
Final Homestand Ticket Advisory
Tonight: Sold out.
One Game at a Time
The Dodgers haven't gained a game on Arizona since Saturday, but they have been whittling time off the schedule. And Thursday, they won their first one-run game since August 13. (They had only been involved in five during that stretch.)
Overall, the Dodgers are 18-22 in one-run games in 2008 - the 12th-best mark in the National League. In games not decided by one run, the Dodgers are 62-51, fifth in the league.
* * *
Kershaw XX: Kershane, Come Back Kershane
The Dodgers plan to announce today that they're shifting the location of three minor-league affiliations, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. They will go from Las Vegas back to their old home in Albuquerque in AAA, from Jacksonville to Chattanooga in AA, and from Vero Beach to Glendale, Arizona for their training wheels team that has been in the Gulf Coast League.
Regarding the 2009 schedule, Jackson also notes that Friday night games are switching from 7:40 p.m. to 7:10 p.m.
* * *
For your potential pregame entertainment, I'm scheduled to be a guest on Fantasy Focus with Jeff Erickson at 9:25 a.m. on XM radio 175.
* * *
Going into Wednesday's games, there was a better than 90 percent chance the Dodgers would win the National League West and a better than 90 percent chance that some would start to get angry or panic if Arizona gained a game on the Dodgers in the standings - even though that was inevitable at some point.
The lost game isn't meaningless, nor is it the end of the world. There has always been a chance that the Dodgers will slump in the final 10 days of the season. But let's not assume that the slump is coming based on one game.
One game at a time, people.
4+1 ... + 2
Spread the Wealth
Thanks most recently to Juan Pierre, but also to folks like Luis Maza and Danny Ardoin, 18 different Dodgers have homered this season, four shy of the team record of 22.
Chin-Lung Hu, Mark Sweeney, Pablo Ozuna, Jason Repko, A.J. Ellis, Hong-Chih Kuo: We're counting on you.
(The Dodgers are also two players shy of the team record for most players hitting exactly one home run. Note that the 2002 team has five pitchers on its list.)
* * *
Looking Ahead: The Harmless Version
Jinxing the team's playoff chances is one thing, but I think we can safely talk about the fact that the Dodgers, like James Bond, will return in yet another sequel we like to call "2009." The team released a preliminary version of its 2009 schedule today, and here are some highlights:
Shades of 2008: Before finishing their season with three games against the Rockies, the Dodgers have a 10-game road trip September 22-October 1 against three 2008 cellar dwellers: Washington, Pittsburgh and San Diego. For what it's worth, the Dodgers' final game in 2009 against a team that is over .500 in 2008 is August 23 against the Cubs.
Remembering Lyman Bostock
Sunday morning, ESPN's Outside the Lines will revisit the 1978 murder of Angels outfielder Lyman Bostock, writes Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
* * *
Blue Notes has a Dodger Photoshop Contest going - check it out.
* * *
Update: Hong-Chih Kuo "will not even play catch for several days," writes Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.
Hodges, Wills, Torre Get Renewed Hall Consideration
Past and present Dodgers Gil Hodges, Maury Wills, Dick Allen, Al Oliver and Joe Torre will be among 10 former major-leaguers considered for 2009 Hall of Fame Induction by its Veterans Committee, with results to be announced December 8.
The finalists need 75 percent of the vote from 64 living Hall of Famers to be inducted, according to MLB.com. Steve Garvey was among 11 other semifinalists who didn't make the final cut.
I could see Torre making it and possibly Hodges, but Wills, Allen and Oliver would be huge surprises. I don't believe the Veterans Committee, which is often reconfigured, has elected anyone in their past three votes. Bob Timmermann points out at The Griddle that Torre and Hodges are to be considered only as players, not as managers, which was news to me.
MVP: Manny Valuable Player, But Not Most Valuable Player
The recent Manny Ramirez for National League Most Valuable Player talk is ludicrous. I almost don't feel that statement needs supporting evidence, but in case you do, here's Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus to help explain why.
at a time when Ramirez's name is beginning to surface in NL MVP discussions, what the numbers show is that his streak is hardly unprecedented this year. It's been matched or bettered by three guys who can make solid MVP cases of their own, particularly with regards to (Albert) Pujols and (Lance) Berkman, whose teams have remained in the hunt into the season's final two weeks. And that's not even considering the body of good work that lies beyond their hottest stretches of the year. The MVP is ostensibly about taking a full season of play into account, and by that token, it's tough to consider Manny's shortened National League resume on par with those of Pujols and company.
This isn't to take anything away from Ramirez's unbelievable work as a Dodger - .478 on-base percentage, .743 slugging percentage, 19th in the league in Value Over Replacement Player but to see him trailing 10 players who are on playoff contenders and 18 overall in that category shows that there are people who have been in the NL all year who will deserve the award more. (And remember, this doesn't take defense into account.)
Ramirez might be the best player in the NL this minute. But he is not the 2008 NL MVP.
* * *
Though I try not to show it so much, I'm as capable of panic as the next guy. A shutout loss in Colorado? A weak top of the first in Pittsburgh, followed by Hiroki Kuroda allowing hits to the first two batters? Sure, I had "Oh no" thoughts.
But I braced myself, and before long, the Dodgers were cruising to victory Monday. It doesn't mean that anything's locked up. Bad times could still be around the corner. But I'm not letting that possibility spoil the good times. I feel I'm appreciating every good moment that's happening.
Behold the Final Monday Road Game of the Regular Season
The Dodgers have finally caught up with the Diamondbacks in terms of road games played. Each team has seven road games remaining.
* * *
Scott Elbert could continue to see more work while Hong-Chih Kuo nurses his sore arm, writes Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise. Leung also writes about the Dodgers' reunion with Andy LaRoche - who has been getting a batting-style makeover in Pittsburgh, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Thanks to commenter BHSportsguy for the latter link.)
The Dodgers are also without Andre Ethier for one more start as well as Casey Blake, who is hoping that his back trouble doesn't Furcalate.
* * *
Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic looks at the Arizona Diamondbacks over the long term.
* * *
* * *
Update: September 18, 2006 - the date of the 4+1 game, and the date of Juan Pierre's last home run. Until tonight!
4 x 200
Though Hong-Chih Kuo took the loss Sunday, he and three other Dodger relievers are on the verge of doing something unprecedented.
Since 1901, no quartet of relievers from one team in major-league baseball has ever had each member post adjusted ERAs of at least 200, with a minimum of 40 innings pitched in a season.
In addition, not since 1968 and only once since 1916 has a team had four relievers with ERAs at 2.25 or below.
The Dodger reliever numbers:
*Kuo has a 1.69 ERA as reliever; Park has a 3.15 ERA as a reliever.
In order to get ERAs below 2.00, Beimel needs to pitch 1 2/3 shutout innings, Saito four and Wade 8 1/3. Perhaps the most memorable bullpen in Dodger history, the 2003 unit, had three such players: Eric Gagne (1.20), Paul Quantrill (1.75) and Guillermo Mota (1.97).
Two weeks to go.
* * *
Surmising that Adrian Beltre might have played his last game for the Seattle Mariners, Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner reviews Beltre's four years there and pronounces him a success.
As a Mariner, Beltre has hit .267/.320/.455, which works out to about five percent better than a league average hitter would perform playing half his games in Safeco. Five percent may not sound like much, but a sustained advantage over four years adds up, and Beltre’s been worth about a total of 1.5 wins above an average hitter while wearing a Mariner jersey.
Of course, we all know that Beltre isn’t just a hitter - he’s also one of the best defensive third baseman alive, and he’s been a tremendous asset with the glove as well. ...
The Mariners have paid Adrian Beltre about $50 million over the last four years, including annual salaries and a prorated portion of his signing bonus. $50 million for 13.5 wins works out to about $3.7 million per win - the going rate for a free agent the last few years has been between $4 and $5 million per win.
No matter how you slice it, Adrian Beltre has been a relative bargain for the Mariners - a high quality player signed to a below market contract. Often maligned for his contract by those who don’t understand how valuable he’s been, Beltre has been one of the shining lights in a stretch of dark seasons.
If we really have seen the last of Adrian Beltre, it’ll be a shame. The Mariners need more players like Beltre, not less. I’m afraid that Beltre is doomed, however, to be the next Mike Cameron - wildly underrated during his time here and highly valuable to the teams that employ him after the M’s cut him loose. The Mariners have never been able to replace Cameron in the outfield, and it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to replace Beltre at third anytime soon.
Beltre turns 30 on April 7.
* * *
El Cholo is hosting an evening with Tommy Davis. For more information, check out the ad on the right-hand sidebar.
Fox and TBS (among others) probably don't want to jinx it, but they must be salivating:
* * *
Among his 90 pitches Saturday, according to MLB Gameday, Clayton Kershaw threw 25 curveballs (along with two changeups): 30 percent offspeed. That seems like a pretty good mix, doesn't it?
* * *
I thought it was interesting to look at this post-mortem on the New York Yankees by Joel Sherman of the New York Post because several of the philosophical points relate to the Dodgers. I don't agree entirely with Sherman's take on the issues, but I think he discusses many of the issues the Dodgers have been and will be preoccupied with.
* * *
Kershaw XIX: Kershawrp Dressed Man
Andre Ethier has headed home to be with his wife for the birth of their child. What a month for him!
Update: Andruw Jones' 2008 season is over. The Dodgers placed him on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Takashi Saito. Tony Jackson of the Daily News writes that Jones will play in the Dominican winter league.
* * *
The 2008 Dodgers might not hit a lot of home runs, but Matt Kemp (37), Andre Ethier (36) and James Loney (34) are poised to become the first trio of Dodgers with 35 or more doubles in franchise history. Kemp and Loney each had doubles tonight.
* * *
All my best to those affected by tonight's train collision in Chatsworth.
Danger, Will Robinson
In 1982, Atlanta led the National League West by 2 1/2 games on September 3. The Braves then lost 12 of their next 18 games through September 22 to fall three games behind the Dodgers with 10 games to go in the season.
At that time, the Dodgers were playing in San Diego. They scored one run in 19 innings to start an eight-game losing streak that dropped them two games behind Atlanta. Los Angeles then won three in a row, but the Dodgers needed to win four. And Joe Morgan got in the way of that.
I'd be saying the same thing if the Dodgers were behind: Division leads come and go. Stay vigilant.
* * *
If the Dodgers and Diamondbacks do finish in a tie for first place in the NL West, the playoff game will be at Dodger Stadium, the profile of George Washington announced today.
* * *
Entering today's game, Chad Billingsley had already thrown 35 innings more than he did last season.
Update: Hong-Chih Kuo received a cortisone shot in his left elbow Wednesday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Sauer Soared, Cubs Soured
Ramirez has 14 homers and 40 RBI in his first 38 games with the Dodgers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first mid-season acquisition to collect 14 homers and 40 RBI in his first 40 games with a new team since 1949, when Hank Sauer had 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in his first 40 games with the Cubs after coming over in a mid-June trade from the Reds.
- Dodger press notes
The two main differences between the 1949 Cubs and the 2008 Dodgers? The 1949 Cubs had been in the World Series four years earlier - but they were in eighth place with a 19-32 record when they traded veterans Harry "the Hat" Walker and Peanuts Lowrey for Sauer on June 15, 1949.
I asked my dad, who attended the 1945 World Series as a 10-year-old Cubs fan, what he remembered about this.
"The Cubs had won the pennant in '45 with the boost of a pitcher named Hank Borowy from the Yankees, and, when Sauer came, there was real hope if not expectation that great things would happen," said my father, a self-proclaimed expert on the combination of Cub worship and fatalism. "The 'angst' so publicized now had not yet developed. Sauer delivered and continued to do so, but the rest of the team devolved down in that and ensuing years to what we all have come to expect."
When They Were Young
* * *
Andre Ethier is everywhere these days - even The Wall Street Journal, which as Inside the Dodgers notes, profiles his ever-growing interest in food and food blogging. You might say that's a lot of attention for someone who has reviewed three restaurants in three months, but it's a fun read nonetheless.
We still have to be prepared for when New Baby Ethier takes his daddy away from the Dodgers for a couple games or so.
A Happier 9/11
It's been five years since this piece was first published: September 11, 2003. A lot has happened since then - including a very happy September 18, 2006. But this game will always remain special, and I hope you don't mind me continuing to remember it on this date.
* * *
Twenty years ago today, Dodger Stadium hosted its greatest game.
It began swathed in bright blue skies and triple-digit temperatures. When it ended, 228 crazy brilliant minutes later, shadows palmed most of the playing field, and every Dodger fan who witnessed the spectacle found themselves near joyous collapse.
The game was between the Dodgers of Steve Sax and Pedro Guerrero, of Greg Brock and Mike Marshall ... and the Braves of Dale Murphy, of Bruce Benedict, of Brad Komminsk.
In the end, however, it came down to one man. A rookie named R.J. Reynolds.
Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny Manny
Manny Ramirez hit his 13th and 14th homers tonight since being acquired by the Dodgers July 31. He is now third on the team in home runs, closing in on Matt Kemp (16) for the No. 2 spot. He also has more home runs as a Dodger than Steve Finley, who hit 13 in his two months with the team in 2004, and tonight passed Juan Pierre's career home run total of 12.
* * *
Brad Penny admitted to Dylan Hernandez of the Times today that he prioritized his contract worries over his health this year by pitching hurt.
"The one thing that bothers me is that I should've said something," Penny said of the shoulder problems that he claims hindered him for most of the season.
Penny said he kept quiet because he felt he had to continue pitching to secure a contract for next season. He has a $9.25-million option for 2009 that the Dodgers can buy out for $2 million.
"That's why I was out there trying to push myself -- because I didn't have a guaranteed job next year," he said. "I went about the whole situation wrong. If I had to do it over again, I would've just shut myself down."
Penny no doubt thought he could succeed, but pitching hurt didn't exactly help matters on any level, did it?
I'm scheduled to be on KCAL Channel 9 ever so briefly tonight after the Dodger game ends, talking about the heaviest issues of our time: the Dodgers and Dodger blogs.
Brad Penny was activated from the disabled list today.
* * *
Seven games in the standings in 11 days. That's what the Dodgers have done. Wild.
Here are some other news flashes.
--Jason Johnson (by popular demand)
--Andruw Jones (Ow my knee!)
--Greg Miller (7.71 ERA in Las Vegas this year)
--Jeff Kent (if he has a setback)
--Justin Orenduff (6.55 ERA in Las Vegas this year)
--Pablo Ozuna (Chin-Lung Hu is playing ahead of him; Furcal would further bury him)
--Brad Penny (if he gets activated and hurt in the same week again)
--Mark Sweeney (Joe Torre finally notices his .167 slugging percentage)
* * *
Ethier Rifling a Variety of Pitches
Hello, friends. Here is a chart listing all of Andre Ethier’s plate appearances while batting ahead of Manny Ramirez. I’m not interested in making any sweeping judgments here, but rather just offering up some data.
Again, I’m not drawing huge conclusions from this – I would just like to ensure that Ethier gets his fair share of credit for his tremendous play of late. He’s not living off fastballs down the middle. He’s seeing a good mix of pitches, in all locations, and to the Dodgers’ great fortune, he’s aplombing them.
... That Explains Your Team's Thickness and Shine
The Dodgers know ups and downs. So does Liz Lemon:
* * *
You could have seen this coming with the number of lefties the Dodgers are facing this week: Andruw Jones is getting a start. But it's not coming at the expense of the red-hot Andre Ethier, but rather the winterfresh Matt Kemp.
In addition, Nomar Garciaparra is starting at first base, which basically means that he and Angel Berroa are playing instead of James Loney.
Here's hoping, for the sake of the Dodgers, Kemp and Loney come back relaxed and refreshed ... in the late innings to protect a Dodger lead.
* * *
Joel the Destroyer: Terminated
Joel Guzman's journey from boyhood to manhood has reached unemploymenthood. DRaysBay passes along the news that the former Dodger teenage phenom has been designated for assignment. (Thanks to commenter Robohobo for the link.)
Guzman, 23, had a .714 OPS for AAA Durham this season, hitting 20 home runs but walking only 19 times while striking out 103. Guzman left the Dodgers two years ago in the Julio Lugo trade, who did nothing for the team but in departing as a free agent allowed the team to draft James Adkins as compensation. Adkins, who is a year younger than Guzman, had a 5.16 ERA in A and AA ball combined, striking out 100 while walking 66 in 125 innings.
* * *
Joe Beimel has tied Jonathan Broxton's team record of 94 consecutive pitching appearances without allowing a home run, the Dodgers' public relations department notes.
Baseball Is Pendulumatic
Saturday, Manny Ramirez got out in his first two at-bats ... and hit a three-run homer in his third at-bat. Monday, Ramirez went 0 for 4.
Sunday, first baseman Nomar Garciaparra made a huge catch of a liner to right. Monday, Casey Blake lined to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for an unassisted double play.
Last week, the Dodgers made Cha Seung Baek look worse than he is, forcing him to give up seven runs. Monday, they made him look better than he is, letting him go seven innings.
So many different things happen in a baseball game that can influence the outcome. The Dodgers have been better of late, but they never stopped being vulnerable. Nor have they stopped being capable.
Back at it tonight.
* * *
Here's Tony Jackson's assessment of Baek in the Daily News today:
Cha Seung Baek, who came in with a career record of 18-27 and whom the Dodgers had torched for seven runs in less than four innings just six days earlier, brought his best stuff to this one. His changeup, which wasn't working then, was working now. His mid-90s fastball, which had nothing to balance it out then, had something to balance it out now. His pitch count, which was grossly inflated then, was remarkably efficient now.
* * *
I'm not a fantasy baseball player, but since this piece by Paul Singman of The Hardball Times involves Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, I thought I'd pass it along.
* * *
One thing that I haven't seen remarked lately upon is this. Recently, the Dodgers offered season-ticket holders who renewed by last week a chance to lock in a 2008 rate for 2009. Implicit in this offer is that the Dodgers will raise ticket prices in 2009. While this is no shock, it's by far the earliest I've seen this news come out. I've found it disconcerting that a ticket-price increase, given the current economy, is something we essentially must take for granted.
Of course, everyone has their problems. At True Blue L.A., ToyCannon wonders about the Dodgers' financial situation. He admits he's speculating in some parts, but he raises some noteworthy issues. His last paragraph particularly resonates.
... Hopefully this is but a blip, but the Dodgers don't draft low enough in the draft and don't spend enough money in the international market to get away with selling prospects as a long term plan.
In all the years as a Dodger fan I can never remember the team trading(selling) a prospect as highly regarded as Carlos Santana to avoid paying salary. Some think that Santana was a fungible asset but from I've read, he is either going to be ranked number 1 or 2 when BA lists the Indian prospects. Pablo Sandoval is tearing up the NL at the moment. For most of the year he did his act in the same league as Carlos Santana, and Carlos Santana was the better hitter. As Andrew said Carlos Santana probably had a better year then the ballyhooed Matt LaPorta.
The best way to nip this in the bud would be for the Dodgers to go deep into the playoffs. They then not only get the TV revenue, they get to keep the playoff revenue for the 2009 season. When bloggers and fans lambast the Dodgers for trading the future for now, I don't think the McCourts have any choice. They need this team to get into the playoffs. And I think if you are a fan you need them to do the same, or you might just see more Carlos Santana deals in your future.
Many of you claim to be thinking long term when you say you hope the Dodgers don't make the playoffs so that Ned gets canned. To me that is short term thinking. If we don't make the playoffs who knows what we may be looking at in the future.
* * *
Variety has posted its second annual Season Pass group chart reviewing the new Fall 2008 TV series on the broadcast networks. (If you scroll over the thumb icons on the chart, you can see our comments.) Because of last winter's Writers Guild of America strike, it's a smaller group than in years past - and it also is a lower-quality group, I'd say. None of the new shows earned must-see status from me, and only three have even tempted me to watch a second time.
The CW's Privilged, featuring Freaks and Geeks alum JoAnna Garcia, was the best of the lot - but still not as good as, for example, 2007-08 CW freshman Aliens in America, which was canceled. I'm stunned that I was the only 90210 detractor among my colleagues.
As for cable, I've seen the first 2 3/4 episodes of HBO's True Blood and may stop there. It has its appeal, but I'm not sure it's worth the time. More enjoyable so far have been the screeners of the upcoming Little Britain USA, which brings characters from Little Britain to Stateside locales. BBC America's Gavin and Stacey (new to us in the U.S.) wasn't bad either, though I'm not going to stick with it.
There are still some new shows that remain to be seen - perhaps there will be some pleasant surprises.
Zing Zang Zoom
SportsClubStats has a graph showing how the Dodgers' playoff odds have fluctuated over the past two weeks - and more.
The Dodgers play tonight in San Diego, which is ... still San Diego. Still a place that can give the team fits. Greg Maddux, what will you do - what will you do?
* * *
From Jill Painter of the Daily News:
"We had a meeting, and this is the time of year that if you're sore you've still got to go," Broxton said.
Let's not forget in the heat of battle that "sore" can be a warning sign of greater trouble.
Jonathan Broxton had retired 13 of his past 14 batters entering today. Wouldn't have mattered.
Since Takashi Saito's injury, Broxton had allowed 22 baserunners in 32 1/3 innings while striking out 32. Wouldn't have mattered.
He had unassailably done his job in 17 of 21 games since Saito went out. Wouldn't have mattered.
After giving up a game-tying hit in the ninth inning in Philadelphia on August 24, Broxton struck out all six batters he faced in his next two games in recording two perfect innings, in Washington and Arizona. Wouldn't have mattered.
Today, when every other Dodger pitcher was allowing baserunners, Broxton had an added burden in being called upon to get five outs. Wouldn't have mattered.
If Broxton had blown the save with two out in the ninth inning and the Dodgers leading 5-3, he would have been roasted in this city.
But after two years of having practically decrepit defense behind him, Broxton finally got bailed out. Nomar Garciaparra, who was only playing first base because of a four-position switch necessitated by the desire to bring Broxton into the game in the eighth inning, made an out-of-his-mind, leaping grab of a line drive by Conor Jackson that otherwise would have been a game-tying, two-run double.
Some will still say Broxton got lucky, as usual ignoring his good performances and focusing only on his bad. But as far as I'm concerned, Broxton deserved that save. He might not win a Cy Young, but appreciate what you have in him.
* * *
As for the Dodgers, who have made up six games in the standings in nine days, things are going as right now as they were going wrong before. That's not a character transplant. That's baseball.
Arizona has had almost everything go wrong for them lately. That's going to stop. There's still two weeks to go, and the same caveats apply today to the Dodgers' National League West lead that would have applied had the Dodgers been on the losing end of a sweep.
This game never stopped being a roll of loaded dice. There are odds, and there is chance, and you can only make educated guesses about how those dice will land. You just hope to keep rolling ... and that's what the Dodgers are doing.
I will say that if anything, the Dodgers have shown some character in turning their season around after the eight-game losing streak. But I tend to doubt people will be as quick to praise them for their hearts and backbones as they were to denounce them for being lacking.
That's okay. The truth is, lose or win, the Dodgers always had character. Just like the competition.
* * *
Amazingly, this is the second time in 26 months that the Dodgers have followed an eight-game losing streak with a winning streak of eight games or more. They lost eight in a row from July 19-26, 2006, then 11 straight from July 27-August 8.
Monday in San Diego, the Dodgers are scheduled to face Cha Seung Baek (74 ERA+) while the Diamondbacks go to San Francisco and challenge Tim Lincecum (165 ERA+). Jake Peavy and Chris Young pitched this weekend for the Padres, so the Dodgers won't see them this week.
Kershaw XVIII: Kershawnterbury Tales
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
* * *
Leaving Las Vegas?
For the past several days on his blog, Tony Jackson of the Daily News has been exploring reports that the Dodgers might be moving their AAA franchise out of Las Vegas before the 2009 season - less because of pitching conditions than because of facility conditions. Today, he briefly puts together what he has learned.
Happy Day Is Here Again
Happy day is here again
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, polutropon, hos mala polla
* * *
Ethier Ore (Cont'd)
"You always try to better yourself and keep progressing. You hope that you don't peak at your talent level."
Let's have some fun ...
Ethier is closing in on 1,500 plate appearances in his major-league career. Here are his numbers:
1,463 plate appearances
I don't know if this can be overstated, so I'm going to say it again. Andre Ethier has a higher slugging percentage (in 2008) than Vladimir Guerrero, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Howard, Jason Giambi, and Carlos Beltran. His OPS of .843 is currently good for 26th in baseball - that is to say, there's more than one team that doesn't even have one outfielder as good as Andre Ethier. ...
Here is a month-by-month breakdown for Ethier - his OPS matched with his batting average on balls in play, the latter at least a partial indicator of his luck:
Ethier's OPS isn't always rising and falling with his BABIP (see June 2006 and May 2007), but it seems to most of the time. And his truly bad months definitely seem related to poor BABIP. But for the most part, those have been rare - and it's certainly been proven by now that it's worth waiting for Ethier to rebound. A .322 BABIP is higher than you'd expect a player to sustain, but as more time passes, you can't help but wonder how much of it might be a repeatable skill.
You also really can't help but sit back and enjoy it when he's as blue-hot as he is now.
Vin Scully Is Year to Year ... Aren't We All?
Vin Scully announced he would return to broadcast Dodger games for a 60th season in 2009, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Happy days for all mankind ...
* * *
Andre Ethier's 5-for-5 night compelled me to search for what I decided to call Yahtzee games: games in which a player's boxscore line read "5 5 5 5." (If you want a fifth 5, you can count plate appearances.) I knew Steve Garvey had one, on August 28, 1977 when he hit two homers and three doubles, but since 1956, according to Baseball-Reference.com, there has been only one other: Larry Parrish of Montreal, just three months before Garvey's.
Update: No, Yahtzee games don't have to be all 5s. I just thought those were pretty cool. There have been no 6 6 6 6 games, but here are some 4 4 4 4 games (none with just four plate appearances). Randy Wolf once had a 3 3 3 3 game with three plate appearances.
I'd love to do an Andre Ethier post tonight, but I'm going to turn in. So for the time being, consider it done in spirit. That was a whammo, blammo night!
Ad Astra Per Aspera
Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.
What Happens if the Dodgers Don't Win This Series?
Not trying to be negative - just trying to ward off any Eve of Destruction vibe for a little longer.
Here's how the schedules compare between the Dodgers and Arizona:
Friday: Arizona (Dan Haren) at Los Angeles (Derek Lowe)
The Dodgers could certainly help or hurt themselves a lot this weekend, but there's still lots of baseball to be played - and probably more than a few ups and downs remaining. Even if they're still trailing, if the Dodgers aren't buried by September 14, keep watching ...
Charting Jonathan Broxton
Jonathan Broxton, ninth inning, Dodgers leading 6-4:
vs. Luis Rodriguez (S)
vs. Kevin Kouzmanoff (R)
vs. Adrian Gonzalez (L)
11 pitches: seven strikes, four balls
As Angel Berroa makes a late bid to become a latter-day Marlon Anderson, the Dodgers reach .500 (70-70). Manny Ramirez translated for Berroa in the FSN postgame interview ... until Berroa revealed at the end that he knew English all along. It was very funny.
Update: On the way to Andre Ethier's house, the stork paid a visit to Chan Ho Park and his wife, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times. Congrats!
Update 2: Ramirez-Berroa video, via The Trolley Dodger:
Vin Scully is the subject of a Sports Illustrated profile this week by Richard Hoffer.
* * *
Revisionist History on the Dog Days of August
With time and a few victories giving us some distance from the Dodgers' 13-16 August, I wanted to see what the month looked like in the rear-view mirror.
Look at this comparison:
OBP SLG OPS Runs Team
The Dodgers' OPS in August was .052 better than their opponents. The splendid Tampa Bay Rays, by comparison, have out-OPSed its opponents by .056 this season; the Angels are only at .008. At a minimum, the Dodgers should have had a winning record in August - and with a winning record, of course, the team would be in first place right now, unless you believe in the Butterfly Effect.
So what happened? The main thing was that in one-run games, the Dodgers went 2-7. (In fact, the Dodgers have lost nine of their past 11 one-run games since July 28.) Included in that time is a rather remarkable stretch in which the Dodgers played six one-run games in 11 days that were decided in the ninth or 10th innings: the two late losses in San Francisco, the two rallies at home to defeat Philadelphia, a home loss to Milwaukee in the 10th and a home loss to Colorado in the ninth.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers dominated their opponents from August 1-21, with an OPS more than 100 points higher than they allowed. They went 11-8 (.579) in those games. While that's nothing to sneeze at, they could have built a cushion to lessen the impact of the ensuing season-worst eight-game losing streak, in which the Dodgers were not only outcored 54-15, they were out OPSed .823 to .687. It wasn't just a lack of clutch hitting; it was a team-wide collapse, but as endless as it seemed, it did end.
The Dodgers concluded the month with a sharp couple of victories at Arizona against Dan Haren and Brandon Webb. Those two games, surprising as they might have been, were more representative of the team's ability in August than the losing streak was.
This might not mean anything going forward. The Dodgers' could easily avoid the late-inning losses of August, but Manny Ramirez just as easily go into an untimely slump. There's no doubt that the sweeps at Philadelphia and Washington were embarrassing, but if nothing else, I'd like to minimize questions about the Dodgers' competitive ability or character. They had some big losses - too many - but they also had some big wins. Playing a schedule that included playoff contenders Arizona, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Milwaukee, the Dodgers either won, or lost by only one run, 20 of the 29 games. That might not spell pennant winner, but it might give you a reason to keep watching during these final four weeks.
That, and four wins in a row...
Kershaw XVII: Kershawt in the Dark
Matt Kemp gets a rest - tonight he is not starting for the first time since June 30 (Jason Repko's big day). Kemp has started all but three games since May 18, and 124 out of 139 this season.
* * *
Hill Makes Remarkable Recovery
Last October, a table saw mishap severed all but one finger on the right hand of ex-Dodger Koyie Hill. Amazingly, Hill has made it back to the big leagues with the Cubs, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com (link via 6-4-2).
* * *
Look for Dodger Thoughts commenter CanuckDodger's organization prospect ratings in the comments below.
Manny Ramirez finished his first (and penultimate?) month in Los Angeles with simply mind-boggling numbers: .415 batting average, .508 on-base percentage, .736 slugging percentage, 1.244 OPS, 217 OPS+. He reached base 65 times in 29 games and had 16 extra-base hits, including nine home runs.
Ramirez has moved into second place in season-long VORP for Dodger hitters, behind Matt Kemp. (Rafael Furcal is hanging on in fourth.)
The High Horses Buck Their Riders
So, where do the Dodgers' last two victories qualify on the Heart-o-Meter? Chips are down, almost everyone has given up on them, and they beat two of the best pitchers in baseball. Do they get any spirit points for those? Or, at least, can we say that maybe the eight-game losing streak was an issue of performance and not character?
Or will this weekend be labeled the way Jonathan Broxton would be labeled - it wasn't really a pressure situation, so it doesn't count?
Me, I'm hoping that if nothing else, the two victories will put the moral judgments to rest for a while.
Hey, What Are You Doing With That Feather? Hey - Hey - You Just Knocked Me Over!
The 2008 Los Angeles Dodgers: So wrong, and then when you least expect it, so right.
* * *
Andre Ethier will miss some time later this month for the birth of his first child, reports Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
Though Ethier, who leads the team in home runs despite being forced to the bench for a chunk of the season, surely will be pulled in two different directions, let's not have a repeat of the embarrassing week in which the Dodgers damned Cesar Izturis' work ethic with faint praise while caring for his family while his wife was hospitalized. Let's trust that Ethier will come back to action as soon as is reasonable. Family comes first.
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
12 11 10 09 08 07
06 05 04 03 02 01
09 08 07
Jon's other site:
Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity