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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
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4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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Oh, the Calamity
2003-06-25 08:08
by Jon Weisman

Dodgers at San Francisco, 2003
Runs: Giants 15, Dodgers 10
Wins: Giants 5, Dodgers 0

As Vinny kept saying, Tuesday was a bad night - and that included Vinny constantly referring to Daryle Ward by his father's first name, Gary. More about that later.

First, to get the headline out of the way, again, don't take the 0-5 record in one-run games at Candlestick as a sign that the Dodgers are a weaker team than the Giants. Take it as a sign that these two teams are as evenly matched as a coin toss, but the coin has landed on heads five times in a row.

Admittedly, the coin has landed very hard.

Until Tuesday, the costliest baserunning mistake by the Dodgers had been in the eighth inning of the May 10 game at Montreal, when Adrian Beltre got picked off second base with two on and none out in a 6-5 loss.

Like Beltre, Daryle Ward's mistake Tuesday has to be mitigated by the fact that his clutch base hit enabled the mistake. But there's one thing that should be emphasized. The replays showed that, as Jolbert Cabrera ran past second to third on Ward's one-out, ninth-inning single, Ward braked just off first base. Then, only after the throw came in from Jose Cruz, did Ward start to run to second.

It wasn't that Ward made a wide turn, as the beat writers reported this morning. This ballplayer, with one career stolen base in 458 games, thought that he was going to time the play and dash 89 feet from a near-dead stop to second base while the ball was in the infield. In other words, it was even more inexplicable than it appeared.

Beltre's subsequent game-ending groundout with the tying run on third base thus provided an epilogue on a night of frustration.

For the first time in my life, I predicted a balk. Mind you, I can explain the infield fly rule in French, but I still can't for the life of me understand what is a balk and what isn't. My sense is that balks are like cartoons in the New Yorker as depicted on Seinfeld - people, including umpires and cartoon editors, just sort of guess at them. (Just to be clear, I think the cartoons in the New Yorker are very clever and comprehensible.)

Anyway, though I certainly don't think the balk call is made consistently, there was something about the extra attention that Odalis Perez was paying to Ray Durham on first base in the sixth inning, a sort of desperation to keep Durham in place, that I felt that something bad was going to happen. And it did.

Was it the right call? Beats me. I watched the replays, and I've seen pickoff moves by other pitchers that are far more deceptive. I think it's like anything else in sports - if you have a reputation for doing something well, you get a lot more leeway from the officials. But it doesn't mean that this time, the call wasn't right.

I didn't spend any more of the inning questioning the call. Rather, I pondered whether baseball would be a better game with a no-leadoffs rule. A runner could only go once the pitch has been thrown. That would eliminate the balk rule and pickoff throws to first - neither of which represents the game at its best.

A no-leadoff rule would cut down on stolen bases and taking an extra base, increase double plays, and therefore cut down on offense. If that's a problem for you - and it certainly would be for the Dodgers - you could make one other change - reducing the distance between the bases to 85 feet. I know, I'm rearranging Stonehenge here, but I thought it an interesting notion. Please feel free to point out other pitfalls.

Meanwhile, there's no use in complicating a balk by giving up a home run. On the other hand, it might be time to admit that Marquis Grissom has a lot more baseball left in him than I or most people thought.

Coming off OPS seasons in 1998-2000 of .686, .735 and .639, Grissom came to the Dodgers in a trade for a rundown Devon White. Grissom then contributed a .654 in his first season in Los Angeles, and it was clear he was done.

Except that in a platoon role in 2002, Grissom did a nice job - OPSing .831. He OPSed .971 against lefties, and even beat his overall numbers of the past four seasons by OPSing .742 against righties. Still, he was a spare part, and not someone to whom you give seven figures of salary.

Well, in 2003, Grissom is back at .839 overall - and that's as an everyday player. His OPS against righties is .736 - not ideal, but for the second year in a row, at a level you simply wouldn't have thought possible. He's absolutely crushing lefties: 1.128.

And against the Dodgers, he's just been a killer.

April 10: Solo home run in the fourth inning of a 2-1 victory.
April 13: Two-out double in the 12th inning, then scored winning run in a 5-4 victory.
June 25: Game-winning two-run home run in a 2-1 victory.

Against the Dodgers this season, Grissom has become Jim Eisenreich: in 40 plate appearances, a .989 OPS and four home runs.

For his part, Perez had allowed home runs in 10 of his past 13 starts.

Of course, blaming Perez for this loss would be in poor taste. Jason Schmidt dominated the Dodgers again, allowing no earned runs. His game score was 83, and he has now pitched two of the three best games against the Dodgers this season and three of the top 10.

And now, there's been a Jack Clark sighting. Hoping for a turnaround from the Dodger offense, hitting coach Jack Clark told Brian Dohn of the Daily News that "there's three or four guys in there capable of having a half like a (Carlos) Delgado."

Delgado has 23 home runs and 81 RBI to date. It is unlikely that any Dodger will finish the entire season with numbers matching those, much less in combination with a .441 on-base percentage.

Dohn goes on to write:

Clark's reputation throughout the organization is that of a hard worker who always uses positive energy, and he continues that. He said he is wearing the hats of a batting coach and a psychologist. Sometimes he emphasizes fundamentals and mechanics in the batting cage, and other times Clark sits and speaks with players about life.

Okay, so now we know Clark's philosophy. That's good. That's step one. Step two, then, is understanding that this philosophy is not working. Step three is trying something different. There may be no solution - we don't know. What we do know is that the current approach does not work. No need to prolong using it.

What will the effect be if Brian Jordan's aggravated knee keeps him out of the lineup for any long stretch? Such an absence will put HBP kings Mike Kinkade or Cabrera in left field. In half the plate appearances, Cabrera has more extra-base hits this season than Jordan. Perhaps Cabrera playing more left field and less second base will take some of the pressure burdening Alex Cora - though that's a desperado's hope. In any case, I don't presume that the offense will regress that much without Jordan - there just isn't that far to fall.

Or, perhaps, Dan Evans will decide to pull the trigger on a trade.

To wrap things up, let's deal with Vinny. Honestly, until Ward's baserunning mistake, nothing was more painful last night then Vin referring to Ward as Gary. Then, for Vin to make the same blunder in describing Ward's blunder, that was about all one could take. As is written in the introduction to Ian Fleming's Goldfinger:

Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
The third time, it's enemy action.

Not that I'm wishing to unleash James Bond on Vinny, but something had to be done. Vin Scully has never struck me as a man of great ego, but rather as someone all too willing to correct his mistakes - as long as he's made aware of them. Someone on the broadcast production team had the responsibility of getting into Vinny's ear and telling him about the Gary problem.

All in all, Tuesday could have been a great night for the Dodgers - just like the other four nights in San Francisco. Tonight, the Dodgers flip the coin again.

(Now that you've read this, you have to go over to Dodger No one expresses Dodger frustration better.)

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