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Dr. Miguelito Loveless
2003-09-12 11:21
by Jon Weisman

Bob Timmermann, known to many as Bob T. of Baseball Primer, forwarded me his great, 4,600-word article from the Grandstand Baseball Annual 2002 describing the history of the Dodger-San Diego Padre rivalry.

After reading it, and eyeing a series against the Padres beginning tonight that once again looks hopeful on paper but hopeless psychologically, it struck me that the Padres have become the evil Dr. Loveless to the Dodgers' James T. West and Artemus Gordon in The Wild, Wild (National League) West.

Here are some highlights from Timmermann's comprehensive article:

  • The rivalry is real but has yet to find its defining moment. Daily News columnist Kevin Modesti once asked San Diego manager Bruce Bochy for one, and Bochy replied, "To be honest with you. I canŐt remember any."
  • The starting pitcher for the Padres in their first-ever game with the Dodgers was 1955 Dodger hero Johnny Podres, who came out of retirement to pitch for San Diego. Podres gave up six runs in the fifth inning and the Padres lost, 14-0.
  • "Although the Padres could only muster a 52-110 record in their initial season, they did manage to derail the DodgersŐ pennant hopes in 1969. The 1969 NL West was actually a very competitive race as every team but the Padres was close in the month of September. On September 4, 1969 the Dodgers traveled to San Diego Stadium to play a four game series against the Padres. The Dodgers were in second place just one game behind division leader San Francisco. Much to the Dodgers' complete shock, the Padres swept the series."
  • Sixteen of the Dodgers' Los Angeles-best 102 victories in 1974 came against San Diego. Dan Spillner got the only two Padre victories, both in late September.
  • More recently, many of you will recall that what should have been "been one of the most dramatic games in the history of the NL," a 1996 season-ending showdown between the Dodgers and Padres, tied in their first pennant race with each other, was subverted because the losing team was guaranteed the wild card.

    Dodger manager Bill Russell, who had replaced Tommy Lasorda earlier in the year after a heart attack sent Lasorda to the front office and out of the dugout, and Bruce Bochy were conflicted about how to manage the game. Would they manage it like it was a game for all the marbles? Obviously, it wasn't. Both teams would have to play again in two days. Bochy opted to replace his scheduled starter, Joey Hamilton, with Bob Tewksbury. Russell stayed with Ramon Martinez, but removed him after just one inning.

    Much to both managers' dismay, the game went to extra innings scoreless. In the 11th inning, Chris Gwynn, a former Dodger, better known in L.A. as "The Gwynn Who Didn't Hit Much" came off the bench to double in (Steve) Finley and his brother Tony for a 2-0 lead. Trevor Hoffman pitched a perfect 11th inning to give the Padres their second NL West title.

    This could have been the rivalry's defining moment. Instead ... it's a footnote.
Whatever heat may be lacking, there's no doubt tonight that the Padres are ready to resume their role as spoiler. It's disconcerting, but as far as spoiling goes, let's say this: at mealtime, I'd rather be the meat on the counter than the bacteria.

* * *

Jay Jaffe at The Futility Infielder has apparently been doing some housecleaning. You might enjoy walking through the treasures he found from his 1989 trip to see four spring training games at Vero Beach. (Scroll down to "Buried Treasure (Part II).")

I myself have my own picture of Manny Mota on his bike from my 1993 trip to the Grapefruit League - it's really a great sight.

* * *

Update: Dodger postseason chances, from Baseball Prospectus
Today: 3.8 percent
September 11: 7.1 percent
September 10: 9.7 percent
September 9: 9.4 percent
September 8: 5.4 percent
September 7: 5.3 percent
September 6: 4.8 percent
September 5: 3.5 percent
September 4: 4.3 percent
September 3: 7.9 percent
September 2: 4.8 percent
September 1: 7.9 percent
August 31: 6.9 percent
August 30: 5.5 percent
August 29: 4.8 percent
August 28: 2.6 percent
August 26: 3.6 percent
August 25: 3.1 percent
August 24: 4.4 percent
August 23: 6.5 percent
August 22: 5.8 percent
August 21: 4.2 percent
August 20: 2.3 percent

Projected NL Wild-Card Standings as of September 12
Wins ... Team ... Chance of winning wild card
90 ... Philadelphia (55.1 percent)
89 ... Florida (38.6 percent)
87 ... Houston (1.1 percent)
86 ... Los Angeles (3.8 percent)
84 ... St. Louis (0.2 percent)
83 ... Arizona (0.1 percent)
82 ... Montreal (0.0 percent)

(Division leaders account for the remaining wild card possibilities.)

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