Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Friday, May 31, 2013

Kershaw with the Hardluck ND, Uribe Shining

You’ve got to love the “win” stat.  Tonight was a reminder of how meaningless decisions can be when evaluating performance.

I keep a mental note in my head whenever Clayton Kershaw takes the mound that a no-hitter just may be on the menu.  He’s one of two or three pitchers in the game that I see as guys that could toss a no-no on any given night at any ballpark in the country.  Yes, even at Coors Field.

Tonight was one of those nights again and I’m still waiting for that first historic game from the Dodger left hander.  Maybe it’ll happen when I stop looking for it.  Kershaw is just so dominating and a joy to watch.  You seldom see such skill out there on the mound.  Tonight, Kershaw retired the first ten hitters he faced before Dexter Fowler lined a single up the middle for the first Rockie hit.  After that, he was still affective and looking good, just not his overpowering awesome self that he usually is.

Kershaw is such a perfectionist, I expect to witness that no-hitter at some time in the near future.  On the other hand, Clayton is always looking for weaknesses in his game in which to improve.  Who would have thought that he would identify his offense as an area of his game to make right.

Realizing that improving his hitting might make the difference in two or three games this season, Kershaw made an extra effort to take extra batting practice and work on his hitting during the off-season.  The batting cage was his focus of his winter training regimen.  The results of that extra work have directly affected the outcome of two of Kershaw’s wins so far.  Tonight would have been win number three, but Brandon League saw to it that the decision wouldn’t belong to Clayton.

Kershaw drives in two runs with a fourth inning double (photo by  Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

“He just got tired of being a bad hitter,” joked battery-mate A.J. Ellis to ESPN.com’s Jonah Keri when talking of Kershaw’s hitting prowess a few weeks back.  He also realized that by being a better hitter, Manager Don Mattingly might think twice about pinch hitting for him in late inning games that are close.

Such was the case on opening day in a 0-0 tie in the 8th inning against the Giants.  What resulted was a Kershaw homer and start of an offensive rally that led to a 4-0 Dodger win.  Eventually it turned out to be Clayton’s first shutout of the season.

Conversly, Kershaw’s improved hitting also proved to be his undoing last Sunday against the Cardinals when Mattingly let him swing away with the bases loaded in the 6th inning, resulting in an inning ending/rally killing double play.

Tonight, Kershaw drove in two runs while lacing a double to deep left field, an offensive spurt to the Dodgers 2-run fourth inning.  It was a key moment as it lifted the Dodgers to a 5-0 lead.  In the sixth inning he placed a single over Troy Tulowitski’s outstretched glove to raise his average to .250 on the year.  Kershaw has actually pinch hit twice this year when the Dodgers have run short of position players.  He’s arguably the best hitting pitcher on the squad, though some would argue that Hyun Jin Ryu would give him a run for his money.

Juan Uribe is all smiles after scoring in the third inning of tonight's action. (photo by Barry Gutierrez/AP)

So, tonight’s 7-5 Dodger win turned out to be a blown save victory for Brandon League.  Too bad the decision went in the direction in which it did.  We can’t complain about getting the “W” though.  Who would have figured that Luis Cruz and Juan Uribe would be the offensive heroes in the 10th inning.  Good for them.  A Padre loss moves the Dodgers out of the cellar, (San Diego is currently deadlocked in a  3-3 tie at home against Toronto in the 7th inning).  That would be a great start to this Colorado series.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A New Loge Option for Families and Groups

The Loge level at Dodger Stadium has always appealed to me.  With its bird’s eye view of the action. It's not too high up and it's close to the field.  I like that it is prime foul ball territory having perfect angles and sight lines.  I’ve sat in virtually every level and many sections of Dodger Stadium throughout my lifetime and I’ve been in over 20 major league ball parks across the nation.  If you throw in Spring training and minor league venues, it's safe to say that I’ve probably seen baseball action in close to 100 Stadiums nationwide.  With that said, the Loge section at Dodger Stadium may be my favorite place to watch a game.

Loge Level Party Box, A new viewing option at Dodger Stadium this year.

The Dodgers with their massive reconstruction and Stadium enhancement projects have added a new feature to the Loge section that may be their best idea yet.   These are Loge Party Boxes behind the seats and under the overhang.  These open air boxes provide a unique viewing experience to fans attending games in groups.

When I was afforded the opportunity to take in a game at this location, I jumped at the chance.  How eager was I to do so?  Eager enough to drive 389 miles, take in the game and drive 389 miles back that same night/early morning.  It was a long arduous 20 hours AND well worth it as my 24 year old son (who accompanied me) and I took in Hyun-Jin Ryu’s 2-hit shutout of the Angels.

Hyun-Jin Ryu in last night's action.  Photo taken from my seat at the Loge box.

The Loge box we were in seated a party of six, though David Seigel, Dodgers Vice President of Ticket Sales advised us that some boxes could accommodate larger groups.

Complete with table tops, comfortable barstools (with seat backs), and  an elevated platform to give the viewer a cozy view of the action on the field, these boxes included an attentive server that checked in with us every other inning or so to provide concessions upon order.  “I really enjoyed  that I didn’t have to miss any action to buy food,” said my son, Evan Jr., “just hand him the credit card or cash and the Cool-a-Coo or Dodger Dog would be delivered in a matter of minutes.  It was great.”

And though the over-hang partially obstructed our views of the scoreboard, the Dodgers thought that problem through and provided flat screen TVs above each box.  It was a feature I really enjoyed because the three second delay that the networks have put in place allowed us to see the action live and then immediately see it again in the flatscreen above us.   Answer me this.  Have you ever been at a game and wanted to see a replay of the action immediately after watching a live play, only to realize you don’t have that luxury at the live event?  Well the Loge Boxes provide that unique feature that can only be enjoyed in the Club Level Suites inside and at not nearly the price of the suite.

Frankly, this idea may be the best kept secret to the recent restoration project at the Stadium.  Not many can afford to take their family to a game in a club level suite, but a Loge party box provides some of the amenities of the club suite (i.e., an attending waiter, flat screen TV) and a close to the game action that provides the fan the unique more intimate perspective to game viewing.

For years I have always felt that the Dodgers cater to families better than any professional sports team in the region.   A family can take in a game together and bond over Dodger baseball.  The Loge Boxes further enhance that concept.  There is a privacy element to the area that entitles you as the fan some personal space that regular seats do not afford.   Additionally there is space to lay out your belongings and a table to use and even an electrical outlet to plug in your laptop.  This is a unique feature to the box that will really serve fans well once the stadium Wifi is up and running in the next month or so.

By no means am I saying that the Loge boxes are like club level suites, but then again, they shouldn't be.  You enjoy the connection, camaraderie and kinship with surrounding Dodger fans taking in the game.  At the same time there are privileges and privacy that you gain by having barriers and tables that other fans don't have due to space constraints at assigned seats.

I seriously will consider reserving a Loge box in the future when attending a game with my brother and his family.  There are advantages of comfort and space that you simply don't get at assigned seats,  It's also an ideal spot to see a day game since all of these boxes are located in the shade.  

A great idea by the Dodgers.  Check them out before they become so popular that availablity becomes an issue.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Comeback Win Impressive, Clutch Hitting Overcomes Defensive Lapses

So the Dodgers come back win, from 5 runs down was quite the shock.  They impressively beat the Angels in an 8-7 in game one of the 4 game set with the Anaheim club.  I say impressive in tongue and cheek fashion.  The Dodger defense early in this game was deplorable.  What is most impressive about the win is that the Dodgers gave the Angels about 33 outs in this contest to do their damage, and they still came out on top.

I can’t remember watching a Dodger team this bad defensively in years.  Maybe 2005 was like this but I’d say this is worse because the expectations of this club were so high.  The thing is though, that ’05 team was no where near the highest paid team in baseball.  
Matt Kemp drops an Albert Pujols fly ball in first inning.  It was  ruled a double (photo byStephen Dunn/Getty Images)

In tonight’s action, there were arguably 5 errors in the first three innings of play.  Kemp’s dropped fly ball that was right smack in the middle of his mitt and how that wasn’t ruled an error is beyond me.  There was Ramon Hernandez’s throw away toss to first base (after a passed ball) which allowed two runs to score, Mark Ellis’ botched grounder that was hit two steps to his right (also ruled a hit), Adrian Gonzalez’ failure to field a sacrifice bunt that resulted in pitcher CJ Wilson beating it out.  I know I missed a play or two.

There were badly played balls and awful routes to fly balls by Hairston, Kemp and Van Slyke.  There was a poorly played exchange at second base that resulted in Punto getting leveled by the hard charging CJ Wilson.  There was a hesitation on a play by Punto on a grounder when he took the ball to the bag himself and in turn he got leveled and sent head over heals to the ground.

Those first few innings may have been the sloppiest Dodger defense I have ever seen.

Zack Greinke wasn't sharp in tonight's action (photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

But the feisty Dodgers fought back.  The club actually hit well with runners in scoring position and Juan Uribe, a pinch hitter and defensive replacement tallied three key hits including RBI doubles to lead the way.

Jerry Hairston got called up today, so the Dodgers sent Dee Gordon back to AAA, even though he’s hitting 80 points higher than Luis Cruz.  That’s not saying much, since Gordon was hitting .175, but at least he had some value as a pinch running threat.  Cruz is a pop-out and GIDP machine.

To the shock of everyone tonight. Cruz actually laced a single to center field.  What wasn’t so shocking was it was on a first pitch swing again with no on base and after he popped out leaving a runner in scoring position in the second inning.

It’s tough to win when you grant the opposition 33 outs to your 24 (over 8 turns at the plate), but that’s what the Dodgers did, and as good as I feel about the comeback win, I can’t help but feel uneasy about this porous defense that seems to be getting worse everyday.  Hairston isn’t an outfielder, plain and simple.  Punto isn’t a shortstop and Hernandez doesn’t belong behind the plate.  Adrian Gonzalez has been awful this year and simply can’t dig out throws in the dirt or make simple plays on bunts and grounders hit his way.  I’ll dare say it too, Matt Kemp is a corner outfielder at best as his jumps to balls are awful.  He’s getting terrible reads and his troubles at the plate he is taking out to the field with his glove.

So, sorry about being a downer on a night that was an exciting win.  The Dodgers snapped the Halos 8 game win streak and overcame a poor start by Zack Greinke.  It’s a win and an impressive one at that.  To be quite frank, when I started this piece for the blog, it was a total attack on the teams lackluster defensive play.  After the third inning, this team looked as dead as they have anytime this season.

Gritty offensive hits by Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis and Scott Van Slyke got the team rolling.  Suddenly 6-1 was tied up at six.  To Don Mattingly’s credit, he made the right moves, double switching, getting Hernandez out of the game, inserting Ethier at the right time and removing defensive liabilities Hairston and Punto at the right time.  The bullpen has suddenly become quite good over the last 4-5 games and the tandem of Jansen/League to close it out worked as planned.

It’s Ryu against Blanton tomorrow.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Starter Longevity, the Bullpen, the Confidence of Starting Trio

Is this what baseball has come to?  Five and one third innings pitched and one run given up is considered a great start?

In the days of Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Fergie Jenkins, that’s just getting warmed up.  With Koufax, that was a non-quality start. Drysdale and Gibson would consider it a success only if three or four batters were knocked down in the process.  In those days, the mark of a champion was being able to finish games.  Today, if your bullpen has to only go three innings, that’s a good sign.

The game has changed in so many facets, and pitching expectations is one of them.  A pitcher like Matt Magill gets called up and if he makes it into the sixth innings having given up three runs or less.  That is considered a great accomplishment for a major league debut of a rookie. 

I know we’ve come to expect little from Ted Lilly, and believe me, we’ll take five quality innings from him without hesitation.  But the game has changed substantially, and for that reason, if your bullpen has some weak links, you’re going to be headed for trouble.

The Dodger bullpen weaknesses have been exposed this season, and it reflects in their record.  Ronald Belisario isn’t getting outs consistently and balls hit off him are finding holes.  Brandon League has ten saves, but in the process he’s given up a run in half of his appearances, (8 of 19), tallying two blown saves and two losses. The all important long man in the Dodger pen is hard to identify.  I guess he’s Javy Guerra at the moment, but he’s only thrown eight innings this year and his longest outing was two.

I guess if there was a point to this post it is that the Dodger pitching woes are evident and they have to do with the bullpen.  A starter hands the game to the bullpen in the 6th and there’s a pretty good shot that the opposition is going to score a few.  As fans we’re seeing a pattern.  The rotation gets to Kershaw, then Greinke followed by Ryu and we’re feeling good about our chances.  When Capuano and 5th starter goes (whoever that is), not so much.

So feel good today because our ace is on the mound and then it'll be the brawler on Monday followed by the Korean fella.  The Dodgers have finally reached their twentieth win.  There’s always hope of a winning streak on the horizon.  Hey, the Angels have won seven in a row.  So why can’t the Dodgers? Good things they’re in the other league.  After today...

Can we ever catch a break this year?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Look at Tuesday's Loss and Some Lapses of Play That May Have Set Mattingly Off

 “I’m putting a club out there that will compete and fight their hardest all day.  I’m putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest.” -- Don Mattingly, May 22, 2013 (during pre-game comments with the beat writers today).

Getty Images
I’m going to read in to Mattingly’s comments today about Andre Ethier not being in the lineup.  Please note that this is pure speculation on my part. 

Considering that Ethier has been on a recent good streak at the plate, even though it’s a small sample size, (7 for his last 22, including a  homer and triple in Monday night’s action), and that the Dodgers were facing a sub-par right hander today,  the benching probably had to do with a couple of lapses by the Dodger right fielder in Tuesday’s game.

Lapse #1) Catchable ball to the right field warning track resulted in a leadoff triple in the Brewers 4 run 5th inning.  Jean Segura lofted a fly ball to deep right field and Ethier shied away from going after it at the last moment.  It looks like he was distracted by the weird angle the wall had.  It would have been a great catch, but I believe Mattingly expected a stronger effort by his right fielder.

Lapse #2) The safety squeeze play.  With Ethier on third base and one out.  Dee Gordon bunts it back to the pitcher and Ethier was out at the plate from here to Milwaukee.  Is it possible the call from Mattingly was a suicide squeeze and Ethier simply missed the sign? 

Lapse # 3) Ethier strikes out with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the third.  Not unusual at all this season, and considering that Matt Kemp struck out just before Ethier, he's certainly not the only player not producing in the clutch.  Still, it was a crucial moment of the game and something that is occurring on a daily basis with the Dodger RBI men.

Lapse #4) Lazy fly ball drops in.  Again in that crucial 5th inning, Aramis Ramirez lifted a fly ball to right center that both Ethier and Kemp got poor jumps on.  This was Kemp’s ball in my opinion, but with the Ethier lapses on the day, perhaps they were snowballing in Mattingly’s mind.

Unexplainable incident)  Ethier got plunked.  And Belisario returned the favor to the Brewers their next turn at bat by throwing behind Lucroy with a purpose pitch.  It appears that there was no intent to hit Ethier.  With Belisario though, the intent was evident and he was immediately issued a warning.  I’m not even sure if this incident was something that irked the Dodger manager, but I’m just putting all options out on display.  Could Ethier possibly have sent a message that a retaliation was in order, with the Dodgers losing 5-2 at the time?

So that's my contribution to rumor mongering today.  Some obvious lapses in performance by Ethier on Tuesday, coupled with some possible things that could have irked the Dodger manager.  Who knows?  We may be looking at a very interesting 36-48 hours in Dodgerland.

Oh, by the way, nice 9-2 win today.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wanna Feel Better...Kershaw's the Remedy

Clayton Kershaw was just what the Doctor ordered.  The slump stopper.  The ace.  The best pitcher in baseball.  It’s a pleasure to watch this man pitch.  It’s like watching Rembrandt paint, Mozart compose a symphony, or Neil Armstrong captaining a space craft. 

This is a master at work.  A perfectionist that continuously is honing his craft and finding another area of his game to improve.  1.35 is his ERA now.  He's talied a win in 28% of the Dodgers victories this season, and a bit of better luck would have added a few more positive decisions to his side.

Kershaw picked up his 5th win and second complete game of the season (photo by Morry Gash/AO)

With Greinke going tomorrow, you have to feel good about the Dodgers chances again.  This two-some may be the best pitching duo in baseball.  They couldn’t emerge at a more crucial time this season.  The sharks are circling Don Mattingly’s sinking ship and Clayton Kershaw just bailed out a ton of water.  Greinke attempts to plug the holes tomorrow.

As much as we are depressed about the Dodger doings so far this season, they aren't buried yet and an 8 out of 10 streak would put the club right back in the thick of things.  With Kershaw and Greinke pitching in four games this week, you've got to feel good about their chances of turning the corner.  

Being seven games back on May 21st is not the end of the world at all.  This ball club has a lot of games left with the D-Backs, Giants, Rockies and Padres and better results against those teams has to be forth coming.  History is on their side too as the Dodgers took the division five years ago after being as much as 7 1/2 games behind early in the season.  

There is no doubt that they've dug themselves into a hole and there are a lot of problems with the ball club, but the positives from today at least get us feeling a little better.  Matt Kemp homering is a very positive sign.  Ethier breaking forward today as well.  

Matt Kemp hits his second homer of the season (photo by Morry Gash/AP)

Today, for example, we were all feeling good about things in the 8th inning because we knew that Kershaw was going to finish this thing out.  The bullpen was NOT going to mess things up tonight.  Tomorrow will probably be more of an adventure as Greinke hasn't been stretched to pitch into the late innings yet.   Unless he somehow is able to keep his pitch count low, we can expect the slumping Dodger bullpen to be called upon.  Hopefully the Brewers come out and swing at a lot of first pitches.  

Who knows? Maybe four months from now we'll look back at May and remember all the crazy talk about firing Mattingly and turning the roster upside down.  For now a win feels very good and another one tomorrow night make some forget the disastrous weekend series in Atlanta.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Curious Roster Moves...

The Braves 3 game sweep of the Dodgers this weekend continues the clubs free fall into the basement of the National League.  So rather than dwell on the many faults of this team, I address the latest roster move made today.  I sometimes wonder if Ned Colletti really wants to turn this franchise’s fortunes around.  Today’s decision to send Tim Federowicz back to Albuquerque with the return of Mark Ellis to the roster is about as perplexing a move as can be imagined.

Instead, the Dodgers kept Ramon Hernandez and Luis Cruz on the roster.

Tim Federowicz started on Saturday, sent back to Albuquerque on Sunday. (photo by Jayne Kamin Oncea/US Presswire)

Federowicz has been playing well.  An excellent defensive backstop and solid bat off the bench.  The presence of Fedex has been a welcome sight as the Dodgers have been able to afford pinch hitting him with another catcher on the roster.  That additional backstop, Hernandez, has underperformed with the bat (.045 BA) and is so weak defensively that the club is reluctant to have him catch such players as Ronald Belisario, as he’s had difficulty handling pitches with a lot of movement.

Luis Cruz is having the worst offensive season in Dodger history, and of late, his lapses defensively have now cost the team games.  His poor performance his been discussed continuously and his value to the ball club is nil at the moment.  With Nick Punto, Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe, Skip Schumacher and now Mark Ellis on the roster, it isn’t as if the Dodgers are short of infield help off the bench.

What this all possibly comes down to is: 1) Fedex has minor league options, 2) Cruz and Hernandez do not, 3) the club is desperate to produce a player from Mexico, (Cruz), as a marketing tool.  To number #2, I say, “so what?”  What is there to fear?  That another club picks them up?  If that happened, it would be borderline miraculous and it wouldn’t make a bit of a difference to the Dodgers because they’d be making outs with another franchise.  If number 3 holds any water I find that unfortunate as I find it hard to believe that the club would jeopardize the franchises success for those purposes.

Cruz is so lost at the plate and his approach is a mess.  If he isn’t popping up on the first pitch he sees, he’s grounding into a double play with it.  I can’t recall a worse hitter ever in the Dodger system and that’s saying a lot, because they’ve had there share of duds over the years.

Maybe they’re just delaying the inevitable and Cruz will be DFA’d or placed on the phantom disabled list when Jerry Hairston Jr. returns.  Still, why delay the inevitable and  put the club in a weaker position?  I know management thinks highly of Cruz.  He’s a nice guy and someone that was quite an inspiration to the team last year, but reality has spoken.  2012 was a fluke.  He’s not a player of major leaguer caliber and it’s time to cut bait and move forward.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Another Bruising Defeat

Does it get any lower than this?

Two very winnable games handed at Atlanta.  The bullpen ace blowing it tonight and a porous defense the night before.  Chris Capuano pitched an inspiring 7 1/3 innings only to see it all go up in smoke when the first batter Jansen faces (pinch hitter Evan Gattis) homers to left.

Chris Capuano deserved a better fate (photo by John Bazemore/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Fundamentals.  Simple baseball fundamentals.  They are supposed to be known by players on the big league level.  The Dodgers failures to adhere to basic fundamentals is costing this team games.  Do we blame the coaching staff for that?  How in the world can Dee Gordon be sacrificed to second, when he can steal it alone.  Then he makes the third out at third base by making an ill advised attempted steal of third with Matt Kemp at the plate.

That was pathetic in my view, but so goes the 2013 season so far.  The only thing missing was someone didn’t land on the disabled list tonight.

Any good news? 

Capuano, who looked crest-fallen by the implosion in the 8th.

Most of the bullpen was rested.

Not much else.  Oh yeah, Mark Ellis played 7 innings of injury free ball at Chattanooga. (0 for 3, a walk, a strikeout, a run scored and he turned two double plays).  Maybe he returns to the squad tomorrow and the club can release Luis Cruz.

The Dodgers collected two hits on the night in a masterpiece pitched by Kris Medlen.  The Braves go for the sweep tomorrow against Matt Magill.  Can we have some offense infused into the lineup tomorrow?  Perhaps a start by Scott Van Slyke would do some good.  This is brutal folks!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

35 Years Ago...A Rant for the Ages.

I’m kicking myself for missing the anniversary.  I knew it was coming up, but for some reason, I failed to mark May 14th on my calendar.  Shame on me.

35 years ago on May 14,1978,  Dodger manager Tom Lasorda blew a gasket.

It was the epic Dave Kingman tirade that will forever be remembered as the”opinion of Kingman’s performance” rant.  It was Mother’s Day, 1978.  The Dodgers, the defending N.L. champions and sitting a half game back of the San Francisco Giants at the time with an 18-13 record were facing a mediocre Chicago Cubs team that was 15-15 going into the final game of a three game weekend series at Dodger Stadium.

Tommy argues point with umpire Lee Weir.  Classic photo by by Leo Jarzomb (courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library)

This Dodger team was stocked with talent.  The historic infield with Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell was intact.  Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith were in their full prime covering the corner outfield slots.  There was a solid pitching staff with Sutton, Hooton, John, Rau and Rhoden in place.  Up and coming stars like Bob Welch emerged.  The bench was solid with Mota and Davilillo serving as a valuable righty/lefty pinch hitting tandem and Lee Lacy was a super sub.

The Cubs?  Their only .300 hitter was former Dodger Bill Buckner.  They weren’t the worst hitting team in the league, but there wasn’t much to write home about with this team that finished the year with 79 wins.  Only one of their starting five had a record over .500 that year.    But they had “Kong” that year.  “Kong” as in “King Kong” Dave Kingman.

Kingman was 29 years old and a major league veteran of seven years.  He could hit the ball a country mile, but if he didn’t, he’d strike out in memorable fashion.  Signed as a free agent in the off season, Kingman had spent the 1977 season wearing four uniforms in one year.

He started ‘77 as a New York Met,  only to be traded to the San Diego Padres on June 15th for Bobby Valentine.  The Padres released him in September and he was claimed by the Angels who had him on their roster for nine days before trading him to the Yankees on September 15th.    As a Yankee he played in eight games, hitting four homers for the eventual World Series champs, but as a late season acquisition he wasn’t eligible for post season play.  He got a World Series ring (the only one of his career) through 8 games of contributions to the Yanks as he homered in his first three games in pinstripes.

Of course, when the season ended, Kingman was granted his free agency and the Cubs snatched him up.

That leads us to May 14, 1978.  Kingman entered the game hitting .221, with 4 homers and 10 RBI.  His “performance” that day came close to doubling those numbers on the season.  It was an epic display of power.  Three homers, 8 RBI,  3 runs, 4 hits, 1 walk, 13 Total bases.  The Cubs scored 10 runs and he accounted for 8 of them.  The kicker in all this was that the Dodgers nearly won this game, but Kingman tied it up in the 9th with a two run homer off of Mike Garman.  Then in extra frames, in the 15th inning he hit a three run shot off of Rick Rhoden, which proved to be the game winner.

It was a five hour marathon that left both teams pitching staffs depleted.    Each team used up 21 players in the afternoon affair.  Rhoden was scheduled to start the next day, and he had to be used as the Dodgers ran out of pitchers.

Lasorda argues with Frank Pulli in the '78 World Series after Reggie Jackson stuck his hip into a throw from SS Bill Russell. (AP photo)

So it wasn’t a pleasant site in the Dodger manager’s office after the game.

Paul Olden, a young writer for the Associated Press, was covering the Dodgers at the time.  Their exchange went as follows:

Olden: Can you give us just a few basic comments about your feelings on the game?

Lasorda: Well, naturally I feel bad about losing a ball game like that, there's no way you should lose that ball game. An', it, uh, just doesn't make sense.

Olden: What's your opinion of Kingman's performance?

Lasorda: What's my opinion of Kingman's performance!? What the BLEEP do you think is my opinion of it? I think it was BLEEPING BLEEP. Put that in, I don't BLEEP. Opinion of his performance!!? BLEEP, he beat us with three BLEEPING home runs! What the BLEEP do you mean, "What is my opinion of his performance?" How could you ask me a question like that, "What is my opinion of his performance?" BLEEP, he hit three home runs! BLEEP. I'm BLEEPING pissed off to lose that BLEEPING game. And you ask me my opinion of his performance! BLEEP. That's a tough question to ask me, isn't it? "What is my opinion of his performance?"

Olden: Yes, it is. I asked it, and you gave me an answer...

Lasorda: Well, I didn't give you a good answer because I'm mad, but I mean...

Olden: Well, is wasn't a good question...

Lasorda: That's a tough question to ask me right now, "What is my opinion of his performance." I mean, you want me to tell you what my opinion of his performance is...

Olden: You just did...

Lasorda: That's right. BLEEP. Guy hits three home runs against us. BLEEP.

Where are they now?  

Paul Olden is the public address announcer for the New York Yankees, having replaced their legendary P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard.  Following his writing gig in the late 70s, Olden, an L.A. native (Dorsey High and LA City College grad) became involved in sports broadcasting, doing play by play for numerous teams in several sports including the Tampa Bay Rays, Philadephia Eagles, California Angels, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets and the New Jersey Nets.  He was the NFL’s PA announcer at 12 different Super Bowls before landing the Yankee position that he currently works.

Dave Kingman is retired from baseball and lives off the shores of Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side.   His 16 year major league career ended in 1986 with 442 lifetime homers and a .236 batting average.  Always a reclusive type during his playing days.  Kingman now appears periodically at card shows and has been very giving to his fans in retirement, something that was seldom seen while he was an active player.  When I met Kingman at a minor league event in Stockton, CA in 2011, I asked him what his opinion of Lasorda's performance was when he pitched to him that day.  He didn't answer, he just chuckled and signed the baseball I had handed him for signature.

Tommy Lasorda remains with the Dodgers as Special Assistant to the Chairman.  He has come to poke fun at his Kingman tirade.  For years it was a sore subject to him.  Now, he can talk about it.  "I'm not proud of it...when that guy talked to me, I was as low and depressed and dejected as you can get.  I mean, we lose the game in 15 innings, I have to go into my starting pitchers, and it knocked the daylights out of me.  Then this guy comes in at the very moment I sat down and asked me 'what is your opinion?'  So I proceeded to tell him what my opinion was."   He later said, "I ran into Paul (Olden) a few times when he was announcing for Tampa Bay.  I told him you didn't do anything wrong.  I was the guy who did something wrong.  Eventually it got all over the country and I think now it's in Japanese."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Former Giant Players Keep Marching In

Jonathan Sanchez pitching for the Royals last year, may soon be wearing Dodger blue as the injuries continue to mount with the Dodger pitching staff.

Juan Uribe, Kurt Ainsworth, Jason Scmidt, Jose Cruz, Ramon Martinez, Bill Mueller, Brett Tomko, Shea Hilenbrand, Mark Sweeney, Roberto Hernandez, Shawn Estes, Jack Taschner, Russ Ortiz, Justin Miller and Eugenio Velez.  Most names you are familiar with as members of the hated rivals up north.  They also have another thing in common as they each signed contracts with the Dodger organization sometime in their careers.  All these former Giant players were signed by Ned Colletti since he came over to the Dodgers to start the 2006 season.  That’s 15 guys, and I’m not counting Jeff Kent, as he was a DePodesta signing, though Colletti extended his contract later.  So make it 16.

Ned Colletti continues his fixation with all things orange and black by signing Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league contract today.  Sanchez, released by the Pirates this year for overall ineffectiveness, will report to Albuquerque and join the Isotopes rotation this week.

Never has there been a former Giant that Colletti won’t take a serious look at.  Sanchez has been worse than awful the past two season, going 0-12 with a 9.12 ERA.  Always on the wild side, is it possible that Dodger coaching can fix this guy?  Let’s hope so because Josh Beckett just landed on the D.L. with a groin injury today just as Zack Greinke came off of it.

That Dodger pitching staff, starting the year at Camelback Ranch with nine starters is now down to two guys that haven't been victim to significant injury so far, and it's May 15th.  Casualties include Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, Stephen Fife, Chris Capuano, Zack Greinke, and now Beckett.  The only guys staying relatively healthy have been Kershaw, and Ryu.  That’s an incredible string of rotten luck.

In all honesty, I'm sort of relieved that Beckett has been diagnosed with injury.  He hasn't been right since that CG loss at Arizona early in the season.  An injury explains his sub par performances.  Hoping he heals up and returns at 100%.

In all honesty I can’t remember a team smitten with so many injuries as the 2013 Dodgers.  When you consider that the season is only 38 games old, there has to be some sort of record being set here.

The Dodgers certainly aren't out of the woods on the injury front.  I watch tonight's game with some trepidation because it is quite the story to see Greinke returning from a fractured collarbone that was quite extensive in a matter of a little more than four weeks.  This is a crucial start and if Greinke falls back to injury, be looking for the Dodgers to reach deep into AA and call up someone like Zack Lee well before he's fully prepped for the big leagues.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Clayton Masterful, 132 Pitches Thrown, One Strike Short of Shutout

In a commanding performance, Clayton Kershaw overcame the narrow strike zone of home plate umpire Ted Barrett who was reluctant to calls strikes to pitches the Dodger ace delivered on the black.  Throwing what was a career high 132 pitches on the night, Kershaw came within one strike of pitching his 8th career shutout, but it wasn’t to be.

After battling in the first inning, throwing 29 pitches and loading the bases before retiring the side, it looked like tonight was going to be a short outing for Kershaw.  However, the Dodger ace persevered.  Striking out the side in the 2nd, and the next two in the third.  By the end of the third frame, Clayton had recorded his 7th strikeout on the night.

Clayton Kershaw discusses balk call made by first base umpire Alfonso Marquez, during the third inning of tonight's action.  (photo by Reed Saxon/AP)

This was a Fernandoesque performance.  A lot of pitches thrown.  Hitters swinging and missing and looking lost up there a lot.  Kershaw’s curveball befuddling Nat hitters as Fernando’s screwball had batters swinging and missing from the heels.  Much like Valenzuela, Kershaw wasn’t getting much offensive help tonight as opposing starter Dan Haren was on his game.  It was shut ‘em out or lose tonight, and Clayton knew it.

When the Dodgers scratched across two runs in the bottom of the third, (with Kershaw scoring the first after being hit by a pitch), it almost felt like the Clayton had been handed five runs.  There was no way he was going to give one up tonight.

With the same 2-0 score in the 8th inning, Manager Don Mattingly made the most gutsy managerial move I remember him making.  He allowed Kershaw to hit for himself in the bottom of the 8th after he had already thrown 111 pitches on the night.  Frankly, had I been in his position, I probably would have removed him from the game.  It was a surprising move as Don usually goes by the book, but perhaps his decision was influenced by a few factors.

First, Kershaw had been masterful and he deserved a shot at the shutout.  It was his game to lose.  The only player that had hit him on the night, (3 for 3 Ryan Zimmerman), was coming up first.  But even if he homered, Clayton would still maintain the lead.  He was due to get him out.

Next, the Dodger bullpen has been inconsistent and is by no means something in which to have confidence.  Mattingly also wants his shell-shocked pen to get some rest.  They certainly needed it after Beckett lasted only three innings the night before.

Lastly, though Mattingly has claimed that Brandon League is still his closer, there appears to be a "closer controversy" in place.   By letting Kershaw finish, he was avoiding the inevitable questions about who his real closer is.  Unfortunately for Don, he was forced to show his hand and let the world know who he considers as his current closer now.

Obviously Kershaw was laboring in the 9th as Zimmerman took him to the right field warning track and Ian Desmond followed taking him to the left field track.  Both came within an eyelashing of homering.  With Adam LaRoche up next, the Nat first baseman worked the count full and fouled off pitch after pitch.  

Pitch number 125, 126, 127, 128 was delivered.  Unable to put the left-handed slugger away, Kershaw came close as LaRoche’s  6th swing in the at bat resulted in a foul tip that catcher A.J. Ellis was unable to cleanly handle.  The crowd reacted with exhuberance, thinking the strikeout was in hand, but it wasn’t to be.  Three fouls followed and then LaRoche zinged Kershaw’s 132nd pitch of the night to centerfield, a line drive single.

Clayton was spent.  Done for the night.  though a few boo-birds were heard as Mattingly removed the Dodger ace from the game, they were obviously coming from unknowledgeable fans.  132 pitches in this day’s game is pretty much uncharted territory.  It is seen as borderline insanity and a recipe for injury.  Kershaw had given it all on the field.  He would have had the CG with a bit more charity from his home plate umpire, but it wasn’t to be.

In came the Dodgers new closer, Kenley Jansen.  He retired his lone hitter of the night on strikes.  Game over.  Kershaw the winner.  Good ol’ country hardball at the Ravine tonight.  It’s nice to have a legitimate ace.

Kershaw to the Rescue, Dodger Southpaw Surpasses 1,000 Innings Pitched Tonight

It’s always a relief to have your ace toeing the rubber every fifth game.  In the case of the Dodgers, no matter how bad the team is, you know that Kershaw gives them a pretty good chance at victory, no matter who the opponent is.

Today after retiring his first out of the game, Clayton will have completed 1,000 innings pitched of major league ball.  I addressed this two starts ago, but Clayton ranks in the top ten in major league history in K/9IP, WHIP, strikeouts, and WAR.  Link to April 28th post HERE

All modern sabermetric stats used to measure a pitchers effectiveness far beyond what a Win/Loss record and ERA can do.

I have a sneaking feeling that we as Dodger fans will learn to appreciate Clayton this year more than ever.  As much as the Dodgers have locked up some of the young position players to long term deals, it’s time for them to lock up the best pitcher they’ve had in the organization since Koufax and Drysdale.

As I write this piece, Clayton just recorded his first out of the game, a strikeout.  That’s 1,031 strikeouts in 1,000 innings pitched. What an amazing pitcher the Dodgers have in this left hander.  And he's an extraordinary human being as well.  As Tommy so aptly put it a few years back, "To the T.V.!!!"

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday Night Game Time Musings

I’m still not convinced things have turned around.  Winning two of three from the lowly Marlins isn’t anything to get excited about, but it’s a start.  Now if they take this series from the Nationals, I might feel differently.  

79% of the season has yet to be played.  What the ball club needs to do is not pay any attention to the standings.  Just go out there and pay attention to the cliches.  Play one game at a time and get the winning ways moving forward.  Standing at six games under .500, the first benchmark goal should be to get over the break even mark, from there, picking off each team ahead of them little by little.

‘Tommy Lasorda used to tell his team to try to gain a game in the standings each week.  It’s a reasonable approach to take in those marathon season these teams play.  These guys just need to stay within striking distance for when everyone returns from injury.


With Josh Beckett pitching tonight.  Expect a three and a half to four hour game.  He's the second coming of the human rain delay.


I don’t know about you, but the Adrian Gonzalez injury is a concern.  He hurts when he runs, fields, throws, and catches.  The only time he isn’t in pain is while he swings the bat, which explains his .350+ batting average since the injury, but necks are fickle things and tough to heal.  Let’s hope that the training staff can work some magic and get that thing under control so he can be 100% healthy again.

I find it annoying that the Dodgers play the opening notes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony every time a pitcher strikes someone out.  That is it supposed to mean?  Do the opening notes spell some sort of doom for the opposing offense?  Get rid of the track, it's already worn out its welcome.


I mentioned it, ad nauseum, over at the TBLA.com message board, but I'll say it again.  If fans had their way and Brandon League was removed from the closer's spot, that won't necessarily mean things will improve.  Jansen needs to be inserted into the game at the most crucial spot for the best relief pitcher.  That doesn't always equate to the ninth inning to close out the game.  Just my opinion.


I guess the Dodgers had no choice, but on their website they announce that they have eight players on the All Star ballot, and one of the players noted is .088 hitting Luis Cruz.  I guess it would be a little too obvious if they failed to mention Cruz amongst the other seven players.  What an embarrassment Cruz has turned out to be.

Today at work I received some inter-office correspondence in two sealed secure envelopea.  Marked as confidential and “to be opened only by addressee.”    I was curious what it was.  Double sealed as if it contained a confidential file or a series of safe combinations that are required to be secured.  After opening the second envelope I found this

Smart aleck Giants fan, highlighted the Dodgers last place position in the standings and wrote, "This is what $240 million gets you."    I long for the day that the earth returns to it’s proper axis and the Dodgers are back where they belong in first place.  This is brutal!  And I can't even address it 'cuz it was sent anonymously.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

$230 million for this? The Laughing Stock of Baseball

(photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

If these guys don't turn this around, the entire sports world will be talking about the 2013 Dodgers for many years to come.  

They'll be the poster boys for the topic that "money doesn't buy championships."  The "most under-achieving team in sports history."  The "worst evaluation of talent by a General Manager in sports history."

How else can you put it?  They're in the NL West cellar.  They're being beat by the worst team in baseball.

Aside from the crippling injuries that have been well chronicled here, it has to be said that Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are killing this ball club with their failures at the plate.   Their regression of performance has been astoundingly bad.  Their presence in the heart of the lineup is a sucking offensive black hole.   There are flashes of their former brilliance, but for the most part, their contributions have been absent this season.  Kemp has a .329 slugging percentage and .671 OPS.  Ethier's same numbers are .353 and .684.  Pathetic.  AAA players available in Albuquerque could have put up better numbers while earning the Major League minimum.
(photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
It makes you wonder if the best tactic with those guys would have been to underpay them and keep them hungry.  I think it's fairly safe to say that both have underperformed since signing for big money.

Going back to history and the probability that the Dodgers will be remembered for historically negative reasons.  The pundits are out in force calling for Mattingly's head.   I can't say I'm surprised and even Don has acknowledged it himself.  I've never been a great fan of Don's in-game managerial decisions, as I find them to be very conservative and predictable.  (Too many Joe Torre tendencies in my book and over using the bullpen to get one batter out at a time in late game situations).  But  it is my contention that a manager effects the outcome of only a handful of games each year.  

During this awful streak, it's hard to place the blame on Mattingly for more than two or three losses.  It has been a collective effort of futility.  The bullpen hasn't held up it's end.  The starters haven't been able to pitch deep into games.  Mattingly has been handcuffed with a short bench due to asinine front office decisions to keep injured players on the roster.  Kemp and Ethier have stunk.  A lackluster bench hasn't performed.  Then there is Cruz/Schumacher/Sellers hitting a collective .125.  Blame can be placed in many quarters.

Let's cut to the chase.  This team isn't as good as we thought.  It's certainly not good enough to overcome the obstacles of unprecedented injuries coupled with the tough early inter-division schedule.  All the talk of it being early is starting to get old and is utter hog-wash.    The season is over 20% complete and there are some tough series' ahead, much tougher than a three game set with the Miami Marlins.

(photo by Reed Saxon/AP)
What will be done?  I'm fairly certain that Don Mattingly won't survive much more of this.  Ned Colletti might be on thin ice as well.  The underperforming players will survive the season, as their contracts are so top-heavy, there is no other option other than to ride their wave of inconsistency.  What looked so promising a season a few weeks ago is turning into a nightmare, and one that might last for years as the Dodgers took on so many unattractive contracts in the Boston deal as well as signing their own.  The only solace I see in this underperformance is that Dodger ownership won't stand for this much longer.  They're an impatient lot, and who wouldn't be after sinking so much money into the purchase, payroll and stadium reconstruction?