Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The McCourt Era is Over!

He entered with a lot of fanfare and excitement. There was a press conference in January of 2004 and there he was with his wife posing with Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully.  Everything out of his mouth was positive.  “The payroll of the Dodgers would be in the top quartle of Major League teams.”  “Family owned baseball was returning to Los Angeles.”  “The goal is to win championships.”  Then he said something that caught me off-guard.  I don’t have the exact quote but it was something along the lines of, “I can’t believe that I’m the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.”   I thought it was an odd statement at the time, but blew it off as simply an over-excited new owner that was overwhelmingly happy that he was approved as a new owner.
Now that the McCourt ownership era is coming to an end, that awkward statement of the new owner at the time make sense.  That man simply could not believe that he could hoodwink the MLB establishment by landing the Dodgers on a fully leveraged deal.
So here we are, April 29, 2012.  The last day that Frank McCourt will be the official owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  We have endured a lot, and there was a time that I never thought it would end.  Things appeared to be stuck in neutral forever as McCourt did what he did best - Sued the pants off of anybody that got in his path.  I seriously thought we’d be in litigation over Dodger ownership for years.  Things couldn’t have gone any more smoothly this off-season.
But here we are.  The Dodgers have a new ownership group in place with deep pockets, an LA icon in their midst and with a successful baseball man that will take the reins of the decision making process.  Stan Kasten is something else that isn’t frequently talked about.  He understands baseball and appreciates baseball history.  This is a man that knows the Los Angeles Dodgers and the importance of that franchise.
Who would know more about Stan Kasten than Dodger Hall of Fame pitcher, Don Sutton?  Don worked for Kasten for 16 years while working Atlanta Braves broadcasts.  “Very few people know know how much Stan Kasten knows and loves  the history of baseball.  he’s a baseball historian.  He can cite you chapter and verse of so many things.  So I like having him pull the reins,” he told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
It’s nice hearing Sutton talk like he belongs again to the Dodger family.  For a while there, he was estranged from the organization.  Like the time he was on the field during batting practice and asked to show his credentials by the Dodger staff.  “My credentials hang over the pavilion, number 20” he said.

He told O’Brien when the Braves were in town about his feelings of the new Dodger ownership. “I’m excited for them, because I have to admit that I haven’t felt good about the custodians of our (Dodgers) history or the guardians of our future for a while.  And now I know Magic is a guy who’s so community and people oriented, and he has an appreciation for and friends on, the Dodgers.  And Ive seen Stan at work on four or five different levels.”
Sutton, who now lives in Palm Springs has kept in contact with many in the Dodger organization, who were there when he played.  He longs for the days when the organization was as it was during the O’Malley days.  Here’s a suggestion I have.
Bring Don Sutton back into the Dodger fold.  I'd be all for him entering  the Dodger broadcast booth.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Dodgers completed their three game sweep of the Nationals today with a 2-0 victory.  With only 3 hits on the day, they took advantage of Gio Gonzalez’s wildness in the sixth inning as James Loney placed a single over shortstop for two RBI.  Kenley Jansen made it interesting in the ninth, but he held on for the save.
Chris Capuano threw a magnificent 6 2/3 innings of shut out ball, striking out 9 in the process.  On to Colorado for three.  And I’m lucky enough to be able to travel to Denver on Tuesday to attend at least one of the contests, my first trip ever to Coors Field.  
With a 16-6 record, the Dodgers are 4 up in the division and have the best record in teh National League by a two game span.  It has been a great April.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

An April Classic at the Ravine

Now that was some exciting baseball.  The MLB network called the right shot by selecting this game as it’s Saturday night telecast.
A jubilant Matt Kemp celebrates his game winning home run.  (photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)
An ace puts up an “acelike” performance in his Dodger Stadium debut.  An up and coming rookie phenom in his first major league contest hits a scorching double, a key RBI and makes a great defensive throw that should have cut down a Dodger run at the plate.  A hard throwing reliever throws 102 MPH but is unable to harness his control and uncorks three wild pitches to surrender the lead.
Bryce Harper's sacrifice fly in the 9th looked to be a game winner, but it wasn't to be (photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)
And finally, the best player in the universe proves it again by launching an extra-inning home run to send 54,000+ fans home in delirium.
Matt Kemp is out of this world.  The National League is foolish to pitch to him.  Just as we see him struggle for a few at bats and it looks like this marvelous April run of his may be coming to an end...he launches a heroic game winning homer.  There is a boyhood quality to his play.  There is jubilation in his gait and it’s contagious.  As much as it seems impossible that this one player can carry a team, he is accomplishing that feat.
Sure, others are contributing, but it's accurate to say that Kemp is joyously covering the bulk of the load.  2012 has been magic so far.  Dodger fans have a lot to be grateful for and on Monday the McCourt era officially ends.  Can things get any better?  I guess they can, but on this Saturday night it's good to be a Dodger fan.

photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP

Mormon on Mission...But this one is on the Ball Field

Bryce Harper makes his Major League debut tonight for all the country to see as the MLB network has decided to make the game it’s featured national telecast.  Harper, a 19 year old that is of the age that many young mormon kids leave for two years to go on a mission has opted to pursue his baseball career.  

Harper made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16 year old.
When asked by Baseball America’s Nathan Rode in 2010 if he planned on taking that two-year sabbatical from the game to go volunteer two years of his life for his church in some foreign country, Harper hinted that he could accomplish just as much for his church through his example as a baseball player saying, “As of right now, no I don’t (have plans for a mission).  I think I can do what I can on the field to get people to look at me and say, ‘He’s LDS’ (Latter-day Saint)...”
The jury is out on how taking a break from the game for two years affects a young developing player.  Most would agree it can’t help.  Case in point was a young Dodger outfielder from 2001-02 named McKay Christensen.
Christensen, a highly touted prep athlete out of Clovis West High School near Fresno, CA, was one of the most sought after prep stars in 1994.  Had he dedicated himself soley to baseball, there are those that say he would have been the first pick in that draft.  
As a running back at Clovis West, he ran for 2,600 all purpose yards and scored 44 touchdowns, named the Northern California Prep Player of the year.  In baseball he hit .500 and was 62 for 62 in stolen base attempts.  Christensen was told by scouts he’d be the first over-all pick that year.  But there was a problem.  He let major league teams know that he was planning on serving a mormon mission right out of high school when he turned 19 years old.
That fact made nearly all major league organizations shy away from the top athlete.  All except for the California Angels, who selected him anyway and signed him for over a million dollars.  “I was told there was no way I could serve a mission and still be drafted, and I was anyway,” he told Doug Robinson of the Deseret News.  “I felt it was an opportunity I shouldn’t pass up.  That option made the most sense,  I had two brothers play college football for BYU and they got beat to pieces.”  Link to article on Christensen from 2005

So Christensen was off to Japan on his LDS mission before ever stepping onto a baseball diamond for the Angels organization.  The 6th pick of the draft off to disappear from the baseball landscape for two years.  There he engaged in virtually no baseball activity and would only exercise early each morning to try to keep in shape.   Before he had completed his two year stint as a missionary, the Angels had traded him off the the Chicago White Sox.
Christensen admits that baseball instincts didn’t come naturally to him.  As great an athlete that he was, the two years off paid a toll on him.  “I didn’t understand baseball.  I didn’t know the fundamentals.  Football was more instinctive,” he said.  He meandered around in the minors with the Chisox organization, but had a few major league call ups in ’99, ’00 and ’01.
In 2001, Christensen was dealt to the Dodgers in July.  He made his Dodger debut against Colorado and started off with a bang.  Two singles, a double a walk, a HBP, 4 RBI, two runs scored.  It looked like the Dodgers had found a center fielder, but Jim Tracy did what he so often did back then.  He sat the youngster after a couple of Ofer games, and eventually Christensen was back on the bench.  He only had 49 ABs as a Dodger, in which he hit .327 with a .400 OBP.

He dedicated himself to the winter leagues in the off-season and came in with the promise that he’d have a legitimate shot at the starting Center field position.  Though he had a respectable Spring Training in 2002 hitting well over .350, Tracy was enamored with a speedy Dave Roberts and Christensen, without options remaining, was dealt off to the Mets at the start of the 2002 season, where he only had a handful of at bats in the major leagues again.
In 2004, at the age of 28, Christensen, playing Triple A ball in Louisville for the the Cincinnati organization, walked into Manager Rick Burlseon’s office and told him his passion for the game was over and that he was leaving.  “Baseball has a way of swallowing up years of your life and I didn’t want it to swallow any more years,” he said.  And then he added something more poignant,”...most people don’t understand what baseball is all about.  It’s consuming.  It requires a huge sacrifice.  It’s hard to become anything other than a baseball player.  I knew a lot of guys who, after they were done with baseball, had nothing to go to.”
Christensen went back to school and entered the family business back in Utah.  It makes me wonder what he would have become as a baseball player had he dedicated himself to baseball immediately out of high school.  There are a few success stories of mormon kids that have gone on missions, making it in the majors.  But they are primarily pitchers: Jeremy Guthrie and Matt Lindstrom are two that come to mind have succeeded.  Two time N.L. MVP Dale Murphy, probably the most well known mormon player did not take two years off to go on a mission until after his baseball career was over.
So Harper now starts his Washington Nationals career, and has taken a route to his major league rise that was much different that a similar prospect from 18 years ago.  Groomed to make it to the majors as early as his mid-teens,  It’ll be interesting to see this kid develop.  All signs are that he'll be a very successful major leaguer.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Washington Nationals...Pitching Has Been Amazing

Hey, this Washington Nationals Club is Good.  I haven't paid much attention to them before this series.  I must say, their pitching has been outstanding thus far.

Before tonight's game, they found themselves statistically first in the National League in team ERA (2.20), strikeouts (169), Team Shutouts (3), Saves (8), Earned Runs allowed (43), HR/9 (0.2), SO/9 (8.6).  Though their hitting isn’t bad, it’s the pitching that has paced this team to an NL best 14-5 start.  Paced by starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg (2-0. 1.08), Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 1.52), Ross Detwiler (2-0, 0.56), Edwin Jackson (1-1, 3.16) and Jordan Zimmerman (1-1, 1.33).   All five starters are off and running this April.
Additionally, going into tonight's game, the Washington club was tied with the Phils and Dodgers for the least amount of errors (10) committed. 
The stellar pitching can’t keep up.  Their numbers are off the charts, but so far, the Nats are the story of the National League.  What many followers of the game are saying is that they are off to this start due to easy scheduling, (something we have heard quite a bit of around these parts).  The Nats have played the Cubs (3), Mets (3), Padres (3), Reds (4), Astros (4) and Marlins (2).  Not all slouches, that's for sure and as so many are quick to forget, good teams beat up on the lessor competition.  It'll be exciting to see the Nationals competing deep into the season.  They'll have their hands full in the tough N.L. East.

Washington outfielder Jayson Werth will always be a favorite of mine. His Dodger contributions in 2004 will not be forgotten and Jayson was a big part of that.  One of DePodesta's best acquisitions during his short tenure as Dodger G.M.  I'll never forget in San Francisco when Werth caught the last out in a crucial pennant stretch victory there, and how he turned and waived good bye to the Gint faithful that had been heckling him all game following the catch.  We should have never released that guy.


During tonight's game, I couldn't help but notice this shot on television.  

Do you spot the anomaly?  What's wrong with this picture?  Yeah, who can miss that ugly blemish on the right side of the pitcure?

Why in the world would a fool in a Giants cap show up at a Dodgers/Nationals game?  I simply don't get it.  I admit that I attend my fair share of Giants games here in San Francisco.  Even going sometimes when the Dodgers aren't in town.  On those days, I wouldn't dream of showing up with a Dodgers cap on.  I'd simply be asking for a night of discomfort and constant badgering.  This guy must have one of those types of personalities that loves confrontation.


Tonight's 3-2 Dodger victory was a relief when you consider that the bullpen had taken the loss in two consecutive 9th inning finishes against a fine Atlanta team.  As much as many have been critical of Javy Guerra lately, who can complain about the grit and courage of that young man?  He took a line drive off the face and he continued on.  That was quite amazing regardless of the outcome.  Guerra finished the inning with Bud Selig's name permanently imprinted on his right cheek and continued to give it his all.  I sincerely hope that fans will cut him some slack.  Guerra earned a purple heart for that performance alone.

A few final observations.  That foul ball down the right field line hit by Washington's Danny Espinosa with one out in the ninth inning was literally 1 inch from hitting the foul pole to tie it up.  Perhaps the fans were instrumental in keeping it from hitting the pole.  Chalk up a win the the fans down the right field line.

I wouldn't be surprised if Chad Tracy has a broken wrist.   Jansen's 96 MPH fastball hit him flush on the bone.  The sound of it was painful.  I hope to be wrong, but it didn't look good for Chad.

One last point.  Vin Scully refused to criticize home plate umpire Angel Hernandez's call at the plate in the 8th inning when Tony Gwynn was ruled out at the plate, and Vin had it right.  There was no way that Hernandez could see Gwynn's hand slip onto the plate before Jesus Flores' tag was applied.  Hernandez's angle was screened and he only saw an awesome blockage of the plate.  Gwynn may have been safe, but it is understandable how Angel Hernandez could miss that call.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kemp's Mental Lapses on the Basepaths...they've gotta stop

Matt Kemp tagged out at home on Monday night's game, a 5-1 victory. (photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Base running miscues finally caught up to the Dodgers last night.  All season long they have been happening, but somehow, they didn’t appear to cost the club the game.  Last night their luck ran out as the Dodgers ran themselves out of two innings with poor base running execution by the real MVP, Matt Kemp.   
It is hard to fault Matt on the first miscue.  Uggla made a tremendous catch, turn and throw, and the call at first was bad, but the play was too close for comfort and it cost him.  Kemp shouldn’t have been caught in no man’s land on the Rivera pop up.  It was Matt's second miscue on the basepaths that was costly.   Simply put, it was another mental lapse as he made a feeble two step commitment to dash towards second base before changing his mind.  Kemp knew what he did, and he didn't even bother arguing the point after the umpires conferred and called him out.  
For a player with Matt’s veteran experience, there is no excuse for these mistakes.  The days are gone where we can say that Kemp is a basketball player playing baseball.  Matt has dedicated himself to this sport now for 8-9 years and these mental lapses shouldn’t be happening anymore.  
The point I want to make here is that the Dodgers have been absolutely reckless on the basepaths and giving away outs way too often for comfort.  It caught up to them tonight in the 4-3 loss.  It should have cost them the night before where a base hit by Ethier resulted in an 8-6-2-1 double play on the basepaths. 
I must add that I believe Kemp is still the best player in the game.  He’s a beast.  A monster.  He is a dominating player and as the years have passed I think he has improved and matured as a player, with one exception.  He’s not an intelligent base runner.  He attempts extra bases at bad times, such as two games ago, when he sprinted through Wallach’s stop sign are ran home, only to be thrown out by 20 feet.  His base stealing technique is poor, where he often beats the throw and then slides past the base head first and is tagged out.  He has brain lapses out there, misreading cut off men, getting caught in run downs.  It is the one area of his game that needs to improve, and it isn’t as if Lopes and Wills haven’t been preaching to him each year.
Kemp’s aggression on the paths is second to none, but his decision making and technique is to be questioned.  One thing that Matt should remove from his mindset is his stolen base prediction that he made during the off-season.  He’s not going to steal 50 bags this year.  Twenty-five?  Doable.  Fifty? No way.  Nor should he even attempt more than 35.  He’ll be on base plenty of times, the decision to take off for second base, to simply pad his SB stats may not always be prudent.  

Matt Kemp searches for the ball after not coming up with Martin Prado's ninth inning fly ball to the right field wall (photo by Jason Redmond/AP)
I do realize we’ve been spoiled by Kemp’s super-human talent.  This has been an amazing month.  When he didn’t come up with that fly ball with two outs at the top of the ninth, I have to admit, I was surprised.  Matt usually makes that catch in his sleep.  Where Matt needs to stop sleeping though is on the base paths.  He’ll need to keep his head in the game and think intelligently.  Aggression is great, but at times, not the most smartest choice to make.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Hat-Trick Plus One for Uribe

We’ve been waiting for over a year for Juan Uribe to arrive.  Quite frankly, I never thought it would ever happen.  That huge swing from the heels that has become the trademark of the Dominican third baseman has been his greatest enemy.  
Who of us really have had any faith in this guy?  When he went down with an injury last week, were you really eager for him to come back?  When Jerry Hairston made those spectacular plays in Milwaukee and Houston, we resigned ourselves to the new guy that could play third and at least contribute on defense.   Uribe possibly going on the D.L. didn't seem to be a big deal.
Juan Uribe's sprays an opposite field double down the right field line while hitting with the bases loaded in the eighth inning in tonights 7-2 Dodger win over Atlanta,  (photo by Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images).
With Juan Uribe today I saw something different.  He shortened up his swing and made adjustments.  He even placed outside pitches to right field.  Uribe apparently has decided that he doesn’t have to attempt to hit everything into the stratosphere.  Has batting coach Dave Hansen been able to reach him?  I hope so.  I would think in today’s modern game with all the technology and the video reviews, it wouldn’t take much to show Uribe that his all out swings from the heels are counter productive to his success as a hitter.
Coming into tonights game against Atlanta homerless in 40 plate appearances, perhaps Uribe has seen the light.  Four hits later, three singles and a double, three to the opposite field, Juan was the hero of tonight’s 7-2 win.  With three runs batted in, two runs scored and even scoring on a sacrifice fly on an all-out aggressive play, Juan seemed to be a revitalized player tonight.  Sometimes it is a game like tonight that sets a player in motion and breaks him into a streak.
Uribe has never been a player to be selective at the plate.  His in-base percentage has usually been in the neighborhood of his batting average.   This year was no exception.  As he entered Spring Training this year, Uribe claimed that he was a changed man.  He told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he was healthy and in shape.  “I worked hard...really worked on my physical condition.”  He claimed he was on a mission to “regain what I lost last year.”
Now 16 games into the season, hopefully this 4 for 4 game means that Uribe may be turning the corner.  Now batting .286, Juan is going to have to prove that he can make the adjustments, like he did tonight.  Any production from Uribe at the third base position will be incredibly valuable to this Dodger team that has shown that it’s only real major threats in the lineup have been in the 3 through 5 spots in the lineup.  A respectable season from Juan Uribe will do wonders for this Dodger team.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Cleaning for the Dodgers...A Complete Demo for Me

There are a few times a year when my TV service goes out.  Usually when my wife gets a wild streak of Spring cleaning and what starts as a simple top to bottom cleaning of one room in the house turns into a full blown remodel.  This has happened to me more than once and that’s what happened in my Den/family room yesterday, where my main DirecTV receiver sits.
A reconfiguration of furniture and a top to bottom cleaning has turned into :
*Removal of all furniture from the room including pictures, frames, curtains, curtain rods and fire place fixtures.
*Removal of pop corn ceiling and scraping that clean, (which, by the way, is about as fun as getting hit in the privates by a Stephen Strasburg fastball). 
*The installation of recessed lights, (another joy of life that takes up the huge portion of a day).
*Ceiling texturing and a full blown paint job.
*Disconnection of television and audio system. 
The direct result of this project that was unexpected to me has been an entire weekend that is shot,  A tired, tired frustrated man and a loss of t.v. connectivity to the entire house.  Meanwhile dust is everywhere and I’m now about $400 poorer than when this “room cleaning” began.  For those of you impressed with my home improvements skills I will admit that my son-in-law has the brains and brawn in these types of progress, not me.
Why bring it up?  Well, this all makes it kind of hard to write anything meaningful when I CAN’T WATCH THE GAME, nor do I have much time to log on.  But thank goodness for MLB.TV subscription, and the fact that my wifi network is located in another room, (& another $25 bucks), I was able to get my peaks in yesterday to see Kemp mash again, Dee Gordon break out of a slump, James Loney homer for the 1st time this year, Andre Ethier drive in two runs and Clayton Kershaw earn his first win.

Kershaw glares in at Home plate umpire  D.J. Reyburn, who had just notified him that he had gone to his mouth too many times in the 7th inning.  Kershaw threw 104 pitches over 7 innings of shutout ball, striking out 9 Astros in the process.
I said going into this road trip that a 4-2 record would be a success.  A win by Billingsley will accomplish that lofty goal.  Word is out that the reason for Eovaldi’s short minor league stint in Chatanooga the other day was because Bills felt some soreness in the groin area after his last start, but his Friday bullpen session alleviated some of the those fears and he is on track to go for his third win of the season today as the Dodgers close out the trip.  Jim Peltz's L.A. Times Notes Linked Here
Another weekend of “general soreness” in this 50 year old body.  Time for me to go on the D.L.  Isn’t that right Mike Marshall?


Friday, April 20, 2012

I Dare To Compare

Dare I say it?  Yeah, I will.  This current run by Matt Kemp is “Bonds-esque.”  Please allow me to explain.

In the early part of the 2000s, I’ll admit it.  I hated it when Barry Bonds came to the plate.   I hated it because he was the best freaking hitter that I ever saw in my life.   I hated it because I knew there was a pretty good chance he'd hit it out.  I'm not ashamed to confess that when the 7th inning rolled around and the game was close, I'd count how many hitters had to come to the plate before it was Bonds' turn again.  That guy had  no weaknesses.  If your man made the perfect pitch, the ump would call it a ball.  If the pitch he received was within the strike zone, he’d hit it out.  I mean, it happened 73 times that one year.  73!  Some guys are lucky to get 73 hits in a year.  It's no wonder they walked the man 232 times one season.
Yes, I know, he used PEDs to prolong his career and boost his super-human power numbers and ego that went along with it.  Something that Matt isn’t doing in this age of random drug testing.  I know Bonds was probably the biggest jerk in the game with a nasty personality and difficult demeanor, about the opposite of Kemp.  I compare the two because there is a swagger and confidence in Kemp when he steps up to the plate, something I haven’t seen since Bonds was a hitting fiend.  Matt expects to mash the ball, his teammates expect him to mash, the fans, the opposition, everyone knows they can’t stop this guy.  He’s in a zone that just seems to not end.

photo by Jon SooHoo, L.A. Dodgers

There’s something else, and it's something I saw during that Bonds run.  The world stops when Kemp steps up to the plate.  People want to see if he’ll do it again.  There is something awe inspiring and majestic about that super human strength that is shown when the long ball is hit.  It's just a cool thing to watch.  My wife likes baseball but doesn’t care much about the grand old game enough to really follow it, but she’ll stop what she’s doing and watch when Kemp comes to the plate, just to see if he'll hit it out again.
If this continues as it does and as this season goes on, we are going to see some crazy stuff.  First, there will be news updates on his home run chase, inning by inning.  If Matt starts getting near that 50/50 prediction that I used to think he made in jest, I guarantee you there will be a media watch at the latter part of the season.

Second, the league will start really pitching around him.  By that I mean, we’ll see him intentionally walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, or when nobody is on base to start an inning.  Crazy strategy, I know, but I saw it happen with Bonds and the way Kemp is swinging the bat, it’s just reminiscent of that monster year he had.

Third, Matt Kemp is going to be the talk of the league.  Water cooler discussions, friendly wagers amongst factory or warehouse workers, impressions of his stance and trot will be done by Little Leaguers and old men in their softball beer leagues.  He's reaching superstar proportions.  
They’re even talking about it up here in the Bay Area already and the Dodgers haven’t even played the Giants yet.  Much of the talk on the morning show on the Giants flagship station is about the Dodgers hot start.  I admit, they tend to dwell on the Dodgers "easy schedule" so far, but Mike Krukow said it this morning,  "They're beating the teams they are supposed to beat, and that's the sign of a good team."  When asked about Kemp, the Giant announcer had nothing but praise for the Dodger center fielder stating:  “Kemp used to swing at stuff out of the strike zone, and last year we went in there in the very first series when the Giants were taking them on in L.A. and not one time did Kemp go fishing outside of the strike zone.  Kuip and I looked at each other and said ‘Uh, Oh,' and he stayed in that zone the whole year.  And he’s picked right back up again this year.  He is premier.  The best player in the league, and I just think with a guy that good, you just let somebody else beat you.  Even a red hot hitter like Ethier.”

2010 Topps card of Kemp
One last point.  As much as Matt and Barry are displaying similar power hitting capabilities.  It's a no brainer to say that Kemp's 5 tool skills put Barry to shame.  Though Bonds had 4 of those tools for much of his career, when he bulked up with roids, he lost the foot speed and defensive prowess that he once had.  Kemp, now in his prime, just seems to get better in the 5 tools as his career progresses.  It's gonna be a fun run

And the save goes to...Jerry Hairston Jr.

Jerry Hairston reacts after throwing out Alex Gonzalez to end the 8th inning (AP Photo)

Watching games late.  It seems to be my M.O. lately due to the crunch at work.  But today's DVR recap that I just finished reviewing was very rewarding.  Jerry Hairston’s impression of Brooks Robinson was about as accurate as any I have ever seen.  Two clutch plays.  One to preserve the tie in the 8th and the second to record the first out in the ninth.  Simply clutch plays.
The save on the books goes to Javy Guerra, which was well deserved.  A fine recovery for the Dodgers closer after the loss he took two nights ago, BUT in reality, the true save goes to Jerry Hairston Jr., with that amazing defensive gem in the bottom of the eighth.
Jamey Wright admitted that his bullpen session was awful prior to entering in the games 7th inning.  What followed even surprised him, five consecutive strikeouts.   "It usually takes me two months to get that many strikeouts," he told Dodger beat writer Ken Gurnick.  (Linked HERE) 

Inspired by the fact that the day was his mother's birthday, Wright had his best day as a Dodger, but it took the heroics of Hairston to save him in the ninth.  Alex Gonzalez absolutely tatooted Wright's first pitch to him down the third base line.   Hairston simply picked his pocket and threw him out with room to spare from his knees.

What is all forgotten with the talk of Wright, Hairston and Guerra's heroics is that Matt Kemp's amazing start continues.  His solo shot in the top of the fifth was the difference maker in the game.  It was Kemp's 7th homer and 18th RBI on the year.  Both lead the majors.  Matt continues to be the talk of the league, as he so deserves.


Today, in a brief conversation I had with Ron Cervenka from Think Blue LA and we came to the same conclusion:  Eric Stephen is amazing at what he does.  His latest post provides information on an interesting development in the Dodgers Minor Leagues.  Are we possibly going to see Nathan Eovaldi in the majors soon?  If not, there is certainly an interesting development on Eovaldi (and a cautious one at that), for the Dodgers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The luck of the baseball Gods has turned.

The play at the plate was bang-bang.  It could have gone either way.  It should have gone our way.  Replays show that Ellis tagged Morgan on the butt before his hand touched the plate, but after 10 games of nearly everything going our way, the tables have turned.  And the season is on.

I've seen it hundreds of times.  The ebbs and flows of a 162-game schedule.  The home town call that an umpire tends to go with on the close plays.  And then there is the controversy that is so much a part of baseball and how there is talk of increasing the accuracy of those calls through technology, namely instant replays.

The tag was applied before Morgan touched the plate.  Replays confirm it.
Surprisingly, Don Mattingly called for instant replay on plays at the plate in his comments after the game.  “We have instant replay for home run calls, perhaps it’s time to have them on plays at the plate,” he said on the post game interview.  It’s a little tough to argue with his logic after that call cost the Dodgers the game.  And how much extra time will it take to double check on close plays like that?  They are so infrequent, and if an umpire is sitting in a booth at each game for those types of plays, the process could be sped up.

I really don't see a problem with adding plays at the plate as being reviewable plays for video checks via instant replay.

Yes, I've heard the arguments.  Baseball needs the "human element" in its officiating.  But if you think about it, what is the "human element?"  Usually the human element is a mistake.  And mistakes are what should be removed from officiating.  The bottom line is we want honest and correct calls to be made, if a minute or two reviewing a play results in that, then I'm for it.  If the concern is that the reviews will slow down the game, then I say have the umpires enforce the rule that a pitcher must deliver a pitch within 12 seconds of receiving the ball back from the catcher.

Chris Capuano went 6 innings and allowed 2 runs in a strong start.
Tomorrow’s game is a big one, otherwise the momentum from the 9-1 start will obviously be over with.  Going in to Houston with a win will turn the tide.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Announcement Today, I Join Forces with ThinkBlueLA Blog

For the last couple of months, I have been keeping an announcement under wraps, but the time has come that I don’t need to keep it hidden anymore.
The ThinkBlueLA message board and forum has converted into a full blown blog.  It took a few months for them to work out the wrinkles and create their format, but today, April 17, 2012, it was formally launched.  Linked HERE
I bring this up because that site’s creators, Ron Cervenka and Scott Harvey have asked me to be one of the featured writers over there.  I accepted the invitation because I believe in their passion and I am familiar with the participants to their forum, a true hodge podge of Dodger savants.  Those guys want to develop a top notch blog/site.   They will put in the time and I strongly believe that "www.ThinkBlue LA.com" will be a “must read” for all credible Dodger fans out there. 

Blogger Softball Tourney, OKP teammate Rob Robinson chats with Ron Cervenka during a rest between games.
I received the invitation from Ron to join forces with them during the first week of Spring Training.  He called me at 7:00 am one Saturday morning I believe and rambled off with excitement his ideas from the Camelback Ranch Paring Lot. Frankly, I was quite flattered that he wanted me to be a writing contributor.  He said some very nice things about my writing style and Dodger knowledge.  If you have ever met Ron, you’ll see he can really talk a mile a minute when he’s excited.  I had been asked before to work on another blog, but I was leery with what they were demanding of me and I had concerns about my own site.  With ThinkBlueLA, this seemed to be the right fit.  Plus he agreed that I wouldn’t be tied to deadlines and that I could keep the OKP site up and going.
Ron is about as passionate a Dodger fan as I have ever met.  He knows his stuff.  He attends all games.  If the Dodgers are out of town, he’ll go follow the Quakes at home or on the road.  Baseball is truly his high.  And the only guy I can think of that is as passionate as he is would be me.  But I’m not at his level by a long shot.  I’m stuck in Northern California and I’m not retired yet, so the jealousy that I have for Ron is stratospheric in nature.  I look at my retirement date (now about 8 years away) and see myself doing the same stuff he’s doing.
So it’s going to be a balancing act.  I’ll post over there and post here.  I will do everything with my limited free time to get this juggling act going.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how it’ll work, but it will be exciting nonetheless.  The Dodgers are giving us plenty of topics to write about.  Take a look at his site, register as a contributor to his forum.  They have quite a following that proves their slogan, that they actually do have some of" the most passionate Dodger fans in the world."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Patience My Friends, Patience...

I’ll say it now and repeat it later.  Dodger fans need to back off the criticism of Dee Gordon.  It’s time accept him as the everyday shortstop and accept the fact that we are probably looking at having a 30+ error season from that position.  It might be as bad as 40 errors.  It is time to recognize that Gordon needs to grow in the position on the major league level.  There is no doubt in my mind that he may cost the team a few games with his defense, but this isn't a hopeless situation like the Jose Offerman situation was in the early to mid 90s.  This kid is special.  I'm talking potential Hall of Famer type special.  He's going to be a great player and I'm about 90% sure that in then end, it’ll all be worth it.

Photo by Lawrence K. Ho, L.A. Times, April 11, 2012
Patience with this kid will pay off.  Yes, we’ll see erratic play.  Definitely, we’ll witness the routine throw sail into the first base dugout.  Without a doubt there will be a large number of ground balls bobbled.  What we won’t see is a lack of effort and hustle.  Dee Gordon is a true talent.   We have already seen glimpses of his amazing acrobatic plays.  He is fearless out there and he already saved a game or two with a spectacular play on the defensive side.  I guarantee it, we'll see more for many years.  In a way, history is repeating itself.
Back in 1972 the Dodgers had Maury Wills returning from a respectable 1971 season.  He hit .281 with 654 plate appearances in a year when a gritty Dodger team came back within a game of winning the Western Division title.  Though Wills was 38 years old, he was still stealing the occasional bag (15) and his defense was still decent.  He maintained his range and it was believed that there was no reason for him to hang up his spikes.  
During the off-season Al Campanis traded away their top shortstop prospect, Bobby Valentine,  as part of a blockbuster deal with the Angels.  There really seemed to be no one on the horizon to take over Wills‘ spot, but Al Campanis was determined to turn Bill Russell into a shortstop.  

Bill Russell (photo by Scott Harms, AP)

Russell had dabbled in the past at the shortstop position, but he had a long way to go to have the transition take place.   He played there very erratically in Vero Beach that spring.  It made no sense to plug him in at short because he was an excellent outfielder.  But after Wills got off to a slow start, 12 games into the season, Walter Alston inserted Russell into the lineup at shortsop night after night.  I’ll tell you, it was rough.  He was booed regularly by the home crowds. He ended the year with 32 errors in the 118 games he started.
Infield guru and the master at infield position conversions, Monty Basgall was managing in AA El Paso.  Campanis  called off that assignment early in the season and assigned him to help Russell with the big club.  This was at a time when a vet like Wills wasn’t about to assist a guy like Russell who was forcing him into retirement.  I have to hand it to Walt Alston.  He stuck with the 23 year old youngster and allowed him to learn what many consider to be one of the most difficult defensive positions at the major league level.  It wasn’t a popular move.  Many fans wanted Wills out there, including me.  The boo birds had to be affecting the young Russell and his confidence had to be in the dumper, but Alston kept putting him in the lineup and allowed him to learn the job through day in and day out experience.

Walt Alston and Maury Wills
Russell was never yanked from a game that I can recall.  He was allowed to grow into the position.  Some will say that Russell never was a great shortstop and that it took him years to develop.  The truth was though, he was a respected shortstop within a few years.  An eventual All Star at the position and the transition worked.  With Russell at Short, the Dodgers won 5 division titles, 4 pennants and 1 world championship.
I don’t think it is fair to compare Gordon at all to Russell.  The ceiling for Gordon is much higher.  I see Devaris as being a gold glove shortstop one day.  Meanwhile, we as a fanbase, have to be patient and encouraging.  Eventually we’ll be rewarded with many years of an all star at that position.  And who knows, if Gordon stays healthy and continues swiping bags at his current rate, we may be looking at 100 steals this year.  I'm not kidding either.  Some predicted 70 steals.  I see 100 easy if he stays healthy.

Kemp, Player of the Week Again

For the second consecutive week, Matt Kemp today was named National League Player of the Week.  It is the first time in the history of the award that the same player has won it the first two weeks of the season.  Going back to last season, Matt has actually won the POTW award now three consecutive weeks, (he won it that last week of 2011).  It is the first time in the history of the award that it has been won for three consecutive weeks.  I say, “Go for four Matt!”

What Kemp has done the first 10 games this year is quite historical.  I can't help comparing it to other Dodger Stars of the past.  Many of us remember an amazing April that Ron Cey had in 1977.  Setting what was then a ML Record with 29 RBI in that month.  The Dodgers finished that month with a 17-3 record during Tommy Lasorda's first year as manager.  Then there was June, 1985, when Pedro Guerrero tied both Babe Ruth and  Roger Maris for the most home runs in a month (15) during an amazing run.  He also tied a team record by reaching base 11 consecutive at bats.

Kemp is having that type of start.  He steps to the plate and everyone stops what they are doing to see if he'll hit one out.  He should be the most feared hitter in baseball.  With Ethier and Rivera hot behind him, opponents are forced with the option of picking their poison.  I'm surprised to see that they continue to pitch to him.

Another thing of note.  The Pirates employed an infield shift against Kemp, placing three of their infielders to the left side of second base.  The Padres didn't bother with that tactic playing Kemp in a more conventional defensive alignment.  It'll be interesting to see what the rest of the league does defensively against Kemp.

So let's enjoy this while it's happening.  Kemp is on fire, the team is winning everything.  The ball is bouncing our way.   The calls are going our way.   It won't always be this way.  This is a rarity of epic proportions.  It has made the baseball season of 2012 even more special than normal.  It won't continue...but we can always hope.

Let me put it this way.  If the Dodgers return from this road trip at 4-2, we should all be doing handstands and cartwheels. That would be considered to be a remarkable start.   This start of the year streak won't reach the proportions of the '55 Dodgers (22-2), the '78 Dodgers (17-3) and the '84 Detroit Tigers (35-5).  I would love to see that, but this team is not that good.

To put this start in perspective.  If the Dodgers play .500 ball the rest of the year, they will finish with an 85-77record.  That might be enough for a wild card.

In other news today, the rival San Francisco Giants announced that they have signed starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner to a contract through the 2017 season (with an option through the 2018 season).  As much as I can’t stand the Giants, I must say this is a wise move for that franchise that now has it’s top three starters inked through 2014.  We can all just hope they continue to flounder offensively because if they do get a semi respectable offense, they will be a team to constantly reckon with.
Reports are that he was signed for $35-40 million for 5 years. Now the Dodgers can gauge a little bit more what Kershaw will cost them. Wait, let me take that back, now It’ll be easier to gauge what they should have signed him for two years ago, before he won the Cy Young award.  If Clayton does what I think he’ll do this year, the Dodgers will really have to be open to an 8 year deal in the neighborhood of $180-200 million.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dodgers Magical Streak Continues

This is the most bizarre week I can recall with the Dodgers in a long time.  The Blue Crew celebrated Jackie Robinson day with a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres to close out the homestand with a perfect 6-0 record.

It is amazing when you realize that the Dodgers have:

*Won nine out of ten, and Kershaw doesn’t have a decision in any of them.  

*A center fielder playing out of his mind hitting opposite field home runs that display absolutely insane strength and power.

*An erratic shortstop that is making spectacular plays while blowing the routine ones.  All the while stealing bases on virtually every opportunity he reaches base.  

*A team that has been giving up leads that shouldn’t be surrendered, only to miraculously come back and hand their fans victorious walk-off celebrations. 

Javy Guerra saws off the bat of Jesus Guzman.  The ball trickles fair resulting in a 2-6-4-3 triple play
Then there was today.  Kemp, Ethier and Rivera flexed their muscles again accounting for 4 runs to start off the scoring, only to see the Padres scramble back against a Clayton Kershaw who simply didn't have his best stuff.  With the game in the balance in the top of the ninth, Javy Guerra surrendered a hit and a walk to start off the frame.  Then the defense, thanks to A.J. Ellis, pulled off a goofy once in a life-time triple play at the very moment that all were thinking that the wheels would finally fall off this magical 2012 season and a loss was inevitable.  Ut was their first triple play in 15 years.  To cap things off, SkinnySwag steps up to the plate with the bases full and two outs in the bottom of the ninth and punches an 0-2 liner into left field for the victory.

Gordon rips an 0-2 pitch to left field and...

...celebrates his walk off single.
So here they stand after ten games.
Los Angeles 9-1  .900   --
Arizona         6-3  .667   2.5
Colorado 4-5  .444  4.5
San Fran.   4-5  .444  4.5
San Diego    2-8   .200  7.0
All were hopeful for a strong start, but who could have imagined this?  The road trip that starts on Tuesday is made up of three games in Milwaukee and three in Houston.  More beatable teams in this fortunate April schedule that is only ten games old.