Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dodgers Close Out Homestand in Difficult Spot

I must say that I write this in a very frustrated state.  Probably not for the reasons you may think.  Yes, the Dodgers are faltering and in a difficult position with the recent turn of events.  But my frustration stems from the fact that I just finished writing a lengthy post only to realize that I failed to save it properly and I lost the entire thing.  So I start this over from scratch. 

Matt Kemp limps home after reinjuring his hamstring on Wednesday night. (photo by Mark J. Terrell/AP)

What I wanted to convey to readers of this blog was this:

As the Dodgers complete this current seven game homestand, today's final match with the Brewers is a big one.  It's a big one because they really don't want to depart on what many consider to be the most brutal and grueling road trip on a 4 game losing streak.  We already know they'll be leaving with their best player about to enter on a lengthy disabled list tour again.  This fact was confirmed by Mr. Kemp's post game quotes last night.  

This writer didn't express major concerns when Kemp went down in early May.  I felt that the Dodgers could potentially build on their lead at the time.  Those predictions turned out to be correct.  Unfortunately, I don't feel so optimistic this time around.  The primary reason is that the current state of Dodger starting pitching is in sad shape.

Ted Lilly was probably the best starting pitcher on the staff through Mid-May.  Now he is probably gone for a prolonged period and even if he returns, a shoulder injury isn't something that many pitchers return from at 100% form.  Chad Billingsley has been consistently bad now for several starts and appears to be suffering from a crisis of confidence in his stuff.  Now staff ace Clayton Kershaw is battling through a difficult stretch.  As positive as we all are in Nathan Eovaldi, it is important to remember he is a rookie and he certainly can't be expected to carry this veteran team.

So here we are.  The Dodgers stand with a .640 winning percentage.  The best in baseball and the largest lead of any division leaders (tied with Texas) with a 5 1/2 game advantage.  That lead seems rather precarious as the Dodgers depart for Colorado, Philadelphia and Seattle.  Would you rather be 5 1/2 games out of first?  No way.  There are certainly difficult times ahead in these remaining 112 games.  Regardless of the problems that currently exist, we should all be happy with their position through 31% of the season.  But a win today and leaving with a 6 game lead would really be a moral boost.  At least for that flight to Colorado.

Billingsley goes to the mound today against Zack Greinke.  A quality start from Chad would be a real good thing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Tough Stretch Coming Up

Eovaldi's first Major League start this season resulted in a 2-1 hard luck loss to the Brewers (AP Photo)

Believe it or not, it’s crunch time for this Dodger team.  By no means am I saying that the pennant is on the line or that they haven’t faced their difficulties yet.  I’m just saying that they are about to hit a patch on the schedule that will be challenging.  Over the next 12 games they face Milwaukee at home for 2 final games. Then they travel to Colorado for 3, Philadelphia for 4 and Seattle for 3, only to return home to face their annual nemesis, Anaheim at home for three more.
Meanwhile, the Giants have a favorable schedule during that same time period.  Arizona at home for one more, the doormat Cubs at home for 4.  They then travel to San Diego for three only to return home and face the Rangers for 3 and the Astros for 3. 
This is a 16 day stretch where if the Dodgers can hold on strong, they should be in good shape.  We often forget what a marathon the season is and there is a ton of obstacles left to face, but this will be a challenging month.   Now with key injured players returning to the fold, the Dodgers are set up well to continue their successful run, even after dropping two in a row at home to the Brewers.

The starting pitching suddenly becomes a concern over this stretch of games.  Following Nathan Eovaldi’s debut last night, I’d have to say that he continues in the starting  rotation.  This Dodger starting staff is facing some obstacles.  Both Billingsley and Harang have been mediocre lately.  Eovaldi is about to face the challenge of his life, leaving only Kershaw and Capuano at the top.  Hopefully these guys can step it up like the bullpen has lately.
There has been talk of John Ely and the fine year he’s having at Albuquerque.  I have to believe that he’ll be up to the big club some time this year to make a contribution.  Ted Lilly’s shoulder problems have to be a concern.   The Roy Oswalt situation was simply a tease, as expected he signed with the Rangers yesterday.

(photo by Jake Roth/US Presswire)
If Juan Rivera returns by the road trip.  What does Mattingly do with the lineup?  Abreu and Gwynn are both deserving of playing time and have performed better than all our expectations.  Somebody is going to be sitting.
If it were up to me, Abreu plays.  Gwynn serves as a pinch runner/late defensive replacement.  Herrera starts at second base and becomes the leadoff hitter and AJ Ellis is entrenched in the 5th spot in the order.
I have been an advocate of James Loney for years but his weak at bats in clutch situations have become so frequent, that he has no business in this lineup (unless he is a defensive replacement).  There comes a time when the team needs to cut him loose.  Perhaps that time has arrived.
I know Loney has always been a streaky hitter, but he has never hit well at Dodger Stadium nor has his power ever materialized.  I would be in favor of including him in a mid-season trade as part of a package for a big bat.  He has defensive value and we might take our lumps on the field as his replacement fails to dig out some of Gordon’s wild throws, but I believe that the change would be a move worth taking if a decent power bat could be acquired.
Clayton Kershaw takes the mound tonight after arguably his worst start of the year against Houston.  There were a number of hard hit balls off of Kershaw last Friday.  The heavy night air kept at least two in the ball park.  Here’s hoping that he can right the ship and be a stopper to this mild 2 game losing streak.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Look Back, 14 Games Ago

The Dodgers are gearing up for a Matt Kemp return tomorrow night.  On May 14th when Kemp went on the disabled list, I wrote that I didn’t believe  his absence would be disastrous:

He can get to the business at hand...healing,” I wrote.  All appearances are that Matt has done so.  Based on reports from Head Trainer Sue Falsone, his antics when pummeling game day heroes with game winning hits and most importantly, the results of his first minor league rehabilitation start in Albuquerque last night.
Matt Kemp in Albuquerque last night. (photo by Zach Hill/Albuquerque Isotopes)

In three at bats, Kemp homered and banged out another hit.  He scored two runs and knocked in three, leading the Isotopes to a 11-9 win over Oklahoma City.   It should also be noted that Juan Rivera also homered in his return to the field. 
While many saw Kemp’s D.L. stint as a sign of disaster, I thought that the 6 game lead the Dodgers had at the time was comfortable enough, and that this would be an opportunity to see others shine.  In fact, I thought that the upcoming schedule was favorable enough that the Dodgers would be fine.  I said the following:
“So they have fourteen more games (without Kemp) with a 6 game cushion.  They should be able to maintain the lead and hold their own against the competition over the next 14 days.  I wouldn’t put it past them to build upon the lead even more.”
I must say that my expectations wouldn’t have nearly been so high had I known that Mark Ellis, Juan Uribe and Justin Sellers would go down too.  But the team has held its own, going 9-4 without Matt in the lineup.  Take a look at the standings comparison.
     Standings on May 14                      May 28
Los Angeles             24-11                  32-15
San Francisco         18-17   6.0          25-23  7.5
Arizona                     15-21  9.5           22-26  10.5
Colorado                  13-21 10.5           17-29   14.5
San Diego               12-24   12.5         17-32   16.0
So the Nostrodaumus in me continued 14 days ago, saying:
“The amazing thing about this club is that they continue winning, even without their major offensive force in the lineup.  Will it keep up?  I certainly hope so.  Steady starting pitching, a respectable defense that is making plays and the occasional clutch hit, combined with an uncanny ability to win at home has resulted in the best record in Major League Baseball.  It also helps that a player like Andre Ethier is hitting ..462 on the homestand and A.J. Ellis, now batting 5th has an OBP also at .462 on the season.”
Who would have thought that the defending division champs (Arizona) would be 9.5 games out on May 14th?”
Fourteen days later those D-Backs are an additional game behind.  The Giants, 1 game and a half deeper in the standings.  Nobody is making a run in this division.  All NL West teams are dealing with injuries, slumps and various other problems.  The Dodgers are too, but they continue to prevail.  If the Dodgers were to play .500 ball for the remainder of the season, they’ll end up with 91 victories.  Even the most optimistic prognosticators will tell you that 90 wins is enough to win the National League West.

Scott Van Slyke receives a heroes welcome after homering to beat St. Louis on May 20, 2012 (photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

There have been call-ups from the minors.  Some have excelled.  Others not so much.  There have been the occasional heroes (i.e. Van Slyke, De Jesus, Herrera, Sellers) and those that have been given a shot, but really haven't jumped up and made the decision hard to demote them back to AAA.  None of us will feel any particular angst at Sands, Van Slyke or De Jesus being sent back to Albuquerque.

This ball club simply keeps winning.  The chemistry on the team is as good as any I've seen with a Dodger team since 1988.  Everyone has contributed in some way.  That is the sign of a winning team, a championship team.  Now that Kemp will be returning, the sky is the limit for this group of guys.  They have weathered the storm and now can really move forward.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Farewell to Former Division Rival. (For What it's Worth, I Think the Rockies should have been moved to the American League)

Oh Those Astros!  Long time National league West rivals.  A team that changed baseball with the installation of Astroturf in the 60’s.  The first team to play in a dome.  Those wacky uniform changes and rainbow color schemes.  You can say this much about the Houston franchise, they were certainly different and innovative.  They were a team that battled for doormat status in the early years of the NL West (with the Padres and Braves), but they also had some excellent players and eventually became a strong rival.
When the Astros came out sporting these tight rainbow duds in the mid seventies, none of us knew what to think.  Granted, the 1970s had some ugly fashion, and we saw some shocking stuff, but these things took the cake.  Heck the uniform number was on the crotch of the players practically.

James Rodney Richard in the rainbow uniform
Jose Cruuuuuuz, Absolute Dodger killer.  At least I thought he was until I looked it up.  His numbers against L.A. were not substantially any better than against most other teams.
Aside from the fashion statements that the Astros made, there was a time they were the toughest team we’d face in the National League.  Jose Cruz (the first one) absolutely killed the Dodgers in clutch situations.  Terry Puhl wasn’t far behind.  Art Howe as a player, he broke our hearts in 1980.  
It was October 6, 1980 and the Dodgers, being down 3 games in the standings with 3 to play had just finished off sweeping the Astros to force a one game playoff.  This was one of the most dramatic series ever and the fans, serving as what Steve Garvey called “the 10th man,” were worked up in an absolute frenzy for the one game playoff at Dodger Stadium.
A four game sweep wasn’t to be as Dodger starter Dave Goltz was touched up allowing 4 runs in the first three innings.  The damage was done by Astros 33 year old journeyman infielder Art Howe, who hit a two run homer and also singled with the bases loaded to drive in four runs.  Houston defeated Los Angeles 7-1 behind a Joe Niekro 7 hitter.
As the Astros come to Dodger Stadium for the last time in a long time, I can’t deny the fact that this was a team that was a formidable opponent and legitimate division rival from the late 70s into the mid 80s.
Cesar Cedeno - a gold glove center fielder and constant lineup threat. Joe Sambito - a lights out closer.  Nolan Ryan, he no-hit us in the ’81 championship season. Bob Watson, a feared hitter and clutch at that.  6' 7"James Rodney Richard, considered the most intimidating pitcher by many.
“We hated facing J.R. in my day,” said Dusty Baker in a 2010 interview with Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.  “He was throwing at about 50 feet.  That’s where tall guys with leverage have such an advantage.  You don’t have much time to react, make up your mind.  A lot of guys came down with some mysterious injuries on the night that J.R. pitched.” 
Mike Scott - kept Fernando from getting his second Cy Young Award.  Alan Ashby - a solid catcher that handled that great pitching staff, who could hit too. Enos Cabell - an All Star caliber third baseman that always gave us fits. Don Sutton - left the Dodgers in ’81 for the comfortable confines of the pitcher friendly Astrodume.
Sutton, though a Dodger for 16 seasons had always had a longing to move to Texas.  He felt that it was more suited for his country boy upbringing.  Truth of the matter was that the Garvey-Sutton feud probably took its toll on him because after arriving in Houston, he realized that Southern California was the home he was most comfortable in and he demanded a trade to the Angels.  The Dodgers were not an option to Sutton at the time with Garvey still on the roster.  Sutton only lasted a season and a half in an Astros uniform before being dealt away to Milwaukee.
There were transactions with the Astros.  Jimmy Wynn for Claude Osteen in the ’73 off-season.  The Toy Cannon lifted the Dodgers to the 1974 Pennant and was an MVP candidate while Osteen went 9-9 in Houston before closing out his career with other ballclubs.   Former Dodger/Astro/Red second baseman Rafael Landestoy - who Al Campanis wanted back so bad that he traded an up and coming reliever for him that could have solved the Dodger closer dilemma for years.  (The player traded?  John Franco with 424 lifetime saves and 0 as a Dodger).  A few years later the Dodgers snatched up Astro players Enos Cabell and Phil Garner in pennant stretch runs at trade deadlines.  Neither worked out so well.

Houston has been a franchise beset with tragedy.  Don Wilson, All Star pitcher from the 70s died at a young age of a mysterious circumstances that to this day are uncertain.  Cesar Cedeno, involved in legal troubles with the death of his then girlfriend in a Santo Domingo hotel of a gunshot wound.  J.R. Richard, tragically having his career end by a stroke at the age of 30.

There were the close calls with the Houston Astros coming within an eyelash of the World Series in '80 and '86.  Then came the 90s, the duo of Bagwell and Biggio.  They were legitimate stars and players of Hall of Fame quality.  In 2005, they reached the World Series, after 44 years in the league.  The 2004 and 2005 Houston clubs were well built teams and in the top rung of the National League.

Now as the Astros have fallen upon difficulties the last few years, they are a young team with some up and coming players.  Now on a 4 game winning streak, the Astros seem to be hitting their stride just at the wrong time for the Dodgers.

Let me just add one thing.  The Houston Astros fan base.

I have a strong friendship with a few Houston fans.  Both are Texas natives.  One worked with me for a number of years and was my carpool partner to work when I commuted to San Jose, CA.  I'd always complain about the Maroon 5 CD she played over and over again.  She got sick of the Steely Dan CDs I would play (as if that was actually possible).  Letty, had transplanted to California for work, but didn't leave her Texas loyalties behind.  We both shared one unifying sports loyalty - out dislike of the San Francisco Giants.

When I was sent to Houston on a work detail six or seven years ago.  Letty's brother Evers picked me up and took me to Minute Maid Park where he proudly showed me his ballpark.  We went to the Crawford Boxes and attempted to shag batting practice homers.  He showed me the best concessions for food. He helped me at the gift shop picking out an Astros hat. 
During the 7th inning he heartedly sang "Deep In The Heart of Texas" with the crowd.  I must say, it was an unforgettable experience and the hospitality was above reproach.
Minute Maid Park in Houston is so much better when the roof is open.  The fans, as hospitable as any that I have ever encountered.

Everyone I was introduced to was more than kind.  You can't dislike that fan base.  Those I experienced were all class.  I was impressed.  

When the Dodgers play the Astros, email messages are sent my way from Letty.  They are good natured, tactful, humorous and in the spirit of fair play.  Classy, kind of like the Houston Astros franchise has been over the years.  As much as I dislike astroturf, indoor baseball, and multi colored uniforms, I can't dislike that franchise.  Their departure to the Junior Circuit has just given me a team to root for in that league.  Good luck Houston!  Well, after Sunday's game of course. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Bloggers" - I Get Why a Legitimate Journalist Might Be Bitter

Imagine pursuing a career in something you are passionate about.  Your dream job in the sports industry as a journalist.  You get good grades in school, qualify and are accepted at a top notch university and enroll in the journalism program.  There you learn the nuts and bolts of the profession. Interviewing techniques,  proper writing formats, syntax, grammar, ethics and citing sources, balanced reporting, factual reporting, editing, and more.
You take your lumps in the writing world.  It’s sort of like riding the buses in the minors.  There are the lows.  The criticisms.  That professor that hates your style and tells you you’ll never make it.  There is the occasional article that you publish in the school paper that is shredded or critiqued by readers in a negative light.  You make some mistakes along the way that you learn from.  You learn to be thick skinned.

Vin Scully Press Box at Dodger Stadium
You also have your supporters.  You know you have talent and you’re aware that you can come up with interesting stories or that uncovered angle that nobody addressed.  Deep down, you know that there’s a Pulitzer in your repertoire or an amazing novel inside of you.  You are creative and insightful.  You put out a good product.  You just need to be given the chance.  Hard work and perseverance will pay off in the long run.
You write some very well received stories and positive feedback comes your way.  Your confidence is lifted and upon graduation four years later, you take a job in the minors.  Some small newspaper that is willing to take a chance on you.  Sure you start with writing obituaries and covering high school sports in a region of the country that was unknown to you, but eventually you believe that your talent will get the attention of someone out there that will give you a shot at a national level or with a publication with more notoriety.  You put in years worth of work in a low paying job but you understand that these are the growing pains of advancing in this industry.
You work your way up as so many talented writers do and eventually land your “dream” job.  Perhaps in a city like Louisville, Tampa, Houston, Denver or even Los Angeles.  You may be assigned to a professional sports team.  You now have readership.  Your name gets known and a few of your works are well received.  You are in the inner circle of the sports journalistic world with access to coaches, team administrators and athletes.  You write a cutting piece on a controversial and high profile subject.  You are interviewed by others, your opinion is respected and actually matters.  You may even be assigned a daily column.
But along the way, while all this is going on, something is happening in the industry,  The internet emerges and becomes a major source for information and news.  The world wide web has created openings for every Tom, Dick and Harry to express their opinions to audiences that you always dreamed of having early on in your career.  Suddenly you are competing with people who don’t understand the rules of journalism.  People that lift quotes or photos from you or your colleagues without citing the source or because they can simply cut and paste like anyone.
The worst part of all this is that they are getting popular and gaining readership.  Now, via twitter, they are able to actually scoop you on stories, and sometimes they get the facts correct.  They don’t have to go through editorial checks and get permission to publish stuff.  They just do it.  You realize how unfair this all is as these amateurs gain more respect and access to your profession.  You have spent years honing your craft and being rigidly thorough to ensure accuracy in your work and now these uneducated and inexperienced writers are swooping in and writing stories irresponsibly without accurate fact checking.  Worst of all, you are expected to work side by side with some of these guys.  
They don’t face deadlines.  They don’t have editors.  They aren’t subjected to legal departments and the fears of lawsuits.  They aren’t given assignments that are uninteresting.  They simply write about what they want and sometimes very recklessly.  Some have little education other than watching the game and having opinions.  Never in their lives have they been required to scholarly research a story.  Some don’t even know what microfilm and microfiche is.  Others have never slaved over a typewriter and dealt with the difficulties of footnotes/end notes.  Many don’t even know what any of that is. 
As a blogger, I see where I fall in all of this and must say that I understand why a journalist would be bitter.  I’d be bitter.  I face it in my vocation, where there have been promotions of individuals that weren’t qualified who were suddenly ordering me around.  It is difficult.  It’s hard to take the high road.  Pride gets in the way.  
Legitimate journalists, the men and women who have paid their dues in the industry and dedicated their lives to become proficient at it, are now being asked to share the press box and interview room with bloggers.  Some accept us and are actually helpful and complimentary.  Others give us the silent treatment and cold shoulder.  To the latter group I must say that I understand.  To the former all I can say is “you’re a better person than I am and thank you.”  To all of them I say that you have my respect and admiration.  Additionally, you keep the profession honest and legitimate, often correcting the mistakes that an errant blogger makes.  

With the advent of the internet, the world has changed and there will always be room in the industry for us both, but in my opinion, writers such as Bill Shaikin, Tony Jackson and Dylan Hernandez will always carry the credibility and respect that many a blogger only can wish to have.  It is my hope that the product I come up with can be viewed with some legitimacy as I try to match their journalistic integrity and competency.


For the first time in 16 days, the Dodgers actually lost ground in the standings yesterday.  With the team idle and the Giants winning in Miami, the division lead decreased from 7 games to 6.5.   Call it luck, good fortune or just playing good baseball all around, this Dodger team is not only winning, but when they lose the occasional game it happens to coincide with a Giant loss.


Received this signed photo (below) in the mail.  Mike Marshall was true to his word.  Is this cool or what?  It is hanging in my office now.  

So in the interest of fair competition, let me throw out these questions to you all.  Who are the players in the photograph?  Where is it taken?  What significant event just happened?  Give the particulars: Who was pitching, hitting, etc... The first person to accurately answer all these questions wins a: Opinion of Kingman's Performance t-shirt (size large, my last one) or a OKP authentic softball jersey (that was a left over from the Dodger Bloggers Tournament in February)- never worn.  The winner chooses.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

That Dreaded S.I. Cover

Great, they're on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Just when everything was going splendid the wonks at SI put the Dodgers on the cover.  The jinx is on folks.  Ask Albert Pujols.  He was on the cover during Spring Training.  A 7 game winning streak was snapped in spectacular fashion by the Diamondbacks last night, the very day Kemp and Magic appeared on the cover.  Coincidence?  No way.  The SI jinx is a real thing.  On this day off today, I suggest that all players stay away from kitchen knives, garden tools, motor vehicles, refrain from walking their dogs and keep all the home chores assigned to the domestic help.  Everyone needs to insulate their homes with plastic bubble wrap and rest until game time.
Just when you’d think the Dodgers are getting a break and a well deserved day off, the schedule smacks them in the face again.  After today they face 20 games in 20 days with a crazy West-East-West road swing that only a MLB schedule maker under Bud Selig could invent.  
Following 7 home games against Houston and Milwaukee, the Dodgers go to Denver for three, then on to Philly for four at Citizen’s Bank Park before a return west to Seattle for three more in their first inter-league action of the year.  The ball club will then return home for three against the rival Angels.
The injuries keep mounting:  Matt Guerrier has setbacks and cannot throw pain free, which could likely end up in surgery, though he is opting for rest right now..  Justin Sellers will have an MRI.  It appears to have injured his leg on that diving catch into the stands about a week ago.  LINKED HERE and as I suspected, Mark Ellis will not be back anytime soon.
If I were to guess, I’d predict that Sellers goes on the D.L. while Jerry Hairston Jr. is activated.  Eventually, Aaron Miles is promoted to the roster as Ivan De Jesus unfortunately gets sent back down.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thank you Phoenix

This is Unreal.  The Kings going to the Stanley Cup Final, with a win in Phoenix.  The Dodgers comeback from a 5 run deficit to win in the Valley of the Sun.  What the heck is going on?    Has there ever been an equivalent hour of sports joy in Los Angeles?  Probably, but I can’t think of one at the moment.  30 and 13.  This isn’t the 71-72 Lakers, though it certainly feels like it.
Dee Gordon turns the game ending double play after taking Ivan De jesus Jr's feed. (photo by Paul Connors/AP)
It was De Jesus tonight, Treanor yesterday, Van Slyke the Day before, Herrera before that.  A new hero appears everyday.  How in the heck can any of these guys get sent down when players return from the D.L.?
Just when disaster rears its ugly head with injuries, this team simply overcomes the adversity and wins, wins and wins.  We say it can’t continue, and it does.  They’re 7-2 since Kemp went down with the injury.  Tonight after resigning myself to the reality of a potential loss, this gritty team becomes the comeback kids.  And twice at that, in a period of 2 innings.
Words don’t come easy.  If I’m a fan of any other N.L. West team, I’m getting out a fire hose to douse this sizzling hot team.  I would guess though it wouldn’t work.  The second place Giants are a season best 3 games over .500.  Three games over?  That’s it.  Are you kidding?  We’re 17 games over .500.   The last time we were three games over .500 was four games into the season.
Dodger catcher Jack Fimple, 1983
No Dodger team has started so good since the Division Winning 1983 ball club of Jack Fimple fame.  Fimple?  Yeah, a AAA catcher called up due to injury to both Scioscia and Yeager who had a few heroic moments during his short major league run.  Heroic moments by a young faceless, nameless Dodger.  We’ve seen a lot of that in 2012.
Things keep looking up because we have our ace going tomorrow.  No, not Kershaw, Ted Lilly, (5-0, 1.79) going for his 6th win in his undefeated season this far.  Yes, Kershaw is still the ace, but Lilly isn't far behind with what he has accomplished this year so far.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stunt Men Version 2012

This Dodger club is a whole team of “Stunt Men”
Matt Treanor is the new Rick Dempsey, Scott Van Slyke-Mickey Hatcher.  Justin Sellers- Dave Anderson.  Bobby Abreu-Danny Heep, Adam Kennedy-Tracy Woodson.  I honestly believe that it may be more appropriate to label this group of guys as the “Stunt Men,” even more so than the original group.  Why?  Heck, the whole team is made up them that does nothing but win.  It’s a rag tag team of AAA and AAAA veterans that are playing out of their minds.
A Jon Soo Hoo photo following the Dodgers Game 5 win over the Mets in the NLCS.  Such "Stunt Men" as Mickey Hatcher, Tracy Woodson, Franklin Stubbs are seen. 
These are guys that are willing to dive through rings of fire while doused in lighter fluid and jump into the stands after foul balls like Justin Sellers did the other night.  Players that sacrifice their bodies diving after grounders and crashing into walls for the meandering fly ball.  Men that will break up a double play, block a plate and hustle their way to extra bases at the blink of an eye.  And it isn’t just the substitutes either.

Justin Sellers dives into the stands for that catch as Adam Carolla looks on in the background.
Think about it.  Does a srappy catcher like AJ Ellis look anything other than a  stunt double for Corbin Bernsen?  AJ wouldn’t get the leading role in his own biopic.  He’s a gritty, tough guy.  An after thought to most.  Definitely a “stunt man” that happened to be thrown into the limelight of a starting role.  Something that he has thrived at, just as Mickey Hatcher did while filling in for Kirk Gibson or Rick Dempsey did covering for an injured Scioscia.  AJ is the kind of guy that makes his opponent work to get him out.  The pesky hitter that fouls off 5 pitches during an at bat waiting for that perfect one to slap into right field.

AJ Ellis could easily play the Roger Dorn stunt double, except he's a better player.
Tony Gwynn Jr. ?  A defensive guru and extra base machine.  A hustling defender that refuses to let the ball touch the ground in his territory.  He’s the kind of guy that brings his lunch pail to work and is the ultimate go-fer on the construction site.  You need a bucket of nails pronto.  “Tell Tony to run and get it, and quick!”  Vroom, he’s back saying, “Anything else you need!”
Scott Van Slyke?  A big kid, afraid of nothing.  Need a pinch hitter in a clutch situation?  Send that fearless kid out there.  Never mind that the game is on the line and that there are 45,000 screaming fans.  Nothing fazes this guy.   Let’s see.  We have this scene where we need a driver to time jumping the Ford Torino off the ramp just as the freight train’s flatbed cars arrive so he won’t get splattered by the box cars.  Who can we use?  Oh, I forgot.  He’s gonna land in a bog of alligators, so he’ll have to get out of the car, wade through and fight off the gators and then jump off the cliff to the waiting foam mattress below.  Wait, let's make that a lake full of pirahna that he jumps into.  Who?  Yeah the big kid, Van Slyke can do it.  If anything happens to him, we got a backup...that Sands dude.  Yeah him.

Scott Van Slyke jumping a freight train.
We need a couple of fast runners.  They have to run 200 yards through the airport, hurdle three sets of luggage carts, catch the .45 and nunchucks tossed to them and apprehend a couple of bad guys with blindside tackles, and then use martial arts to apprehend and cuff the 7 terrorists that are about to hijack the jumbo jet.  All in 14.9 seconds.  No problem.  Dee Gordon and Elian Herrera are your men.
Matt Treanor, why he’s the guy that carries the 2x4 in Walking Tall.  No need for firearms of knives for him.  Just a hunk of wood to take care of business.  Sometimes, like last night, he uses that piece of lumber to smoke a pitch about 400 feet.  Other times, he’s blocking the plate.  All the time, he’s calling a masterpiece of a game as he’s got his buddy, Chris Capuano’s back.  Treanor is the patient stunt man.  A guy that waits his turn, something that he knows he’ll get, usually about once a week.

Matt Treanor breaks up the double play in last night's action (photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP)
These stunt men have come through.  Now 5-2 since the leading man has been out.  They’ve held the club together with spit, grit, spunk, guts and gusto.  Sure many of their batting averages aren’t pretty.  Certainly their uniforms need extra cleaning after each day on the set.  What these guys are doing is succeeding as a group.  They pick each other up and sacrifice for one another.  They’re consummate team players.  They are the 2012 Stunt Men.  The National League West Leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Walt Alston stories...

Note: The Dayton Daily News did a piece on Walter Alston on May 4th, written by staff writer Tom Archdeacon.  I highly recommend it to all fans of Dodger history.   Linked Here 

I’m sure he wore that crooked grin on his face.  The veteran baseball manager who was known for his soft-spoken manner and cerebral qualities.  Looking at his volatile and emotionally charged third base coach.  He had convinced him to do something he didn’t really want to do.  Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda.  Two future hall of famers.  Two Dodger managers that were polar opposites in personalities and mannerisms.  One scared to death and grateful to be alive.  The other, laughing at what he had put his eventual successor through.  More on this story later...

It was the mid 70s and the Dodgers were making one of their frequent trips to Cincinnati to play the Reds.  Whenever an off day coincided with a Dodger trip to Cincinnati, Walt Alston had made it an annual tradition to bring his ball club, complete with players and coaches out to his hometown, Darrtown, Ohio for a grand day in the small town he had grown up in and loved.  Darrtown is 34 miles north of the Queen City and it was Alston’s winter home.  It was a community that he never abandoned after all those years in the limelight as manager of the Dodgers.  The annual Dodger team trip to Darrtown was a “festival” of sorts for the little unincorporated town with a population of around 10,000 at the time.

The women from the Methodist church would prepare a picnic festival for everyone.  Walter’s daughter and son-in-law would prepare a humongous barbecue feast.  Many from the community would arrive at a city park for a day of good food, stories, baseball festivities and autographs.  Walt’s wife of over 40 years, Lela, would organize much of the event and bake numerous homemade pies.    
To Alston, Darrtown and the surrounding county was home.  He grew up there.  He married his High School sweetheart there and he even taught high school there.  Harry Ogle, Alston’s son-in-law, who married Walt’s only child, Dodie (who passed away last year) reminisced recently about his famous father-in-law:  “He couldn’t wait to get back here when the big league season ended.”  Walt would indulge in his hobbies that included woodworking and carpentry, hunting and shooting pool.

Stories are told that Walter was a bit of a pool shark dating back to his younger days.  The story told is that while teaching high school in the region in the 1930’s, Alston would send his wife and daughter to the movies while he’d play billiards at the local pool hall in the evenings.  He’d always win and take his wife and daughter out to dinner with his winnings when they’d get out of the picture show.
Ogle is in possession of Alston’s pool table and surrounding benches and tables, made by Walter’s hand himself.  The legs of benches were made of authentic bats from his Dodger days.   Baseball memorabilia from his 23 seasons as Dodger manager are found throughout his home.   Walter’s grand daughter, Kim Ogle, still possesses original catching gear that was gifted to her from Roy Campanella.  Kim says today “It was gigantic on me, but I wore it all around.  I was always the catcher with the kids in the neighborhood.”

Darrtown has a monument commemorating it’s favorite son in it’s townsquare and signs that identify it as the home of Walter Alston.  Though Walter died 28 years ago, (he'd be 100 years old if her were alive today).  He certainly isn’t a forgotten man.  Miami of Ohio University, Walter’s Alma Mater, honored him earlier this month, inviting his surviving family members to be present while they mounted a plaque commemorating his accomplishments.
Oh, I almost forgot...the Alston-Lasorda story from that visit to Darrtown in the mid-1970s.
Walter decided that he was going to give Tommy a ride on his motorcycle.   It took some coaxing, but eventually he got Lasorda to agree to riding with him.  Alston took him out on a country road and opened it up full throttle to speeds that gave Lasorda the fright of his life.  
Harry Ogle remembers the event.  “I remember dad telling Lasorda he’d give him a ride.  Tommy didn’t want to get on, but he finally did and...dad got it up to about 90 MPH.  Well it scared the hell out of Tommy and he said ‘Never again!!’”
Alston and Lasorda, 1953 photo from their days together at AAA Montreal.

Ten or fifteen years ago, Lasorda did a radio spot for Centinella Hospital and discussed the great care he received when he had his heart procedure there back in 1996, saying “I don’t get heart attacks, I give ‘em.”  Well, I guess he learned how to give heart attacks from his predecessor, Walter Alston,  on a country road outside Darrtown..


Below is an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times, Jim Murray wrote the following farewell to Walter Alston upon his retirement.  It's classic Jim Murray.  What an amazing writer he was.

"Murray Bids Alston a Fond Farewell

All right, Miss Tulsa, put away those poison pen letters for a minute and take a letter to Walt Alston. Send it care of the Dodgers. I don’t think Darrtown has a post office yet. Mark it  “Unurgent” and sign it “Affectionately.”

Dear Walt,

See I told you it wouldn’t last. That O’Malley is a fickle character who changes skippers on a whim every 23 years.

I’m going to miss our little chats on the infield fly rule and the balk motion. I was just beginning to get the hang of it. I don’t think we ever once discussed anything that didn’t go on between those white lines out there. I don’t know whether you’re Republican or Democrat or Catholic or Protestant and I’ve known you for 18 years. I never heard you tell a lie, saw you take a drink or talk about anyone behind his back. I heard three generations of your players cut you up - usually after their third martini or while trying to impress the lady on the next bar stool.

I’ll never forget the time on the team bus a bunch of guys were discussing some bistros in New York and you said with a perfectly straight face, ‘What do people do in night clubs?’ They looked at each other for a moment but, when the answer came that they sit there and drink, you shook your head and said, ‘They could do that in their room - at no cover charge.’

I know you didn’t spend all your life making fudge and bobbing for apples - you could cuss like a ferryboat captain - but if you had any major hang-ups, I never saw it. You were testy with me on a few occasions, but that was before you came to appreciate the vast knowledge of baseball that I have accumulated. Let’s face it, Walt; you could never have won those pennants without me.

I’m going to miss our little jokes about Darrtown. You know. ‘We don’t have an airport, but we have a birdbath.’ ‘Darrtown’s international airport has ducks in it.’ ‘The train only stops here when it hits a cow.’ ‘We don’t have a street, but the trees are blazed.’ ‘Main Street is the ploughed field without corn in it.’ ‘We don’t have burlesque; but the widder Brown leaves her shades up.’ ‘They would have put a traffic light on Main Street, but the cows are color blind.’ ‘An energy crisis is when your mule dies.’

I never got the impression you were afraid of a damned thing. And that went for 220-pound left fielders or the job stealers the owner use to hire under you to put a little Broadway in the act. Next to you, they were showed up as the petty little back-alley schemers they were. It was like a bug biting an elephant.

You were a college graduate with a teacher’s degree, but you used to say ‘extry’ all the time. You were as Middle Western as a pitchfork. Black players who have a sure instinct for the closet bigot recognized immediately you didn’t know what prejudice was. You were as straight as John Brown’s body. There was no ‘side’ to Walter Alston. What you saw was what you got.

But, I guess the thing I’ll always remember is that you never had to worry about what sort of ‘mood’ Walter Alston was in. You were as approachable as a hunting dog. As long as I live, I will never forget that dressing room in the playoff of 1962, when the Dodgers blew a 9th inning 4-2 lead and the pennant. The players locked themselves in and passed the bottle. You came out, dry-eyed… and dry throat and talked to us, then went over and congratulated the Giants and Alvin Dark. You had won a playoff, too, three years before.

I sat with you through 10-game losing streak in 1961 and never once saw you bust up a locker or punch a newspaperman. That’s why, when you turned on a newsman this summer, I couldn’t have been more shocked if they caught St. Francis of Assisi poisoning bread crumbs.

Your life is summed up in Jack Tobin’s biography ‘One Year At A Time.’ I don’t know of anybody leaves his profession with more respect. You took a four-straight loss in the ’66 World Series with a shrug. You had won in four straight, too, three years before. You didn’t panic when they took your slugging team from a bandbox in Brooklyn to the Coliseum in L.A., which was about as suitable for baseball as a deck of an aircraft carrier. You won a pennant on that aircraft carrier the second year.

I used to laugh when someone would say, ‘Why shouldn’t Alston win with all that talent?’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah. Too bad he doesn’t have some better baseball players to go with that talent. I think you ran that wild animal act that was the Dodgers about as well as it could be run without a whip and a chair.

So, I’ll be seeing you, Walt. Give my regards to beautiful downtown Darrtown. I don’t know what time your stagecoach gets in; but, when the natives ask you where you have been for the past 23 years, tell ‘em you found seasonal work in Californy. But, don’t tell ‘em what happened to Custer.

The corner of the dugout is going to look funny without you there, next year. I only hope the Dodgers don’t, too.


The Old Second Guesser”

Mark Ellis - Emergency Surgery

Mark Ellis' injury is much severe than thought.  As reported by our friend Ron Cervenka from ThinkBlueLA.com on Saturday who was present at the pre-game and post-game press conferences, Dodger trainer Sue Falsone announced that he required emergency surgery in Saturday to relieve pressure on his lower leg.  He'll be out a minimum of six weeks.

Mark Ellis injured on hard slide by Tyler Greene on May 18th (photo by Jayne Kamin Oncea/US Presswire)

With the rash of injuries that have now hit the team, there are very few infield candidates left in the minor leagues that are ready for a call up.   Aaron Miles has been in Albuquerque for one game and Alex Castellanos has been sitting for a  month with this years latest injury trend - a pulled hamstring, (where have you gone "oblique" injury?).

The Dodgers are definitely in a buying mode with regards to infielders, but passed on the available Orlando Hudson who is now a Chicago White Sox and Blake DeWitt, who cleared waivers and was demoted to the Chicago Cubs AAA affiliate in Iowa after the 10 day waiting period since he's out of options.  For a team in first place with the best record in baseball, they certainly have some problems in the infield.  Now is the time for the kids to step up.  Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Elian Herrera are getting their chance to shine.

Aaron Miles may soon be seeing Major League action (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Jerry Hairston Jr. is due to return on Wednesday and we're going to see a lot of Adam Kennedy's uppercut swing in the next  few weeks.  There really isn't any other option. I predict that Aaron Miles, (a player that was looking to play Independent ball for Mike Marshall with the San Rafael Pacifics a few days ago), will be the Dodger second baseman in a matter of a days if some of the kids don't improve significantly.