Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Victorino Pick-up, A Significant Move

Shane Victorino, Vero Beach photo in 2004 (photo by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

The comments started flowing once it was a given that Shane Victorino would be a Dodger this morning.  Frankly, I expected the negativity, but I always liked the guy.  I understand the venom some fans have towards Shane, but if they really understood the circumstances of Victorino's drive to beat the Dodgers, I think there would be a better understanding of what is is as a player.
Some of the tweets that commented on the trade said:
“Dodgers trade for public enemy no. 1”
“Do I have to like Victorino now?”
“I cannot root for this guy, no way!”
There were other comments that spoke of the waste it was to pick up another centerfielder and that he’d be playing out of position.  Others mentioned his “down” year statistically or his mediocre stats while facing right handed pitching.  Some were concerned with giving up Lindblom and Martin for him, stating that he is most likely a two month rental player.  But for the most part, the complaining fans simply can’t get over the Kuroda incident in the playoffs and his history of beating us on the big stage.

Shane Victorino gestures to Hiroki Kuroda to not throw near his head during 2008 NLCS (photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
I have to assume that most of these comments are coming from guys that simply can’t stomach the fact that Victorino beat our butts in two consecutive National League Championship Series’.  And why wouldn’t he?  The Dodgers gave up on this guy twice.  They failed to protect him on the 40 man roster, preferring guys like Jason Repko and Chin Feng-Chen on the depth chart.  Shane should have an axe to grind against the organization.  And the second time when the Phils picked him up as a rule 5 draftee, they offered him back to the Dodgers and they turned around and said, “No, go ahead and keep him.”
While attending Spring Training at Vero Beach in the early 2000s, I noticed that Victorino was always very giving with is time and he definitely was a talker.  He always would stop and chat with the fans.  When he left to the Padres as a rule 5 pick in 2003, I figured he’d be gone for good.  The kid had speed, defense and a decent stick.  I was relieved to see them return him back to the club, but the Dodgers simply banished him to the minors.  He never even sniffed a September call up.
Shane came up through the ranks as a Dodger.  He shared the outfield with Jason Repko for several years.  His teammates in the lower ranks were made up of a literal “who’s who” of Dodger farm hands from the era and included James Loney, Chad Billingsley, Edwin Jackson, Chin-Feng Chen, Joey Thurston, Koyie Hill, Willy Aybar, Joel Hanrahan, Bubba Crosby, Wilkin Ruan, Scott Proctor, and Steve Schmoll.

I’m glad he’s not a Giant, because I guarantee you he would be reminding us again that we released him wearing orange and black.
Victorino is a gamer.  A guy that hustles like mad and is a pesky opponent.  Sure, he has that sheepish grin and he’s a an irritant to opposing fans, but that’s because he’s good.  He wins with a flash and a smile. He steals a bag or he takes the extra base.  He makes flashy defensive gems and he ignites his team.  The guy is a sparkplug.  As his opponent, he makes you want to hate him, but I guarantee you, as a Dodger, fans are going to love this guy.  He gives 110% and he is going to steal us some wins with his hustle.  I absolutely love this pickup.

 The "Flyin Hawaiian"(photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Victorino made his mark as a major leaguer as a Phillie, but he was groomed for the majors in the Dodger organization.    Essentially I see this as a chance for the organization to reap the rewards of his minor league tutelage, even though it was a long time ago.  He's back home.  Unfortunately, Dan Evans and then later Paul DePodesta didn't see his value and let him go.  He has been making us pay ever since as an opponent.  He's a .357 career batter at Dodger Stadium with a .416 on base percentage.  We could use numbers like that out of our left fielder.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Maglie and Drysdale, linked in today's History and the Intimidation Factor

Sal Maglie, a Brooklyn Dodger in 1956-57

So the last time the Dodgers pulled off consecutive shutouts of the Giants on the road was July 1-2, 1957 at the Polo Grounds in New York.  Who did it?  Sal Maglie and Don Drysdale.  Coincidently, a few months ago I began to prepare a historical piece on Maglie and how he mentored young Don Drysdale as his career started.  The fact is, Maglie was instrumental in teaching Drysdale the intimidation factor that he used for so many years to dominate hitters during his Hall of Fame career.
Sal Magle is remembered as a New York Giant.  He was hated in Brooklyn for years.  The mortal enemy.  The dirty pitcher that dared throw at our hitters.  He was a Dodger killer, having defeated them 23 times over the course of his career.  His beanball wars and knockdown mentality had made him the most hated of the hated ones. But in 1956, he suddenly became one of the boys from Flatbush.  An unfathomable proposition it seemed.
Sal Maglie was traded to the Dodgers  from the Cleveland Indians on May 15, 1956 after team captain Pee Wee Reese consulted with the players and gave the okay, Buzzie Bavazi made the deal.  “I’m glad he’s with us,” said Jackie Robinson on the day of his arrival.  “He is still a good pitcher and you know what a great competitor he is.”  Robinson was interviewed by the Brooklyn Eagle on the day of the trade.   Jackie had brawled with Maglie many times in the past, but he was ready to let bygones be bygones and embrace him as a teammate.   The Giants Promotional Director, Garry Schumacher joked saying “I wonder who they’ll pick for a roomie for Sal when they go on the road?”  (Source: Brooklyn Eagle, May 16, 1956)
Maglie was a Dodger from May 15, 1956 until August 31, 1957.  His presence on the Dodger staff was so impactful, that he finished second in Cy Young Award voting to teammate Don Newcombe during his first year as a Dodger.  Magle finished the 1956 year at 13-5 with a 2.95 ERA.  He won his only World Series Game as a Dodger, winning game one 6-3.  He also was the hardluck loser in Don Larson’s perfect game later in the series.

This youtube clip is of Maglie's appearance on the game show "What's My Line?"  Sal appeared on the show the day before he lost to Don Larsen in game 6 of the 1956 World Series.  It was the only  perfect game ever thrown in World Series history.
Sal “the Barber” Maglie is known as his ferociousness as a Giant starter that wasn’t immune to throwing the brushback pitch.  His chin music earned him his nickname.   After his retirement from the game, Magle had this to say about his pitching philosophy:
“You’ll find in almost all cases that pitchers will not deliberately throw at a batter to injure him.  If you go out on the mound to deliberately throw at a batter, you won’t last long.  A fight will break out and you’ll be gone.  But a pitcher has to throw in tight as protection.  With a lot of hitters, like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, I had to throw in tight.  If you didn’t, you took a chance of them hitting one out on you.  I guess the whole secret is to let the batter think you’re going to throw at him.  Give him all the body motions and all, and you’ll have him thinking so much about getting hit that he’ll lose his concentration on hitting the ball.  It really works.  I should know.” (Source: Randy Shultz , Baseball Digest)
What few have recognized is the fact that in Maglie’s 16 months as a Dodger he had a lasting impact that defined the career as an intimidator to a young Dodger rookie and future Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale. Maglie worked with the young 6 foot 6 inch, 215 lb. fireballer.  Telling him to use his size and power to intimidate hitters inside.  Don would later say: "What being around [Sal] Maglie did for me was to confirm this idea in my mind and refine it. It was part of the game. I watched Maglie, I listened to Maglie, and it all sunk in. It just sort of clicked."
Roy Campanella and a young Don Drysdale carry Maglie off the field on September 25, 1956.  He had just pitched a no-hitter against Philadelphia.
Drysdale later used what Maglie showed him as a psychological advantage the rest of his career.  It wasn’t that he was throwing at hitters, he just let them think he was.  Of course his quotes fueled the fires of controversy:
"I hate all hitters. I start a game mad and I stay that way until it's over."
"My own little rule was two for one. If one of my teammates got knocked down, then I knocked down two on the other team."
"The pitcher has to find out if the hitter is timid, and if he is timid, he has to remind the hitter he's timid."
And Don’s opponents believed the quotes and feared his reputation.  Former Cardinal Mike Shannon said, “Don Drysdale would consider an intentional walk a waste of three pitches. If he wants to put you on base, he can hit you with one pitch." 
So today, as the Dodgers completed a historical feat by shutting out the Giants for two consecutive days on the road, a visit back in history links Billingsley and Kershaw to Drysdale and Maglie in 1957.  Pitching styles of each duo couldn't be more different.  Results in the two games were quite similar though.  

What a Difference Three Days Make

Hanley Ramirez scores in 4th inning today (photo by Associated Press/Tony Avelar)

The impact of this AT&T Park sweep has resulted in a confidence booster and momentum swing that I never imagined.  As the Dodgers went into San Francisco three days ago on a three game losing streak, I was just thinking that they needed to avoid the sweep.  Even losing 2 of 3 I could have accepted as I knew they’d still be in the pennant race.  The resulting Dodger sweep of San Francisco has done something I didn’t expect - it has demoralized the Giants.
These were three games that had a six game swing.  A Dodger collapse this weekend would have resulted in them being six games out of first.  Instead they return home tied for  the division lead.  At seasons end we’ll probably look back and say that the season changed on July 27-29th.

Marco Scutaro's dropped pop out resulted in an unearned run today (AP photo/Tony Avelar)
How could the Giants not be demoralized?  The Dodgers went out and acquired a superstar who’s value was seen as low due to 1 1/2 years of substandard play.  Hanley Ramirez has shown in the past 5 games that he still has those flashes of brilliance and is a valuable contributor to this team.
The Dodgers are in on virtually every trade deadline rumor there is and their purse strings are limitless.  Meanwhile the Giants went and traded for a 36 year old past his prime infielder and they are limited financially by who they can pursue.  There has to be concern about that in Giant-ville.
The Dodgers came in to town and defeated the Giants ace with an unknown rookie on Friday, followed by a 10-0 blowout on Saturday and a shutout victory by Kershaw on Sunday.   San Francisco finished the series being shutout for 20 consecutive innings.  Since Hanley Ramirez’s game winning homer on Friday night, the Dodgers have outscored them 16-0.  
Is it a wonder that the Dodgers took the crowd out of this series?  They had nothing to cheer about and were a complete non-factor.  I almost forgot that they chant “Beat LA” up here.   The Giants post-game talk shows have been depressing affairs the past few days.  The fan base even senses it and is near giving up on the season.  At least that is what I sense from the callers and fans I have spoken to in my workplace.  

It has been shocking to say the least, especially when you looked at how things were just prior to the Ramirez trade.  I’ve been around long enough to know of the ebbs and flows of a long baseball season.  The Giants certainly aren’t out of this, especially when you consider their starting pitching, but they are reeling at this time.  The Dodgers need to pounce on this and take advantage of their crisis of confidence at this time as they leave San Francisco.  
I only wish that this had been a four game series, because the Dodgers would have taken another one from them, given the opportunity.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hanley! Hanley! Hanley!

The Gesture that Krukow got upset about (AP Photo by Jeff Chiu)

As Hanley Ramirez rounded the bases in the 10th after depositing a Sergio Romo fastball into the left field bleachers, Giant announcer Mike Krukow attempted to spark controversy saying that his gestures to his teammates were an effort to show-up the Giants.  This wasn’t a pirouette Krukow, it was a guy that is enjoying baseball again.
Ramirez is making his impact as a Dodger and I strongly believe that when he arrives at Dodger Stadium on Monday for his first home game as a Dodger, he’ll receive a heroes welcome reminiscent of what Manny Ramirez received in 2008.  Hanley is the impact bat that this team has needed from day one.
Stephen Fife Steps Up Again

I’m not sure how Stephen Fife did it, but he pitched his second consecutive Major League quality start.  With a fastball floating in at around 88 MPH and secondary breaking stuff that initially was inconsistent and somewhat wild. Fife gutted his way through 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one earned run again.  
The recently called up righty, with a quirky stutter-step delivery, seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.  Through the first four innings, he looked anything but impressive while surrendering three walks and five hits scattered all over the place.  It took a defensive gem from Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp to keep the Giants at bay as the led 1-0 after four.
Stephen Fife retired 9 of the last 10 hitters he faced (AP Photo by Jeff Chiu)

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Fife doubled for his first major league hit to start a two run rally.  It was the first Dodger run scored at AT&T Park since 2011 when Aaron Miles crossed the plate on September 11th.  For a while there it looked like the 3-1 Dodger lead would be one that they wouldn’t relinquish.  Dodger hitters began first pitch swinging against Matt Cain, with three resulting in hits in the 6th inning as the Dodgers added another tally off the Giants ace.
Fife continued to set down the heart of the Giant order, retiring seven straight batters in the 4th, 5th and 6th innings.   The Orange men helplessly flailed away at the junk that the former RedSox prospect tossed at them.  He was removed with one out in the 7th inning after retiring nine of the ten final hitters that he faced.  
He deserved a better fate than a “no-decision” and I blame that on Mattingly and his predictable bullpen management.
The Joe Torre Factor
Don Mattingly used up three pitchers in the 7th inning to retire three batters, and they weren’t even the guys in the middle of the order.  I understand that Choate is the lefty specialist, but seriously, he couldn’t have been used to face Theriot?  Maybe I shouldn’t complain, after all Theriot was retired on one pitch by Jamey Wright.  I just hate burning up the bullpen to get outs in late innings.  That was a Joe Torre specialty.  That and burning out his closer by leaving him out there to die.
Fife had thrown 93 pitches when he was removed.  He was setting hitters down.  Did he really need to be removed with one out with no threat in the inning?  Lately Belisario has been struggling.  The automatic 8th is a thing of the past and it would have been nice to start out the 8th with Choate facing Cabrera, Posey,  and Pagan.
The tutelage of Joe Torre came back to haunt the Dodgers again.  Man, I hate the way modern managers handle bullpens.  
Scoreless Innings Streak

The Dodgers were on the verge of making Giants history tonight.  Being shut out for 32 consecutive innings against San Francisco, they would have set a Giants team record having been shutout the most consecutive innings against a single team had they gone into the 6th inning without scoring.  Instead they scored 2 runs in the 5th and stopped the streak.
The scoreless streak is ancient history.  This was a long night and this one was a barn burner from start to finish.  The Dodger-Giant rivalry is alive again after the lack luster effort the Dodgers gave a month ago.  They're two games out with two to go this weekend.  Enjoy this one guys, they're back at it tomorrow at 1:00 pm.

Back to Enemy Territory, Three Against the Hated Ones

Matt Cain faces the Dodgers tonight. (photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle)
There’s an arrogance to the San Francisco fan base that started once they won a World Series.  It hasn’t ended and for a Dodger fan stuck in this region, it has been about as unbearable a run that I have ever witnessed.  No matter how good the Giants were, it was always easy to counter with the empty trophy case argument.  Now you can’t even do that.  It was easy to spew off Dodger Championship teams, but even that doesn’t work considering that their dry spell is 24 years old.
I can’t say that I even have 24 year old socks, (and I keep socks for a long time), nor a shirt for that matter.  I can probably find a 24 year old tie in my closet, but that’s another story.  Twenty-four years ago I had just embarked on my career.  Now I’m a few short years away from retirement.  Twenty-four years ago the Dodger roster was made up of guys that today are in their late 50’s and early to mid-sixties.
Kirk Gibson is now a D-Back.  Scioscia and Griffin are Angels.  Rick Dempsey’s an Oriole and Mike Marshall’s a Pacific (as in San Rafael Pacific - Independent League).  Ronald Reagan was President the last time the Dodgers lifted the World Series hardware above their heads and Tommy Lasorda had not even gone through his Slim Fast episodes yet.  Nobody knew what a Marlin, D-Back, Ray, Rockie or National was. Inter-League play only happened in Spring Training and ultimately in the Fall Classic, and Bud Selig was a no-name owner of the floundering Milwaukee Brewers.
The Diamondbacks, Phillies, Braves, Giants, Marlins (twice), and Cards (twice) have since all won it.  Heck, even the Reds have a more recent championship, and that was 22 years ago.

It is in this climate that I have lived the last 16 years in San Francisco.  SIXTEEN YEARS!  In a place I never ever imagined that I would live.  Putting up with this arrogant fan base that loves to throw all of the facts mentioned above in my face.
So here I am, preparing to watch another Dodger/Giant series, only this time, I’d just prefer to watch it on TV.  Last time around, the Dodgers never even competed in Phone Company Park and Ron Cervenka over at ThinkBlueLA.com already threatened me if I dare show up there, since I’m simply bad luck.
It’s late July in San Francisco, and unseasonably hot, though weather prognosticators are saying things will cool down for tonight’s game.  The Dodgers, coming off of three shutout losses to the Giants up here their last trip have the number three on their mind.  They come in for three, they have lost three in a row.  They’re three behind and need a three game sweep to re-claim first place.  These aren’t three crucial games, but important one nonetheless.  They don’t want to leave San Francisco with another “three” to their credit, that would be third place as the D-Backs remain within striking distance.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Optimistic Look at The Hanley Ramirez Acquisition

The Hanley Ramirez deal will undoubtably be a trade that will be discussed for years.  It’s the type of deal that can make or break this ball club.  It has the potential to turn the Dodgers into a World Series contender.  It could also potentially send the club spiraling into second division status.  I choose to believe the optimistic option. The success of this trade depends on a number of things:
First, which Hanley Ramirez will show up?  Is it the slower deteriorating Hanley of 2011-12 or the MVP candidate from 2008-10?  Ramirez is a difficult player to gauge.  There have been issues the past couple of years with regard to his attitude and overall hustle.  It's the same type of baggage that Manny Ramirez brought to the Dodgers from Boston in 2008.  If we get the 2008-10 Hanley, there will be no stopping this club.  The possibility of Hanley Ramirez simply taking off offensively is there.  There are those in Miami that are convinced that he simply was struggling in the new Miami ballpark and that it had simply gotten into his head that he couldn’t hit there.  He doesn’t have that issue in Los Angeles, which leads me to my second point...
Second, will Ramirez continue his torrid hitting at Chavez Ravine?  He has a .388 lifetime batting average and .468 on base percentage in 79 plate appearances at Los Angeles.  Yes, it's not a large sample size, but it isn't miniscule either. Let’s hope that he continues to hit well in his new home park.  The infusion of Ramirez into the Dodger lineup may be the lightning rod they need to catapult them into first place.
Third, Matt Kemp needs to really take on the leadership role that is his and help Ramirez return to the prominent player that he used to be.  This was discussed at length by Ron Cervenka at Think Blue LA.com today. (LINKED HERE).   I couldn't agree more with his assessment.  It is amazing what encouragement and words of confidence can do to a tempermental player like Ramirez.  Things started out well in this department tonight in St. Louis.   Following Ramirez’s debut triple and return to the dugout after plating a run on a scoring fly ball, Kemp led the dugout celebrations with chants of “Hanleywood! Hanleywood!” as he received high fives with his new teammates.  It is this sort of leadership role that Kemp needs to take on.  So far, this is very encouraging.

Hanley Ramirez, after collecting his first RBI as a Dodger.  He singled in their 2nd run tonight in St. Louis (photo courtesy of ESPN)
Fourth, Dodger fans need to embrace Hanley with the same fervor that they received Manny Ramirez when he arrived.  I have little doubt he will do so.  If Ramirez leads the Dodgers to a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, he will be received as a King in Los Angeles.  Hanley Ramirez has never experienced a rabid fan base, the type of home field advantage that a true fan base gives a team.  Miami was lucky to draw 20,000 fans every night.  The Dodger Stadium faithful will be able to show Ramirez what it is like to have a “10th man” in the stands.  For an emotional guy like Ramirez, this may be the catalyst that can rejuvenate his career.
Fifth, the domino effect of having three tough hitters in the middle of the lineup will bolster the Dodger offense immeasurably.  Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez hitting back to back to back makes the lineup the toughest offensive threesome in the NL West.  It’s tough to pitch around three good hitters in the lineup.  We saw it tonight in the 6th inning.  Mark Ellis led off with a double and Kemp and Ethier made out.  Hanley didn’t though, driving in Ellis with an RBI single up the middle.  Three tough outs in the middle of the lineup will pay dividends.
Sixth, the Dodgers will benefit immeasurably now by having an above average bat playing third base.  The third base position has been an offensive black hole.  Even a below average bat would help.  Having a stud in that slot will add 6 or 7 wins to this team, a difference between 1st and 2nd place in my opinion.  I truly believe that this acquisition has given the Dodgers the N.L. West and possibly the pennant.
Losing Eovaldi isn’t something I wanted, but Hanley Ramirez is a once in a lifetime type player.  You have to give up quality to get quality.  I can live with losing a 23 year old starter with tremendous upside for a guy that is superstar potential.  Eovaldi may be a star one day, and I hope that he succeeds, but the Ramirez acquisition isn’t a rental and his presence can make this team a pennant winner for years to come.
The 2012 season has really become fun again.  I wasn’t planning on heading out to SBC Park to see the Dodgers take on the Giants this weekend, but I believe my plans will have to change now.
Bring on Hanleywood!

Dodgers Press Release: Hanley Ramirez is a Dodger

Wednesday, July 25, 2012                                                                                      
Left-handed reliever Randy Choate also comes over from Miami in the four-player deal.
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today acquired three-time All-Star infielder Hanley Ramirez and left-handed reliever Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga right-hander Scott McGough. Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement.
“The addition of a hitter the caliber of Hanley Ramirez improves our lineup from top to bottom, inserting a proven run producer to go along with Matt and Andre,” said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. “We’re excited for Hanley to begin a new chapter in Los Angeles.”
Ramirez owns a .300 career batting average with 148 home runs and 482 RBI in 945 games over eight Major League seasons with the Red Sox (2005) and Marlins (2006-12). The 28-year-old started three consecutive All-Star Games at shortstop for the National League from 2008-10 and took home back-to-back Louisville Silver Slugger Awards at the position in 2008 and 2009, when he won the NL’s batting title with a .342 average.
Since his first full season in 2006, Ramirez leads the NL with 666 runs scored and ranks among the league leaders in batting average (.300, 9th), hits (1,103, 2nd), doubles (232, 3rd), home runs (148, 16th), on-base percentage (.374, 15th) and slugging percentage (.499, 20th).
The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006 with Florida and has finished in the Top 10 of the NL’s MVP voting twice in his career, including a second place finish in 2009. In 18 career games at Dodger Stadium, Ramirez is batting .388 (26-for-67) with three home runs and a .467 on-base percentage.
After playing exclusively at shortstop through the first seven seasons of his career, Ramirez transitioned to third base this season and was hitting .246 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI through 93 games with Miami. Ramirez was originally signed by Boston as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2000 before being traded to the Marlins as a part of six-player deal in November of 2005 that netted Boston Josh Beckett.
Choate has a 2.49 ERA in 44 relief appearances with the Marlins in his 12th Major League season. The 36-year-old has limited opposing hitters to a .178 batting average this season, including a .150 mark by left-handed hitters. Choate has allowed just three extra-base hits while striking out 27 in 25.1 innings this season.
“Randy Choate is a veteran pitcher that provides depth to our bullpen and gives Don Mattingly another left-handed relief option,” said Colletti.  
Over the course of his career, the Texas native has limited opponents to a .232 average, including a .203 mark against lefties, and posted a 4.01 ERA with the Yankees (2000-03), Diamondbacks (2004-07), Rays (2009-10) and Marlins (2011-12). Choate won a World Series ring as a member of the 2000 Yankees and has a 2.84 ERA in seven career postseason appearances. He was originally selected by New York in the fifth round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State University.
Eovaldi, 22, was 2-8 with a 3.96 ERA in two Major League seasons, including a 1-6 mark with a 4.15 ERA in 10 starts with the Dodgers this season. McGough, 22, was the club’s fifth-round selection from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Oregon and was 3-5 with a 3.99 ERA and five saves in 35 relief appearances for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in his second professional season.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Life without access to Dodger baseball...Guess I should stay away

I have traveled  around the world numerous times.  I've gone as far as 12 time zones away, even into war zones.  To the extreme south near the tip of South America and as far North as the Arctic circle.    There have been trips that have put me in remote villages and far from the modern conveniences that we now enjoy.  But in this era of high technology, I've always been able to access the internet and check out the status of the Dodgers.  That was until this weekend, when I boarded a cruise ship for a luxurious  three day cruise out of Miami to the Bahamas and back.  I had no idea what I was in for.

Have you ever had to follow the progress of the Dodgers via ESPN lower screen banners of updated game conditions?  It's not an easy thing to do.  It requires patience and a lot of time and imagination.

ESPN Line: Dodgers 3 Mets 1, bottom of 6th inning, Scott Elbert pitching, Lucas Duda at bat for New York.

"Great!" I'm thinking, "a possible sweep is in the making."

It takes a while for the ESPN feed scrolling at the bottom of the screen to return to the Dodger game update.  There is a ton of information on this Sunday afternoon.  The British Open, some formula 1 race and news about Penn  State University taking the Joe Paterno statue down.  It seems like if takes forever for the next game update.  

ESPN Line: Dodgers 3 Mets 2, bottom of 7th inning, Daniel Murphy drives home a run with a single off of  Shawn Tolleson.

"I sure hope that they can pull this thing off.  Certainly they'Il not use Belisario and Jansen for three days straight,"  I think.  I only know about the previous two games because I shelled out about 10 bucks to get a satellite link up to the internet the previous evening.

Luxurious?  Yes, and WIFI - over $400 per day.
I didn’t even bother mentioning this trip I was making to blog readers.  I figured I'd just keep on posting.  I left to attend my niece’s wedding and I knew it would be a weekend excursion and back.  Heck the Bahamas are only 150 miles off the coast of Miami.  Surely I would be able to maintain contact with what the Dodgers were doing.  Certainly I would have internet access.  I had no idea how wrong I would be.

ESPN Line: Dodgers 3, Mets 2, Bottom of the 9th, Guerra pitching, man on second, one out, David Wright at the plate.

I suppose if I was a millionaire, I could have kept up and continued the internet postings.  Costs to maintain internet connectivity on this ship is $39.00 an hour.  Yes, an hour.  I love the Dodgers, but there s a limit.  My wallet stretches only so far.  For that price I could have bought tickets to the game and flown back and forth via private jet.
So as I was tied to periodic ESPN 2 scrolling line updates.  I was finding them to not be frequent enough for my patience.  I'd memorize the order that the sequence of events would follow.  The British open, Formula 1, Tour de France, a bunch of Paterno news, AL scores and then NL scores.  If a commercial would pop up, the scrolling line would cease, and as the action on ESPN 2 continued, it wouldn't continue from the point if left off at.  It seemed like to took forever to find out if Guerra held the lead.  He didn't.

ESPN Line: Dodgers 3, Mets 3, Middle of 10th. Javy Guerra pitching, Nuewenhuis batting.

I had no idea how they did it, but the Mets tied it up.   "Come on Javy, hold on. We've just gotta get Matt or Ethier up again to pull this out."

I came to find out why they call this section of the world the Bermuda triangle.  It's because it is the place in the world where updates from the sporting disappear into thin air.  Happily the Dodgers embarked on a 10 game road trip starting off in New York to take the first two in CitiField.  Who would have figured?

I need to stay away more often I guess.

ESPN Line: Dodgers 3, Mets 3, Top of the 12th, Pinch hitter Matt Treanor hitting, bases loaded, two outs, Ramon Ramirez pitching.

This was it.  Now or never for the blue.  What followed for me was what seemed to be an eternity of agony as I waited for the next update.  I followed the bottom line scroll realizing exactly when the the NL scores would appear, just as the Dodger Mets update was about to pop up, a commercial break hit. "Drat!!"  Waiting, more waiting and even more waiting.  "What'd Treanor do?!?!"

30 minutes later:

ESPN Line: Final Score, Dogers 8, Mets 3

Nothing else posted.  No winning pitcher, Losing pitcher, nothing.  I blink twice.  Double checking that I see things right.  I did.  "How'd they score five runs?  Who cares?  Dodgers win again... I've gotta extend this vacation."

Matt Treanor with the game winning 2-run single in the 12th inning (photo by Associated Press)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dempster Rumors...Kemp's strength to right center field

As the Dodgers embark on a ten game road trip, and another tough one at that, rumors circulate about a potential trade with the Cubs for Ryan Dempster and perhaps Bryan LeHair and Matt Garza.  Sources are reporting that the Cubs want Zach Lee on return.  Names are being bandied about but there's one thing I like about obtaining a player like Dempster.  He has made it known that the Los Angeles Dodgers are his preferred team to be traded to.

This isn't a Carlos Lee situation.  This guy wants to be a Dodger and that is half the battle.  Sheffield didn't want to be a Dodger. Neither did Brian Jordan.  Kevin Brown needed to be bribed with incentives and free private jet charters.  Ryan Dempster, wants to come to Dodger Stadium

There was a time when almost everyone wanted to be a Dodger.  Los Angeles was viewed as an ideal playing spot due to the weather, the winning tradition and what was perceived to be an environment that wasn't as pressure packed as some east coast destinations.   It also was home to many major leaguers. Failing to win a World Series for 24 years tends to make things change.  Though a high percentage of the league is from the Southland and many grew up Dodger fans, we seldom hear of free agents clamoring to play in Dodger blue.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and even Mets are often their destinations.

One last thing about Dempster that is a concern though.  He has currently pitched 33 consecutive scoreless innings.  The probability that he continues on such a run is unlikely.  Too bad he has had this amazing run in Cub blue.  Bringing a five pitch arsenal to Dodger Stadium will be quite an addition.   He would bring a lifetime 1.95 ERA at Dodger Stadium to the team.

Back Like Old TImes-April Revisited
The start of the season was a long time ago it seems but on Wednesday afternoon we had a taste of Spring return as Matt Kemp reverted to his old April self.   First, by legging out a single to prolong  the contest in the 10th inning and second,  by blasting a Jake Diekman fastball into the Right Field Pavilion for the game winner two innings later.
Piazza, great power to the opposite field
The other day while in the suite for blogger's night, a few of us were talking about Piazza and his greatness as a Dodger.   Specifically the discussion led to the shots he would hit to right center field.  Inevitably Matt Kemp was compared.  They both have tremendous strength and are similar types of hitters.   I'm not insinuating that Piazza was juicing and I have no evidence to prove that he did, but we all know the era in which he played and that not PED testing took place then.  Kemp is doing what he does, and we are certain he is clean.

Now with series' to be played in New York, St. Louis and San Francisco, Kemp will be the guy that teams will decide to not let beat them.  A lot will ride on Ethier to provide him protection.  Ten more crucial days in the schedule with a lot riding on it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Multiple Identities, Your 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers

This L.A. Dodgers team has a personality disorder.  It’s a schizophrenic group that has shown us about 7 or 8 different faces.   Lately we’ve been seeing the ugly side of things and I think many of us wonder if we’ll ever see the kinder and gentler side.  I don’t know how to identify this team,  There was a time I thought they were the best team in the majors.  Now I think they might be the worst.

Ehtier and Kemp, 3-4 in the lineup (photo by Harry how/Getty Images)
At one time this year, I thought the batting lineup had few holes, (granted, it was a very short time period).  Now, aside from Kemp and Ethier, it is one huge sucking black hole.  In late May I thought they were World Series bound.  Now I’m fairly certain that they’ll finish under .500.  There was one point in the season that the Dodgers were 17 games over .500.  Now, after a 6-18 run, they are a mere 5 games over the break-even mark.
Just call them the Los Angeles Sybils.  The team that you never know what face they’ll show.  Will they be a defensive joke and constantly throw souvenirs to fans down the first base line?  Or will they be the gold glovers that make outstanding web gems?  Sometimes they are one in the same on the same play (ahem...Jerry Hairston).
I can’t remember a team that I have followed that has brought so much joy and anguish all in a short 1/2 season of baseball.  I will say this though.  I simply don’t see this group being able to rebound and win the division.  They don’t have the offensive horses to do so.  I don’t believe that a trade or two will be enough to right this ship unless they are out and out blockbuster deals that favor the Dodgers.  Any type of blockbuster deal doesn’t look to be existent right now.  There are no 2008 Manny Ramirez’s out there for the taking.
Ned Colletti can start by DFAing Uribe and Kennedy.  It is simply time to cut them loose.  This ball club doesn’t have enough weapons on offense.  Take last night’s game against the Phillies for example.
With Papelbon on the mound, Mattingly had punchless James Loney who weakly grounded out and then brought in Adam Kennedy to pinch hit as he feebly hit a looper to second base.  That was the left handed hitting weapon he had on the bench.  There was no contest and he might as well have thrown out the white flag.

Stephen Fife (photo by Javier Zamora/Albuquerque Isotopes)
Tonight the Dodgers go at it again.  This time as Roy Halladay returns to the mound after a D.L. stint.  Stephen Fife makes his ML debut as he starts in place of Chad Billingsley who was placed on the disabled list today due to elbow inflammation.  Fife was one of the players acquired last year at the trade deadline, along with Tim Federowicz and Juan Rodriguez when Colletti dealt Trayvon Robinson.
The Royals designated Jonathan Sanchez for assignment today.  He’s 1-6 with a 7.76 ERA.  Royals have 10 days to orchestrate a deal with someone.  How much would you bet that this former Giant is picked up by Colletti soon?


Question:  In order to be "recalled" to a team, don't you need to have Major League experience?  So reports that the Dodgers "recalled" Stephen Fife should actually read "called."  Isn't that right?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Happy Birthday to Shoeless Joe

"His fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning."
-- Connie Mack
These were his World Series numbers:
32 AB, 5 R, 12 Hits, 3 doubles, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .375 BA, .394 OBP, .563 SLG, .956 OPS
Apparently he was throwing the game.   At least that's what Kennesaw Mountain Landis said.   It makes you wonder what he would have hit had he been trying to win.  Or maybe after all, he was trying and he faced the ultimate of injustices in the game.
Today is the birthday of Shoeless Joe Jackson.  July 16, 1887 in Pickens County, South Carolina.  I find it appropriate that there is no city designated as his birthplace.  Just some obscure southern county in a backwoods farm.  A perfect place for a country bumpkin like Jackson to start playing ball.
Not surprisingly, he was working from the age of six in a cotton mill in days long before child labor laws existed.  He didn’t attend school and never learned to read or write.  He was a natural hitter though.  At the mere age of 13 he played for the Brandon Mill (where he and his family worked) in a highly competitive amateur league.  Within a few years he was a South Carolina legend and Connie Mack signed him at age 19 to play in the Athletics organization.  A few years later he was in the Majors with the Cleveland Indians (following a trade) where he debuted in his rookie season setting a record that still stands today, a .408 batting average.
“Whenever I got the idea that I was a good hitter, I’d stop and take a look at you.  Then I knew I could stand some improvement.”
--Ty Cobb to Shoeless Joe Jackson during a pre-game conversation.
What followed for Jackson was a certain Hall of Fame career.  Leading the league in doubles twice, triples three times, total bases twice, on base percentage and slugging percentage once.  His career on base percentage was .423.  All of this during the "dead ball" era.  He was an MVP candidate many years and just seemed to come up short due to such players and Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson and Eddie Collins beating him out.
"I copied Jackson's style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen, the greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He's the guy who made me a hitter."
-- Babe Ruth
When his 1917 Chicago White Sox won the World Series in six games over the New York Giants.  It appeared that Joe had accomplished the ultimate goal of every baseball star.  He had notoriety and a championship to boot.  When 1919 rolled around, the Sox were favorites in that World Series.  They had finished 88-52 in a 140 game season.  They rolled over in a best of five World Series losing 5 games to 3. 

White Sox owner, Charles Comisky
It was an age when owners were bloodthirsty penny pinchers.  It is reported that the Chicago club got it’s nickname the “Black Sox” not for the scandal they would be engaged in, but because they played in dirty uniforms rather than pay for the daily laundering their uniforms required, since owner Charles Comisky was too cheap to pay for it himself.  World Series shares were next to nothing and when gamblers approached, enough players succumbed to the temptation of easy money in exchange for World Series defeat.
Jackson has long denied that he was a part of the plot, saying in a 1942 Sporting News interview:  “Regardless of what anybody says, I was innocent of any wrong doing.  I gave baseball all I had.  The Supreme Being is the only one to whom I’ve got to answer.  If I had been out there booting balls and looking foolish at bat against the Reds, there might have been some grounds for suspicion.  I think my record in the 1919 World Series will stand up against that of any other man in that Series or any other World Series in all of history.”
After his banishment from the game, Joe kept on playing in amateur leagues in the south.  He did so up until he was 53 years old.  He always continued to hit.  It is reported that in his first night time game in Greenville, SC, very near his last game ever ever, he hit two homers.  (source: http://www.shoelessjoejackson.org/joes_story.php )

Shoeless Joe Jackson died in 1951 at age 64. 
"Everything he hit was really blessed. He could break bones with his shots. Blindfold me and I could still tell you when Joe hit the ball. It had a special crack."
-- Ernie Shore

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ouch, This One Was a Shocker...

Right at the moment when the Dodgers were on the cusp of victory, they snatched a defeat out of the air, and it was shocking.  With Kenley Jansen one strike away from a win after battling back from spotting the Padres men on 1st and 3rd with no outs, he showed us that there are some pitching instincts that he never learned as a catching prospect.  
Everth Cabrera steals home (photo by Reed Saxon/AP)

Everth Cabrera knew just when to break for home and as soon as Jansen put his head down and turned his back from the game, off he ran.  Cabrera scored as Jansen air-mailed AJ Ellis in his throw to the plate.  What happened next though was inexcusable though as Jansen failed to cover the plate and Will Venable raced home all the way from second base to score the eventual winning run.
I seriously was thinking in the back of my mind of what the standings would be with a Dodger win, when Cabrera caught everyone by surprise, including the cameraman and home plate umpire who initially missed the call before realizing that AJ Ellis didn’t catch Jansen’s throw.   So, I guess I was just as guilty as Kenley.  You can’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched.  It just goes to show you that there are a lot of ways to lose a ballgame and there doesn’t necessarily have to be a pitch thrown for it to happen.
What can I say?  Wow.  I’ve never seen that before.  This loss stings.  Kudos to Cabrera and a hustling Padre team.  They literally stole a victory tonight.  The Giants won, so the Dodgers fall to second place again, 1/2 a game back.

Blogger's Night at Dodger Stadium

The reports are out by most Dodger blogs on Bloggers night.  I attended as well.  This time I caught a flight to LA and didn't drive.  After the event was over I returned to my hotel room near LAX at 12:30 am.  There was so much to discuss on this forum.  I immediately started up on a summary of the event.  I actually fell asleep writing the piece, if you can possibly believe that.  
Dodger Bloggers listen intently to Dodger G.M. Ned Colletti
I awoke to the sound of my 5:30 am alarm to find my laptop sitting there by my side, completely out of power.  Unfortunately I left my battery charger behind at home.  I had an early morning flight back to the Bay Area, so I hurried up, showered, changed, checked out, returned the car rental and was off to the airport.
As I peruse the Dodger blog sites, I must say that they all covered the highlights that I wrote about before nodding off, so I sit here in frustration trying to decifer what to address.  Take a look at Ron Cervenka’s post at Think Blue LA.  I believe he nailed all the key points and probably had the most detailed and comprehensive write up on the night:

Prototypes of the upcoming Dodger Bobbleheads were on display for all to see (Gibson, Koufax and Scully)

A few things that I noted that were of a bit surprising:
*Ned Colletti was asked in detail about the Yasiel Puig signing and he told everyone that Dodger scouts believe that Puig merited that huge contract because he’s better than Soler (who signed with the Cubs).
*Stan Kasten spoke of the ancient infrastructure within Dodger Stadium that is in deperate need of repairs.  Specifically plumbing and electrical.  Everything is fifty years old, and some big money needs to be spent on replacing it all and modernizing it.
*One of the biggest problems Kasten’s group faces in creating a Dodger museum is the configuration of Dodger Stadium.  Where could such an important addition be added that can be easily accessed by all fans?  Any ideas?  
*I was glad to hear from Kasten that he agrees that the backdrop of Dodger Stadium, beyond the outfield walls with the hills and San Gabriel mountains is something he never plans to tinker with.  Stan values that panoramic view and recognizes that it is one of the things that makes Dodger Stadium such a great place to see a ball game.
It should be noted that the one question I was able to get out to Ned Colletti was about the status of Rubby De La Rosa.  Colletti reported that they hope to have De La Rosa back before September and that most likely he'll be an addition to the bullpen, but they'll monitor his progress and see where he is.   Last year at the blogger event, De La Rosa was a big topic of discussion, and he went down with injury shortly thereafter.

Ron Cey
The highlight of the evening for me may have been some of the time a few of us had to simply chat old time Dodger baseball with Ron Cey.  Ron is engaging and personable.  There were a number of things that he asked us not to include on our blogs, and I’ll respect that.  I must say though that I found much of what he had to say rather tame and not inflammatory in any way.  Ron is simply an honest guy and sometimes telling the truth can get you in trouble.  That kind of happened to him last year at the blogger event, so it is perfectly understandable.

Cey isn’t shy on giving us his opinion and he’s proud of his career and his accomplishments as a player.  We were talking about how he was such a Giant killer and he mentioned to us that Ross Porter pulled him aside one day and told him that as a visiting player in San Francisco, he is # 2 on the all time home runs list (behind Hall of Famer Willie Stargell) and he’s number one on the RBI list.  As a Bay Area resident, when I speak to Giant fans that have followed the game for a while, there is one thing that they all agree with: they can’t stand Ron Cey.  That’s because he had so much success against them.
Ron spoke of the differences in ballparks of today versus those that he played in.  He noted that such places as Candlestick, the Astrodome, San Diego’s old Jack Murphy Stadium, St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Shea Stadium were all big parks that were difficult to hit in.  Cey was rather modest when it was mentioned to him that his numbers would have been much better if he played in today’s bandboxes.  He was a OBP guy in a time that nobody looked at that valuable statistic.  There is no doubt that a player like Cey in today’s market would be in the top tier of players that teams would be seeking to acquire.
Other topics Cey spoke of were:
*the old crushed brick infield surfaces that Dodger Stadium used to have and how hard and unforgiving it was to infielders.
*the amazing accomplishment of the 4 Dodger hitters that he was a part of that hit 30 homers in 1977.
*the Dodgers-Reds rivalry from the 1970s.
*playing on astroturf and how it beat up the players.
*Cey’s participation in the Dodger baseball fantasy camps and that he will do it again this year.
I have always loved talking about Dodger history and remembering the great years of the past.  Having the opportunity to do so with a classic Dodger like Ron was a real fun experience and we all appreciated his attendance.  The Dodgers really have a gem in retaining Ron Cey in the public relations department and on the speakers bureau.

It was great to see Roberto Baly from Vin Scully is My Homeboy.  I'm happy to see him regaining his strength.  Roberto is simply a good person and I'm glad to be able to call him my friend.


A special thank you to the Dodgers for hosting this great event, (their fifth annual bloggers night), and for their continued support of the Dodger blogging community.  The organization is easily the best in baseball at recognizing a lot of us that put in much time from our lives with little to no compensation out of love, dedication, and enjoyment of Dodger baseball.