Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remembering a Great Man...

"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth."

---Roberto Clemente

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bullet Points to Close Out the Year

Interestingly Puig can’t drive twice the speed of 55 without getting caught.  There has been a lot of talk about Yasiel and his lead foot the past two days.  Everything from quotes from his former personal chaperone to the Dodger organization expressing “disappointment” in his actions.  I think the most interesting thing about the entire situation is that his mother was in the car with him.

I’ll just say this, the police would be the last thing I would worry about if I was behind the wheel of a vehicle with my mother inside, while I was driving 110 MPH.  My mom would have never let me hear the end of it.  I’d fear mom’s wrath over that of any policeman or judge, that’s for sure.  Hopefully, Yasiel got the message loud and clear this time and from his momma.

(photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
No news on the Tanaka front, which is probably good.  The Dodgers need to stay tight lipped on this one.  They already saw what running off at the mouth did for them when they were on the verge of signing Kershaw this past year.  It is reported that someone from within the organization leaked the news to the media and Kershaw was more than irked  by the whole thing.  Whoever had the loose lips may have cost the Dodgers $40 or $50 million dollars, because what Kershaw will demand now is a figure far higher than what was being negotiated several months back.

With the D-Backs already tipping their hand and reporting that they are prepared to send representatives to Japan to meet with Tanaka, we are seeing another blunder out of the desert from an organization that is leading the league in mental foibles since the season ended.  Thank goodness Kevin Towers isn’t in the Dodger organization.


It’s interesting to see the Hall of Fame ballots that are being announced by both BBWAA and !BWAA members the past few days.   Twitter has been running amuck with them.   I can’t remember there ever being so many Hall of Fame worthy players on the ballot.  I’m wondering if we’ll see a record number of inductees this year.  With La Russa, Cox and Torre already in, I can see an additional 7 voted in this year, which would make the induction ceremony about 8 hours long.

My prediction of the inductees for 2014 are:

Greg Maddux
Craig Biggio
Mike Piazza
Jack Morris
Tom Glavine
Frank Thomas
Jeff Bagwell

Frank Thomas and his 521 lifetime homers are worthy of Hall of Fame induction)
That would be quite a ceremony and probably something I’d like to attend if possible.  That may actually happen for me this year, as I expect to be back east around the time period of the ceremony, which would be a real special event.  


Happy birthday to Sandy Koufax who reached number 78 today, and (most importantly) my dear mother, who is 84 today.  Both are healthy and appear to be much better physical shape than I am.


I work both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day this year.  My 23rd consecutive year passing the New Year in uniform, (and it’s not a baseball uni).  I actually wouldn’t have it any other way.  Just a few more of these until retirement.  Stay safe everyone, and may 2014 be that year in which we are all celebrating in October.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Separation of Social Classes to End At Dodger Stadium. Freedom for the Left Field Pavilion

It is the end of class warfare at Dodger Stadium in 2014 and I have Sons of Steve Garvey to thank for giving me the news.  A hat tip goes them as this link is a “must read” for those interested in changes at Dodger Stadium. (CLICK HERE)  SOSG reports that the Left Field Pavilion (LFP) will be connected to the rest of the Stadium and that construction is underway.  As someone that has been a pavilion attendee to Dodger games off and on for five decades, I must say that this change is probably the most significant  of all recent stadium upgrades to LFP diehards, some of which are the most passionate Dodger fans in existence. 
This change means:  

* Pavilion fans have other food options than those available under their stands, which were extremely limited.  

* LFP attendees aren’t limited access to the remaining 90% of the ballpark and will be able to experience the entire ballpark and its concourses.

* More fans will opt to try out the left field seats.  I know of some fans that avoided the LF pavilion experience because of the restrictions.  Now that won't be an excuse and this should encourage others to enjoy the game in this extremely raucious section of the stadium.

“The left field pavilion is almost like a prison,” said a longtime friend of mine a few years ago when I suggested we sit there.  He was deadset against it, mainly because of that reputation it has that dates back decades.  In the mid-70s, I recall the Dodgers suspending beer sales in the pavilion in what was an announced as an effort to create a more family friendly environment there.   There was no doubt that the beer induced fights had caught the attention of the organization.

I will argue that the underneath infrastructure of the LFP is what makes it so special.  As you ascend the stairs and the sunlight appears before your eyes, there is the beauty of Dodger Stadium in all its majesty.  It’s what I love about the place.  You go from the mundane to the magnificent in a matter of seconds.  Those steps leading to the grandstands and the gorgeous view of all things baseball really attack the visual senses.  There is no doubt you are in a special place.

I must admit though, once in the underneath structure of the LFP, it does have its unsightly areas.  Even after the stadium upgrades last season.  The fact that they put planters of petunias in front of the first row of seats may have seemed to be a good idea initially, but the predictability of the demise of the flowers was obvious.  Within a month or two, they were dead.

Underneath the stands it is more reminiscent of a prison than a ball yard.  There is an unattractive concrete floor and the exposed pavilion frame, steel infrastructure, concrete pillars, electrical conduit and exposed plumbing.  As you queue up in the concession lines, it almost looks more like a prison chow hall than a family friendly baseball venue.  You line up to get your food, a b.p. ball is hit over the wall and below the grandstand, and the free-for-all tussle for that sphere is reminiscent of a jailhouse brawl.  Topping things off is the security presence in the place that is probably more active than any other place in the Stadium.  Then there's the fact that the guards don’t allow you to traverse any other part of the stadium, and there you have it, the LFP Correctional Facility.

There are some that will claim that the LFP has that deserved reputation for rowdiness and fights,  There may be some truth to that fact, but I’ll argue there are other sections of the stadium that have had their share of disruptive behavior as well.  The opening up of the LFP to the rest of the stadium should change that and not spread the rowdy behavior as some would argue.  It's best to release the masses and democratize the entire stadium.  I'm surprised there weren't mass demonstrations and a "Mr. O'Malley, Tear Down This Wall," moment years ago.  To be honest  I'm disappointed in myself for not leading the charge.  

Now all that is left is freeing the gluttons in the Right Field Pavilion to the rest of the masses.  

Nah, forget it.  "Let them eat Dodger Dogs!"  They can stay there and engorge away.  But that's another post for another day.


UPDATE: Over at DodgerInsider.com, (LINKED HERE),  John Weisman interviewed Dodger Senior Vice President of Planning and Development, Janet Marie Smith and received a clear explanation of the construction beyond the pavilions.  I was completely wrong, the Left and Right Pavilions will continue to be segregated from the remainder of the Stadium.  Bullpen overhangs are being built with graded seating from the Field Level.  There will be a lot of concourse walking space and concessions.  To the rear of the Pavilions will be restaurants, team gift shops and seating areas with the Right Field side having a Tommy Lasorda themed Italian restaurant.

So with regard to the entire article mentioned above, as Emily Litella used to say: "Never mind."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Few More Things to Get Done This Winter and Some Thoughts on Chris Perez

Things to get done before the off-season is over.

  1. Sign Clayton Kershaw to a lifetime contract at over $300 million.
  2. Extend Hanley Ramirez for four years.  It’ll probably cost upwards of $90 million.
  3. Sign Mashiro Tanaka to a four year $100 million deal.

No sweat right?  It’s just money.

Dustin Nosler at Feelin Kinda Blue (LINKED HERE) talks about where he thinks Tanaka might end up in detail.  It’s a very interesting read.


I’ve worked in law enforcement for 25 years now.  Much of my life dedicated to apprehending drug smugglers.  I’ve seen a lot, especially in my early years on the job when I worked the trenches at the southern border. So with that said, I have little sympathy for users of drugs that I have spent a good portion of my life fighting against.  I understand the “war on drugs” has been a controversial battle and a difficult losing one at that.  I understand that the politics of it all is frustrating.  I get it.

There are those that take a libertarian viewpoint and believe the stuff should simply be legalized.  I get that too, but I don’t make the laws.  I simply do my job and enforce them.  In my career I’ve seen violence at the scale of life and death as smugglers have attempted to kill in an effort to get their stuff across the border.  Officers run over, shot at and stabbed.  The violence in the drug trade is quite real and you have to be on your guard constantly.
In September Chris Perez pleaded "no contest" to marijuana possession after shipping the drug in his dog's name to his Cleveland home. (AP photo)

To all those Dodger fans that blow off Chris Perez’s problems with the law, (marijuana possession conviction), as being much ado about nothing because it was simply just “marijuana.”  I have a piece to say as it angers me to no end. I’ve seen guys hurt real bad trying to keep that stuff off the street.  And yes, we’re talking about cannabis.

The THC content of marijuana that is harvested today runs between 22-27%.  Sometimes even higher.  That stuff people were smoking in the 70s and 80s had as low as 10% of that potency,  (between 2 and 6%).  The marijuana harvested today is done so in an effort to maximize the “high” for the consumer.  I don’t think the casual marijuana smoker from the 70s has a true understanding of the potency of the stuff that kids are smoking today using bogus medicinal marijuana cards.

Throw into the mix all the carcinogens and tumor promoters in today’s marijuana.  The stuff is a health risk.  No it’s not of a severity of schedule I drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, but it still can be abused and it causes mind altering affects that can seriously impair judgement.  Cannabis smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including more than 50 that are known to cause cancer and long term marijuana smoking has been linked to respiratory problems as well.  You want the pain relieving and healing properties of cannabis?  How about taking it in pill form?  Ingesting smoke into the lungs is crazy to enhance your health in my opinion.

In today’s world where medicinal marijuana and its positive effects are constantly promoted, very few are discussing the negatives of the drug and long term effects of its use.  Chris Perez is a user and people blow it off as something that shouldn’t be a concern.  (In fact, one Dodger message board sang praises about the guy, as if he’s a role model because of his past).  I think he’s a victim of a misinformation campaign that many cannabis users subscribe to.  Truth of the matter is, marijuana is a drug.  It’s much more potent than it used to be and it’s abuse can have serious negative health effects.

I hope that Perez and his wife have been educated on all of this and recognize the error of their ways.  For some reason though, I kind of doubt that has happened.  That’s all I really have to say on the subject.  I’ll probably be scorched by marijuana use promoters.  I really don’t care what they have to say though.


I just read that former Orioles center fielder Paul Blair passed away today at age 69.  It is reported that he collapsed at a bowling alley in Pikesville, Maryland.  Blair's home run in game three of the '66 World Series off of Claude Osteen accounted for the only run in a 1-0 O's win over the Dodgers. He was one of the greatest defensive outfielders to ever play the game, winning 8 gold gloves in his career that spanned from 1964-80.  Paul was a Los Angeles native, having graduated from Manual Arts High School.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Baseball Christmas Photo Puns…How Many Can You Get?

Merry Christmas Everyone! A few baseball photo Christmas Puns follow.   See if you can figure them out.  Good luck.

Number 1:


Number 2: (This might be a little tougher)


Number 3: (and a little harder, think nickname)

+ S

Number 4:  (this one's a stretch, but here goes)


Number 5:  (a little easier)


Number 6: (another stretch)


Have at it guys.  How many can you figure out?  (Answers to follow in the comments section when they'll be posted on Christmas Day).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bullpen Additions May Have Been Made to Stock the Roster for a Multi-Player Deal

Are the Dodgers done this off-season?  Are we to expect some type of blockbuster transaction before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch in February?  Recent moves by Colletti have shored up the bullpen.   Jamey Wright and Chris Perez have been added meaning that there are some young pitchers that may not see much major league action.

Chris Perez, the newest Dodger. (photo by Mark Duncan/AP)
Chris Withrow, Paco Rodriguez and Jose Dominguez will be fighting for a roster spot.  Scott Elbert, who is due to be back sometime this season, also might have difficulty finding a spot.

So those questions about the Dodgers being done this off-season are a bit difficult to answer.   The moves today almost make me believe that the Dodgers are about to deal some pieces off for a major acquisition.  Perhaps a starter like David Price.  On the surface, the team is set for next year.  All the positions are filled with the exception of that number five starting pitcher spot.

As much as many think the Dodgers need to find a number five slot, the team still has a lot of credible options to fill it.

There’s Josh Beckett, who it is reported will be ready for the start of the season.  He had a couple of ribs removed to alleviate a nerve problem.  That’s some major surgery and for a guy that already has all the money in the world he needs, he must think that he has something left in the tank, otherwise he wouldn’t be trying this comeback after such a major surgical procedure.

(photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)
There’s Stephen Fife, who struggled at the end of the season, but provided a credible fifth starter role for several weeks of the season.  Questions remain about his shoulder and if his problems are more than the chronic bursitis that he was diagnosed with last season.

There is Chad Billingsley, who will probably be ready to return by the All Star break following his Tommy John surgery last year.  Can we expect him to return to form before the season ends?  We’ve seen a lot of guys return from ligament replacement surgery and year # 1 usually has a lot of hiccups.

There’s Matt Magill who struggled in his major league stints, did show some promise at times.  The thing is, he has been awful in Puerto Rico in winter league play and he really struggled at Albuquerque last year as well.

Then there’s the kids:   Zach Lee, Ross Stripling, and Chris Reed.  All not quite ready for the show, but players that may be getting close.

The Dodgers entered Spring training with 9 options for the 5 starter spots last year.  It looks like 2014 will be no different.

All this talk of trading several prospects for David Price makes little sense and I didn't expect anything of that order to happen, until the moves that happened the last 48 hours took place.  Stan Kasten said repeatedly that the Dodgers need to hold on to their prospects.   Could Dominguez, Withrow or Paco Rodriguez be dangled out there in addition to (dare we say it?) Seager for a player like Price.  Would one of the four outfielders have to me included in such a package?   When such contracts like Juan Uribe and Hanley Ramirez’s expire, players like Corey Seager should be ready to step in.  They can’t be thinking of dealing him.

Pitchers like Urias, Stripling, and Lee will need time to develop and they are the future of the organization.  I can't imagine that one of those three would be included.

That brings us to Masahiro Tanaka.  That addition to the roster could be the lone blockbuster move this off season.  If he is available, it’ll be interesting to see how interested the Dodgers really are in him.  24-0 pitchers don’t come along very often and I have to believe that the club will go all in on him.  The next few weeks should be very interesting.

Suddenly that 40 man roster has filled up to capacity when just a few weeks ago there was so much room on it.


Hall of Fame voting is in it’s final stages and there should be some worthy inductions this year, such as Greg Maddux.  I’m starting to come to the realization that steroid era players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens shouldn’t be excluded from the hall.  I’m thinking that as time goes on, the BBWAA members will come around and vote those guys in.  Both those guys were hall of famers before they started juicing and tainted their legacy.  I know there are many that disagree with my stance and I respect their opinion, but those players careers overall were HOF worthy.

(photo by Dennis Poroy/AP)
For what it’s worth, My Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) ballot had both Bonds and Clemens on it.  Others I voted for this year were:

Larkin (hasn’t been inducted in the IBWAA HOF yet)
Lee Smith 

It should be noted that I voted for Piazza last year when he was voted in to the IBWAA HOF.  I would have put first year balloters Jeff Kent and Frank Thomas on my ballot, but there simply were too many great players on this year’s ballot and it was limited to ten choices.  I see both of those guys getting my vote next year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Guest Post at ThinkBlueLA.com on Candlestick and its Impending Doom

(1999 photograph by Eric Risberg/Associated Press)
After Monday Night's 49ers game, Candlestick Park's only future will be that of an implosion and demolition.  Feel free to read my guess post over at www.thinkbluela.com

There's a real interesting youtube video that show's Don Sutton toss his 50th career shutout at Candlestick in 1979.  Homers by Cey, Derrel Thomas, Lopes and Mickey Hatcher too.  It's great fun looking back at what Dodger telecasts used to be like in the late 1970s.

I would post the youtube link, but there's probably a copyright infringement issue with it.  So with that I'll just say, if you go to youtube and punch in  08-10-1979 Dodgers at San Francisco Giants, you can watch it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

There's Room for Four in This Outfield

Let’s say that the Dodgers go into the season with something that they only had for two games out of 162 last season: a team with four healthy starting outfielders.

Is it possible to keep all four of the happy with enough playing time?

I say there is room for all four.  And "no," there wont be a need for the rules of the game to change to allow a rover in the outfield.  All of them need some rest, and history is showing that.  All four will benefit from days off as well.

Andre Ethier providing mentoring to Dodger rookie phenom, Yasiel Puig. (photo by USA Today Sports)

The man that will start almost every day is Yasiel Puig.  He’ll cover right field and in the course of the season, he’ll bash into walls and collide with other players.  He’ll overthrow the occasional base and cut off man, AND he’ll make tons of  highlight reel plays to provide enough material for an hourlong ESPN Sports Center show.  Puig will get hurt.  Hopefully it’ll be a minor bruise now and then and general soreness that is an aftereffect of his reckless play.  So I figure we can count on Puig starting 145 games, maybe less.  Ethier can play the remainder of games in right.

Then there’s Kemp in center field.  Matt just may start the season on the D.L.  Hopefully that’s not the case, but with his ankle issue and the shoulder surgery recovery it’ll be a long road to 100% health for him.  Why push things when the Dodgers have the luxury of extra outfielders?  As fans we really need to hold off on clamoring for his quick return.  Kemp needs to heal because when he’s healthy, he one of the best players in the game. I still believe that, I really do.  Matt Kemp at 75% of what he was in 2011 will be a godsend.

So with that said, I believe that Kemp starts 120 games, and probably misses the first month of play.  If the Dodgers are smart, they will make sure he heals completely before rushing him back.  Kemp won’t be the guy that goes out there and plays everyday as he did a few years back.  It’ll be wise to sit him at least once a week.  Now that we know that Ethier is adequate in CF, that decision becomes easier.  Matt's a stubborn fellow, so Mattingly will have to have a heart to heart chat with him and make sure he goes along with the program.  I think he has the maturity to accept the plan. 

Kemp and Crawford hope to find the 2014 season to be healthy for them both (photo by US Presswire) 
Carl Crawford finally started to see his power return in the final month of last season.  His post season leading 4 dingers were a welcome sight.  He needs his days off and leading off adds additional stress to his aging body, but I see Crawford starting every four games or so.  It’ll be wise to sit him a few times a week to keep him healthy.  Ethier can spell him in left on those days days he sits.

Andre Ethier is the player that will need to be the most flexible of the four outfielders.  That isn’t an easy chore for Mattingly either, because he’s the most tempermental of the bunch, but I’ll argue that he’s the most versatile of the crew.  He’ll play all three outfield positions, and that makes him valuable.  Try to put Puig or Crawford into Centerfield and that’s a recipe for disaster.

Ethier can cover for Puig 15 games in right, add another 45 games in left to spell Crawford and 40-45 in CF while Kemp rests and recovers, that gives Ethier in the neighborhood of 105-110 games of action.  Frankly, that’s enough and it could really help his numbers simply with the fact that he’ll face less left handed pitchers.  For years we have been saying that Ethier would be a valuable platoon player to face only righties.  Now, this might actually come to be.

All the talk of dealing off one of the four outfielders is something that really needs to be put on the backburner.  The Dodgers can have a great foursome out there with enough playing time for all of them if these guys put their pride aside and play team ball.  That’s a lot to ask of players trying to reach individual achievements in this day and age, but all these guys are getting paid big bucks. Perhaps they’ll leave their egos in the closet and go for the ultimate goal:  a world championship.  The outfield certainly has the makings of a championship caliber club, provided that this quartet has championship caliber attitudes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Loss of Mark Ellis is a Big One

(photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Today it was announced that Mark Ellis inked a one-year deal with the Cardinals.  That’s an appreciative fan base that is going to love this guy.  Ellis is a player that plays the game about as fundamentally sound as any we’ve witnessed.

There are very few second basemen in the majors that are as professional as Mark Ellis.  He does nothing flashy.  He just goes out there and makes plays on balls hit his way.  There’s not a lot of “spectacular” there with Mark, but “consistent” and “steady” go a long way in a 162 game season.  You won’t see him as a power threat with the bat or a guy that will pound out 200 hits in a season, but I guarantee you, if the ball needs to be hit to the right side of the field, Ellis was that guy who would get it done.

Mark Ellis at 37 years old was seen as expendable, and it’s understandable that the Dodgers are taking the stance with players approaching the big 4-0.  But this loss hurts.  It will especially hurt if Alexander Guerrero struggles defensively while playing at his new position this coming season.

There are few defensive positions on the diamond that influence the game as much as second base.  Yes, I know.  There are those that will say I’m crazy and that catcher and shortstop carry more weight, but I can’t help be go back to the coolest college course I ever attended back in 1979, called the “Theory of Baseball.”  I’ve mentioned it before in a past a few years back.  This was a class worth one credit and taught by CSULA’s head baseball coach at the time, a crusty old timer with a lot of managerial and playing experience that dated back to the 1930s named Jack Deutsch.  

Deutsch swore up and down that aside from catcher, the second baseman was your most important defensive player on the team.  He claimed he was the game controller.  The guy that picked off signs and the nuances of the game that often aren't noticed.  The QB of the infield he called him.  “A veteran second baseman that knows what he’s doing will save your team runs,” he said.  His positioning on cut off plays, his relaying of signs to other players, his footwork at second base and turning of the D.P., his ability to steal outs through the quick application of tags on stolen base attempts.  All of this was viewed as influential to getting additional outs, which is the name of the game on defense.

Think about your championship teams.  How many had key defensive second basemen in place that played an influential role in their team’s success?  Both offensively but especially defensively.  Joe Morgan, Dustin Pedroia, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Jackie Robinson, Dick Green, and Billy Martin led teams to multiple championships.  All were stellar defensive specialists with baseball IQs and instincts that can’t be taught.  One hit wonders like Marco Scutaro and that pesky Brian Doyle who broke Dodger fan’s hearts stole championships for their teams and proved influential in leading their teams to a World Championship.
Jackie Robinson turns the double play at Sportsman's Park, St. Louis, 1948. (photo by Jack Zehrt)
Who knows, maybe Alexander Guerrero turns out to be a steady addition to the 2014 Dodgers, but learning a new position on the major league level is usually not a good idea.   Another year of Mark Ellis really couldn’t have hurt much as balls hit his way were pretty much sure thing outs.   Without studying the metrics in detail, I didn’t notice a decrease in his coverage on the diamond.  It should be noted that baseball-reference.com listed his range factor/9 innings at 4.99, which is actually right there with his prime years while playing with the A’s from 2002-2009.  
Want to feel worse about this?  In 239 games over two season, Ellis made 9 errors on the field.  Think about it, 9 errors.  That’s a bad week and a half of Dee Gordon.  

For two seasons we could breath a collective sigh of relief when a ball was hit to the right side of the infield.  That is something that will be missed.  At least I know I’ll miss it.  A few kicked grounders by Guerrero in April and we’ll all be wondering if the strategy to “allow a player to leave one year too early rather than keep him one season too long” was a good idea.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why All the Ys? (YASIEL SABE), But Here's My Theory

One of the strangest phenomenon’s of the Castro regime in Cuba was the sovietization of peoples names.  For some crazy reason, a hybrid of Russian/Spanish names have been invented, causing a unique and confusing splattering of first titles that many can’t make sense of nor pronounce.  We see it in the Cuban influx of baseball players during the past decade.  The Cuban community has seen it for a little more than a quarter century now.

1960's Cuba/Russia Friendship Poster

Call them the “Generation Y’s” from Cuba.  A very popular blogger from the island, Yoani Sanchez, a 38 year old woman that puts herself at risk regularly with her anti-government posts, came up with the “Generation Y” moniker to identify themselves.  In fact, that is the title of her fascinating blog: “GENERACION Y” found at www.desdecuba.com.  Cuban authorities have shut it down more than once, but it’s a “must” read for those interested in seeing how life is lived on the island.

Sanchez, another “Y” child, believes that the “Y” names and other bizarre and unique hybrid names found in Cuba, became popular through attempts of the citizenry to usurp creativity that has been lacking for five decades now.  It’s a way in which they outwardly show some support for the revolution, by inflicting a Russian name upon the world while at the same time they have the freedom to create something new.  It’s a strange phenomenon.  Cuba is one of the world’s final Marxist regimes in operation.  Naming your child something different is a way of “flexing ones creative muscles without running afoul of authorities.”    (Source: 2008 NEWSWEEK article linked HERE)   

Many Cubans had contact with Russian advisors over the years with such names as Yuri, Yakov, Yasha, Yan, Yevgeni, Yurik, and Yalens.  Friendships developed.  Children were named after such friends.  Then the creativity kicked in and the hybrid names developed.  Custom names often beginning with the next to last letter in the alphabet.

The children blessed (though some may say cursed) with such unusual names were mostly born in the 70s and 80s and are now adults.  Some I have come to know, such as my wife’s niece, Cuban born and Nicaraguan raised.  Her name is “Yunaisy.”  Other generation Y types have emerged in the spotlight, such as Cuban Olympic boxers Yuriorkis Gamboa and Yan Barthelomy.  And we have seen many on the MLB stage now. 

Cuban fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa

There are some humorous stories told amongst Cubans regarding the preponderence of names starting with “Y.”  There’s one of a nurse that said a woman gave birth to a daughter, her 5th, and each child had a name starting with the 25th letter of the alphabet.  She didn’t have any idea what to name her newborn.  She told the nurse in Spanish:  “Yo ni sé” which translated means, “I don’t know” what to name her.  And then it hit her, “Yonise” thrown together into one word.  She had a name. “Yonise” it was.

Others tell of two brothers that attended a Miami high school.  One named Yuesnavy (U.S. Navy) and Yuesmail (U.S. Mail).  I’m not sure if there’s any truth to the story, but it’s funny, nonetheless.   

So there you have it folks:  my theory as to why the Dodger right fielder is not named Jose Armando Puig or Pablo Antonio Puig, but instead known simply as “YASIEL.”  The same can be said for “Yoennis” Cespedes, “Yasmani” Grandal, “Yunel” Escobar, “Yuniesky” Betancourt, “Yoslan” Herrera,and  “Yunesky” Maya.  A well known Cuban broadcaster that passed away in 2004 by the name of Eduardo Martin became fed up with the unusual names.  He reported that he had announced over 400 crazy “Y” names of Cuban “peloteros” and by the end he was done, saying on one live broadcast: “and now to the plate comes another impossible name to pronounce.” 

Yuneisky Betancourt, utility infielder

Well at least the Cuban Dodger pitcher on the roster doesn’t have a “Y” name.  He’s got that super common latin title of “ONELKI” Garcia.   

This leaves us longing for the days of Cuban baseball greats with easier names like:  Humberto (Bert) Campaneris, Antonio (Tony) Perez, Orlando (el Duque) Hernandez, Octavio (Cookie) Rojas.  Can you imagine Yaktonio Perez or Yuneisky (Cookie) Rojas?  Sort of has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Replays On Trapped Balls - Causes More Confusion Than Solutions

MLB is instituting an instant replay format next year in order to try to get more calls right.    Unfortunately, this attempt might actually cause more controversy, especially on trapped balls in the outfield. Hear me out on this, because I think there are some that will disagree with me.
Trap or catch? Coco Crisp dives for outfield sinking liner.  (photo by Julie Jacobson/AP)

Reviewing these plays opens the game up to even more speculation and additional interpretation.  These plays are not always cut and dry and base runner movement is impacted by the split second decisions made by umps on the field.  

Example # 1:

The Dodgers playing the Giants at AT&T Park and it’s the top of the first inning with one out.  Andre Ethier is at the plate and Hanley Ramirez is on first and Carl Crawford is standing at second base after Hanley’s sharp single.  On a 2-2 count Ethier laces a line drive to the left of Hunter Pence in right field.  Pence attempts to make a diving catch and he appears to do so as he dives, sprawling out on all fours.  Umpire Dan Iosoggna rules that a catch was made and the runners stop in their tracks and retreat to their original bases.  Pence’s throw to first base is in time to beat Ramirez by a step.  The inning is over on a double play.

Don Mattingly believes he missed the call and requests that a replay review be completed.  After an umpire sitting in a studio in New York reviews the play on a TV, a message is sent to the crew that the ball was trapped and the double play needs to be reversed.

This is where things get messed up.  Where are the runners placed?  Does Crawford score a run or do they place him at third. Had Iosoggna called the play correctly in the first place, none of the runners would have put on the brakes.  Crawford would have scored easily from second base.  Hanley would have advanced to third base.  Now the umps will have to interpret how far each runner would have advanced.  Maybe they won’t have that interpretation authority.  Will the runners by rule only be allowed to advance one base? 

So reality is that the replay review is in place to correct human errors but the fix won’t be completely correct, because the Dodgers will have been denied a run, due to human error.

Example #2

Same scenario, 1st inning, same runners in place and again, Ethier lines the pitch on a liner to Pence in right field.  This time, the umpire doesn’t call that the ball was caught and Crawford scores and Ramirez advances to third.  Bruce Bochy disagrees.  He protests and asks for replay review.

This time the umpire viewing the action via monitor in New York determines that the catch was made.  Since the runners took off, an easy double play would have been recorded.  Do the umps call a double play?  How can they assume that Pence would have got up and made an accurate throw to record the putout at first or second?

What will happen is the runners will be forced to return to their original bases and play will resume with only one out recorded on the play.    Again, an effort is made to correct human error and it only does so to some extent.  The inning should be over, but they’ll still be playing.

That’s just my opinion anyway.  If we were to stick to the original umpire calls on trapped balls, runners will react accordingly and play will resume unimpeded.  This stoppage to review and then interpret where to put runners is problematic to me.   First, it'll add minutes to each game and then it doesn't really completely correct a call when a mistake is made.


Old School baseball purists will be upset with today's announcement that MLB will outlaw home plate collisions this coming season or in 2015.  Exactly how this will be done will need to be spelled out in detail because, again, plays at the plate are instantaneous plays and often made on instinct.
Brian Jordan collided with Darren Bennett, then of the Padres back in 2003.  One of the nastier home plate collisions in memory.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, catchers will no longer be allowed to block the plate, if they do so without the ball, "obstruction" will be called and the runner will score.  Runners will not be allowed to target catchers and they will have to slide if there is a play at the plate.  How they will interpret whether a "runner targets a catcher" will strictly be an umpire judgment call, but apparently these types of plays will be reviewable in instant replay as well if challenged.  Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson addressed the topic at a morning press conference at the G.M. meetings in Orlando:

"The exact language and how exactly the rule will be enforced is subject to final determination.  We're going to do fairly extensive review of the types of plays that occur at home plate to determine which we're going to find acceptable and which are going to be prohibited."

Former catchers and current managers Bruce Bochy and Mike Matheny are strong advocates of the plate collision ban.  Both were called upon by MLB to address the topic and were influential in bringing about the rule change.  The players association will vote on the rule change in January, but all expect there to be no opposition to it, as the move will make the game safer for players.

"There's been adjustments everywhere," said Bochy when questioned about changing baseball tradition.  "I think it's time in baseball that we do change the rule and protect these catchers."


Monday, December 9, 2013

Dodger Blog Shut Down Day

There’s bad news on the Dodger blogging front and that it the best source for all Dodger news has decided to hang up his baseball writing career.  Tony Jackson will be shutting down Dodgerscribe.com.  This is unfortunate for those of us seeking that locker room insight on a day to day basis, but the drudgery of the marathon baseball season reporting has gotten to Tony, and I‘m sure if I was in his position, I’d probably feel the same way.  For selfish reasons, the news disappoints me, but I can only sit back and wish Mr. Jackson the best in his future endeavors.

His explanation for leaving is LINKED HERE

Another blog writer, Mark Timmons is hinting the same thing over at LADodgertalk.com.  Timmons, who has been in the blogging business for about as long as blogs have been around is writing that he's fed up with baseball.  He said goodbye to his readers yesterday.  It's not the first time he has done this, and he always seems to come back, but he has not been happy with the Dodger's spending ways and he made a veiled reference to Hanley Ramirez being a head case.  Anyway, you can read his explanation AT THIS LINK
Anybody else out there about to hang things up?  If Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA announces he's leaving, be watching for me at the nearest bridge.


Announced this morning was the induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame of Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa and Joe Torre by the Expansion Era Election committee by unanimous vote.  No surprises here.

Congratulations to Joe, Tony and Bobby!

Again, the Garv came up short.  Surpisingly to me, Marvin Miller didn't get elected.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Baseball Photo Brings it All Back...Remembering a Friend that Left Us Much Too Soon

Opinion of Kingman’s Performance is a blog in which I mainly turn my attention to major league baseball and the Dodgers.  Today, I step away from that as a photo that came to my attention reminded me of a special friend from years ago that has passed on.

When I was 10 years old I had this Little League tryout for the ages.  It was the tryout where managers from all the teams watch you catch a few flies in the outfield, then make a some throws to the bases.  Then they put you in a line and all the guys fielded a few grounders at shortstop.  Then you’d get your turn hitting and you’d swing the bat at about 10 pitches.  They’d also track your speed as you ran out the last one to first base.  The purpose was for managers to get a chance to see the players in action before they selected their players.

It was quick and and there were a lot of people there.  It was a pressure packed 30 minutes or so and it was real structured.  You better be there for your 10:00 AM report time, or you or you’d be removed from the league.  There were hundreds of kids that needed to be seen and time was of the essence.

Anyway, my tryout started with a bang.  Shagging fly balls in left field it was my turn.  The adult at the plate smacked one down the left field line.  I heard him say, “Sorry, let’s try it again,” but I was already off to go catch it with a good jump.  I had spent the entire winter playing ball with my older brother and his friends.  That play would be a tough one, but I knew I could catch it.  I made a diving catch and crashed into the fence in foul territory.  The “oo’s and ah’s” could be heard from those watching.  I was non-chalant about it in my 10 year old way.  I knew it was a highlight reel snag.  I just trotted back to the end of the line and a number of guys complimented me as I returned.

I made all the other plays that came my my way out there and in the infield, I had a ball hit to deep shortstop that I backhanded and then threw to first, a bit wildly though.  As a hitter.  Everything I hit was solid.  Up the middle singles.  A liner down the 3B line, and base hit between first and second.  

I could have been placed in any one of three leagues,  the American for 10 year olds, the National for 11 year olds and the Majors for 12 year olds.  A week later I got a phone call from Mr. Matthews, he introduced himself as the manager of the Yankees from the Majors and said he had selected me in the draft.

This was a big deal.  I jumped two levels and was on the team that won the championship the year before.  It was quite a shock.  It turns out that each team in the Major division was allowed to draft two 10 year olds, and I had made it and another kid named Dennis did too.  Dennis must have had a great tryout too, otherwise, our paths probably would have never crossed.

Both Dennis and I were in for a season of struggle.  For our age I think we were pretty good athletes and with good speed, but suddenly we were playing with guys that were throwing smoke and had speed and talent that we never imagined.  To top that off, our team was the best one out there.  Our coaching was top notch.  Many of the players were returning from the championship team the season before and those guys knew the fundamentals.  Cut offs, positioning, sophisticated signs, they executed plays like moving the runner over was expected.  I think I learned more in that 1972 season than any I ever experienced.

AND...We almost never lost.  We ran a winning streak that went 14 straight before losing a meaningless game at the end of the season.   Our record was something like 21-4 when we entered that championship game.

Dennis and I would split the games as there was a Little League rule that required everyone to play each game.  Sometimes I’d go the first three innings and other times the last three.  I was a second baseman, but since our 1st string second sacker was an all star that would never be removed from any game, I would find myself in left field usually, and so would Dennis.

I think Dennis and I maybe had 5 hits all season between the two of us.  We were over matched and to top it off, we were a bit on the small side as well.  That championship game was against a formidable opponent that was easily the next best team in the league, the Indians.  We lost to them earlier in the season and then barely beat them the second time around.  I don’t remember their record, but I don’t think they lost more than four or five times in the season.

So championship game day arrived and it was quite the event.  There had to be more than a thousand people that surrounded that little field on that bright Saturday afternoon.  I don’t ever remember being so nervous.  A band was playing.  There was a play by play announcer talking over the stadium PA system.  There were even six umpires out there, compared to the two we normally had.
Unfortunately I'm unable to find a team photo of the championship team.  This is the year afterword.  I'm in the bottom row, behind the sign, second from the left.  Dennis is number 5 in the second row.  His wonderful mom was our team mother and she's in the far left, third row.

The pre-game speech from Mr. Matthews was lengthy and Knute Rockneish.  He told Dennis that he’d play the first three innings and I would finish the game for the last three.  I wasn’t sure what that meant or who he valued most, but I think we were about equal, maybe I was a faster runner by a step or two.  He also instructed both of us that we were to take pitches until we had two strikes, which spoke a lot about our offensive prowess.

This game was a nail biter.  We took a one run lead, then they scored two.  Then we tied it up.  Back and forth it went.  Their ace was on the mound and he was tough. Our guy, Brian, was no slouch either.  I was playing left field in the top of the final inning, (the sixth) and the game was tied.  I had knots in my stomach.  All the negatives were running through my head.  They had a man on second base and two out and their pitcher came to the plate.  This guy had a stick too.  I was praying that he wouldn’t hit it to me.  I didn’t want to be a goat in front of all those people.

Sure enough, he belted a pitch to LF and I broke back on the ball.  Back and back I went and then CRASH!  I hit the left field wall.  There were no warning tracks on that field.  The ball was hit out ten feet beyond the fence for a homer.   I remember the crowd nearby asking if I was alright as I got up and walked back to my position.  I could see the Indians players delirious as they greeted their slugger at home plate after circling the bases.

The place was going nuts and it looked like we were done for.  Our ace retired the third out and we retreated to the dugout down 6 to 4.  I was the leadoff hitter coming up.  I heard the words of encouragement as I got ready in the on-deck circle.  My manager reminded me of his admonition to take pitches.  The guy on deck pleaded with me to get in a tight crouch and try to shrink my zone.  I’m sure there were others that would have told me to lean into any inside pitch, a la Englebert from the Bad News Bears, if the opportunity arose.  Dennis gave me some encouragement as I turned away from the on-deck circle to go to the plate.  “You can do it Ev!” he said.  I’m not sure if he wished he was in my position or not.

So into the box I stood.  The opposing catcher was Mike, was a friend from 4th grade.  He was another ten year old, but a much larger kid and better player than me.  He wouldn’t even look me in the eye.  This was all business.  Their pitcher threw absolute smoke and they were all going to be fastballs coming my way.  I slouched into that familiar crouch and he let fly his first pitch.  It was up and away, ball one.

Up and away was good.  About two weeks earlier I had been beaned in the head and suffered a slight concussion.  I had been struggling with overcoming the fear of getting hit again and had spent the last week taking batting practice from my older brother in the back yard trying to overcome that fear and not bailing out too early.  When this fireballer delivered his second delivery that was way high again, I could hear the excitement from the bench on my side of the field.  I took a look at Coach Matthews and he continued to flash me the take sign.  Pitch number three was in the dirt and the yelps from my side of the field continued.  I heard a time out and could see Mr. Osborne, the coach of the Indians walk half way to the mound.

“He’s the number nine hitter!  Throw strikes!” he said.  (Seventeen years later I encountered Mr. Osborne while working as a Customs Inspector in Calexico International Airport.  I went out to clear a plane he was piloting as he returned from a fishing trip in Baja California.  I recognized him immediately and told him the story.   He couldn’t believe it).  Anyway, back to 1972...

My coach continued to flash the take sign, but he had a look on his face that told me that I would be killed if I swung.  So the Indians ace decided to take something off his next pitch,  He laid a little floater right down the heart of the plate.  I could have crushed it had I swung, but that wasn’t going to happen.  “Strike one!” screeched the umpire.  I sneaked a look at my coach again and to my surprise he took the take sign off.  I double checked, sent him a sign to give it again and he repeated it again.  If I liked it, I had permission to swing away.

There wasn’t a need for that though because the pitcher’s next delivery was way outside.  I was on base.  Though I could run well, there was no way I was going to steal second.  Jim, our next batter, hit a seeing eye grounder that I had to hop over as it headed to right field.  I hit the second base bag and saw the third base coach waving me on to third.  I scampered my way to third base as the throw from right field came my way.  I hit the ground as I heard “Down!” at my arrival at third.  The throw came in just a second behind my slide.  Jim made it into second as the potential tying run when the throw to third wasn’t cut off.

The place was going deafeningly wild.  Fans were shaking the fences that surrounded our bandbox ballpark.  My teammates in the third base dugout were all on their feet screaming a series of confusing instructions my way.  Coaches were attempting to control everyone’s excitement and Mr. Matthews told me to just listen to him.  There was a visit to the pitchers mound.  My manager was screaming instructions to me at the top of his lungs, but I could barely hear him.  “Freeze on the line drive!  Be ready to break on a wild pitch! Tag on the fly! Wait for me to say go when tagging up!”  Our catcher, John, our other coaches son came up.  He struck out swinging and the pressure mounted.  Next came Brian, our starting pitcher, up to the plate.  He was probably the best hitter on our team.

On the first pitch he hit a sharp grounder in the direction of their second baseman.  I broke for the plate as hard as I could.  I figured this would be a ground out and I’d score easily.  Heading home I could hear the crowd go wild.   I didn’t know it at the time, but that ground ball went right through the legs of their second baseman.  I touched home, turned around to coach the incoming runner at the plate as I had been instructed and could see Jim heading my way with the tying run.    He scored standing up.

The place was going nuts and we embraced running arm and arm back to the dugout only to be greeted by headslaps that probably resulted in an undiagnosed second concussion for me.   The dugout was alive.  We had the winning run on second and there was one out.  The energy was vibrant.  We were all on our feet watching Angel, our left handed swinging first baseman step up to the plate.

Angel’s dad was a baseball man.  He coached his sons with an iron fisted authority.  I kind of felt sorry for them as they were really under a lot of pressure.  His dad was an advance scout for the St. Louis Cardinals.  He had two kids on the team and they had the state of the art equipment and all this Cardinals gear that looked real cool.  Their dad was Puerto Rican I believe.  He’d wear that Panama hat and was always smoking a cigar.  Think of a young Mike Brito, that was him.

So Angel stepped to the plate with all this pressure and I’m sure his cigar chomping dad was within earshot.  I’m not sure though, as I was too engaged with my teammates as we were excited to have the winning run standing out there on the bases. Angel lofted an opposite field fly ball to left.  The thing was hit well and it kept carrying and carrying and we were shocked to see it sail over the outfield wall for a home run.  

Bedlam ensued.  It was like the ’69 series with the fans invading Shea Stadium after the Mets won.  A bunch of the crowd jumped on to the field.  We went to home plate to mob our teammate.  I noticed my friend, Mike, the Indians catcher.  He was wailing.  He had tossed his mask against the fence and was practicably inconsolable.  I turned my attention to my teammates and Angel was on the shoulders of some of our teammates as he was carried around the field in celebration of our championship.

I looked at Dennis and we embraced.  “We did it!” he said.  “Can you believe it?”  That had particular special meaning to me because both Dennis and I had struggled all season being completely overmatched by boys two and three years older than us.   It had been a long year and one where we were constantly feeling the pressure and trying to keep up with a lot of excellent players.

Dennis and I played two more seasons together.  We figured that by our 12 year old season, we’d be the team leaders.  And that appeared to be the case until our new manager was named and he had a different plan in mind.  He played a lot of the young guys in an effort to give them experience.  It was a rebuilding season and though I’m convinced we were the best guys out there, we weren’t give much of a shot to excel.  He played us out of position and batted us down in the batting order.   

We were connected on the field and at practices.   He was a jokester and his laughter was infectious. You’d often hear him cracking jokes and keeping the younger guys at ease.  Our new manager knew next to nothing about baseball compared to Mr. Matthews.  Dennis and I had our own signs that last year amongst ourselves, putting on hit and run plays and he as catcher and me as an infielder, operating some pick off plays.  When the coach found out about it, he saw us as insubordinate but the truth was, we were just trying to get things going with our sorry inexperienced team.  It was a disappointing end for us and Little League baseball had come to an end.

I never saw Dennis again after age 12.  Though time and again I’d think about him.  We lived in different parts of our community.  He went to the cross town rival high school.  I had always wondered what happened to him, and then I noticed on facebook someone has posted a photograph of our team picture on a page dedicated on our Community Little League.  A post that addressed the photo mentioned his name with the inscription added, “RIP.”  He died when he was 19 years old.  I don’t even know what happened.

So forty years after we played our last game together and 33 years after Dennis passed away I’m feeling some emptiness and a lot of sadness.  Sad because I lost touch with a great kid.  Sad because he died so young.  Empty because I have enjoyed a life with children and now grandchildren, with an advanced education and  a career and he never got to experience any of that. 

Dennis has been gone now for way more than half of my life and yet baseball reminds me of him.  Team comradery brings back lifetime memories.  Here it is 42 years later and I remember that championship game vividly.  I don’t know if that speaks for my lame athletic career as I have to go back that far to discuss a significant personal event or not.  I just know that I’m thankful that this silly game reminds me of a joyous time.  A happy kid and a wonderful human being that departed this earth much too soon.

Rest in peace Dennis.  I remember you vividly and they are wonderful memories.  I’m sorry we lost touch.