Jul 21

Tenth Anniversary Freeze-Out

Sunday, July 21, 2002

This is where I will vent, and, if I can ever feel so comfortable, exult about the Dodgers and baseball in general.

* * *

Ten years, three kids, one puppy, 855 wins and 782 losses later (including 9-14 in the playoffs), I realize I might better have described my mission just as inhaling and exhaling – catching my breath – about the Dodgers and baseball in general, and life.

The landscape has certainly changed. This website began to fill a void in my writing life – “bad scooter searching for his groove” – now I don’t have enough time to write all I want. Life in general has only become more challenging. At the same time, when this site began there was virtually nothing like it covering the Dodgers; now there are more than I can keep track of, doing excellent work, providing a level of insight unprecedented in the history of Dodger reporting.

But overwhelmingly, I want to express that I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the invention of blogs, for the invention of the Internet, that enabled this platform for all my thoughts, baseball and otherwise. It has really helped sustain me. And I’m grateful to anyone who stopped by over the past 10 years and gave something I wrote a glance of consideration. I’m grateful for the support I’ve received, even through posts as self-serving as this one, and for the friends I’ve made through this site.

Sometimes, I wish I had channeled the past 10 years into something more majestic – a book or script that would stand the test of time. Sometimes, I wish I had just gotten away from the computer more altogether. The rest of the time, I can’t think of anything better than writing right in this spot and hanging out online with you.

Dodgers at Mets, 10:10 a.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

Jul 20

Vin Scully’s brush with Monday Night Football

If you haven’t read the 1964 Robert Creamer feature on Vin Scully, don’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, Scully told Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News that he was approached to be the original play-by-play man for ABC’s Monday Night Football.

… Scully stands by the Red Barber philosophy of having one voice in the booth narrate for radio or TV. He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on “Monday Night Football.”

“He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV — and he was right,” said Scully.

Scully declined, in part, because “the more I thought about it, I realized it would conflict with the Dodgers’ schedule.” But another reason he passed, he said, had to do with how he saw the play-by-play man’s role being diluted.

Keith Jackson ended up with the job for the first year of “MNF” in the debut year of 1970, with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith as the analysts. Frank Gifford replaced Jackson in 1971 and stayed on play-by-play until 1985, when Al Michaels came in, and Gifford moved to an analyst until 1997.

“Because of how football was going to be televised, you’d have one or two analysts now in the booth,” Scully said. “I had been doing games with Jim Brown on one side and George Allen on the other, and there were times I wasn’t sure, ‘Do I turn to him first for an opinion?’”

Scully said the emergence of John Madden, who he had as a partner at CBS, “really put the analyst front and center. And baseball picked up on that. The whole business changed in my opinion because of the way ‘Monday Night Football’ did it.”

Change, maybe not for the better, as far as how local baseball broadcasts were influenced by the national presentation. …

* * *

  • Mike Sandlock, at 96 the oldest living former Dodger, will have a meet-and-greet with the team today, writes Jack Cavanaugh for the Times.
  • J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News checks in with Javy Guerra, who just returned from caring for his ailing father.
  • In May 1960, a 24-year-old Sandy Koufax threw 785 pitches in a 22-day stretch, capped by a 193-pitch, 13-inning outing. Geoff Young discusses at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Via a conversation with Dodger president Stan Kasten, Dylan Hernandez of the Times analyzes the Dodger trade-deadline prospects.
  • De Jon Watson talked about Dodger minor-leaguers with Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Believe it or not, the Dodgers have been the fourth-most clutch team in baseball in 2012, according to a study by Ari Berkowitz of Beyond the Box Score.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods offers The Bad News Bears in Breaking Bad.
  • Happy birthday to Rachel Robinson, who turned 90 on Thursday.
Jul 20

This morning

The last thing I did this morning before walking out the door for work was hug and kiss goodbye my 4-year-old, who was singing and playing with our electric keyboard. I walked out to the car, my iPhone in hand, preparing to try out a new podcast for the 15-minute drive to work.

Got in the car, hooked in my iPhone, belted, turned on the car ignition and looked over my shoulder.

I looked. I did look.

But it was a quick look, a glance, a blurry glance.  It was a look without any intention of seeing, and in fact, I had already shifted the car into reverse and begun to lift my foot off the brake pedal when the image registered in my consciousness of my 4-year-old running over to finish saying goodbye to me.

I looked.  I did look.

And he wasn’t behind the car. He was to the side of the rear of the vehicle. I wouldn’t have hit him. But it was just way, way too close. And a different image rests in my brain.

Put the car in park, unbelted, got out, picked him up and hugged him tight in that way where you’re scolding him, yourself, and everyone and everything in the world for allowing tragedy to lurk around every corner, at any moment.

Now I’m at work.

Jul 19

Root beer reviews: Bulldog

Bulldog Root Beer hits your tongue thin but slick, with a nice sweetness and a nifty bite at the end. It’s quenching and gone in a hurry.

Sampling date: July 17, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, honey, maltodextrin, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate, real vanilla, phosphoric acid, salt

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 160 calories, 0 grams fat, 41 grams of sugar, 45 milligrams sodium

Bottling location: Mukilteo, Washington

Current rankings:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer

Jul 18

Root beer reviews: Route 66

With a $25 gift card to BevMo in hand, I decided to pursue a small but highly significant taste test of root beer. I bought several different brands and will be publishing reviews over the next few weeks. Here is the first:

* * *

Route 66 Root Beer has what I would call a classic non-mainstream taste – the sweet bite that you don’t get in an A&W or Mug. Goes down smoothly and unpretentiously, disappearing all too quickly.

Sampling date: July 14, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, real cane sugar, caramel color, natural and artificial flavorings, quillaia, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative)

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 160 calories, 0 grams fat, 28 grams of sugar

Bottling location: Lebanon, Missouri

Jul 18

Jim Eisenreich, baseball hero, Dodger nemesis

Phillies at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXVI: Kershawmdog Millionaire
Tony Gwynn Jr., RF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

Tuesday night, when Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch in the Dodgers’ dreary eighth inning, I got to thinking about what a constant thorn in the team’s side Ruiz is.

Still, he’s no Jim Eisenreich — the biggest nemesis to the Dodgers in my memory.

In 232 plate appearances from 1993-98, Eisenreich had a .405 batting average, .468 on-base percentage and .620 slugging percentage against the Dodgers. And then, when he signed with the team in ’98, he batted .197/.266/.244.

Eisenreich, who famously overcame a struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome, was a great story in baseball — except when the Dodgers were involved.

* * *

  • The most thorough review of Dodger Stadium beer options that I’ve seen is delivered by Eno Sarris of NotGraphs. “Depending on your goals, Dodger Stadium is either a boom or a bust from a beer perspective,” he writes.
  • Also on NotGraphs: Patrick Dubuque on baseball Shrinky-Dinks.
  • Here’s a nice feature on Dodger prospect Angel Sanchez by Chris Martinez for MLB.com.

    … Sanchez put school before baseball and attended the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, the only public university in the Dominican Republic. There he studied accounting and put school ahead of baseball, even as he dreamed of playing in the big leagues.

    “I had to go to school first because baseball is not forever,” Sanchez said. …

  • Buster Olney’s assessment of the Dodgers at the trading deadline for ESPN.com:

    … In my opinion, the Dodgers’ new ownership shouldn’t feel pressure to make the playoffs. The question that should be asked, in the midst of L.A.’s month-long slump, should not be “What the hell is wrong with this team?” Rather, it should be, “How the heck did these guys win so many games early?”

    It’s a flawed team, and the new ownership really hasn’t had much time to apply its vision of roster reformation. Overpaying to improve the 2012 Dodgers feels like an overreaction.

    But L.A. is being aggressive in trying to make the team better. Other execs continue to view the Dodgers as the front-runners to land Dempster. The club’s new owners seem intent on bolstering the team after its improbable early success. …

  • Stephen Fife has been sent back to Albuquerque, while Javy Guerra has been activated from the bereavement list.
  • Ted Lilly will throw a bullpen session Friday, reports Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
Jul 18

‘The Hall of Nearly Great’ now for sale

I’m happy to announce that “The Hall of Nearly Great,” an e-book with chapters on 42 ballplayers worth remembering despite falling short of the Hall of Fame, is now for sale for only $12. To make a purchase, click the image at right. 

The book includes my chapter on former Dodger outfielder Reggie Smith. Other former Dodgers in the book include Dick Allen, Ron Cey, Eric Davis, Kenny Lofton, Fred McGriff, Andy Messersmith, Fernando Valenzuela and Robin Ventura, as well as manager Don Mattingly. Here’s more on the project from its intrepid editors, Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin:

The Hall of Nearly Great is an ebook meant to celebrate the careers of those who are not celebrated. It’s not a book meant to reopen arguments about who does and does not deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement. Rather, it remembers those who, failing entrance into Cooperstown, may unfairly be lost to history. It’s for the players we grew up rooting for, the ones whose best years led to flags and memories that will fly together forever. Players like David Cone, Will Clark, Dwight Evans, Norm Cash, Kenny Lofton, Brad Radke, and many others.

This is not a numbers-driven project (although our contributors lean analytical in their views). Our plan isn’t to be overbearing with stats and spreadsheets to convince you that these players are worth remembering. What we aim to do, instead, is accomplish that same task through stories. Think of your favorite players growing up: they have their moments, games, seasons, quirks, personalities, and legends worth remembering and sharing. Now, combine the best of everyone’s forgotten favorites, and you’ve got a Hall of Nearly Great. Ask the people who have those memories and love for these players to write essays about them, and you have The Hall of Nearly Great ebook.

It takes a talented writer to give these players their due honors, and we’ve collected forty-two talented writers to do just that. These are All-Star writers, some of our favorite must-reads in today’s expansive baseball coverage landscape. They have diverse voices, diverse backgrounds and diverse interests, but they all love baseball and have a passion for the players they’re writing about.

R.J. Anderson * Cee Angi * Tommy Bennett * Ted Berg * Jon Bernhardt * Jon Bois * Grant Brisbee * Craig Brown * Dave Brown * Craig Calcaterra * Carson Cistulli * Cliff Corcoran * Bradford Doolittle * Craig Fehrman * Chad Finn * Steven Goldman * Owen Good * Jay Jaffe * King Kaufman * Jonah Keri * Matthew Kory * Will Leitch * Ben Lindbergh * Sam Miller * Rob Neyer * Marc Normandin * Eric Nusbaum * Bill Parker * Jason Parks * Jeff Passan * Joe Posnanski * Old Hoss Radbourn * David Raposa * David Roth * Jon Sciambi * Emma Span * Cecilia Tan * The Common Man * Wendy Thurm * Jon Weisman * Josh Wilker * Jason Wojciechowski

This is an ebook, available in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats, suitable for reading on a computer, iPad, Kindle, Nook, other e-reader, or smart phone. It is DRM-free, not because we want people to steal it, but because we’d rather put our efforts into making better products than limiting their convenience. Buy now for immediate download for only $12.

Note: If you buy a copy of the book using any of the links on this page, I will get a $3 slice of the payment. So thanks in advance for your support.

Click here to buy the book

Jul 17

Fife digs the groundball in effective debut

Fanning one batter in six innings, Stephen Fife had the fewest strikeouts of any Dodger starting pitcher in his first major-league game since Sandy Vance went six whiff-free innings in 1970.

But Fife stymied the Phillies tonight, allowing no runs after Philadelphia leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins doubled and scored on a Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt (yes, a sacrifice against a Triple-A pitcher in his debut with a runner on second and none out) and a Chase Utley groundout. Matt Kemp threw out Ryan Howard trying to score from second base on a Hunter Pence single to end the sixth inning, and Fife’s happy debut was complete.

He allowed four hits and three walks, while recording 13 groundouts. That can be a dangerous way to live if those grounders come close to finding holes, but Fife thrived.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, delivered consecutive hits from Andre Ethier, Adam Kennedy, James Loney and Luis Cruz to score two runs in the bottom of the second inning against Roy Halladay, who came off the disabled list to make tonight’s start. “Stubbornly,” as Vin Scully put it, the Dodgers took that 2-1 lead into the eighth inning.

And now you don’t know the rest of the story

Jul 17

Billingsley to disabled list, Fife to make debut

The Dodgers have placed Chad Billingsley on the disabled list, from which he is eligible to return Monday. Stephen Fife has been officially brought up from Albuquerque to make his major-league debut tonight against the Phillies and Roy Halladay.

Update: Here’s a link to Dodger pitching debuts since 1988.

Phillies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Stephen Fife, P