May 10

Pedro Guerrero hired to manage in Vallejo

Longtime Dodger Thoughts hero Pedro Guerrero has taken a job managing the independent league Vallejo Admirals, reports Matt O’Donnell of the Vallejo Times-Herald (via Baseball Think Factory).

Two years ago, Mike Marshall worked in the Arizona Winter League in Yuma, Ariz., a destination designed for players looking to make some offseason noise.

The league brought along Pedro Guerrero, who was looking to get back into baseball as a manager or coach.

For a portion of seven seasons, Guerrero and Marshall were teammates on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two provided a formidable middle of the order but the two hadn’t kept in contact much after that time. Marshall would often ask ex-teammate Mariano Duncan, “How is Pete?”

“To be honest, I didn’t expect much … or didn’t know what to expect,” Marshall said about the Arizona experience. “But I was very impressed with the way he handled the young players and how he’d throw batting practice every day.”

When Marshall became commissioner of the Pacific Association this season, he handed Vallejo Admirals president and general manager Joe Fontana a list of names. Guerrero was one of those.

Guerrero, 56, was introduced as field manager of the Vallejo independent baseball team on Wednesday morning at the Admirals’ office on Amador Street in Vallejo. He arrived in town on Sunday.

“When Joe called, I was excited; I am still excited,” said Guerrero, who spent 15 seasons in the big leagues with the Dodgers and Cardinals. “It’s an opportunity for me. I hope I can do a good job and make people happy around here.” …

Read the entire story here.

 

May 09

Greinke to make rehab start Friday

Rushed, or just in the nick of time?

Zack Greinke is expected to make his first rehab start Friday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga at Lake Elsinore, with Scott Elbert also expected to pitch an inning of relief in his first rehab appearance, the Dodgers announced.

By the way, Carlos Quentin is 7 for 47 with a .574 OPS — including 2 HBP — since the Greinke incident.

May 08

Clayton Kershaw and the waiting game

Two facts as I know them:

Matt Kemp: Guaranteed $128 million after 2013, no matter what happens.

Tim Lincecum: Guaranteed $0 after 2013.

Clayton Kershaw has every reason to expect his next contract to be the richest in baseball history for a pitcher, at a figure that has risen with each passing year.

I can understand why he might not want there to be negotiations during the season. Kershaw is young, and in top physical condition. Baseball is his oyster.

But there is a figure I would imagine Kershaw could sign for today that would be beyond his dreams of even 12 months ago, a figure that would provide unimaginable amounts for his family and for his charitable endeavors. At some point, isn’t the security of locking in that figure worth grabbing?

Just wondering …

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLVII: Kershawt in the Hat

Dee Gordon, SS
Nick Punto, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Elian Herrera, LF
Clayton Kershaw, P

Carl Crawford’s hamstring is acting up, reports from the beat writers say. Meanwhile, Justin Sellers was optioned, and Tim Federowicz was recalled.

May 08

Will Don Mattingly make it back to Yankee Stadium as Dodger manager?

Seven thoughts about Don Mattingly, 13-19 this season, 181-174 in his career:

1) Setting up a homecoming for the longtime Yankee great, the Dodgers are scheduled to make their first regular-season visit ever to Yankee Stadium on June 18. However, if the Dodgers continue to flounder – this is the earliest they have had two six-game losing streaks since, of all things, the sinking of the Titanic, notes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com – you can expect to see a rising chorus calling for Mattingly to attend that game only as a fan.

2) At the outset, let’s stipulate that there are reasons to fire Mattingly and reasons not to – just as there are reasons one might expect the Dodgers to and reasons not to.

3) Mattingly has always made some confounding things decisions as manager, from bullpen management to strategic choices on offense. That distinguishes him from … practically no one. Few managers in history have ever been immune from fans thinking they could do better. That doesn’t mean you can’t do better, but until the Dodgers are ready to hire one of those fans, there’s probably not a huge potential for improvement here.

4) Mattingly deserves at least something of a mulligan for the state of his roster. For all the talk about how the Dodgers had more pitching than they could handle at the start of the season, the facts are these. He has only had 2 1/2 effective starting pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and the four starts provided by Chad Billingsley and Zack Greinke). On top of that, he has had only 4 1/2 effective position players: Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, A.J. Ellis and Mark Ellis, with Nick Punto off the bench.

I suppose one could blame Mattingly for the underperformance of the other 18 of 25 slots on the squad – and it’s not like any manager gets great work from his entire team – but this seems like way too much to lay at Mattingly’s door. You can’t win with seven good players. You certainly can’t win with half a starting rotation.

Digression: At a minimum, Ned Colletti, who last year received the contract extension that has avoided Mattingly, holds some responsibility for the effectiveness of the Dodgers, good or bad.

5) From Day 1 … from before Day 1 … Mattingly’s relationship with his players has been considered one of his virtues. It’s neither clear how much true value there was to that relationship in previous seasons, nor clear now much there is now. The idea, of course, is that those intangibles are the thing that will make a bad team good and a good team great, and there’s no better time like the present to prove that. But looking at the Dodgers’ roster, you can argue that you should get more than a third of the season to find out.

6) Mattingly’s postgame comments this past weekend in San Francisco, in which he went out of his way to find the positive amid a sweep at the hands of the Giants, seemed like they might be a turning point in his fate, a “Remain calm, all is well” in the face of the Deathmobile. At the same time, Mattingly hasn’t been afraid to point out when his team has been truly playing badly, as was the case Monday against Arizona. Some losses are worse than others. Mattingly shouldn’t be punished for knowing the difference, even if the comments didn’t play well.

7) What will the Dodgers do? There are tea leaves for every vision. You have a squad for which expectations are high and for which, if you pay attention to Magic Johnson, failure is not an option. You have a team president, Stan Kasten, who has espoused a long-term vision for the future of the Dodgers. You have the mixed signals of the team not extending Mattingly’s contract but Kasten calling that fact meaningless. In general, you have a management team that has been unafraid to make bold – even radical – moves, while preaching the virtues of stability.

It’s hard to deny that the value of a manager is one of the most difficult things to judge in baseball. If it’s true the Dodgers can do better with their manager, it’s also true that it won’t matter, at all, if they don’t get better performances from virtually everyone else.

May 07

Misery loves misery

Anger and depression are their own kind of comfort food, aren’t they?

The best thing about the Dodgers’ performance Monday is that you could turn it off.

There’s no shortage of people to criticize. That doesn’t mean every target deserves every tomato being thrown, but the impulse is understandable.

I tend to spend a lot of time throwing tomatoes at myself, so the Dodgers’ example of great potential struggling is one I tend to sympathize with more than rage at.

But I’ll sure be happy when things get better for them.

Here are two videos to cheer you up. The first comes via Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.

The second is just an all-around cure-all.

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

May 06

Adrian Gonzalez’s admission has meaning for Matt Kemp

The strange thing about the reaction to Adrian Gonzalez’s acknowledgment (to Bill Shaikin of the Times) that he won’t have the same power as he did before undergoing labrum surgery in the 2010-11 offseason is that no one has followed that with the obvious connection to Matt Kemp.

“I can still hit home runs. That is not going to be an issue. The full power is not the same,” said Gonzalez, who had surgery to repair his labrum before the 2011 season, in acknowledging he would be more of an average and doubles hitter going forward.

In October, Dylan Hernandez of the Times did link Gonzalez with Kemp — who had labrum surgery last winter — but nevertheless, people seem to remain surprised that Kemp is having power issues at the start of this season. In 2011, Gonzalez hit one home run in April — the same as Kemp this year.

Gonzalez finished 2011 with 27 home runs, before hitting 18 in 2012. He has three this season, though he is slugging .500 thanks to seven doubles.

The potential effect of labrum injuries on sluggers is nothing new. Ten years ago, I noted on Dodger Thoughts the effect that Shawn Green’s surgery would likely have on his career in this piece, “The Shawn Green of Old Will Not Return.” Green actually fared better than the title predicted, hitting 28 home runs in 2004, though 18 of those came after the All-Star Break. He hit 47 more home runs the rest of his career.

What the long-term effects of Kemp’s injury will be, I don’t know. Perhaps he’ll kick the home-run power into gear starting tonight. But we can’t be surprised if his four-bagger forays take time to resurrect.

May 05

Ground beef: Giants score 33% more runs than Dodgers, credited with 100% more grit

The Giants “play as a unit, as a team, grinding out victories,” ESPN announced Dan Shulman said at the top of tonight’s broadcast of the Giants and the Dodgers, confirming my suspicions that the narrative of the nationally televised game would be the story of the bloated, underachieving team from Los Angeles against those gritty, overachieving underdogs from San Francisco.

And so it went throughout the night, despite the fact that:

• With a $141 million payroll and the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, the Giants are anything but a low-paid team of nobodies.

• The Dodgers, despite a payroll over $200 million, started an infield this fine evening of Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, Dee Gordon and Luis Cruz.

I’m not looking to denigrate San Francisco. Quite the opposite. Whatever your emotions are, how can you not have respect for what the Giants have achieved in earning two World Series titles since 2010 and for their positive start to 2013?

But to say the Giants are willing their way to victory is not only the stuff of fantasy, it’s insulting to the quality of their players. They aren’t winning with smoke and mirrors. There’s actually talent there.

This is the trap everyone falls into: Only winners grind. It’s silly, and it’s obviously phony on the surface.

On Friday and Saturday, the Dodgers were tied with the Giants when the final batter of each game came up. Those last batters happened to play for San Francisco, and they each happened to hit home runs, and you have to tip your hat to them. The homers gave the Giants 100 percent of the nights’ victories. But did they give them 100 percent of the available grit? Did one swing of the bat not only vanquish the Dodgers’ chance of winning, but also eradicate everything positive one could say about their effort?

There’s no questioning the Giants’ perseverance right now, not after three straight one-run victories against their top rivals, two involving comebacks. But this was also a weekend in which the Dodgers put 18 runners on base Friday, not by accident or some drunken shenanigans, and made two significant comebacks the next two nights, even if they ultimately didn’t lead to triumph.

Saturday, the Dodgers rallied from five runs down to take the lead, then retook the lead again after they were tied. Tonight, down 4-0 in the eighth – and with the flight home practically taxiing on the runway – the Dodgers pushed three runs across, two of them driven in by the nearly immobile Adrian Gonzalez, before the tying and go-ahead runs were left on base when another gimpy player, Jerry Hairston Jr., grounded out.

San Francisco held on to win, 4-3, completing a three-game sweep and pushing the Dodgers farther behind in the NL West. No question, the Dodgers are in lousy shape right now (with their roster manipulation doing them few favors and managerial tactics drawing questions on a nightly basis). But turning that lousy shape into a team-wide personality flaw makes no sense.

Grit is not a zero-sum game.

Of course, why we’re talking about grit to this extent has me a bit confused – the stuff never got those of us without talent anywhere near the majors – but even if you believe wholeheartedly in the power of grit to win ballgames, there’s no reason to believe that grit is a winner-take-all characteristic. We all want to win, but failing is not the same as not trying.

I mean, we learn this in preschool, folks. It’s one of the building blocks of our society. Why do we forget it when the preschoolers turn pro?

May 05

Some of the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the San Francisco Giants

Dodgers at Giants, 5:05 p.m.

Let’s look at the Dodgers’ roster for tonight’s game:

Starting lineup
1) Carl Crawford, LF
2) Nick Punto, 2B
3) Matt Kemp, CF
4) Andre Ethier, RF
5) A.J. Ellis, C
6) Juan Uribear, 1B
7) Luis Cruz, 3B
8 ) Dee Gordon, SS
9) Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

Available off bench
10) Ramon Hernandez, C
11) Skip Schumaker, IF-OF
12) Justin Sellers, SS
13) Clayton Kershaw, PH

Rested in bullpen
14) Matt Guerrier, RHP
15) Kenley Jansen, RHP
16) Paco Rodriguez, LHP (15 pitches Saturday)

Not so rested in bullpen
17) Brandon League, RHP (26 pitches Saturday)
18) Ronald Belisario, RHP (25 pitches Saturday, six Friday)
19) Josh Beckett, RHP (Tuesday’s starter)

In the chorus?
20) Mark Ellis, 2B (quadricep)
21) Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (neck)
22) Jerry Hairston, IF-OF (groin)
23) J.P. Howell, LHP (38 pitches Saturday)
24) Javy Guerra, RHP (34 pitches Saturday)
25) Matt Magill, P (63 pitches Saturday)

May 05

Uribear!

It all began after Juan Uribe singled for the second time in Saturday’s game, driving in two runs in the Dodgers’ seven-run fifth inning and continuing his season-opening hot (it’s all relative) streak.

There was a setback in the sixth inning, which ended when Uribe struck out with two on and two out and the Dodgers clinging to an 8-7 lead.

Soon, I could sense I was on to something.

And then the lightbulb went off.

I wasn’t sure anything would happen after that, but then came these messages from Twitter user @_GrandPaD.

And then another choice option from @EephusBlue.

My heart is all a-flutter. I want one. I want them all. Here’s the pricing formula:

$(10 x current Uribe OBP)². Today’s suggested price is $16.00. Last year, a Uribear would have cost $6.66.

May 04

Giants walk off and walk over Dodgers’ hearts in 10

There are games that live in your memory forever. Huge ones like the 4+1 game and the Squeeze. And then less meaningful but still utterly crazy ones like 1996′s 16-15 loss at Colorado.

Tonight brought one of the crazies.

Wild from Matt Magill’s first batter, heave-inducing once the Dodgers fell behind 5-0 in the second inning, head-rushing once the Dodgers came back with seven runs in the top of the fifth and mind-blasting for nearly every moment there after, the tear-your-hair-out affair that lasted more than four hours before ending with a 10-9, 10-inning Giants victory.

Guillermo Quiroz, the last position player available to San Francisco, hit a one-out homer in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Giants a second walkoff victory in two nights.

Magill was a disaster in his second career start, allowing six hits, four walks and five runs while retiring four batters on 63 pitches. And yet somehow, he managed to allow fewer runs than Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong.

Entering the game with a 6.23 ERA, Vogelsong cruised through his first four innings, hurt only a solo home run by A.J. Ellis. Vogelsong began the fifth inning with a 6-1 lead against a team whose season-high in runs was seven.

But Vogelsong walked pinch-hitter Nick Punto to start the fifth, and things spun out of control for him thereafter. Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled, Matt Kemp singled in two, Skip Schumaker followed an Ellis walk with an RBI single, and then Juan Uribe singled home Ellis to bring the Dodgers to within 6-5.

Vogelsong exited with Uribe on first and Schumaker on second, to be replaced by Jean Machi. Dee Gordon, 0 for 2 in his first major-league game of the season, was up. Gordon 3-ironed a ball to the gap that rightfielder Hunter Pence had trouble seeing in the lights, for a go-ahead triple. Punto, still technically listed as a pinch-hitter, followed with a double that scored Gordon for a two-run lead.

The Dodgers being the Dodgers, they still managed to leave two runners on in the inning, when Carl Crawford singled but Hairston struck out. And with half the game remaining, you had to know it would matter.

Javy Guerra came in to relieve, and was almost wholly ineffective. He gave up a solo homer to Andres Torres in the bottom of the fifth, then loaded the bases with none out in the sixth on a walk, a single and a hit batter (the latter, Joaquin Arias, had been trying to sacrifice). Paco Rodriguez entered the game – in a double-switch that left the Dodgers with Luis Cruz, of all people, playing first base for the first time in his career – and was brilliant. He struck out the first two batters on seven total pitches, only to have a low 1-0 strike to Torres elude Ellis for a wild pitch that tied the game at 8. Rodriguez still finished off the inning, stranding Giants on second and third.

The Dodgers took the lead back in the seventh when Gordon drew a four-pitch leadoff walk from Javier Lopez, went to second on a sacrifice, stole third and scored on a nifty slide home thanks to Crawford’s fielder’s choice grounder. But as quickly as that lead came, it vanished in the bottom of the seventh when Ronald Belisario allowed a double, single and sacrifice fly to the first three batters he faced.

At that point, the Giants had scored in six of the seven innings played. But the teams went dry in an eighth inning that included the Dodgers having Ellis (2 for 4 with a walk) bunt into a double play. Belisario survived in his second inning of work to keep things tied.

Gordon reached base for the third time with a one-out, ninth-inning single and stole second, but he was stranded, putting Los Angeles in position of trying to maintain a tie in the bottom of the ninth for the second evening in a row. Brandon League, not one to induce calm, walked leadoff batter Torres on five pitches. Francisco Peguero forced Torres at second.

With Marco Scutaro up, Peguero broke for second. He beat Ellis’ throw but overslid the bag – but Schumaker didn’t keep his glove on Peguero long enough to record what otherwise would have been a gift out. League then went 3-2 to Scutaro before walking him, bringing up Pablo Sandoval with one out and Buster Posey on deck.

Sandoval hit, of all things, a 50-foot dribbler that Punto charged at from third base but couldn’t barehand, leaving the bases loaded for Posey, Friday’s walkoff home run hero.

Unbelievably – and never have I used an adverb with greater emphasis – the Dodgers lived to play another inning. Unbelievably, Posey swung at the first pitch from the erratic League. And unbelievably, Posey hit it a foot to the right of second base, directly at Schumaker, who stepped on second and threw to first to give the Dodgers their escape and send the game into the 10th inning, about 10 minutes shy of four hours.

In the bottom of the 10th, League struck out Pence and then threw two strikes before giving up the game-winning blast to Quiroz. And just like that, it was over.

May 04

Today’s the day: Booksigning for 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die


Hope to see as many of you as possible as I sign copies of “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” at Barnes & Noble on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, beginning at 2 p.m. The revised version of is on sale now.

The new edition of “100 Things Dodgers” features several new chapters (including Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw) and other tidbits, as well as new information for some existing chapters. I’m looking forward to meeting readers, taking questions and talking Dodgers.

Oh yes, the Dodgers. To describe the state of things, let’s just say that I put out this tweet mid-game Friday, before Hanley Ramirez took himself out of action with the team’s latest injury.


 

The score was 0-0, and Kershaw was working on a perfect game at the time. And yet, the sport was feeling like such a struggle for this team, part of a quarter-century of constantly battling uphill while other teams flit from last to first like it was nothing, that I allowed the fatigued pessimist in me a bit of breathing room.

And then Ramirez flamed out running from second to third. I didn’t see the play until after the game, but from the tweets I saw beforehand, it sounded as if Ramirez had no business trying to go from first to third. Then I saw the replay, and these things were clear: Even after slowing down to a near jog haflway between second and third because of the injury, the throw from right field didn’t arrive at third base until Ramirez was beginning his slide. He clearly would have made it if he hadn’t gotten hurt – I watched the replay a dozen times and saw each time that his choice to go for the extra base even with none out was sound.

It was small consolation, that Ramirez’s injury came in an effort valiant, not dubious. Kershaw lost the perfect game, the no-hitter, the shutout and the one-run lead that he mainly provided with his bat. The Dodgers lost the game, painfully if un-unexpectedly, in the bottom of the ninth. Ramirez will be out again, likely for weeks, and even after Adrian Gonzalez’s neck self-corrects and Mark Ellis works his way back from his quad injury, the left side of the Dodger infield will still be Scrappy Central, emphasis on Scrap.

The injuries are exhausting. There’s no use feeling sorry for yourself in this world, but you sort of feel that, after watching 20-odd teams make the World Series in the past 24 years and enduring the Fox and McCourt ownerships, we’d catch a break from the suffering. But this season has been Sisyphusian.

If you aren’t packing up your boulder and going home, all you can do is keep pushing. Let’s rally in Pasadena today!

 

May 01

Tommy Lasorda, Jr.

Our good friend Alex Belth of Bronx Banter posts a 1992 GQ story by Peter Richmond on Tommy Lasorda and Tommy Lasorda Jr. It’s quite a piece of writing, especially in the light of recent events.

Remember — the “100 Things Dodgers” booksigning is Saturday in Pasadena.

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Nick Punto, 2B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Skip Schumaker, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Josh Beckett, P

Carl Crawford was a late scratch with tightness in his right hamstring.