Apr 30

Deuces wild

Sorry for the unexcused absence over the past two days. Monday night was spent celebrating my 13th anniversary with the missus.

But I will say I like the moxie of that Schumaker kid on the mound …

Friend of Dodger Thoughts Erin Scot of Robots Took My Medicine tells us what she’s been up to since taking a hiatus from blogging — and also offers for sale this great, Vin Scully-inspired “Deuces are wild” T-shirt. Check it out.

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

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

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

Apr 27

You can’t have too much anything


The yanking of my brain from good to bad on a daily basis is mimicked in the fortunes of the Dodgers, who are as inconsistent in their fortune as their 11-11 record implies.

Friday’s pockmarked but resilient 7-5 victory over Milwaukee came with the latest injury, a right quad strain for sizzling second baseman Mark Ellis. Tonight’s game has served up its latest malady as a pregame appetizer: the news that Stephen Fife is going on the disabled list with bursitis. Matt Magill will make his major-league debut tonight for the Dodgers, becoming their ninth starting pitcher in the team’s 23rd game of the season. Exciting but enervating is this Los Angeles team.

The injuries to the pitchers have validated the maxim that you can’t have too much pitching (though Aaron Harang, with an 11.37 ERA and 25 baserunners allowed in 12 2/3 innings over three starts with Seattle, so far remains evidence of the opposite). But the larger point is, you can’t have too much of anything – the Dodger infield will now remain more strapped than the pitching staff even as Hanley Ramirez nears a return, assuming Ramirez himself can stay healthy.

All lamentations and pointless accusations of healthcare inadequacy aside, the Dodgers remind us that every moment of good fortune is precious, and every moment of ill fate is a challenge to be overcome. No one will feel sorry for you for long. It’s worth learning, of you can, to do well with less.

Brewers at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Skip Schumaker, 2B
Luis Cruz, SS
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Magill, P

Apr 25

The glory that is Juan Uribe

The Juan Uribe statline after today’s 3-2 Dodger victory in New York: 29 plate appearances, two singles, two home runs, eight walks. He has an .890 OPS despite a .190 batting average.

Juan Uribe has the top walk rate on the Dodgers: one every 3.6 plate appearances.

Juan Uribe.

After walking in his first three trips to the plate today, Uribe drove in the Dodgers’ second run of the ninth and third run of the game with an infield single. That proved critical because Brandon League allowed an Ike Davis home run in the bottom of the inning.

League retired the next three batters to avoid blowing his second save in less than 24 hours.

Staked to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Hyun-Jin Ryu went seven innings and allowed only a run on three hits with three walks, striking out eight. Matt Kemp went 2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI and a run and is hitting a season-high .266.

Los Angeles split six games on its initial East Coast road trip.

Apr 25

Inches from victory

Well, I called it, didn’t I? Joy and sadness, though admittedly, there was more joy from the starting-pitching matchup than you might have expected, when Ted Lilly was pitching one-run ball in his first start in nearly a year and Matt Kemp was hitting his first homer of the season against Mets phenom Matt Harvey.

A foreboding moment began when J.P. Howell walked his first two batters after Kemp had given the Dodgers a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning, but the real crisis came when Carl Crawford couldn’t prevent a leadoff double by Mike Baxter in the bottom of the ninth against Brandon League – the ball went off the heel of Crawford’s glove as he was sliding. Los Angeles got a measure of yang to this yin with Jerry Hairston’s great catch of a foul pop-up by Daniel Murphy with one out and a runner on third, but it all went south from there, capped by Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam in the 10th for a 7-3 Mets victory.

More bad tidings came overnight with the news that Shawn Tolleson will have back surgery later today to repair a herniated disc in his low back, putting him out of action for three to five months.

Dodgers at Mets, 10:10 a.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Nick Punto, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Ramon Hernandez, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Hyun-Jin Ryu, P

 

Apr 24

Mark Ellis powers Dodgers, 7-2, after Kershaw struggles

What can baseball do?

Baseball can give you joy when you can imagine only sadness.

It can also give you the reverse, but enough about last week with the Dodgers. This is this week.

For two consecutive games, the Dodgers have won when you would have thought they would lose. They won when Chad Billingsley was unable to start Sunday, and they won in New York, 7-2, after an uncharacteristic disintegration by Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday.

Kershaw, to be fair, only allowed two runs, but it was shocking how it happened. Twelve pitches in into the third inning, 39 pitches into the game, Kershaw had retired all eight batters he had faced and had a 1-2 count on an emergency relief pitcher making his first career plate appearance. Moments later, he was trailing 2-1 and barely escaping a bases-loaded jam with a Marlon Byrd groundout, and after two more innings and 111 total pitches – matching the most he has ever thrown in the majors without reaching the sixth inning – his night was over. It was the second consecutive outing in which an opposing pitcher ended a perfect start by Kershaw.

Photos by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Mark Ellis has shown up like a combination of Florence Nightengale and the Tooth Fairy. Ellis, who Sunday drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs and also made a critical defensive play, all but singlehandedly put the Dodgers on his back Tuesday, with a game-tying home run in the fifth inning – the 100th of his career – and then a leap-from-your-seat three-run blast with two out in the seventh to put Los Angeles ahead to stay. (Not for nothing, Ellis also knocked out Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the third inning with a hard shot up the middle.)

Ellis’ second home run, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, made him only the third Dodger second baseman in a century and first in 39 years with four hits and two homers in a game. The 35-year-old (how can such a veteran’s veteran be 10 years younger than me) himself has now thrice homered twice in a game. I also dare say that you won’t find another night in history when Dodger and Angel second basemen each hit two home runs, including tiebreaking homers for both, but I leave you the research challenge.

Not to be lost amid Ellis’ glory is the day Justin Sellers had – three hits, including an RBI single in the second and another coming ahead of Ellis’ second homer. (Juan Uribe drew a walk to keep that inning alive.) After starting the season 0 for 13, Sellers is 11 for 37 with a homer and five walks in his past 12 games (.409 on-base percentage, .378 slugging) and hasn’t made an error since his unfortunate second game of 2013. As hot as Dee Gordon has been at the plate in Albuquerque, Sellers has allowed the Dodgers to remove the yellow caution tape around shortstop.

A.J. Ellis doubled in two insurance runs in the eighth and now leads all major-league catchers with a .446 on-base percentage and NL catchers with a 159 adjusted OPS, and not because the pitcher is batting behind him – he has batted no lower than seventh except for in the third game of the season. Matt Kemp had two more hits and is now 17 for his past 55 (.309) with four doubles, as MLB.com noted, while Andre Ethier doubled ahead of A.J. to slow a 2-for-25 slump.

In addition, the topsy-turvy Dodger bullpen of 2013 has gone back to topsy, pitching at least four innings of shutout ball for the second consecutive game, sparked by a comeback performance by struggling Ronald Belisario (three batters, three outs on 15 pitches, 12 for strikes).

Los Angeles is now 9-4 when it isn’t losing six games in a row. Joy and sadness, that’s our game. With Ted Lilly against Matt Harvey tonight, it figures to be more of the same.

Apr 23

Billingsley loses longshot bet, headed for surgery

Look, it didn’t take hindsight to question Chad Billingsley’s decision to put off the Tommy John surgery the Dodgers announced he will now get Wednesday. The guy made an optimistic gambit and lost. It’s unfortunate, but far be it from me to criticize someone betting on himself.

Though Stephen Fife takes his spot in the rotation for now and Chris Capuano will move back in once his calf is healed, I think there is a strong possibility we’ll see minor-leaguers Matt Magill or Zach Lee before the summer’s out.

Dodgers at Mets, 4:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLIV: Kershawnce Upon a Time in America

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

 

Apr 21

Thanks – we needed that

I’m not going to say that Dodger fans needed this one, this 7-4 victory today over Baltimore, because for one thing, it seemed unlikely following Chad Billingsley’s latest health calamity that “this one” was going to come. Certainly, after replacement starter Stephen Fife gave up three runs in a 35-pitch first inning, “this one” seemed very unlikely to wander the Dodgers’ way.

Even I, after my funereal post Saturday, had my own set of Washington Generals jokes at the ready in the early innings. “You don’t see the Washington Generals’ fans having trouble holding it together, do you?” Such a great, great line. How I savored the thousands of retweets and acknowledgments of superiority it would engender. Yet I held off, because I didn’t want to have egg on my face if the Dodgers surrendered their three-run deficit as easily as they surrendered a three-run lead the previous morning.

And sure enough, it happened. Baltimore’s pitching fell apart in a four-run Dodger fifth, Los Angeles added insurance runs in the seventh and ninth, and Fife, J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League combined to shut out the Orioles over the final six innings. Just like that, the zephyr (to use a Vin Scully favorite) was every so gently at our backs, and the Dodgers had won.

We might not have needed it, but if only for a day, it sure was a relief.

Special praise is due to Mark Ellis, who drove in the Dodgers’ first three runs with a sacrifice fly and a two-run single, and also made a superb defensive play ranging far to his right with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the eighth. For a No. 2 hitter, Ellis has a disappointing two walks all season, but he is batting .311, including .435 (10 for 23) with runners on base, and playing his usual steady defense.

Matt Kemp struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the third, but followed that with hits in three consecutive at-bats, showing a ton of seventh-inning hustle in stealing second and then scoring on an A.J. Ellis single, capped by a nifty slide at home. Though still homerless, Kemp went 8 for 22 (.364) with a walk this past week.

Every little bit helps.

Apr 21

Billingsley heads to disabled list, Fife recalled

No, really – just keep pouring it on.

This moming, the Dodgers placed Chad Billingsley on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow pain (retroactive to April 16). Stephen Fife – ninth on the Dodgers’ starting-pitcher depth chart when the season began three weeks ago – will start today’s game in Baltimore, trying to help the Dodgers end their six-game losing streak.

Fife has started three games for Triple-A Albuquerque this year, posting a 4.61 ERA in 13 2/3 innings with 20 hits allowed, three walks and 14 strikeouts. As a major-leaguer, Fife had a 2.70 ERA in five starts covering 26 2/3 innings in 2012, with 25 hits and 12 walks allowed against 20 strikeouts.

Fife’s longest outing this season so far is five innings, in the game he last pitched, Monday at Iowa. He allowed four runs and struck out eight, throwing 91 pitches.

We’re waiting for details on the timing of Billingsley’s trip to the DL. The right-hander, of course, eschewed surgery last year despite missing the final six weeks of the season with his elbow problem. He has a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings this year with 12 hits allowed, five walks and six strikeouts.

By the way, 21-year-old former first-round pick Zach Lee has a 1.17 ERA after four starts for Double-A Chatanooga this year, allowing 26 baserunners in 23 innings while striking out 21. (His teammate, Yasiel Puig, is on the seven-day minor-league disabled list with a sprained thumb.)

Update: “Chad Billingsley is not making his scheduled start today due to increased tightness and pain in his right elbow that he experienced during his last bullpen session,” the Dodgers said in a statement. “After consulting Dr. Neal ElAttrache, it was decided that he will return to Los Angeles on Tuesday for further medical evaluation. More information will be forthcoming after that examination.”

Dodgers at Orioles, 10:35 a.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Skip Schumaker, DH
Justin Sellers, SS
(Stephen Fife, P)

Apr 20

The reviews are in

Grim, gruesome, ghastly, hideous, horrific, putrid, petrified, repugnant, revolting, rotten, foul.

I want to laugh, but give me some material to work with.

Let’s try this again next week with a bit more zest, shall we?

Apr 18

Men overboard: Looking at the Dodgers’ struggles with runners on

Here’s the OPS for the Dodgers with the bases empty and the bases un-empty:

Player/OPS Bases empty Men on Difference
Andre Ethier 1.089 .483 .606
Jerry Hairston .545 .000 .545
Carl Crawford 1.054 .753 .301
A.J. Ellis 1.008 .772 .236
Luis Cruz .333 .129 .204
Justin Sellers .606 .437 .169
Matt Kemp .554 .413 .141
Juan Uribe 1.025 .905 .120
Nick Punto .917 .833 .084
Adrian Gonzalez .915 1.213 -.298
Skip Schumaker .347 .651 -.304
Mark Ellis .500 .863 -.363
Team .764 .635 .129

I tend to think this is random – I’d be surprised if these figures didn’t fluctuate over the course of the season. It certainly offers an alternative explanation to Wednesday’s hypothesis.

Andre Ethier’s split is truly bizarre.

Here’s some more data:

Dodger team batting stats with bases empty

Rk G PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1 Hyun-jin Ryu 3 6 6 3 1 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .667 1.167 .600
2 Andre Ethier 12 28 24 9 3 0 1 4 8 .375 .464 .625 1.089 .533
3 Clayton Kershaw 4 8 7 2 0 0 1 1 2 .286 .375 .714 1.089 .250
4 Carl Crawford 14 41 39 16 3 1 1 2 4 .410 .439 .615 1.054 .441
5 Juan Uribe 7 10 8 2 0 0 1 2 3 .250 .400 .625 1.025 .250
6 A.J. Ellis 10 21 19 7 4 0 0 2 4 .368 .429 .579 1.008 .467
7 Nick Punto 8 14 12 5 0 0 0 2 3 .417 .500 .417 .917 .556
8 Adrian Gonzalez 13 29 28 10 2 0 1 1 1 .357 .379 .536 .915 .346
9 Justin Sellers 12 28 25 5 0 0 1 3 5 .200 .286 .320 .606 .211
10 Matt Kemp 13 24 23 5 2 0 0 1 7 .217 .250 .304 .554 .313
11 Jerry Hairston 6 11 11 3 0 0 0 0 1 .273 .273 .273 .545 .300
12 Mark Ellis 13 35 33 7 1 0 0 1 5 .212 .257 .242 .500 .250
13 Skip Schumaker 7 9 8 1 0 0 0 1 1 .125 .222 .125 .347 .143
14 Ramon Hernandez 2 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 .000
15 Zack Greinke 2 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 .000
16 Luis Cruz 10 18 18 3 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 .176
17 Tim Federowicz 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
18 Chad Billingsley 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
19 Josh Beckett 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000
Team Total 15 294 271 78 16 1 6 22 49 .288 .344 .421 .764 .333
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

Dodger team batting stats with men on

Rk PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF BAbip
1 Adrian Gonzalez 34 26 12 2 0 1 11 6 5 .462 .559 .654 1.213 0 1 .524
2 Zack Greinke 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 .500
3 Juan Uribe 9 7 1 0 0 1 2 2 0 .143 .333 .571 .905 0 0 .000
4 Mark Ellis 23 21 9 0 0 0 3 0 5 .429 .435 .429 .863 0 1 .529
5 Nick Punto 5 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 1 0 .500
6 A.J. Ellis 31 26 7 0 0 1 4 5 5 .269 .387 .385 .772 0 0 .300
7 Carl Crawford 20 17 5 1 0 0 1 3 5 .294 .400 .353 .753 0 0 .417
8 Ramon Hernandez 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 .250
9 Skip Schumaker 14 9 1 1 0 0 1 4 1 .111 .429 .222 .651 0 0 .125
10 Tim Federowicz 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 .000
11 Andre Ethier 31 25 4 0 0 0 2 5 5 .160 .323 .160 .483 0 0 .200
12 Justin Sellers 17 14 2 0 0 0 0 2 5 .143 .294 .143 .437 0 0 .222
13 Matt Kemp 36 32 5 2 0 0 5 2 11 .156 .194 .219 .413 0 2 .217
14 Josh Beckett 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 3 0 .000
15 Luis Cruz 25 22 1 0 0 0 1 1 6 .045 .083 .045 .129 1 1 .059
16 Jerry Hairston 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 .000
17 Clayton Kershaw 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 .000
18 Hyun-jin Ryu 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0
19 Chad Billingsley 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0
20 Matt Guerrier 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0
Team Total 270 220 50 7 0 3 32 33 53 .227 .335 .300 .635 7 5 .278
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2013.

Interestingly, the on-base percentages in both categories are nearly identical, mainly thanks to walks. The batting average and slugging percentage by the Dodgers with runners on is anemic.

Apr 17

An all-or-something season

In the throes of watching people on Twitter react to Tuesday’s 9-2 pounding by the Padres — the Dodgers’ third loss in a row and worst since August 27 — I mused on what it would be like if those in favor of swift roster moves actually got to run the franchise for a year.

You have to admit, it would be interesting.  Matt Kemp struggles in his first 14 games— and gets demoted to Triple-A. The fascinating, hot-hitting Yasiel Puig is called up, apprenticeship be damned — and becomes the starting third baseman, despite the fact that he’d make Pedro Guerrero look like Graig Nettles. And so on … one reactionary move after another. I really would be curious to see it.

During my full-time days with Dodger Thoughts, this would naturally be the time for me to point out that it’s too soon to despair. Despite all that has gone wrong — and I think it’s fair to say that much more has gone wrong than gone right, since the “gone right” is pretty much limited to Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw — the Dodgers remain at .500. San Francisco, in case you haven’t noticed, has its own share of problems, with a starting rotation that is not only thin in depth but struggling to a 4.78 ERA. Arizona and Colorado have their own issues.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles will have Hanley Ramirez’s bat in the lineup sooner than later, a midseason injection of Zack Greinke to look forward to and, yes, the possible promotions of players like Puig and Dee Gordon after they’ve had some more valuable seasoning.

At the same time, there’s no doubt that we knew this was a problematic Dodger team before the season began, that the left side of the infield would be a problem, that Kemp might not be the hitter he was after labrum surgery and so on. If you didn’t know it, you were simply uninformed or deluded, but frankly, I’m almost sure that most were aware. My argument has been that, despite the “World Series or bust” proclamations of Magic Johnson, the new ownership is on a long-term project to make the Dodgers contenders, in which domestic and international scouting and player development becomes every bit as important as the nine-figure contracts being handed out. So though I’m impatient for a title, I wasn’t that preoccupied about what happened in the short term.

You can be forgiven for thinking this should be the Dodgers’ year, with all the spending, not to mention it being the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s last World Series glory. But in reality, the best you could count on is that the Dodgers should be competitive. The fact that Los Angeles could not find players over the winter to displace Cruz from the starting lineup or Juan Uribe from the bench — and I’m not here to bury Uribe, who remains tied for team lead in homers, but to thank him (for the time being) — tells you everything you need to know about any guarantees.

Kemp himself has almost become the embodiment of Dodger hopes and fears. The 14-game milestone in 2013 is particularly interesting for the star outfielder:

– It was after 14 games in 2010 that he had five home runs, a .385 on-base percentage and .740 slugging percentage. Of course, the rest of the year didn’t exactly play out in the same fashion.

– And then the following year, he got off to a sizzling start in his first 14 games (two homers, .534 OBP, .673 slugging — and kept it going to essentially become the National League MVP.

– And then the following year, he was even hotter after 14 games — eight home runs, .525 OBP, 1.000 slugging.  But then it went downhill again, thanks in no small part to his health.

From his way-up and way-down rookie season (six homers, .408 OBP, .795 slugging after 14 games; one homer, .239 OBP, .309 slugging the remainder of the year), Kemp has never been a flatline hitter. He always keeps us guessing.

At the same time, I’m as concerned as anyone that surgery has robbed him of his exceptional greatness. Not once since I heard the words “torn labrum” next to Kemp have I not thought of Shawn Green’s decline after a similar experience (though to be clear, not identical).

The most frightening, melodramatic and almost downright irresponsible comparison you can make is this: Kemp’s OPS after 14 games this season is .483. For Andruw Jones after 14 games in 2009, it was .493. Of course, Jones was about to turn 32 and noticeably out of shape. Kemp is 28 1/2 and still John Henry in a baseball uniform.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you everything’s going to be fine for the Dodgers in 2013, not with players ailing and holes remaining. I still nurse the long-ago expressed notion that the Dodgers could become the Cubs of the 21st century — a hundred years without a title. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you everything’s going to be a disaster.

What I will say, as tired and frustrated as Dodger fans are, is that 2013 is not a “World Series or bust” year. It could be 2013. It could be 2014. It could be soon after or much, much later. But it’s not now or never. It’s whenever it’s going to be.

Apr 15

Book signing for revised ’100 Things Dodgers’: May 4


The revised version of “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” is on sale now. I’m pleased to say that there will be a booksigning event May 4 at Barnes & Noble on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, beginning at 2 p.m

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. If you want to be a completist — or moreover, if you never bought the original — this is the time to buy.

At 6 p.m. May 4, the Dodgers play the Giants on the road. If all goes well, maybe we can hang out or reuinte afterward and watch the game somewhere. In any case, come on by to the booksigning to get your signed copy … or just say hi.

Confirmation of the booksigning came, conveniently enough, on Jackie Robinson Day. So with that in mind, here’s the first chapter from 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die to give you a taste of what’s inside the book and as a tribute to the Dodger hero.

* * *

1. Jackie

From beginning to end, we root for greatness.

We root for our team to do well. We root for our team to create and leave lasting memories, from a dazzling defensive play in a spring training game to the final World Series-clinching out. With every pitch in a baseball game, we’re seeking a connection to something special, a fastball right to our nervous system.

In a world that can bring frustrations on a daily basis, we root as an investment toward bragging rights, which are not as mundane as that expression makes them sound. If our team succeeds, if our guys succeed, that’s something we can feel good about today, maybe tomorrow, maybe forever.

The pinnacle of what we can root for is Jackie Robinson.

Robinson is a seminal figure—a great player whose importance transcended his team, transcended his sport, transcended all sports. We don’t do myths anymore the way the Greeks did — too much reality confronts us in the modern age. But Robinson’s story, born in the 20th century and passed on with emphasis into the 21st, is as legendary as any to come from the sports world.

And Robinson was a Dodger. If you’re a Dodgers fan, his fable belongs to you. There’s really no greater story in sports to share. For many, particularly in 1947 when he made his major league debut, Robinson was a reason to become a Dodger fan. For those who were born or made Dodgers fans independent of Robinson, he is the reward for years of suffering and the epitome of years of success.

Robinson’s story, of course, is only pretty when spied from certain directions, focusing from the angle of what he achieved, and what that achievement represented, and the beauty and grace and power he displayed along the way. From the reverse viewpoint, the ugliness of what he endured, symbolizing the most reprehensible vein of a culture, is sickening.

Before Robinson even became a major leaguer, he was the defendant in a court martial over his Rosa Parks-like defiance of orders to sit in the back of an Army bus. His promotion to the Dodgers before the ’47 season was predicated on his willingness to walk painstakingly along the high road when all others around him were zooming heedlessly on the low.

Even after he gained relative acceptance, even after he secured his place in the major leagues and the history books, even after he could start to talk back with honesty instead of politeness, racial indignities abounded around him. Robinson’s ascendance was a blow against discrimination, but far from the final one. He still played ball in a world more successful at achieving equality on paper than in practice. It’s important for us to remember, decades later, not to use our affinity for Robinson as cover for society’s remaining inadequacies.

Does that mean we can’t celebrate him? Hardly. For Dodgers fans, there isn’t a greater piece of franchise history to rejoice in — and heaven forbid we confine our veneration of Robinson to what he symbolizes. The guy was a ballplayer. Playing nearly every position on the field over 10 seasons, Robinson had an on-base percentage of .409 and slugging percentage of .474 (132+ OPS, .310 TAv). He was an indispensable contributor to the Dodgers’ most glorious days in Brooklyn — six pennants and the franchise’s first World Series victory.

It also helps to know that some of Robinson’s moments on field were better than others, that he didn’t play with an impenetrable aura of invincibility. He rode the bench for no less an event than Game 7 of the 1955 World Series. He was human off the field, and he was human on it.

In the end, Robinson’s story might just be the greatest in the game. His highlight reel — from steals of home to knocks against racism — is unmatched. In a world that’s all too real, Robinson encompasses everything there is to cheer for. If you’re a fan of another team and you hate the Dodgers, unless you have no dignity at all, your hate stops at Robinson’s feet. If your love of the Dodgers guides you home, Robinson is your North Star.

Apr 14

Dodgers might retaliate, but not Monday

The Dodgers told Dylan Hernandez of the Times they don’t intend to retaliate against San Diego at Dodger Stadium on Monday for Carlos Quentin’s mound-charging fracture of Zack Greinke’s collarbone, but they didn’t exactly rule out some kind of revenge tactic later in the season.

Quentin agreed Sunday to begin serving his eight-game suspension. From the last section of Hernandez’s story:

… Furthermore, Mattingly expects the umpires to officially warn both teams before the start of the game.

Under such circumstances, any pitcher believed to be throwing at a hitter would be immediately ejected and subject to a suspension. With Greinke already down, the Dodgers can’t afford to have one of their starting pitchers suspended.

“We’ll probably talk about it,” Mattingly said.

Pitching for the Dodgers on Monday will be Chad Billingsley, who said he has no intention of throwing at anyone.

“I’m not going out there headhunting tomorrow,” Billingsley said. “I’m going out there to pitch and win a ballgame. That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what we’re here for, to win baseball games, make the playoffs, win the division. That’s why I go out there every fifth day.”

Billingsley was widely criticized for failing to protect the Dodgers hitters when Brett Myers of the Philadelphia Phillies was throwing at them in the 2008 National League Championship Series.

“That whole series is in the past,” Billingsley said. “That’s five years ago and you’re still bringing it up. This is nothing similar to the past. That was playoffs. This is regular season.”

Previously on Dodger Thoughts:

Stay classy, Los Angeles: The problem with the Dodgers’ tweet

Revenge on Jackie Robinson Night?

Furious Dodgers fight off Padres but lose Greinke

Apr 14

Rickey descendant to sing at Dodger Stadium on Monday

Singing the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium on Monday for Jackie Robinson Night will be Branch Rickey’s great-granddaughter, Kelley Jakle.

“Mr. Rickey, do you want a singer who’s afraid to do all sorts of vocal tricks during the anthem?”

“No. I want a singer with the guts not to do all sorts of vocal tricks during the anthem!”

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Luis Cruz, SS
Nick Punto, 3B
Josh Beckett, P

Update: Apparently the information the Dodgers sent this morning was incorrect, and Jakle is singing “God Bless America,” not the anthem.