May 19

Gordon might head to minors soon

From Tony Jackson of, after a postgame chat with Dodger manager Don Mattingly:

… Mattingly seemed to concede for the first time after the game that shortstop Dee Gordon might not be long for the leadoff spot. Gordon continued to struggle there, going 0-for-5 without hitting a ball out of the infield, and he now is 2-for-31 over the past seven games.

“Seeing it from where I was at tonight, it wasn’t very good,” said Mattingly, who got to watch most of it from the center-field television camera on the television in his office because he was ejected by plate umpire Tom Hallion in the top of the third inning. “The game seems to be moving awfully fast for him right now. We are going to continue to make decisions. But in the same breath, this kid is going to be a good player. He is going through something right now that is going to make him a better player later on.

“Things aren’t easy in this game, and there are times when you’re going to go through rough stuff. He is going through some rough stuff right now.”

Reading between the lines of Mattingly’s comments, it sounds like something will happen with Gordon soon, possibly before Saturday night’s game. Because Gordon is such a key part of the Dodgers’ future, it isn’t likely anyone is going to let him sit around on the bench. A stint in Triple-A would seem more logical because it would mean he would be getting regular at-bats and have a chance to work out the kinks, something he couldn’t do as a reserve player in the major leagues. …

Gordon’s batting average fell to exactly .200 Friday, with a .239 on-base percentage.

One delaying factor could be the health of Mark Ellis, who had to leave Friday’s 6-5 Dodger victory over St. Louis shortly after he was hit with a hard takeout slide. X-rays were negative, but if Ellis has to miss any games, that would remove another starter from the Dodger infield. That said, the Dodgers could still bring up someone like Ivan De Jesus to be a reserve to back up the infield of, yes, Adam Kennedy, Justin Sellers and Elian Herrera.

Herrera, who drew the eight-pitch walk to start the bottom of the ninth and then went from first to third on Adam Kennedy’s fourth hit, could see more playing time thanks to that at-bat.

May 17

The lineups of the 2005 Dodgers

Dodgers at Padres, 7:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

Tonight’s Dodger lineup, which features Adam Kennedy batting fifth, is not the first to have a player in an unexpected spot. Just last year, in honor of Aaron Miles, I did pieces at Dodger Thoughts on the most obscure but memorable No. 3 hitters and No. 5 hitters.

This time around, I thought I’d just go straight back to highlight the lineups of the 2005 Dodgers, who ended their season (and Jim Tracy’s tenure) with Mike Edwards batting cleanup.

I’m taking an extreme risk here, because the last thing I want to do is reignite mercifully dormant debates about guys like J.D. Drew, Hee Seop Choi and Milton Bradley. In any case, things didn’t really get weird for the ’05 Dodgers until later in the season.

May 16

Gordon sits for second time in four games

Dodgers at Padres, 3:35 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Elian Herrera, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Sands, 1B
Justin Sellers, SS
Adam Kennedy, 3B
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Caupano, P

Dee Gordon started 29 of the Dodgers’ first 33 games, but today he is a reserve for the second time in the team’s past four.

After beginning May with a promising .898 OPS in his first seven games, Gordon is 2 for 23 with no walks, no steals and eight strikeouts dating back to May 9.

May 14

Dodgers undefeated without Kemp

It’s happened: Matt Kemp is on the disabled list. Moments after his 399-game consecutive playing streak ended with the final out of the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over Arizona tonight, Kemp was officially sidelined for two more weeks. Jerry Sands will replace him on the active roster, giving the Dodgers an outfield of Andre Ethier, Tony Gwynn Jr., Bobby Abreu, Scott Van Slyke and Sands.

Three Opening Day starters (Kemp, Juan Rivera and Juan Uribe) and top reserve Jerry Hairston Jr. are on the Dodger disabled list now. Obviously, the big one is Kemp. The Dodgers are a major-league best 24-11 right now, with a bigger lead over the second-place Giants than the National League Central and East leaders have over the last-place teams in their divisions, but I think most Dodger fans would be thrilled if Los Angeles can play even .500 ball for the next 14 games, or however long Kemp is out.

If they can do that, or better, it will probably be through large doses of defense, pitching and Andre Ethier.

* * *

In December 2010, shortly after Gwynn signed with the Dodgers, I suggested that they might be better off moving Kemp to a corner outfield slot and starting Gwynn in center field to maximize his principal defining skill – his defense. That didn’t happen, but with Kemp hobbled, we’ve really seen what Gwynn can offer. A day after making a flung-out catch in center, Gwynn made a tremendous throw – against his body – to nail A.J. Pollock at home in the third inning.

The Dodgers are putting on defensive shows almost on a game-by-game basis. Just in the final three innings tonight, there were four outstanding plays. James Loney backhanded a sharp grounder by Pollock in the seventh. Mark Ellis ranged to the shortstop side of second base to flag a Willie Bloomquist grounder in the eighth.

And in the ninth, on consecutive batters, Loney leaned over the railing to backhand a pop fly by Paul Goldschmidt (who almost popped out for the cycle tonight), and then Justin Sellers tumbled into the stands after making a full-bore catch of a foul by Miguel Montero. (Watch the great reactions by Gwynn and Ethier to Sellers’ catch on the replay.) Kenley Jansen then drew a third pop fly from Ryan Roberts to close out the game.

It so happens that Loney has been on a bit of a hitting upswing, with a 1.092 OPS in his past six games, but even when he isn’t hitting, his defense is so strong that I find it easier to rationalize his place in the lineup.

* * *

Ridiculous statement of the night: Clayton Kershaw was not at his sharpest as he threw seven innings of shutout ball. I should be struck by lightning for saying anything of the sort, but it’s really an example of how good Kershaw could be that I notice, for example, when he’s 78 pitches in to the game and he’s thrown only 44 strikes.

Putting aside his retaliatory brushback pitch against Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy, Kershaw didn’t seem to have complete command for much of the game, but aside from the Gwynn play, he didn’t allow a runner to reach third base until two out in the seventh. Kershaw then struck out Cody Ransom, the man who sent Kershaw to his shocking final loss of 2011, and left with a 3-0 lead, having allowed four singles and three walks in 108 pitches while striking out six.

His ERA is 2.22. Man, just wait until Kershaw gets his act together …

* * *

So, is this Andre Ethier’s team now? With Kemp out, Ethier is the lone remaining established threat in the Dodger lineup.

One year ago today, against Arizona, Ethier reached base for the 37th consecutive game. His streak ended the following day. Could it be that on this anniversary, he is poised for an even more significant achievement – keeping the Dodgers above water while Kemp is out?

Tonight, Ethier was up to the challenge. He came just short of a three-run home run in the third inning, then gave the Dodgers some breathing room, doubling their one-run lead, with a no-doubter solo blast that nearly one-hopped its way out of the bleachers in the sixth.

In the shadow of Kemp, Ethier has quietly put together a .368 on-base percentage, .592 slugging percentage and .960 OPS in 2012. Long gone are the days when it was believed Ethier needed Manny Ramirez behind him to succeed.

* * *

The game was sparsely attended, but it was a lovely night at the ballpark.

May 14

The A.J. Ellis All-Star campaign — taking it national

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXIV: Kershawpolitan
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Clayton Kershaw, P

In a guest post for’s Sweet Spot blog, I press the case (begun here) for A.J. Ellis to be top of mind when it comes to this year’s All-Star voting. In fact, it’s not hard to argue that as we begin play tonight, Ellis has been the No. 1 catcher in baseball this year.

If you rumble in certain corners of the country or the Internet, you may have heard tales of A.J. Ellis Facts, which chronicles the exploits of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first-time starting catcher as if he were an Avenger of some incredible ilk.

In reality, Ellis might not be a superhero, but he might just be the best pick for the National League All-Star team at catcher in 2012.

Ellis, who had only 141 career major-league plate appearances before turning 30 last year, has adapted a long-developed mastery of the strike zone in the minors into an earnest dose of offensive weaponhood in the big leagues, to the point where he is now third in the NL in on-base percentage (.462) behind David Wright and Joey Votto.

Additionally, despite managing only six home runs in more than 800 Pacific Coast League at-bats, Ellis has added enough pop to his game (five doubles, a triple and three home runs this season) that he is slugging .512 and has an OPS of .974, the latter figure tops among all major-league catchers. This despite playing two-thirds of his games this year in the relatively stifling hitting environments of Dodger Stadium and San Diego’s Petco Park. …

Read the entire post here.

Update: The Dodgers have placed Juan Uribe on the disabled list to deal with his lingering left wrist injury, and have purchased the contract of utilityman Elian Herrera from Triple-A Albuquerque.The 27-year-old has a .381 on-base percentage and .550 slugging percentage for the Isotopes this year, playing second base, third, shortstop and center field.

Los Angeles designated Trent Oeltjen for assignment to make room for Herrera on the 40-man roster.


May 13

Kemp, Ethier watch Dodgers finish win from clubhouse

A nightmare scenario produced a dreamy finish – today, anyway.

Despite losing Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier midway through today’s game, the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-2, scoring six in the bottom of the fifth on their way to a 11-5 Mother’s Day victory that improved their MLB-best record to 23-11.

Before I get into the other details, I want to say this about A.J. Ellis, who singled, walked and hit a three-run home run today (capping the fifth-inning onslaught) and now is OPSing .974 this season. I have absolutely believed for a long time that he was capable of delivering high on-base percentage and occasional power. Plate discipline is huge in this game, and Ellis has it by the bushel. What he’s doing in 2012 matches my highest expectations, but it doesn’t exceed them, certainly not for a stretch of this length. I am thrilled, I am elated, but I am not shocked. Not in any way.

As for the rest of the action …

1) No, we’re not getting out of today’s game unscathed. Kemp left today’s game after running out a ground ball in the bottom of the third, engineering new concern over his left hamstring. What this means long-term isn’t clear, though in the short-term, at least, the Dodgers didn’t suffer. Bobby Abreu hit a three-run double in his first at-bat to give the Dodgers their first lead of the day.

2) Ethier left today’s game in the fifth inning on the behest of home-plate umpire Mark Carlson’s right thumb. Ethier argued a borderline called third strike at length, then began to walk away but cursed unmistakably in the process. Carlson had showed patience during the initial argument, but didn’t extend it any further. I sent my daughter to her room for a few minutes in response to her own shouting at around the same time, so I understand the feeling. (Don Mattingly also was sent on his less-than-merry way a minute later.)

3) Scott Van Slyke replaced Ethier in right field and looked great. In his first plate appearance, he drew a walk and stole a base, then scored the Dodgers’ ninth run on a perfectly executed squeeze by Adam Kennedy on a high and outside pitch. In the eighth inning, Van Slyke doubled in two more runs, continuing his perfect start to his career.

4) Tony Gwynn Jr., moments after moving to center field after Kemp left, made a spectacular horizontal catch.

5) James Loney doubled and walked twice.


May 13

Happy Mother’s Day

Rockies at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Adam Kennedy, 3B
Justin Sellers, SS
Ted Lilly, P

To all of the mothers and grandmothers out there, and to all who are remembering theirs, I hope this is a special day. Especially to the one that lives in my house – who is also celebrating her birthday!

May 12

Dodgers sign Aaron Miles to minor-league deal

Rockies at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve made a few references to Aaron Miles this year, wondering why, with all the issues the Dodgers have had at third base, the Dodgers didn’t take him for another spin. Not that Miles was a problem-solver – but compared with Adam Kennedy or Justin Sellers, it just seemed odd that he wasn’t invited to the party. He came to the plate a whopping 490 times for the Dodgers last year.

Well, here it is. Dylan Hernandez of the Times reports that Miles has signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers and has begun working out at the team’s Arizona facility. Miles “misplayed the free-agent market,” Hernandez wrote, implying that his contract demands were too high after a .314 on-base percentage and .360 slugging percentage in 2011. Miles hit .231 after July 1.

In Friday’s game, the Dodgers never trailed and won, 7-3. Chris Capuano turned in another striking performance, extending his scoreless inning streak to what would have been the 25-inning mark before allowing a seventh-inning home run to Michael Cuddyer.

Mark Ellis was the Dodgers’ early hitting star with a home run and two-run double, and Andre Ethier came a triple shy of the cycle. Juan Uribe joined Ellis in hitting 2012 home run No. 1, while James Loney reached base three times and Matt Treanor had two singles.

Ellis has a .472 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage in 37 plate appearances this month. For the year, he is 10th in the National League in OBP (not counting A.J. Ellis, whose day off Friday left him two plate appearances short of the minimum), and he has yet to make an error.

Pitching with a 7-1 lead in the ninth, seldom-used Todd Coffey faced five batters and allowed three hits and a hard-hit sacrifice fly that Ethier caught with perhaps the best defensive play of his career, sliding into the wall in the corner of right field. Coffey has now allowed 13 baserunners in 3 1/3 innings this season.

There was some fear that Ethier might be hurt, but he professed to be fine.

“I just banged up my toe a little bit,” he told Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.. “I was trying to avoid hitting my knee. I tried to kick the wall to avoid sliding into it.”

MIke MacDougal, by the way, is not coming back to the Dodgers. MacDougal “has cleared waivers and rejected an outright assignment to the minors,” according to Tony Jackson of “The Dodgers thusly have requested unconditional release waivers on him, meaning MacDougal’s time with the club is over.”

Matt Kemp, who was recovering from hamstring issues earlier this week, has gone hitless in consecutive starts for the first time this season. (Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has more on Kemp.) In May, Kemp is 7 for 28 with a double, triple and seven walks (.746 OPS) – and is no longer the hottest player in baseball. That would be Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, who in his past five games is 11 for 21 with four walks, a double and eight home runs. Shawn Green of the Dodgers was the last to hit more homers in such a short span.

May 11

Hairston to the disabled list

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

Jerry Hairston Jr., the Dodgers’ third-most valuable position player this season according to Baseball Prospectus, has gone on the disabled list (retroactive to May 7).

Justin Sellers has been recalled for his second stint with the 2012 club.

May 09

Van Slyke debuts with RBI single in Dodger victory

Tonight at Dodger Stadium, Chad Billingsley needed 85 pitches to get through four innings, allowing 11 baserunners – but only two runs, and that was the preeminent silver lining.

A huge play came in the third inning, with the Dodgers down 2-0, when Matt Kemp threw out Nate Schierholtz rounding second base, seconds before Brandon Belt would have crossed home plate with the Giants’ third run. That was as close as San Francisco came to scoring again in what became a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.

With Tim Linceum pitching, you might expect San Francisco wouldn’t need more than two runs, but 2012 has not been Lincecum’s year.  Tony Gwynn Jr. capped a four-run fourth inning with a bases-loaded triple off an 0-2 Lincecum changeup – according to Bob Timmermann, Gwynn became the first to hit a bases-loaded pinch-triple in the fourth inning since Jeff Burroughs in June 1978. Dodger manager Don Mattingly had rightly pinch-hit for Billingsley, who didn’t offer much reason to remain in the game in that situation.

Two innings later, A.J. Ellis tripled with one out, and Scott Van Slyke – in his first major-league at-bat – singled up the middle to get him home. According to the Dodgers’ public relations staff, Van Slyke became the first Dodger with a pinch-hit RBI hit in his first at-bat since Carl Warwick in April 1961.

Billingsley, by the way, singled in his only at-bat, meaning that the bottom spot in the order went 3 for 3 – with Chris Capuano hitting a pinch-sacrifice in the bottom of the eighth. According to, Capuano was the first Dodger pitcher to pinch-sacrifice since Orel Hershiser in September 1988.

Jamey Wright, Ronald Belisario, Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen combined for five innings of shutout relief.

Ellis, Andre Ethier, Bobby Abreu and Juan Uribe each had two hits for the Dodgers. Abreu is OPSing .971 as a Dodger so far, while Ellis now leads National League catchers in OPS at .927.

Matt Kemp, on the other hand, went 0 for 5 for the first time since September 2009.

May 09

Overwrought reaction to Guggenheim ‘lie’ misses point

In January, more than four months before the sale of the Dodgers was completed, Bill Shaikin clarified in the Times that Frank McCourt might not include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the transaction.

That meant the new owners, while retaining the actual revenue from parking at the stadium, would owe McCourt a $14 million annual lease payment for use of the land. At the time, it was not clear whether McCourt was just using this as a bargaining chip, or whether he intended to hang onto the lots. But we lived in fear that some group bidding on the team would be unable to resist caving in to McCourt and letting him retain an interest in the property.

As it turned out,that’s what happened. McCourt did retain an interest in the lots when he sold the team to the Guggenheim group at the end of March. We learned this within hours of the announcement of the sale.

New owners collect daily parking revenue. McCourt retains interest in land. These facts were  established weeks ago.

Then, at last week’s press conference introducing the Guggenheim ownership group, Magic Johnson told the assembled that as far as McCourt was concerned, his “only future profits is from new development, if we do any. … Frank’s not here, he’s not part of the Dodgers anymore.”

McCourt, Johnson said, “would not get a dime from the parking.”

It seemed clear to me what Johnson meant. McCourt would not be involved in the day-to-day operations for the Dodgers. He would not be making any decisions that didn’t involve development of the property surrounding the stadium. His income would not depend on how many tickets were sold and how many cars parked at Dodger Stadium.

None of this was contrary to anything we already understood.

But over the weekend, Gene Maddaus of L.A. Weekly reported that Johnson “flat-out lied to Dodger fans,” the first step in a you-know-what storm that not only (unsurprisingly) swept up T.J. Simers of the Times but even new team president Stan Kasten, who expressed regret to the Times that the new owners had given the wrong impression.

But had they?

Again, let’s review.

1) We know McCourt still has an interest in the Dodger Stadium property. That wasn’t denied.

2) McCourt isn’t getting parking revenue from the Dodgers. That remains true.

3) McCourt is getting a land lease payment from the new owners. That, despite Shaikin’s new report on May 4, was something we essentially had all known would be the case for more than a month. There was never any report that McCourt, in retaining co-ownership of the land, wouldn’t retain a financial interest in the Dodgers’ use of it.

The idea that we should be angry about this, that we should feel lied to, doesn’t make sense to me.

There are two separate things going on. One is that McCourt still has a connection to the world of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That is exceedingly unfortunate — and his profit from the team after the way he debased it is offensive — but it’s a fact of life and one we’ve had time to get used to.  I wish it weren’t so, but it is.

But let’s be clear on the other thing. McCourt’s post-sale connection to the franchise is not a secret and has not been a secret. The new owners haven’t hid it, and while they understandably don’t want to talk about it, they did not hide it at the press conference last week.

The new owners didn’t lie. McCourt isn’t getting a dime from parking.  He is getting lease income. Now, you can say that’s semantics, as Maddaus and Simers clearly believe, and that the two things are the same. But if you do so, you’re the one that’s being misleading, by implying that a fan going to the game can affect McCourt’s income by choosing whether or not to park at Dodger Stadium or not.  It’s not true. Parking at Dodger Stadium does not affect how much money McCourt will get, any more than sales of tickets, hot dogs or baseball caps affect how much money McCourt will get.

So who is more guilty of giving the wrong impression about McCourt’s connection to the parking? The Guggenheim group, or the members of the press who misreport the connection?

Clearly, the Guggenheimerians could have handled this issue a little better, by outlining the land-lease payment the same way I just did. I actually thought the press conference last week was mostly a successful one, though their discomfort about talking about McCourt was palpable, a price of their ongoing relationship with him.

But the implication about this controversy is that it’s a metaphor, that it speaks to a level of deception with the new owners. Is it?

I don’t think it speaks to deception, as much fallibility.

The new owners have promised to make the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium the best they can be. They haven’t ruled out developing the surrounding property. They haven’t ruled out (to my chagrin) selling the naming rights. While they’ve said they are not broke and will invest in on-field improvements to the team, they haven’t indicated that there’s a blank checkbook. This isn’t the Chocolate Factory, and they aren’t Willy Wonka.

There isn’t much reason to believe that the Guggenheim group is up to some scheme that we’re not aware of. If you want to fear something, fear that they just won’t achieve what they set out to achieve.

If you were under the impression that the new owners would somehow make everything perfect at Dodger Stadium, you’ve got your own naivete to blame. I fully expect an improvement over the previous regime, thanks largely to Kasten, who said more meaningful things last week than I heard from McCourt in eight years and who, most importantly, has a relevant track record of success. But there’s no more going to be Nirvana here than there was under Peter O’Malley. Remember — even Matt Kemp gets out half the time. There’s no perfection in baseball.

My hope is that the new owners have the best intentions, and that their actions are positive ones. I want the Dodgers to win. I want Dodger Stadium to be the jewel it can be. But of course, there’s reason to remain skeptical about the Guggenheim group, just as there’s reason to remain skeptical about any set of businesspersons making grand pronouncements.

McCourt’s actions never backed up his words. Is that going to be the case with Guggenheim? We don’t know yet, and nothing that happened at last week’s press conference told us one way or the other. We know that the future of the Dodgers under Guggenheim will include McCourt on the periphery. That has not been in question, and no shocking revelations have emerged.

What remains in doubt — but what I remain hopeful for — is that the future of the Dodgers can flower despite this connection. That’s what matters.

Update: Magic Johnson was asked about the lease payment at the ownership press conference, this clip from Dodger Thoughts commenter Robert212 illustrates. Given this exchange – which I completely missed and don’t see quoted anywhere else – it’s fair to say that Johnson, irresponsibly, was not truthful about the arrangement with McCourt. And it certainly wasn’t worth obfuscating.

It’s disappointing, both as a follower of the Dodgers and as the writer of this piece today. I feel that this was a critical piece of information that I should have had. It wasn’t that I was ignoring it – I just didn’t have it.

I stand by my belief that lease money isn’t the same as parking revenue, but more importantly, I stand by my conclusion in this afternoon’s piece, which is that I hope and believe the Dodgers can flower despite the team’s connection with the McCourts. As I said in my piece, there’s reason to be skeptical – and that was true whatever Johnson’s words. The truth about what Johnson said rightfully might impact the trust that the fan base has with what is spoken by ownership, but hopefully it serves as a teaching moment that compels them to better, rather than the symptom of a pattern.

I don’t believe that the new ownership is poisoned. It’s simply too soon to know. Heck, even as I repeatedly criticized McCourt eight years ago, I still held out hope that he might prove an asset. I intend to do the same with the Guggenheim group.

May 08

‘And that’s why you don’t bunt with Matt Kemp on deck’

Tonight’s J. Walter Weatherman game, ending in a 2-1 Dodger loss to the Giants – who turned four double plays, is ably recapped by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

In an otherwise strong tenure as Dodger manager, the overuse of bunting is by far Don Mattingly’s biggest weakness.

Clayton Kershaw started shakily, ended up pitching eight strong innings, but saw his 10-game winning streak and 12-game home winning streak end. Javy Guerra pitched a 1-2-3 ninth – in a situation that, yes, you normally use your best remaining reliever. If you enter the ninth inning tied or trailing at home, there’s no more save opportunity.