A 4-1 victory over the Pirates pushed the Dodgers to a 5-1 record in this young season. It wasn’t a perfect game, but one that was the ongoing equivalent of rebounding your missed shot and putting it in the hoop.
Chad Billingsley gives up a home run to light-hittting Clint Barmes in the third, but recovers to shut Pittsburgh out through his three remaining innings. Billingsley gives up two hits with one out in the sixth, then wraps things up when Neil Walker hits a soft liner with two on and one out for an inning-ending double play.
The Dodgers waste two baserunners in the first inning, but score a tying run in the bottom of the third and a go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth. Dee Gordon starts his night 0 for 3, then doubles to kick-start a two-run seventh.
Los Angeles is winning even as half their lineup clanks one shot off the rim after another. They’re doing so because Matt Kemp (3 for 4), Juan Rivera (3 for 4) and Andre Ethier (2 for 4) keep banging the boards, and because the bullpen (Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra) keeps running a nice pick-and-roll at the end of the game.
The words “enjoy it while it lasts” come to mind. Fair enough.
Some Tuesday postgame data, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:
How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Pirates despite not picking up a win:
- Sixty-five of Kershaw’s 88 pitches (73.9 percent) went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.
- Kershaw went to a three-ball count to the first hitter of the game, the only one he went to all game. The one three-ball count matches his career low in a start.
- Pirates hitters were 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with Kershaw’s slider.
- With two strikes, Pirates hitters were 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts.
Kershaw held the Pirates hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, continuing his dominance of hitters when getting into a jam.
Lowest BA Allowed With RISP, Starting Pitchers, Since Start of 2011 Season
Ian Kennedy .142
Jeremy Hellickson .161
Ricky Romero .173
Jhoulys Chacin .173
Clayton Kershaw .185 (0-6 on Tuesday vs Pirates)
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Matt Kemp went 0-4 on Tuesday, but drove in a run for the ninth straight game. The nine straight games with a RBI ties a Dodgers’ record.
Most Consecutive Games with RBI, Dodgers History
Matt Kemp 9 (2011-12)
Roy Campanella 9 (1955)
Augie Galan 9 (1944)
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Andre Ethier, on his 30th birthday, hit a game-winning home run in the eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Pirates. The last player to celebrate his 30th birthday by hitting a game-winning homer in the eighth inning or later was Jerry Mumphrey for the Yankees against Milwaukee on September 9, 1982. Mumphrey hit a 10th inning homer in that game. (Elias Sports Bureau)
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- In a story for Variety, I explore how much TV networks can justify bidding billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast baseball games. Nice to see Dee Gordon flying across the top of the paper …
- In five games, Gordon has four steals in five tries, and replays showed he was safe on the time he was called out.
- MIke Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness conveniently tackles a subject I was mulling myself: how Chad Billingsley does in his next start following a great outing. It might also be worth looking at how Billingsley does after a high pitch count in his most recent appearance.
- Today in Jon SooHoo: A photo gallery from the home opener.
- Sons of Steve Garvey has its own nice photo recap of Tuesday.
- His Dodger shortstop predecessor, Rafael Furcal, is 10 for 23 with three doubles, two walks and two steals to start 2012: 1.045 OPS.
- Here’s an Associated Press story on security at Dodger Stadium for the first home opener since Bryan Stow was attacked.
- Joe Torre conceded to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that at times, Matt Kemp was a difficult player for him to manage.
- Jonah Keri of Grantland and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs discuss the need and desire to kill the save statistic and replace it with something more useful.
- Cardboard Gods, inspired by the hyphen. Another gem by Josh Wilker at
- A baseball card featuring Reggie Smith and Ryne Sandberg is the subject of a piece by Bruce Markusen for the Hardball Times.
- Dixie Walker will be played by Ryan Merriman of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
- Eleven contract extensions have been signed by pre-arbitration-eligible players since the end of last season; Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at the trend.
- Carlos Santana became one of those players, signing a five-year, $21 million extension. Mike Axisa of Fangraphs examines the deal.
- At the bottom of this Fangraphs post, you are asked to rate Dodger radio announcers Charley Steiner and Rick Monday.
Seeing Vin Scully being introduced, in absentia, during the pregame ceremonies for the Dodgers’ first home appearance of the season, his image on the scoreboard without his voice, put pressure directly on my heart.
My understanding is that Scully is going to be fine and is simply doing what any sensible person with a bad cold does – staying home and getting better. I expect him to be in fine fettle in no time.
But the small reminder of the inevitable and just how devastating it’s going to be – for me, for you, for the city – turned me upside down. No person that is not a family member has meant more to me.
We are so, so lucky to have had Scully in our lives for so long. For most of us, he’s been there since before we were born. But it’s a measure of the man that it still doesn’t seem like enough.
It was hard enough to imagine a world without Chick Hearn or a world without John Wooden, or a world without my grandmother. For a moment, I was forced to confront a world without Vin Scully, and I just wanted to turn and run.
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Dodger Stadium has been blessed with wonderful weather in recent home openers. Today was downright exquisite – a vista in which Scully would have found poetry.
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Highlight of the pregame ceremonies: the return of Peter O’Malley and his sister, Terry O’Malley Seidler to the field of Dodger Stadium. They might still be on the ownership sidelines, but it certainly looked like they belonged.
Tommy Lasorda caught Seidler’s pitch, then took off his mitt and waved his fingers as if she had burned them with the heat.
They showed the familiar image of O’Malley with his mother Kay throwing out the original first pitch at Dodger Stadium 50 years ago, and it just is remarkable to me how young he was. Twenty-five years old, with this new stadium as your home base? Could life have been sweeter?
* * *
The appeal of daytime fireworks has long been lost on me. They take something dazzling and loud and replace them with something … loud. But, they’re a Dodger Stadium Opening Day tradition at this point, just like the release of doves in pristine white flight at the end of the National Anthem.
Never, however, had I seen the doves fly directly into the path of the fireworks.
There was a gasp in the crowd as it appeared for a moment that about a hundred birds were being blown to smithereens right before our eyes. However, they continued on their journey, deafened but unbowed, as my brother commented regarding the narrowly avoided avian calamity, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
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I’ve always been one to downplay the legacy of Maury Wills. The subject of one of my earliest posts at Dodger Thoughts was how Wills was not as important as his reputation suggests, nor as revolutionary.
But the folks who watched Wills play insist that I can’t possibly appreciate him without having seen him. Baseball Analysts founder Rich Lederer, as faithful an adherent to statistics as they come, would always challenge my take on Wills. And it’s not like it was a point I really was interested in strenuously contesting.
Fifty years later, the arrival of Dee Gordon has set the stage for me to have my own Maury Wills experience. On-base percentage and home runs be damned, I just know that every time this guy comes up to the plate, I’m excited, and every time he starts running those bases, even on a grounder to second, I’m on the edge of my seat.
Some people might say that Gordon is no more than Juan Pierre. That might be true, if Pierre played a promising shortstop instead of a feeble-armed outfield and was paid 5 percent of that big contract he signed instead of every penny.
In the first inning today, more than any pregame ceremony could, the Roadrunner brought us back to 1962. A single. A stolen base on the next pitch. A jaunt to third on a 4-3 groundout by Mark Ellis, and another jog home on Matt Kemp’s grounder to short. A 1-0 lead, Kid Koufax on the mound. These are days …
* * *
When Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch that isn’t a strike, I’m surprised. When he gives up a hit, I’m a bit taken aback. And when he gives up a run … give up a run?
Leading off the top of the second inning, Casey McGehee hit a deep fly to center that had a hint of home run potential. One thing’s for sure: Kemp didn’t look like he was going to catch it. At best, Kemp was in the same zip code – he never got a good read on the soaring sphere in the afternoon sun, and it landed at warning-track distance for a stand-up triple.
(If Vin were here: What’s the old Noel Coward line? ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun …‘)
The play cost Kershaw a no-hitter – which I know I wasn’t alone in speculating about. It also threatened to cause the Dodgers’ lead to disappear just like that.
Strikeout. Strikeout. Fly to left.
These are days, to remember.
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Those of us waiting to see James Loney and Juan Uribe get untracked got mixed results today. Loney drew a walk in his first at-bat, but went 0 for 2, including a meek, check-swing groundout in the fourth, leaving him 0 for 12 this season.
Uribe, on the other hand, went 3 for 3, but his first hit was a tit-for-tat sun single to center field in the bottom of the second, and his third hit was a dribbler well shy of the infield basepaths. But you take what you can get in this game.
A.J. Ellis, who has been my unsung hero in this season’s outer atmosphere, went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Not once in 2011 did he have a hitless game with two strikeouts.
But Kershaw nearly was the game’s other offensive gem. With Loney and Uribe at first and third, it took a strong play by second baseman Neil Walker to steal an RBI single from Kershaw.
* * *
I had a chocolate malt and it seemed less rich than I was used to. The ingredients were led by “skim milk.” Is this something new, or have I just noticed it for the first time?
* * *
Bottom of the sixth inning. Two out. Juan Rivera takes a 1-2 pitch for a ball.
“Deuces wild,” my brother says.
* * *
One to nil into the seventh inning, the game proceeding at the quick step. Aside from the triple, Kershaw has allowed one other baserunner, a fourth-inning single by Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia (who was then picked off), while striking out seven.
Alex Presley begins the new frame with an infield single, and Andrew McCutchen sends him to second with the Pirates’ fourth hit. Nobody out, and it’s all on Kershaw’s shoulders again.
McGehee hits another fly ball, this one to left field. Rivera catches it, but thinks he can throw out a tagging Presley at third base. No dice, and McCutchen glides into second. Fundamental error that won’t go in the boxscore.
Sure enough, the next batter, Matt Hague, whom I know nothing about but can only hope hails from The Hague, hits what would be an inning-ending double-play grounder to Gordon. But Gordon can only make the play at first. The game is as tied as can be.
Pirates 000 000 1 – 1 4 0 Dodgers 100 000 - – 1 4 0
Kershaw gets another grounder to end the top of the seventh. He’s thrown only 88 pitches, and I’m not sure there’s anyone on the Dodger bench the fans would rather see at the plate. But he’s still on the mend from his sad stomach of yesterweek. So with Uribe on first and two out, Adam Kennedy pinch-hits. And singles.
Gordon takes a ball, fouls off two pitches, and strikes out swinging. Kershaw’s row in the ledger for 2012 is updated: 0-0, 0.90 ERA, 10 innings, 10 strikeouts.
* * *
Kenley Jansen enters in the eighth inning with Merlin Olsen’s No. 74 on his back. Jansen sacks Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, then tackles Garrett Jones for no gain as the two-minute warning approaches.
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Bottom of the eighth. It’s not even 3:30 p.m. But I’m wondering if we might still be here when 7 o’clock rolls around.
Mark Ellis and Kemp strike out, bringing up Andre Ethier. I’m watching, languidly. I probably should be expecting more, but my thoughts have already turned to whether the Dodger bullpen can keep the Pirates scoreless into dusk.
And then Ethier just blasts one. Boom! Somewhere, a white dove has an aftershock. High, far, long, deep, distant, going, gone.
“Happy birthday, Andre Ethier” flashes the scoreboard. The guy who fought for his job for what must have seemed so long to him, the guy who has fought for respect even after he seemingly earned it … the fighter is now 30. He’s 30 and he’s taking a curtain call from 50,000-plus agog fans at Dodger Stadium.
I spent my 30th birthday at a Westside pool hall, wondering if I might get a kiss from a girl that I didn’t even like that much, then settling in for drinks and bar food with a few close friends. Same thing, right?
* * *
Javy Guerra, future ex-closer according to Jansen’s fantasy league owners, enters in the ninth inning. He strikes out Jose Tabata, but Presley singles.
“Andrew McCutchen is the Pirates’ best hitter,” I tell my brother. “He’s the guy who can hurt us.”
That double play the Dodgers didn’t get in the seventh inning? McCutchen gives it to us in the ninth, Gordon to Ellis to Loney. Ballgame.
Is it over too quick? Too busy celebrating the win to decide.
* * *
The Dodgers are 4-1. They have won four games without Kershaw getting credit for any.
Andre Ethier sounds like the mayor of Los Angeles on the radio postgame show.
Just 76 more wins, I say to myself. That sounds doable, especially if they can keep beating the likes of the Padres and Pirates.
Hours later, I realize I meant 86. Oh well.
* * *
I’m driving home at 4 p.m. after a day at the ballpark. Every day should be like this. Only with Vin.
The Dodgers’ home opener celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium and the exciting 1962 team, but it will be missing a central component. This morning, the Dodgers announced that Vin Scully is resting at home with a bad cold and will miss today’s game. I know everyone is wishing him the fastest and easiest possible recovery, while being relieved he is putting his health first rather than trying to gut it out.
And, as we all know, Vin would want the rest of us to have a fun, exciting and responsible home opener. So here’s to a great day.
Who are the Dodgers’ all-time 50 greatest players? It was no easy task to determine, but for this ESPNLosAngeles.com photo gallery, I made my best effort, in honor of Dodger Stadium’s 50th anniversary.
A few other quick links:
- Dodger Stadium’s top-50 moments also got some ESPNLosAngeles.com play, presented in reverse chronological order by former Times sportswriter Mike Downey.
- Vin Scully shared some Dodger Stadium thoughts with Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
- Similarly, Frank Howard talked to Lance Pugmire of the Times about the early days of Dodger Stadium.
In a sense, too much is being asked of A.J. Ellis and Dee Gordon this year. Neither has held a full-time job in baseball before this year, and yet one is the team’s leadoff hitter and infield anchor, the other is quite possibly expected to deliver the team’s best on-base percentage.
But each player had a whale of a game in tonight’s 6-5 Dodger victory that elevated the team to 3-0. Ellis homered, walked twice and singled in the 11th before scoring a go-ahead run that was driven in by Gordon, who recovered from his slow offensive start in the Dodgers’ first two games to go 3 for 4 with two walks and three steals.
The heroics lifted the Dodgers on a night that they surrendered a 5-0 lead to a five-run Padres fifth inning that featured two singles, a hit batter, a wild pitch and five walks, including four in a row with two out. Chris Capuano, who had been pitching decently to that point, faltered by walking three after a one-out single. Jamey Wright relieved and threw eight straight balls for two more runs, and then Scott Elbert wild-pitched a fourth run in, hit a batter and gave up the game-tying single.
However, Mike MacDougal, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen (pitching two innings), Todd Coffey and closer Javy Guerra held San Diego scoreless on four baserunners over the final six innings, enough time for Ellis and Gordon to deliver once more.
The Dodgers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Matt Kemp drove in Gordon with a sacrifice fly, boosted it to 4-0 when the Roadrunner crossed the plate on Kemp’s RBI single and Andre Ethier doubled in Mark Ellis and Kemp, and then made it 5-0 on Ellis’ fourth-inning home run.
Early season OPS: A.J. Ellis 1.205, Kemp 1.198, Ethier 1.021, Juan Rivera .955, Gordon .732, Mark Ellis .670, James Loney .111, Juan Uribe .111.
Chad Billingsley gave the critics a rest in his first start of 2012, striking 11 in a dominant 8 1/3 innings while allowing only three hits and one walk in a 6-0 Dodger victory.
Billingsley was only in trouble in the second inning, when he gave up a leadoff double and a one-out walk. But Orlando Hudson grounded into a double play, the Dodgers boosted their lead to 4-0 in the third and Billingsley never looked back.
He struck out his first three batters, retired the side in order in six different innings and set down 16 batters in a row between Will Venable’s leadoff double in the fourth inning and Cameron Maybin’s one-out single in the ninth. That came on Billingsley’s 108th pitch, more than enough with the Dodgers up by half a dozen runs. Jamey Wright relieved Billingsley and used two ground balls to end the game.
Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier each had two hits, going 8 for 16 with a walk. Ellis had a double, while Ethier had a double and triple that each drove in two runs. Jerry Hairston Jr. also went 1 for 3 with a walk, starting in left field while Rivera played first base and James Loney sat against 27-year-old Padres lefty Cory Luebke, who allowed five earned runs and 10 baserunners (striking out six) in 4 2/3 innings of his first start since signing a four-year, $12 million contract extension in March.
Dee Gordon got his first hit of the season but was called out – incorrectly, according to replays – trying to steal. He is 1 for 10 so far in 2012. Juan Uribe went 0 for 4, while A.J. Ellis was 0 for 3 with a walk.
This was the fifth time Billingsley has struck out 11 in a game. He also has one game of 12 and two career-high games of 13. It was also the second time in less than a year he has thrown at least eight shutout innings against San Diego, including nine months ago in a 1-0 victory over the Padres. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Billingsley achieved a career-high Game Score of 87.
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Bill Shaikin of the Times notes the salient details available from the Dodger sale agreement filed in court today. The official price was $1.588 billion, with $412 million going to retire the Dodgers’ debt.
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Haven’t really been publicizing these, but the fourth episode of Young Justice that I was the writer for is scheduled to air Saturday morning.
In theory, the live Win Probability Graph from Fangraphs should update from Thursday once tonight’s game starts. We shall see …
Before Thursday’s Dodger opener, Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness and I reunited for a season-preview chat that you can see above.
* * *
“Major League Baseball officials have expressed concern that Guggenheim Baseball Management, the winning bidders for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been slow to produce the details of the bid and the structure of its management team, according to several sources familiar with the sale process,” writes Tom Verducci of SI.com today.
Several individual owners have joined baseball officials in questioning why the Guggenheim group, led by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson, has not filed a more detailed Purchase and Sale Agreement more than a week after the group was selected from among three finalists by Frank McCourt, the outgoing owner who is selling the club through U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The group was expected to file a Purchase and Sale Agreement with MLB earlier this week, but postponed the filing for two days before submitting a short form agreement that lacked what MLB regards as most of the necessary details. Of particular interest to MLB is a breakdown of where the money is coming from to cover the $2.15 billion sale price and what role McCourt has in the ownership, control and profit-sharing of the Dodger Stadium parking lots.
Until MLB knows and reviews those details, according to sources, concern mounts about how the deal is financed and especially if McCourt stands to continue to profit from Dodger-related operations under the new ownership.
Some answers may be forthcoming as soon as Friday, when terms of the sale are expected to be filed in bankruptcy court. The court is expected to approve the sale on April 13 in advance of a final closing April 30, when McCourt must pay his wife, Jamie, $131 million as a condition of their divorce settlement.
Said one owner after speaking with commissioner Bud Selig, “Not having a purchase and sale agreement is scary, but I personally think they will close [the deal].”
The sale, according to sources, has been complicated by the bitter relationship between McCourt and MLB, by the Guggenheim group being caught between trying to satisfy both warring parties, by a bankruptcy court, not MLB, controlling the speed of the sale, and by the lingering contentiousness of the bidding process, which one bidder said was characterized by “brutal fighting.” …
Elsewhere this morning …
- Mike Ozanian of Forbes chronicles the tax breaks that will come to the new Dodger owners following their purchase of the team.
- The Dodgers have no switch-hitters on their roster for the first time since 1986, notes Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue.
- Blake DeWitt, whom the Cubs designated for assignment this winter, ended up making their Opening Day roster after all and flied out as a pinch-hitter Thursday.
- The Texas Rangers unveiled a statue depicting Shannon Stone, who died after falling trying to catch a ball last year, and his son Cooper. Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew has details. Tears me up each time I look.
It’s not the best sign for Opening Day when Vin Scully starts the game talking about diarrhea.
The starting pitcher of the team Scully is broadcasting for the 63rd season, Clayton Kershaw, was putting on a private performance of the New Flu Revue. Even so, everything came out okay for the Dodgers, who launched their bid for an undefeated season with a 5-3 victory over San Diego.
Kershaw stomached three innings, surviving a bases-loaded scenario in the second, before his day ended. The Associated Press provided this summary:
… Mattingly said he saw Kershaw lying down in the tunnel behind the dugout after the third.
“It’s not a real good sign when your starting pitcher was laying down,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly said he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt discussed holding out Kershaw.
“He wanted to go,” the manager said. “He wasn’t dizzy or didn’t have a fever or any of that kind of stuff, so it was one of those situations where he wanted to go. …
Kershaw struck out three, while also producing the Dodgers’ first hit of the season. It was a game effort. But it was up to his teammates to pick up the slack.
And so they did, with a little help from Padres starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. The offseason acquisition from Cincinnati struck out five batters in his first three innings, but gave up two singles and four walks in the fourth inning. Two of the walks came with the bases loaded, to James Loney and A.J. Ellis, allowing the Dodgers to take a 2-0 lead that would have been more had Andre Ethier not been incorrectly ruled out at home on an ostensible wild pitch. (Ellis also had a single in three at-bats on the day and saw 28 pitches in his four plate appearances.)
While Josh Lindblom was holding San Diego scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings, the Dodgers tacked on another run thanks to a three-base error by San Diego centerfielder Cameron Maybin, who was too shocked that Gordon hit one over his head to make the catch after he went back and reached it. One out later, Matt Kemp himself reached base on an infield error to bring Gordon home. Although Gordon went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, he made his presence felt not only on the bases but with a spectacular dive and throw-out in the fourth.
Mike MacDougal gave up a run in the sixth, but Matt Guerrier pitched a shutout seventh and Kemp seemed to put the game away in the eighth with a home run that was straight out of the Mike Piazza repetoire, a towering shot to right-center field to make the score 5-1.
Kenley Jansen echoed his poor first outing in 2011 by allowing a two-run home run to Maybin in the bottom of the eighth. That meant Javy Guerra would get a save opportunity in his 2012 debut after all, and Guerra retired the side in order on 14 pitches.
Juan Rivera had two singles for the Dodgers, and perhaps most amazingly, Juan Uribe had a walk.
This Dodger win came on a day that Detroit wasted eight innings of two-hit ball by Justin Verlander before edging Boston, a day that Cleveland blew a 4-1 ninth-inning lead and then lost in 16 innings (the longest Opening Day ever) and a day that eight of the 12 other teams playing were held to two runs or less. It was a day that could have easily given the Dodgers and their fans the heaves, but instead, they’ll go to sleep tonight with a nice victory to digest.
On an Opening Day for many teams that has had runs at a distinct premium, it will take some swift work by the Irony Committee for a dusky game at Petco Park to generate any offensive fireworks. But the folk on that Committee are known for their around-the-clock efforts, so we’ll see …
I’m enjoying these last few moments before we enter the blender. But I’m also ready to suffer with every pitch and be reborn with the next. To shake my head at the disappointments and revel in the celebrations. To accept my lot in life, which is to be a follower of the confounding team that is the Los Angeles Dodgers.