Aug 24

At the Summitt

The news that Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 59 has stuck with me. Not that there’s ever a right age for this, but it just seems too young.

Washington Post writer Sally Jenkins, who co-authored Summitt’s autobiography, has a lengthy interview with her. It’s worth your time.

* * *

Tuesday’s 13-2 victory was the first by the Dodgers by that score since 1955, when they won two games 13-2 within a month of each other.

Aug 23

Dodgers replace Navarro with Ellis

Choosing not to wait until rosters expand September 1, the Dodgers have designated catcher Dioner Navarro for assignment and recalled A.J. Ellis from Triple-A Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.

Navarro had a .276 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage in 202 plate appearances for the Dodgers, throwing out 14 of 55 basestealers (25.4 percent). His performance had actually improved in recent weeks, with Navarro posting a .337 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances since Independence Day, and three times this year (on June 19, July 9 and July 20) he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger victory.

But overall, Navarro failed to justify the $1 million contract he signed Dec. 14, an attempt by general manager Ned Colletti to buy low on a 27-year-old one-time All-Star who had a .569 OPS from 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.

The transaction gives the Dodgers an opportunity to take another extended look at Ellis – though his credentials as a low-power, high-OBP threat seem well-established. Ellis has a .364 OBP in the majors this year and a .467 OBP with Albuquerque.

Barring any offseason moves, Ellis and Tim Federowicz (recently acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade) are leading candidates to split catcher time in the Dodger starting lineup next year, though Barajas could return as a free agent if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut from his $3.25 million salary. Barajas has a .699 OPS and, remarkably, is second on the Dodgers in home runs with 12.

Navarro could return to the Dodgers in September if no team picks him up, but it seems more likely now that Federowicz will get his first taste of the majors then.

* * *

  • Not a lot of middle-of-the-order bats will be available this offseason, writes Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
  • St. Louis reacts, mostly negatively, to Tony LaRussa’s Monday managerial machinations. See here in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • How did “Moneyball”  stay alive? Mark Harris writes about the film’s tale of survival for New York Magazine.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey enjoyed being in the St. Louis press box Monday.
Aug 21

Loney warms up in the bullpen


Barry Gutierrez/APHe just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.

“James Loney is running out to the bullpen to get some work in for his role as the #Dodgers emergency pitcher today,” the team tweeted this morning.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has the reason why:

The Dodgers have had four different relievers pitch on each of the last two days:

  • Scott Elbert threw 25 pitches after throwing 16 pitches Friday
  • Matt Guerrier threw 23 pitches after throwing 16 pitches Friday
  • Blake Hawksworth threw 13 pitches after throwing 12 pitches Friday
  • Mike MacDougal threw 22 pitches after throwing four pitches Friday

Factor in Javy Guerra throwing 32 pitches on Saturday, and Hong-Chih Kuo pitching in parts of two innings and the Dodgers have the makings of a thin bullpen on Sunday. The one reliever I didn’t mention was Josh Lindblom, and even he threw 25 pitches yesterday.

There are several different ways the Dodgers could make a roster move to add a pitcher to the bullpen, but anyway …

Loney, of course, pitched in high school, and many thought that would be his path to the big leagues. From the Dodger media guide:

Was a standout as a pitcher and first baseman for Lawerence E. Elkins High School in Missouri City, TX…listed as a pitcher, was ranked by Baseball America as the 46th-best prospect entering the June 2002 draft…in its draft recap, Baseball America tabbed him as the best pure hitter in the draft, as having the second-best professional debut by a high school player selected and the second-closest high school player to reaching the Major Leagues…as a prep senior, hit .509 with eight homers and 56 RBI, while on the mound, he was 9-1 with a 1.80 ERA, striking out 106 in 54.0 innings…earned utility spot on Baseball America’s High School All-America first team…his Elkins team was 30-1 and ranked No. 1 in the nation…was slated to attend Baylor had he not signed with Los Angeles.

Aug 17

Why James Loney might still have a future … somewhere

Casey Kotchman:

  • .280 on-base percentage, .336 slugging percentage, 71 OPS+ with Seattle in 2010.
  • .393 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage, 147 OPS+ with Tampa Bay in 2011.

The key: After being cut loose by the Mariners in November, Kotchman signed a 2011 contract with the Rays for $750,000.

Aug 16

August 16 game chat

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors provided the fun conversation topic of the day, suggesting that the Cubs might consider trading troubled starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano — and cash — for woebegone Dodger infielder Juan Uribe.

Of course, anytime Milton Bradley’s name comes up for comparison’s sake, many people will have strong feelings. Conversely, my initial response was to be intrigued by the possibility of Zambrano (.848 OPS this season) playing first base and batting sixth, but Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness weighed things a bit more carefully.

Elsewhere, Steve Dilbeck of the Times points out that the three leading National League Manager of the Year candidates — Arizona’s Kirk Gibson, Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke and Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel — are all ex-Dodgers.

Aug 15

August 15 game chat

As we wait for the third-place Los Angeles Dodgers to take the field …

  • Beating victim Brian Stow is making what his doctors say is “significant” improvement, according to The Associated Press, but his ultimate prognosis remains unclear.
  • Sweep or no sweep, Evan Bladh of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance is jealous of the Houston Astros for stockpiling prospects.
  • Matt Kemp guested on the Dan Patrick Show today – Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passes along the link. Kemp said that “of course” he wants to stay with the Dodgers.
  • In case you missed it Sunday, catch up with Tony Jackson’s warm piece on Dodger shortstop Justin Sellers at ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Kind of a fascinating story from Joshua Prager in the New York Times about former Dodger Ralph Branca discovering his heritage.
Aug 14

People who need people

A quick reminder of what’s at stake for Hiroki Kuroda in his bid to become the unluckiest starting pitcher in Los Angeles Dodger history (thanks to Baseball-Reference.com):

Losses in a season
Record:
18, by Claude Osteen (1968) and Don Sutton (1969)
Kuroda: 14

Lowest winning percentage in a season
Minimum 14 decisions:
Rick Honeycutt, .143 (2-12) in 1987
Minimum 15 decisions:
Hideo Nomo, .257 (4-11) in 2004
Minimum 22 decisions: Bill Singer, .273 (6-16) in 1972
Kuroda: .333 (7-14)

Lowest winning percentage with ERA below 3.00
Record:
Mike Morgan, .421 (8-11, 2.53 ERA)
Kuroda: .333 (7-14, 3.01 ERA)

Top ERA+ (adjusted ERA) with winning percentage of .333 or lower
Record:
Tom Candiotti, 109 (7-14, 3.50 ERA)
Kuroda: 122 (7-14, 3.01 ERA)

Aug 13

Kershaw CVIII: Kershawp in the Air

Put my little girl on a plane today with two grandparents and a cousin for her first real trip away from us. A week.

She’s about the same age I was, 8 going on 9, when I first went away to sleepaway camp, a journey that I greeted with almost equal parts excitement and anxiety. But from the moment this trip was first put on the table nearly a year ago, to the moment she hugged first my wife and then me goodbye around dawn today, this girl, who sometimes trembles over things you and I would laugh at, never had a single moment of trepidation. Not one.

She shrugged her shoulders for months when we asked if she were ready to go, then when the time came, gave us hugs with nothing but smiles.

I can remember the tears when I first said goodbye to my parents. I can also remember something similar the first time I had to go on a plane and leave my wife and then-newborn daughter behind. But my girl was only looking forward. I have to say, I really admire it.

But … four years, one month and nine days until she’s a teenager. Oh boy …

Aug 12

Sellers will start tonight after promotion

Justin Sellers has officially become the 46th member of the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers, replacing the disabled Dee Gordon. Sellers is making his major-league debut tonight.

Sellers, 25, has a .400 on-base percentage and .537 slugging percentage for Triple-A Albuquerque this season, after going ..371/.497 in 2010. His road OPS this season, however, is .668.

Elsewhere:

  • Chris Reed’s deal with the Dodgers was made official today, and he’ll be introduced to fans at the ballpark tonight. Here’s the newbie.
  • Former Dodger Mike Marshall (the second) and former Angel Tony Phillips brawled, and Steve Dilbeck of the Times has posted video.
  • Just when you least expect it, a Ronald Belisario update, from Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Good news on the health front from fellow baseball writer Dave Cameron, accompanied by the best Win Probability chart ever.
  • For any of you with kids or interested in a fun animated show, I’ll be moderating a panel on the Disney Channel series “Fish Hooks” on Saturday at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. That panel’s preceded by one on “Phineas and Ferb,” moderated by my former Variety colleague Michael Schneider.
Aug 10

August 10 game chat


Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesLike his fans, Dee Gordon winces in pain after this eighth-inning swing.

Dee Gordon is having an MRI on his right shoulder today, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Jackson also passes along word that the Dodgers believe they are close to signing first-round draft pick Chris Reed. The deadline is Monday.

Aug 09

Duke Snider Night


APDuke Snider

Tonight, the Dodgers honor Duke Snider, who passed away in February:

The Dodgers will celebrate the life and career of the late Hall of Famer Duke Snider with pregame ceremonies honoring the franchise’s all-time leading home run hitter and special presentations throughout the game. In addition, fans at the game will receive a Duke Snider bobblehead, presented by State Farm, and will be able to pose for photos with Snider’s Hall of Fame plaque (in Lot G Autograph Alley area from 5:10 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.), which is making a rare trip to Dodger Stadium from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York for the event.

Snider’s wife Bev, four children, Kevin, Kurt, Pam and Dawna, several grandchildren and other family members will all be at the game and will participate in the pregame ceremonies.

Also participating in the Kids Run onto the Field segment tonight will be Young Master Weisman. Running across the field in unpredictable directions was one of his favorite things to do at the end of coach-pitch practice, so it seems fitting. He’s excited.

Aug 08

The series that might have actually meant something

I have a little confession to make. Sunday afternoon, I was plotting the idea of making the Dodgers’ three-game series with Philadelphia that starts tonight into a mini-National League Championship Series showdown — in my mind.

Though I basically gave up hope for the Dodgers’ reaching the playoffs weeks and weeks ago, I was thinking that I might give the series with the Phillies some actual meaning. The rationale?

  • Los Angeles had won 10 of 15 games to eliminate exactly one-third of its 13 1/2-game deficit in the NL West.
  • With Clayton Kershaw on the mound against Arizona and San Francisco playing the Phillies, there was a decent chance that the Dodgers would close the divisional gap to eight games with eight weeks to go.
  • If the Dodgers won the series from the Phillies, that would most properly considered a fluke, but it would also, however temporarily and minimally, mark the Dodgers as a team looking for a glass slipper.

Sunday’s turnaround loss sapped much of my drive for my mini-NLCS frame of mind. I don’t think I’m going to be much more invested in this series than I was going to be before this flight of rather delusional fancy.

Knowing that the Dodgers actually could have stayed in the race does haunt me a little bit. One more week of winning combined with a week of losing by the division leaders, and the entire division would be thrown into doubt.  It really hammers home just how absolutely awful the Dodgers had to be this year to be considered out of the running for a division title with so many games to play.

* * *

ESPNLosAngeles.com has launched the ESPN Los Angeles Hall of Fame, with 20 initial nominees for five spots. Nominees could not be active, which explains why Vin Scully isn’t present.

I’d have been happy to vote for all 20, but forced to pick five, I went with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chick Hearn, Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax and John Wooden. Yes, I’m aware I did baseball a disservice in the process.

* * *

Yes, a $27 million loss does seem like a lot. My recollection is that losses were routine when Fox owned the team, but the company was large enough to withstand them to some extent (Piazza trade notwithstanding).

Aug 06

Rivera leads red-lukewarm Dodgers into not uninteresting game


Jake Roth/US PresswireJuan Rivera

Here’s a tip of the hat to Juan Rivera, who has performed above my expectations (but not above those of the guy who hounded me on Twitter last month saying he was a great pickup).

Rivera has a .359 on-base percentage and .416 slugging percentage in 64 plate appearances since coming to Los Angeles, which is superb by 2011 Dodger standards. He has effectively become an everyday player with starts in 17 of 20 games, counting tonight, when he makes his eighth start at first base.

The Dodgers begin play tonight 9 1/2 games behind San Francisco and Atlanta, their narrowest deficit since June 27. The same team that has enabled them to get over the double-digit hump, Philadelphia, will travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles to be the Dodgers’ opponent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while the Giants travel to Pittsburgh and the Diamondbacks to Houston. If that somehow doesn’t provide a reality check, it will mean that someone has gone into the garage to try to jump-start their Miracle Machine. In the meantime, we’ll see what youngun Nathan Eovaldi can do.

Aug 05

Zesty pregame souffle

If Dodger fans ever sue the McCourts, they could do worse than Sally Jensen for representation. Unless Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer is available …

Elsewhere:

  • Trayvon Robinson is in fact making his major-league debut tonight in Southern California, suiting up for Seattle against the Angels. “These are probably the best four days of my life,” Robinson told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. (In case you missed it, be sure to read Christopher Jackson’s Wednesday feature on Robinson for Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.)
  • More from the In Case You Missed It Files: “Clayton Kershaw: The stuff of legend?” by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Stephen Colbert took over the MLB Twitter feed today.  Sample: “Go Tiburones de la Guaira! Oh, do you guys not follow the Venezuelan league? Sorry, I thought I was tweeting to real fans.”
  • Tony Phillips is still playing pro ball at age 52, believe it or not, notes Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs.
  • Mark Heisler, the longtime NBA writer for the Times who was laid off after 32 years, sent a farewell piece to Poynter.
  • Reporter on the Television Critics Assn. press tour to Zooey Deschanel today: “When did you first know you were adorable?” It wasn’t my question, but I understood it.