Sep 19

In your face with the pennant race chase

The Dodgers are out of the pennant race, but that doesn’t mean this pennant race isn’t worth paying attention to. Three teams are within one game of first place in the National League West, with Atlanta only two games ahead in the NL wild card race. Throw in Philadelphia, whose three game lead in the NL East will be tested by playing its next three games after today and its last three games of the year with the Braves, and we’ve got a bounce house of a final two weeks.

         
  Colorado San Diego San Francisco Atlanta Philadelphia
  82-66 83-65 83-66 85-64 88-61
Today at L.A. at St. Louis Milwuakee at N.Y. Washington
Monday off off off at Philadelphia Atlanta
Tuesday at Arizona at L.A. at Chicago at Philadelphia Atlanta
Wednesday at Arizona at L.A. at Chicago at Philadelphia Atlanta
Thursday at Arizona at L.A. at Chicago off off
Friday S.F. Cincinnati at Colorado at Washington N.Y.
Saturday S.F. Cincinnati at Colorado at Washington N.Y.
Sept. 26 S.F. Cincinnati at Colorado at Washington N.Y.
Sept. 27 L.A. Chicago off Florida at Washington
Sept. 28 L.A. Chicago Arizona Florida at Washington
Sept. 29 L.A. Chicago Arizona Florida at Washington
Sept. 30 at St. Louis Chicago Arizona off off
Oct. 1 at St. Louis at S.F. S.D. Philadelphia at Atlanta
Oct. 2 at St. Louis at S.F. S.D. Philadelphia at Atlanta
Oct. 3 at St. Louis at S.F. S.D. Philadelphia at Atlanta
Aug 20

The NL West leaders filled out their rotation from within, after all

Carlos Monasterios takes the hill tonight, a reminder of how much people lamented the Dodgers’ lack of a reliable No. 5 starter earlier this year.

This came up in the Dodger Thoughts comments on Thursday, and I think it’s worth pointing out that while the Dodgers had mixed success finishing off their starting rotation from inside the organization, it wasn’t as if the strategy itself was a failure. It worked quite well down south for the National League West-leading San Diego Padres.

In fact, the Padres’ rotation was even more of a longshot. Back in March, Mat Latos was a guy with 10 career starts and a 4.62 ERA, Wade LeBlanc had 13 career games with 5.05 ERA and Clayton Richard 51 games with 4.80 ERA. Yet all three of these guys came through huge, joining Kevin Correia and free agent signee Jon Garland in making 118 of the Padres’ 120 starts so far this season.

Some will argue that the Dodgers should have done things differently, or that the Padres had more reason to believe that their guys would do better than Monasterios, John Ely, James McDonald, Scott Elbert and ex-Padre Charlie Haeger. But the fact remains that very few teams enter a season with five established starting pitchers. By necessity, the Padres cobbled together a rotation largely from within, with a mixed bag of resumes, and it paid off handsomely.

Basically, things have just gone very right for San Diego this year.

* * *

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has this update on the man in the crosshairs, Matt Kemp:

Slumping center fielder Matt Kemp took about a half-hour of early batting practice on the field just before the rest of the team came out for pregame stretching. The only coach on hand to watch Kemp was the one who was pitching to him, hitting coach Don Mattingly, who offered occasional batting tips between pitches.

“For the most part, we were just working to get his posture back,” Mattingly said. “His butt was jutting out, so he was reaching for a lot of balls. I was trying to get him to keep his butt underneath him, in layman’s terms, to give him more of a direct path to the ball.”

And, in theory, prevent him from chasing so many low, outside breaking balls, a habit that had contributed greatly to Kemp’s recent struggles. He entered the day hitting .218 for August, with 16 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances, and he had struck out 128 times in 510 plate appearances (once every four trips to the plate) for the season.

After his one-on-one session with Mattingly, Kemp went 0-for-4 in the game. But that wasn’t as important as the fact that he didn’t strike out, and two of his three outs (he reached on an error in the eighth) came on balls that were squared up.

“He was a lot better,” Mattingly said. “I was really happy with him tonight. Hopefully, he felt better. He didn’t get any results, and that [stinks], but his swing was much better.”

* * *

  • From the Dodger press notes: Los Angeles has won 12 straight home games against Cincinnati since losing July 28, 2005.
  • Albuquerque has eight players with at least 10 home runs this year, according to the team press notes: John Lindsey (21), Jay Gibbons (19), Russ Mitchell (19), Xavier Paul (12), Lucas May (11), Prentice Redman (10), Michael Restovich (10), and Justin Sellers (10).
  • Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine still can’t quite believe that the McCourts aren’t settling.
  • The possibilities and hurdles of trading Manny Ramirez are broken down (from the perspective of whether the Texas Rangers might get him) by Jamey Newberg of MLB.com. Ignore the part about the Dodgers offering Ramirez arbitration — that won’t happen.
  • These Bat Slicers remind me of the round All-Star Baseball cards I played with in the 1970s.
Aug 12

Pat Burrell signing boosted Giants’ playoff chances


AP PhotoBrooklyn Dodgers outfielder Gene Hermanski, shown in April 1948, has passed away. Hermanski was one of Jackie Robinson’s original supporters and had a .385 on-base percentage in 506 games with the Dodgers.

Before Scott Podsednik and Jay Gibbons dotted the Dodgers’ major-league shores, the Giants picked up left fielder Pat Burrell from the scrap heap. All Burrell has done is provide a .905 OPS in 179 plate appearances (almost as many as Manny Ramirez has had with the Dodgers in 2010). On July 31, he hit a game-winning eighth-inning homer against the Dodgers, and Wednesday he repeated the feat against the Cubs.

He’s almost been like 2006 Marlon Anderson and 2009 Ronnie Belliard combined. Joe Pawlikowski of Fangraphs has more about Burrell’s turnabout.

Other notes while we wait for the daily Dodger starting lineup storm front to settle in …

  • Farewell, Gene Hermanski. A great name from the Dodgers’ past in Brooklyn, Hermanski passed away at the age of 90 according to New York Baseball History Examiner (link via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • The Dodgers will honor photography genius Jon SooHoo for 25 years of service in a pregame ceremony September 3, according to Inside the Dodgers, which also notes that SooHoo was Randy Johnson’s photography mentor while the two were at the Daily Trojan.
  • From the Dodger press notes: “After some crack research by MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and the Dodgers’ PR staff, it has been determined that (Juan) Castro is the only player in franchise history to serve three separate stints in the organization after departing and playing for another Major League team each time. Several players logged three different stints with the club, but remained in the organization. In the case of pitcher Giovanni Carrera (2001-02, 2004-05, 2006), he never made the big leagues after leaving the club in 2005 or prior to returning midway through 2006.”
  • Also via the press notes:

    Four Dodgers drew mention in Baseball America’s annual Best Tools issue. Major League managers voted Rafael Furcal as having the National League’s best infield arm and as the third-best bunter, Clayton Kershaw as having the Senior Circuit’s No. 3 pickoff move and Jonathan Broxton as the third-best reliever. In the minor league section, Kenley Jansen was also picked as the best reliever in the Southern League after dominating the circuit with a 4-0 record with eight saves and a 1.67 ERA in 22 games with Double-A Chattanooga.

    Several Dodger prospects earned mentions as well, as Ivan DeJesus was voted as the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s best defensive second baseman; Dee Gordon drew praise as the best baserunner, fastest baserunner and most exciting player in the Double-A Southern League; Matt Wallach was selected as the best defensive catcher and Pedro Baez was voted as having the best defensive arm in the Single-A California League; and though both have since been promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, Jerry Sands was named the best power-hitting prospect and best defensive first baseman and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa was praised for having the Single-A Midwest League’s best fastball.”

Jul 25

Dan Haren takes Angels’ flight out of NL West

Debate on the Dan Haren-to-the-Angels trade seems mainly to mainly not whether the Angels won this trade, but by how much.

  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law doesn’t think much of the Joe Saunders-plus-minor leaguers package.
  • Zach Sanders of Fangraphs notes that even if the deal doesn’t help the Angels rally to make the playoffs this year, it puts them in better position to bounce back next year.
  • Matthew Carruth of Fangraphs sat “for an hour and still cannot even come close to justifying this. … The Diamondbacks just acted like Dan Haren was Scott Kazmir.”
  • Echoes Joe Sheehan for SI.com: “If there’s a model for how not to handle the trade of a high-priced, high-value player, this is it.”
  • Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com plays devil’s advocate for a brief moment to present the risk for the Angels – that Haren is declining (and overpaid) as his 4.60 ERA this season would suggest.
  • Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk points out that the deal might hinge on a player to be named later, but that player is not Mike Trout, the Angels’ top prospect.
  • Haren himself is excited, even if he’ll miss Arizona, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

Should the Dodgers have swooped in? For this price, maybe. I haven’t thought much of Haren’s performance this season, but it’s not as if Arizona overcharged for him – although, as others have pointed out, the Diamondbacks might have charged more from a division rival than they did from the Angels.

* * *

And in other news …

  • Callups to come? John Ely pitched a seven-inning complete game, allowing two runs on seven baserunners while striking out five, and Jay Gibbons went 4 for 4 in Albuquerque’s 14-2 victory over Nashville.
  • From the postgame press notes: “Carlos Monasterios was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache after being struck in the right side of the head by a foul ball off the bat of Carlos Beltran in the fourth inning. He never lost consciousness and did not appear to have a concussion.”
  • Here’s a great profile on Dodger Stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley from Dodgerfan.net.
  • The new LACMA exhibition, “Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins,” is reviewed by Christopher Knight of the Times.
  • Former “Happy Days” star Anson Williams sang God Bless America today like he thought he left the oven on at home. Kudos for not milking it.
Jul 15

Gird your loins, NL Westerners … gird your loins

ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer rounded up a series of team-by-team second-half previews for the National League. I contributed one, but it’s probably more interesting to read the others from the National League West and see that each of the teams has something to worry about.

Also, Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness gives his first-half grades to the Dodgers.

* * *

For those of you who didn’t enjoy watching LeBronarama, aka “The Decision,” you might enjoy this.

Jul 01

Who’s got two thumbs, a famous limp around the bases and now manages the Arizona Diamondbacks?


Mike Powell/Getty ImagesThis guy

Friday in Arizona, the Dodgers will meet their (history) maker.

Kirk Gibson has been named interim manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, replacing the man from my alma mater, A.J. Hinch, who lasted only 212 games before getting the axe, the axe, the axe.

The guy who hired Hinch was fired as well. Josh Byrnes was replaced as general manager of Arizona on an interim basis by Jerry Dipoto.

Stories galore inside of the next 24 hours: Ex-Dodger Edwin Jackson goes for his second no-no in a row, ex-Dodger Gibson goes for his first managerial win, and we wonder if Logan White or Kim Ng might become ex-Dodger executives before next season.

Jun 25

Flashback to 2004: ‘Yankees Suck’ is a figure of speech

The last time the Yankees came to Dodger Stadium, six flip-floppin’ years ago, I had one child (with another on the way), a job at LACMA, and under two years of baseball blogging under my belt. I had recently joined up with All-Baseball.com, a precursor of sorts to Baseball Toaster, and we picked the final of the three Dodger-Yankee games to do the Rashomon project, in which a bunch of us covered the game from different angles.

Here’s my piece: “‘Yankees Suck’ is a figure of speech”

Continue reading

Jun 25

How Reggie Jackson might have led the Dodgers over the Yankees in the World Series


AP
Reggie Jackson played in five consecutive All-Star Games from 1971-75 and 14 in his career.

In 1973, Reggie Jackson won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. In 1974, he finished fourth in the voting (in a year he had a .391 on-base percentage, .514 slugging percentage and a league high 20 intentional walks and 166 adjusted OPS).

In 1975, two years before he would begin tormenting Los Angeles in consecutive World Series, Reggie Jackson almost became a Dodger.

That’s the tale that comes out of Dayn Perry’s new book, “Reggie Jackson.” In the winter before the ’75 season, the future Yankee by way of Baltimore first tried to engineer a deal to Los Angeles.

… Finley presented Reggie with a contract for 1975 that would pay him precisely what he made in 1974. Reggie told the media that his contract offer was “too depressing” to discuss.

He called Finley and asked to be traded. “If I can sell yhou for two million dollars,” Finley said, “I might not give you some of the money, but I’d at least send you a box of candy.”

Reggie, stunned that Finley might trade him, went to Hawaii to fulfill his duties as host of the “Team Superstars” television show. There he met with Dodgers executive Al Campanis. Reggie told him he could be a Dodger if they met Finley’s asking price of $2 million. Campanis said it was a posssibility. Reggie then phoned Finley and told him the Dodgers were interested. “I can’t play money,” the owner said. “He explained to Reggie that unless he received a king’s ransom in talent, he couldn’t trade his best player and still manage to sell tickets. Parting with one of baseball’s biggest tars in a cash grab simply wouldn’t play with the fans. Reggie knew that, but he also knew what Finley had told him earlier. Reggie called him a liar and hung up. …

Then the story that Reggie had attempted to engineer a trade to the Dodgers made the rounds in the Oakland press. Finley confirmed the rumor and said that he’d been shocked by Reggie’s actions. He didn’t mention that he had given Reggie permission to seek out a deal, and he didn’t mention that he had discussed trading Reggie to the Philllies, Indians, Yankees, and Orioles, among other teams. When Reggie learned of Finley’s lies, he called the Oakland beat writers and told them that Finley was willing to sell him for $2 million. They went back and confronted Finley with Reggie’s version of events. He laughed it off. “The Oakland fans would run me out on a rail,” Finley said.

Shortly thereafter, Finley defeated Reggie in their arbitration hearing in Los Angeles. Reggie had oped to make $200,000 for 1975, but the arbitrator chose Finley’s figure of $140,000. Freshly embittered, Reggie went back to Arizona for Spring Training.

Having not come up with the ability to complete the trade, the Dodgers went with Willie Crawford in right field in 1975, then acquired Reggie Smith in place of Joe Ferguson and others in June 1976.

In 1975, Jackson’s final season with Oakland, he led the league with 36 home runs, in what was otherwise an off year for him. He left as a free agent, while Finley would later run afoul of baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn by trying to sell other star players like Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue.

Two seasons later, Jackson was a Yankee, and you know what happened next. Seven home runs in the 1977-78 World Series, three in one game, along with one stray hip.

But the Dodgers did have that one moment of pure wonderfulness against Jackson. Here’s how I described it in “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die”:

Perhaps even more than the pitch, people remember the reaction: Reggie Jackson detorquing himself from a swing that almost corkscrewed him into the ground, grabbing his bat high on the barrel and violently thundering a furious curse.

David slew Goliath. Jack brought down the Giant. And Bob Welch, all 21 babyfaced years of him, struck out the Bronx Bomber on a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning to save Game 2 of the 1978 World Series and bring on a deafening roar at Dodger Stadium.

The day the Series opened, rumors were spreading that fireballing Dodger rookie Welch had an arm problem. Nonsense, insisted Tommy Lasorda. “Bob had a soreness in his side, down along his rib cage,” he told Scott Ostler of the Los Angeles Times. “Our trainer said he’s fine.”

AP
Steve Yeager raises his fist after Bob Welch strikes out Reggie Jackson with two runners on base to end Game 2 of the ’78 Series.

Apparently. Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth, the Dodgers sent out Terry Forster for his third inning of work. Yankee playoff hero Bucky Dent opened the inning with a single to left field and moved to second on a groundout. A walk to Paul Blair put the go-ahead run on base, signaling that Forster had passed his expiration date.

Lasorda’s do-or-die replacement had 24 career appearances, 11 in relief. The two batters he needed to get out, Thurman Munson and Jackson, had 465 career home runs – three of them hit by Jackson in the last game of the previous year’s World Series. Dodger fans at the stadium and across the country waited for the roof to cave in.

Welch fed a strike in against Munson, who hit a sinking drive to right field that Reggie Smith caught at his knees.

It was Jackson time. This wasn’t just any slugger. This was the enemy personified, a man, though well-liked in his later years, considered perhaps the most egotistical, vilifiable ballplayer in the game.

Welch began by inducing Jackson to overswing and miss. With Drysdalesque flair, he then sent in a high, tight fastball that sent Jackson spinning into the dirt.

Jackson later told Earl Gustkey of the Times that he was expecting Welch to mix in some of his good offspeed pitches, but instead came three fastballs, each of which were fouled off. Then there was a waste fastball high and outside to even the count at 2-2.

After another foul ball, another high and outside fastball brought a full count. The runners would be moving. Short of another foul, this would be it.

As everyone inhaled, in came the heat. Amped up, Jackson swung for the fences – not the Dodger Stadium fences, but the fences all the way back in New York.

Only after Jackson missed the ball and nearly wrapped the bat around himself like a golf club, only through Jackson’s rage, could Dodger fans begin to comprehend what happened.

Jackson carried his fury into the dugout and clubhouse with him, pushing first a fan on his way to the dugout and then Yankee manager Bob Lemon once inside.

The only thing that could have made the event better for Dodger fans would have been for them to have had longer to enjoy it. The Dodgers didn’t win the World Series that year; they didn’t win another game. Welch himself was the losing pitcher in Game 4, allowing a two-out, 10th-inning run in his third inning of work, and gave up a homer to Jackson in Game 6. But for a moment, the Dodgers and their fans enjoyed one of the most triumphant and exhilarating victories over the Yankees ever imaginable.

If, after revisiting those World Series memories, the thought of Reggie Jackson as a Dodger is still unimaginable, consider the event that took place hours before the Welch-Jackson strikeout. Here’s an excerpt from my chapter on Jim Gilliam, the longtime Dodger who is the only member of the organization to have his number retired without reaching baseball’s Hall of Fame:

On the afternoon of October 11, with Game 2’s first pitch hours away, baseball paused and gathered at Trinity Baptist Church to pay their respects – 2,000 strong – at Gilliam’s funeral. A memorable photo from that day shows Dodger tormentor Reggie Jackson of the Yankees standing solemnly between Lopes and Tommy Lasorda. All three delivered eulogies.

Jun 21

Yankee standout Phil Hughes held out of Dodger series

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
The Yankees have won 11 of Phil Hughes’ 13 starts this season.

This one’s interesting on two levels. As Ben Shpigel of the New York Times reports, Phil Hughes won’t make his scheduled start Friday at Dodger Stadium.

Level one: The Dodgers avoid facing Hughes, who has a 3.17 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings (against 93 baserunners). Opponents have a .610 OPS against Hughes this year.

Level two: Hughes isn’t hurt. New York is resting the righthander, who turns 24 Thursday, in order to limit his innings this season. Hughes has averaged 6 1/3 innings (and 105 pitches) per start, and he’s on pace to throw 193 innings this year. Last year, pitching more in relief, Hughes only threw 86 innings in the majors along with 19 1/3 in the minors.

Hughes grew up in Southern California and, after missing the Yankees’ April series in Anaheim by the luck of the rotation draw, will miss another opportunity to pitch in front of family and friends.

The Yankees might be the best team in baseball but don’t have a playoff spot locked up by any means, so it’s interesting to see them exercise this caution.

Update: Oh, almost forgot to mention whom the Dodgers will face this weekend. According to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com, three nobodies: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and A.E. Pettitte.

“It’s definitely a disappointment,” Hughes told Matthews. “And there’s really not talking them out of it. It’s an organizational decision and that’s that. I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of when they were going to do it.”

* * *

Yet another reason for San Diego’s success this year: The Padres bullpen has allowed only 10 inherited runners to score all season, according to Stat of the Day. By comparison, George Sherrill by himself has allowed 15, and Ramon Troncoso 13.

Jun 15

Dodgers in the thick of a real pennant race

As this day breaks, the Dodgers find themselves one of three National League West teams within a half-game of the best record in the NL, all of them on pace to win at least 92 games. And Colorado, potentially the best of them all, lurks only three games behind the Dodgers.

That’s quite a pennant race to look forward to. Arguably, the best team in the NL might not be as good on paper as the third- or even fourth-best team in the American League East. But with the fourth-best team in the NBA Eastern Conference putting the hopes of our favored hometown Lakers squad in jeopardy, this seems the wrong week to be dismissive.

Jun 02

The 28-out perfect game

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game with two out in the ninth inning tonight because of a blown call at first base. Alex Belth’s reaction at Bronx Banter suits me perfectly.

Cabrera raised his arms as soon as he threw the ball and the runner was out. But Jim Joyce called him safe. He blew the call. Right in front of him. Blew it. Trevor Crowe grounded out for the 28th and final out.

I felt sick to my stomach watching it on TV. It was like getting kicked in the gut or lower. The fans in Detroit booed. It seemed like half of the Tigers team had to be restrained from jumping Joyce whose professional life may never be the same after one blown call. From what little I know about umpires, they take their mistakes to heart, so I can only assume this is the worst night of Jim Joyce’s life (and I feel for him as I imagine nobody feels worse about this than he does).

After the game, Joyce told reporters, “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

Joyce’s mistake surely spoiled the best night of Galarraga’s life, but instead of letting this sickening feeling overshadow Galarraga’s brilliance, let’s just flip it—this was a wonderful feat. Joyce’s mistake only allowed Galarraga to accomplish something even more unique than a perfect game. A 28-out perfecto.

No matter what the record books say, this was perfection by Galarraga, plus one. An untimely mistake by Jim Joyce can’t spoil what we all saw and know to be true.

At the Hardball Times, Josh Fisher is part of the Million Fan March calling for expansion of instant replay in baseball.

Update: Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk looks at the pros and cons of Bud Selig overturning Joyce’s call and retroactively making the perfect game official.

May 21

Dodgers face a Detroit medley


Christine Cotter/AP
Miguel Cabrera is slugging at a career-best .603 rate.

It’s always a test when the Dodgers face an American League team. That won’t change tonight, though it’s an uneven Detroit Tigers team the Dodgers will face.

Five members of the Detroit offense are hitting the ball very hard. Miguel Cabrera (1.030 OPS/175 OPS+) is moidering the ball, while Brennan Boesch (.987/161), Magglio Ordonez (.878/137), Johnny Damon (.840/127), and Austin Jackson (.825/122) are no slouches. Carlos Guillen (.834/125) is on the disabled list.

The Tiger offense is weak at catcher (Gerald Laird/Alex Avila), third base (Brandon Inge), shortstop (Adam Everett/Ramon Santiago) and second base (starter Scott Sizemore was demoted to the minors last weekend). Because its outfielder/first base/DH types don’t play those other positions, it looks as though the Tigers are stuck with four great bats and four lesser ones when they take the field tonight.

Rain on Monday pushed Tigers ace Justin Verlander’s most recent start ahead a day and his next one to next week, meaning the Dodgers will avoid him. Verlander has been the only above-average pitcher in the Tiger starting rotation this season. Tonight, the Dodgers get the enigmatic Dontrelle Willis (4.68 ERA), who pitched six shutout innings against Minnesota April 29 but has allowed seven runs in his past 8 2/3 innings (over two starts).

Detroit has won seven of its past 10, while the Dodgers have won 10 of their past 11.

* * *

  • Introducing Jamie Enterprises (via 6-4-2). I have to apologize but I had a laugh when I got to the part in her bio about her being “an avid swimmer.” Indeed.
  • At Dodger Divorce, Josh Fisher outlines the concern that I had before the McCourts bought the Dodgers. “Anyone Else” is not always the better option.
  • The “In Beard We Trust” T-shirts from The Left Field Pavilion are becoming a phenomenon.
  • The Dodgers released Josh Towers from Albuquerque and moved Seth Etherton into the Isotopes starting rotation, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Trying to make a comeback into the big leagues, Towers had an 8.05 ERA.
  • Blue Heaven passes along the news that Dotttie Kamenshek, the inspiration for Geena Davis’ character in “A League of Their Own,” passed away this week.

Update: Joe Sheehan writes for SI.com on how interleague play affects the National League West: “The Dodgers’ interleague schedule is brutal. As always they play the Angels twice, plus they see the Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers. Only the last-place Diamondbacks also get the Red Sox and Yankees. The Padres and Giants get both the Jays and Orioles, while playing just one of the top three AL East teams each. That’s a huge schedule edge, especially for the Padres, who get six games against the Mariners to boot.”

May 14

The San Diego Padres: Juggernaut or jugger-not?


Andy Hayt/Getty Images
Jon Garland and the Padres are out to prove they’re the real deal.

And moving now to the Nobody Knows Anything portion of the show, let us turn to the San Diego Padres.

A popular pick to finish last in everything in 2010 but trade deadline rumors, San Diego is a National League-best 22-12, with a 3 1/2-game lead over San Francisco and five games ahead than the Dodgers. And that’s even with their best-known player (their only known player?), Adrian Gonzalez, having what’s for him a subpar season. Gonzalez’s .836 OPS this season (.319 EQA per Baseball Prospectus) barely puts him ahead of his Los Angeles counterpart James Loney’s .826 (.306).

But Gonzalez is so far a footnote to the Padres’ Cinderfella story, which has been written by their incredible pitching.  Petco Park provides a boost to almost any hurler, but that doesn’t entirely account for a San Diego team ERA that currently sits at 2.67. The home ERA is 2.13, but the road ERA is still a pretty nifty 3.16. And all this in the Padres’ first full season without Jake Peavy in years.

Jon Garland, who has gotten the most attention in these parts because of his erstwhile Dodger status, brings a 1.71 ERA to tonight’s start against the Dodgers despite having nearly as many walks (21) as strikeouts (25) in 42 innings over seven starts.  Garland exemplifies the uncertainty that surrounds the Padres – can he stay this good? Signs, including a seemingly luck-filled batting average allowed on balls in play of .225, point to no. On the other hand, early indications (underscore “early”) are that the Padres have one of the best team defenses in baseball, according to Fangraphs. So if that holds up, that could help sustain pitchers like Garland.

Meanwhile, the Padre pitching success hardly stops with Garland; there’s also 29-year-old Kevin Correia (3.97), 26-year-old Clayton Richard (3.21), 25-year-old Wade LeBlanc (1.61!) and 22-year-old Mat Latos (3.32). Latos came within an infield single of a perfect game Thursday as San Diego completed its road sweep of San Francisco – and in his past two starts, Latos has faced 54 batters and retired 51, giving up three singles and walking none. According to Stat of the Day, he is just the fifth pitcher since 1952 to have consecutive starts of no more than two hits allowed with no walks.

Thursday’s 1-0 victory was the Padres’ eighth shutout of the year. In their past 13 games, San Diego has held its opponent below three runs 10 times. As for the bullpen, opponents have a .580 OPS against it in 434 plate appearances. With few exceptions, the Padre offense certainly hasn’t been anything impressive (again, even accounting for park effects). So far, that hasn’t mattered.

In a sense, the Padres are like one big bowl of John Ely – dazzling at the outset but still leaving open questions about whether they can sustain it for the long haul. Most feel the Padres are a fluke, but for now it’s been left up to the Dodgers to begin to prove that. The high-powered Dodger offense and suspect pitching (at least in tonight’s starting relief pitcher, Ramon Ortiz), playing in a park that hasn’t always been kind to Los Angeles even in the best of years, have much more of a challenge this weekend than anyone would have thought a month ago.

* * *

  • The Times’ version of Casey Blake/Blake DeWitt – Kevin Baxter and Baxter Holmes – feature Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Angel pitching coach Mike Butcher in answering the question, “What does a pitching coach do?”
  • Elymania? Michael Becker of the Press-Enterprise has a fun profile of May flower John Ely. And yes, Andre Ethier has now heard of him.
  • Hot-hitting Great Lakes prospect Jerry Sands is analyzed by Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright are in early talks to join Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in “Moneyball,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety.
  • Watch what can be done with a whimsical photo of Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan (at Lookout Landing). I can’t tell you how many different times I laughed.
May 12

Arizona’s acquisition of Edwin Jackson hasn’t paid off as hoped


Roy Dabner/AP
Has it really been almost seven years since Edwin Jackson’s thrilling debut against Arizona?

While the Dodgers were getting worked over by the press for not adding a premium starting pitcher during the 2009-10 offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks were boldly going out to get 2009 American League All-Star Edwin Jackson (who starts tonight against the Los Angeles) for their rotation — trading, among others, one-time prized prospect Max Scherzer. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

My early reaction to the news that the Arizona Diamondbacks had traded away Max Scherzer was, “The Dodgers have the McCourts. What’s Arizona’s excuse?”

From what I could tell, almost all the thoughts about Tuesday’s trade, a three-way endeavor that included Arizona sending Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to Detroit in exchange for the Tigers’ Edwin Jackson and the Yankees’ Ian Kennedy, matched mine. Why was Arizona giving up a lower-paid pitcher with a higher ceiling?

I know I’m not alone among Dodger fans in retaining a soft spot for former boy in blue Jackson, who had his best season last year and is still only 26. But I’ve been hearing for quite some time splendiferous things about Scherzer, who is 25, struck out more than a batter an inning in 2009 with an adjusted ERA of 111 (4.12 ERA) and will make millions less than Jackson in 2010.

If the Dodgers had made this kind of trade — a prized young pitcher sent away for short-term gain — anger would have blasted through the roof and finger-pointing would have zoomed through the hole in the roof that anger had created. It would have been an ugly day, at least on this website. Even though the Dodgers would be taking on more salary for 2010, the trade would have been seen as a short-sighted mortgaging of the future, another sign of a crumbling empire. (A similar scenario: Imagine the Edwin Jackson for Lance Carter-Danys Baez trade happening now.)

Yes, some would have defended the trade, just as some are pointing out that Scherzer might not have the build or mechanics to truly blossom as a starter, or that Kennedy still has rotation potential, or that Jackson should do even better in migrating back to the National League. But considering how negative the overall reaction is toward Arizona making this move, you can only imagine, in the context of the Dodgers’ current dysfunction, how harsh things would have been if Los Angeles had done it. …

So how has it all worked out?  As you might expect, not as expected.

Scherzer has a 6.81 ERA in seven starts for Detroit — and that’s lower than Jackson’s 7.32 mark for Arizona. However, Kennedy, the lesser of the starting pitchers to come in the trade, has a 3.48 ERA despite allowing a National League-high eight home runs. (Among others involved in the trade, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson have also done well for Detroit, while Schlereth is in the minors.  Curtis Granderson is mired in a lousy year, making the Yankees the big loser in the deal to date.)

In September 2003, Jackson made his major-league debut on his 20th birthday against Randy Johnson and won, on a night dimensionally more thrilling than John Ely’s besting of Dan Haren Tuesday. Tonight on the same field, he’ll be trying again to recapture those good vibes, while the Dodgers, who were held to two runs over six innings the only other time they have faced him (while he had a 7.85 ERA with Tampa Bay at the time), will try again to avoid looking bad for ever letting Jackson go in the first place.

* * *

Two notes from Stat of the Day: 2009 Dodger Will Ohman, who spent most of the year on the disabled list, has a 0.00 ERA after 11 innings with Baltimore (allowing four of 13 inherited runners to score), and No. 8 hitters for the Giants have an Andre Ethier-like 1.194 OPS this season, led by Nate Schierholtz.

* * *

Joined by my colleague Stuart Levine, I’m doing another live chat about all things TV today for Variety at 2:30 p.m. As of this moment, you can click the link and start sending your questions …