Mar 19

Matt Kemp: Nickname in a twist

Killing time before the Dodgers begin four games in 48 hours (tonight, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon) …

As I’m compelled to pass along anything relating to Matt Kemp’s “Bison” nickname, here’s the video (posted Thursday by my ESPNLosAngeles.com cohorts at Land o’ Lakers) of an ESPY promo spot features some new in-depth talk about the moniker, about a minute in.

And … just for old times’ sake, here’s a link to Kemp’s March 2008 appearance on “Hardball Made Easy with Ron Stilanovich.”

Mar 19

Vin Scully in good condition after fall

Those of you who went to bed at a proper hour avoided a scare late Thursday: Vin Scully was hospitalized after a fall at his home. Word came relatively quickly, however, that it was not serious, though he was hospitalized as a precaution.

Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Vin Scully

The news is still unnerving for obvious reasons, and recalls the passing of legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn – unbelievably, more than seven years ago –  being precipitated by a couple of falls. Scully said in a statement that he is still planning to broadcast his first game of the year Sunday from Camelback Ranch.

“I just spoke with him,” Dodger vice president of communications Josh Rawitch added at 11:30 p.m. last night, “and he told me that he was in bed this evening and simply got up too quickly and fell and bumped his head. For precautionary reasons, he went to the hospital and will stay overnight for observation but he fully expects to be at Camelback Ranch this weekend for the the telecast on Sunday.”

Vin: Just don’t rush it if you need the rest.

P.S. Assuming all is okay, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News is hosting a Q&A with Scully, for which you can e-mail your questions now.

Mar 14

Age is just a number … that tells you how old you are

It wasn’t just Garret Anderson making his 2010 debut today.

This morning, I played my first game of softball in more than a year, and had a great time despite the realization that my Strat-o-Matic card has gone from a CF 1e2 (+2) to a CF 3e6 (+3). And don’t even ask about my baserunning rating.

I could really feel the passage of time, both in the physical limitations and the instinctive ones. Things normally intuitive – the way I’d close in on a ball, for example – I had to think about. And considering that almost all my exercise is fingers on a keyboard, it was inevitable that I would tweak something. Sure enough, the first time I raced for a ball to my left, I got a twinge in my right rear bumper, so I was towing that leg the rest of the game.

With more frequent play, I’d get a second wind, but infrequency is my sandlot in life.

Nevertheless, I went 2-for-6 with three hard-hit outs and made a few solid plays. And it was a great day to be out on the grass again.

* * *

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming …

  • In the past 10 innings of Dodger baseball, I’ve had the unexpected TV pleasure of seeing prospects Trayvon Robinson and Brian Cavazos-Galvez hit towering homers. Oh, and Matt Kemp too.
  • Perhaps the top rising pitching prospect in the Dodger minor-league system, Chris Withrow, played his first Spring Training game with the big club today and struck out all three batters he faced. Details from Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A.
  • An error in the field and a pickoff on the bases today might have slowed the Blake DeWitt Starting Lineup Express just a tad, but even if it arrives, Dodger manager Joe Torre indicated he’s still inclined to give both Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll some starts, according to this Ken Gurinck story at MLB.com. “Again, if it happens to be DeWitt, we’ll certainly make sure that Carroll and Belliard have to be part of the equation somewhat,” Torre said.
  • Dodger assistant general manager and director of player development De Jon Watson talked about Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and Dee Gordon with David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus.
  • To his credit, Dodger postgame radio host Ken Levine talked openly about a TV broadcast gone awry last week.
  • Don’t forget to join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness pool. Password is “Kershaw.”
Mar 14

Dodgers flying high (and flying home) after 11-1 victory in Taiwan

With a latenight freelance assignment to work on and a link to an online feed from Taiwan, I was primed to watch my first full Dodger game of the year. And would that they could all be this much fun in 2010 …

With Manny Ramirez, James Loney and prodigal son Chin-Lung Hu each getting three hits, the Dodger Globetrotters routed the Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars, 11-1.

The 22-year-old Trayvon Robinson scored three runs, the third on a towering ninth-inning homer to dead center field. Xavier Paul and Michael Restovich had two hits, and Lucas May and Angel Berroa each had booming doubles.

Jamey Carroll went 0 for 5, but more relevantly played error-free ball at shortstop and was the middleman on a 3-6-3 double play with Loney.

Josh Towers allowed one run over three innings, and was followed by Josh Lindblom, whose three shutout innings were highlighted by the best Spring Training curveball for strike three I’ve seen since Clayton Kershaw’s Public Enemy No. 1.

We also got a glimpse of converted catcher Kenley Jansen on the mound; Jansen struck out one in a perfect eighth inning. Jon Link gave up two hits but closed out the game in the ninth, striking out two.

Happy trails, Taiwan …

Update (from The Associated Press): “Four players were sent down after the game in the Dodgers’ first cuts of the spring. Non-roster players Brian Barton, Francisco Felix and Gabriel Gutierrez were reassigned to minor league camp. Pitcher Kenley Jansen was optioned from the major league roster.”

Mar 13

Bullet train bullet points

Between the last game and the next, here are some notes …

  • Josh Rawitch is writing about snakes on a bullet train at Inside the Dodgers.
  • It’s looking mighty sketchy for Eric Gagne. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has an update.
  • While allowing five baserunners in three scoreless innings, Chad Billingsley got some work in on his developing changeup, notes Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • The Dodgers’ goodwill  mission couldn’t be better timed considering the current baseball crisis in Taiwan, writes Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports.
  • See Dodger ticket prices go from the sublime to the ridiculous, courtesy of Sons of Steve Garvey.
  • Not a good sign for his long-term future in San Diego: The Padres are leaving mega-first baseman Adrian Gonzalez out of their 2010 promotional campaigns, notes Scott Miller of CBSSports.com (via MLB Trade Rumors).
  • Brian Akin shows us at Dear (Tommy) John Letters how a 21st-century baseball prank goes.
Mar 12

Dodger Stadium-Union Station shuttle service returns

Former Griddle blogger Bob Timmermann passes along the news that bus service between Union Station and Dodger Stadium has been restored, according to Zach Behrens of  LAist, thanks to a $300,000 grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Timmermann, who just completed work on his presidential biography blog One Through Forty-Two or Forty-Three, gets a fine introduction for his new post as a contributor to L.A. Observed from the site’s main man, Kevin Roderick.

* * *

UCLA baseball is off to a 10-0 start, and Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com looks at the two pitchers who have played a big role:  Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. To attend UCLA, Cole turned down the Yankees after being drafted in the 2008 first round out of Orange Lutheran High School.

* * *

Here’s Ramona Shelburne’s postgame report from Taiwan for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mar 12

Rooster crows after Dodgers’ overseas defeat

Good morning, and welcome to the postgame show!

Yes, the Dodgers’ first game in Taiwan is already over, and it sounds like the Tianmu Baseball Stadium crowd had a good time. Native son Chin-Lung Hu had a two-run single for the Dodgers, but Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars won, 5-2.

Sounds like it’s been a good trip all around, though:

  • Here’s a travelogue describing all the activities before the first game, from Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers.
  • Ken Gurnick also has an article at MLB.com describing the Dodgers’ sightseeing.
  • Here’s a game story from Focus Taiwan. The Dodgers were out-hit, 12-3.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey collects some photos of the trip, as well as some Twitter updates from Rawitch, Gurnick and Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com describing game action. A 4:39 a.m. comment from Dodger Thoughts commenter Wen_JK also has more details.

    • Trayvon Robinson, Xavier Paul, Manny Ramirez (DH), James Loney, Ronnie Belliard, Russ Mitchell, Lucas May, Hu, Brian Barton and Eric Stults started for the Dodgers.
    • Manny Ramirez twice just missed homering to center and ended up 0 for 3.
    • Lucas May, who is now the organization’s third-string catcher, had to leave the game after getting hit by a pitch on the left ankle. Belliard also got plunked.
    • Stults threw three scoreless innings, striking out four.
    • Former Dodger Chin-Feng Chen, now a ripe old 32, had a single and a walk.
    • “Don’t Stop Believin’” was played in the top of the ninth inning.

The Dodgers’ mainland Spring Training game takes place against Aroldis Chapman and the Reds at 12:05 p.m., and then the second game of the Taiwan trip begins just after 10 p.m. Pacific time.

Update: Full game wrapup from Gurnick, plus box score. May told Gurnick he was fine.

Update 2: In the comments below, Wen_JK has posted some YouTube links to the game.

Mar 11

Thank you for coming to Taiwan, Manny – here’s $170,000

Given that the Dodgers left it up to their players to decide whether they wanted to go to Taiwan, if this Focus Taiwan report that Manny Ramirez accepted a $170,000 appearance fee from the promoters of the exhibition series in Taiwan is true, I don’t really see a problem. But I expect others will, just because they find a problem lately with everything Ramirez does. (Link via Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsguy).

Honestly, whether you wanted to go to Taiwan because you wanted to see the country, or you wanted to play in a foreign ballpark, or you wanted to see some friends back in your homeland, or you’re big on spreading goodwill, or you like long charter flights, or because $170,000 is a nice piece of change, it probably doesn’t matter.  Jet-lag is jet-lag, any way you look at it.

Ramirez is 38 — which is old for a ballplayer but young for your typical intercontinental flyer, I imagine. He’ll survive.

Mar 10

Andre and Kobe: Walkoff heroes


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US Presswire, Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Andre Ethier celebrates his 13th-inning game-winning home run Sept. 15 vs. Pittsburgh, his sixth walkoff hit of 2009; Kobe Bryant revels in the first of his seven 2009-10 game-winners, Dec. 4 vs. Miami.

Which do you prefer?

Andre Ethier played 160 games last year. Plenty of chances to be a game-ending hero, right? There’s no clock. He might have more than one chance in a game to be a walkoff wonder. The 0:00 can come when he says so.

But he can’t even control whether he’ll be able to get anywhere close to the ball in the final moment. He might be five batters away. And if he is up, who knows what kind of pitch he gets to hit? The bigger a threat he seems, the less likely he is going to be given anything to swing at. It’s curving away from him at 75 miles per hour; it’s trying to blow past him at 95. It’s still hitting a small ball with a stick of wood in the most pressure-packed of circumstances.

In a way, it still seems like a fluke – but the job got done and done and done and done and done and done.

Then there’s Kobe Bryant, who did it again Tuesday. No problem getting him the ball – it’s not like the opponent can intentionally walk him. Everyone knows it’s coming to him. But that’s the thing – everyone knows. The defense can try to smother him. He can pass it, but except for the occasional Derek Fisher or Robert Horry in his life, so often it seems the other guys don’t know what to do with the ball when the clock’s ticking down.

There aren’t too many layups in baseball, but on the other hand, there’s no double- or triple-teaming, either.

In the end, I think there’s something more magical about the baseball walkoff hero – and something more real about the basketball walkoff hero.

Either way, what Andre Ethier did last season is amazing. What Kobe Bryant is doing this season is amazing. The ball sailing toward the stands. The ball drilled to the hoop. The trot around the bases. The exultation on the hardwood. The dogpile at home plate. The strut to the locker room.

The crowd going wild. The crowd going wild! Wow and wow.

Mar 08

Notes before bedtime

Casey Blake left today’s game early because of back soreness, while bullpen candidate Cory Wade will be out for two weeks following a cortisone shot to treat his problematic right shoulder. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Joe Torre had praise today for rookies Josh Lindblom and Carlos Monasterios. Torre said Monasterios “has a good changeup – he seems to keep the ball down.”

* * *

  • Listen to the mellow sounds of the Dodgers’ first home run of the spring.
  • At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the McCourts tried to hire Clarence Darrow or William Jennings Bryan. (Forgive me for thinking about an “Inherit the Windbags” headline, just for a moment.)
  • The 1975 Dodger starting rotation is by one measure the most dominant of the past half-century, finds Steve Lombardi of Stat of the Day. Led by Andy Messersmith, Doug Rau, Don Sutton and Burt Hooton and supported by Rick Rhoden and Al Downing, the group had 124 starts with a Game Score of at least 50.
  • Josh Suchon is doing play-by-play of the Dodgers’ Spring Training game Tuesday, broadcast live on Prime Ticket and tape-delayed on MLB Network, before going on the Taiwan trip. His KABC AM 790 colleague Ken Levine will do Wednesday’s game.  (Levine’s post has great anecdotes about past exhibition broadcasts).
  • Blue Heaven finds on auction a scorecard from the first baseball game at Brooklyn’s Washington Park, May 5, 1884.
  • Josh Wilker. ‘Nuf said.
Mar 06

McCourt meets the press and presses the flesh

Dodger owner Frank McCourt spoke with a group of reporters today. Michael Becker of the Press-Enterprise has the transcript; it doesn’t appear he said anything of note. (In case you missed it, here’s a link to the Dodger Thoughts interview with him.)

ESPN the Magazine’s Molly Knight said that when McCourt was mingling earlier with fans at Camelback Ranch, they offered him nothing but kindness. No boos rang out. Y’all missed your chance …

In case you were wondering, I had almost no reaction to Friday night’s news from Bill Shaikin of the Times that the McCourts are spending an estimated $19 million on divorce-related legal fees. It’s a ridiculous amount of money, but I don’t assume that any money they’re spending on lawyers would go into the team.