Jul 19

File another one under defeat for Dodgers, 5-2

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesBuster Posey is safe at home with San Francisco’s second run of the game.

Madison Bumgarner has the same last name that James Garner was born with, which is enough to make me wish that Jim Rockford would solve the Dodgers’ criminal woes. Or that at least there might be an appearance by an angel.

Instead, the Dodgers dropped their fifth straight game, 5-2 to San Francisco. The Dodgers fell six games behind San Diego in the National League West and 2 1/2 behind Cincinnati for the NL wild card.

In his first major-league appearance of 2010, James McDonald looked good in a 1-2-3 first inning and escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam of his own creation in the second inning. But then came two runs with two out in the third, and then more painfully, a two-run homer by No. 8 hitter Nate Schierholtz in the fourth that gave the offensively challenged Giants a 4-0 lead behind their talented rookie Bumgarner. McDonald finished the night allowing 11 baserunners in his five innings.

Starting the bottom of the sixth, NL batting average leader Rafael Furcal moved into fifth place on the team in homers with his seventh of the season. Jamey Carroll singled, and two outs later, James Loney walked, sending the tying run to the plate and Bumgarner to the dugout. But the Dodgers didn’t tie the game, settling for a gift run thanks to a wild pitch by Guillermo Mota and a fielder’s choice grounder by Matt Kemp (3 for 4) on which Carroll was ruled (incorrectly, it appeared) to have touched home before Loney was tagged out.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers got another look at the game when two-out walks to Garret Anderson and Carroll sandwiched a Furcal single. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt came in to pitch to Ethier, who hasn’t done a whole lot with them all year. Ethier grounded to first.

San Francisco got an eighth-inning insurance run on what might have been another umpire mistake, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly on which other baserunners might have passed each other.

One more chance came for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth when Russell Martin and Furcal each got their third hits of the night, putting two runners on and the tying run at the plate with one out. Blake DeWitt struck out after taking a close 2-0 pitch for a strike.

That brought up Ethier, and it had been, what, a couple months since his most recent waving of walkoff magic. Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched carefully, walking Ethier to load the bases. But Wilson then struck out his sometimes-nemesis Casey Blake on three pitches.

There was no Rockford in Mudville tonight.

McDonald’s turn in the rotation comes next Saturday afternoon against the Mets. He, Carlos Monasterios (two shutout innings tonight) or John Ely are all candidates to take the turn.

Jul 19

Dodgers edge Yankees on Piazza homer

ESPN.com is staging a simulation between the all-time Dodger and Yankee teams chosen by the site’s readers. Despite poor relief outings by Mike Marshall and Eric Gagne, the Dodgers won Game 1, 8-7, on a walkoff single in the 12th by Mike Piazza.

Gil Hodges went 4 for 5 while Piazza (who also homered) and Willie Davis each had three hits; Pee Wee Reese was 0 for 7. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle homered for New York.

Find out more details by clicking the link above for the play-by-play and box score.

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Blue Heaven points to a rare 1949 album recording of Reese and Jackie Robinson.

Jul 18


One of the constant refrains I hear this year, whether it’s tied in with the McCourt debacle or the 22 years since the last World Series title or whatever, is that Dodger fans deserve better. And I get that, I totally do.

I just come at things from a different place. I don’t feel like I deserve better with the Dodgers. Big media market, big tradition, big talent base – I don’t care. That doesn’t matter to me.

As someone who was never anything but a Dodger fan, I was born on third base, as they say – but I don’t think I hit a triple. I think I got lucky. I was born into Jackie Robinson’s franchise. I was born with Vin Scully as my broadcaster. The Yankees, the Red Sox – I don’t care. I can’t imagine a better team to root for than Jackie and Vin’s team.

A game like today’s, and I don’t feel cheated. I feel, that makes sense. The McCourts, the bullpen collapses – they’re plot points in a drama that otherwise would be very nice but very sterile. Very tidy. Life isn’t tidy. That’s why it makes sense.

I’m not saying that’s right. I totally get why other people feel differently.

And it doesn’t mean I don’t feel disappointment. God, do I.

I just really don’t feel I’m owed anything. And it could be another 50 years without a World Series title (it really well could be), and I don’t think that will change. Some of you feel you’re owed, and that’s fine. I don’t feel it. I feel we’ve been given gifts, and expecting, demanding more is nonsensical.

I won’t stop being disappointed if there’s nothing under the tree this year, but I don’t blame Santa for passing us by.

And then there’s this.

I’m not going to defend Jonathan Broxton today. From what I saw, he should have pitched better.

But this. People look at what he does and then they say he doesn’t have a killer instinct or a heart or a brain or whatever other option “The Wizard of Oz” offers. They say it about Chad Billingsley, or Matt Kemp. They’ve said it about guys long gone, and they’ll say it about guys yet to come. And maybe they’re right. I don’t think they’re right – this ultimate judgment that boils down to “all winners have heart, all losers lack heart” – but maybe they’re right.

I think part of the reason I get so bothered is that when they say those things, I feel they might as well be saying it about me. Because I am no different than Broxton, Billingsley or Kemp. I have my good points and my bad points. And in particular, in my life, I have been lacking in grace under pressure. Rising to the occasion is not so easy for me.

It’s my hope that my family, friends and colleagues see the good that I do alongside my failings. Because if I’m judged only on my failings, I’m done for.

I think people are spoiled. But I’m spoiled, too. Just in different ways. So who am I to criticize?

In fact, I don’t even like this ending, but I don’t have the heart or the backbone to change it. So there you go.

Jul 18

July 18 game chat

It continues.

But you think it’s been all bad news this weekend? In consecutive days, Juan Castro and Nick Green have become available. It’s like Christmas in July.

Claudio Vargas and Ramon Troncoso combined on a shutout for Albuquerque on Saturday. John Ely starts for the Isotopes today.

I like this Jon SooHoo photo of Fernando Valenzuela, linked by Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven.

Jul 16

Cardinals can’t miss against Billingsley

One night after Clayton Kershaw had a career-low in strikeouts as a starter, Chad Billingsley matched his. For the second time in his 117 career starts, Billingsley had no strikeouts, while allowing 10 hits and two walks to the 22 batters he faced.

Billingsley was charged with seven runs in the brutal outing, and the Dodgers trailed 8-2 in the fifth inning after George Sherrill gave up a homer to Yadier Molina.

Jul 16

Manny Ramirez injured again

Manny Ramirez left tonight’s Dodger game in the first inning with right calf tightness. We don’t know yet if it’s serious enough to send him back to the disabled list, but if it is, the Dodgers face an interesting roster quandary.

With Reed Johnson already on the disabled list, the Dodgers have only one other outfielder on the 40-man roster: 22-year-old AA outfielder Trayvon Robinson. For that matter, the only other available infielder on the 40-man that’s healthy is 23-year-old Ivan DeJesus, Jr. They could activate Brad Ausmus and carry three catchers, or they could purchase the contract of someone like Jay Gibbons or John Lindsey.

Hopefully, Ramirez will only be out a short time.

Jul 16

A crisis of confidence in the 2010 Dodgers

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireManny Ramirez and the Dodgers are in the chase, but who’s up for the ride?

One of the most peculiar things to me about last season was how testy many Dodger Thoughts commenters were when things were going well.

For a Dodger team that basically won its division wire-to-wire and had the best record in the National League for almost the entire year, there was an overflow of discontent last spring and summer. The gripes could be rather specific if not downright picayune, but they were constant. Criticism of Joe Torre was ongoing. The war against Matt Kemp batting eighth took on a life of its own. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.

I pleaded with the unhappy campers to smell the roses, to accept that no team was perfect and enjoy what appeared to be the best Dodger team since at least 1988 (even accounting for Manny Ramirez’s suspension). They told me not to take anything for granted, that success didn’t eliminate the need for worry.

This year, aside from the occasional game like the Sunday night meltdown against the Yankees, things are less angsty in the comments. But weirdly, that seems to speaks to a deeper dissatisfaction in Los Angeles.

It’s just a theory, but I think that in a sense almost everyone felt that last year’s Dodger team was a special team. Or at least might be. Different people absorbed and reacted to this possibility in different ways, but overall the Dodgers’ potential seemed limitless — with even a World Series title possible if they would just not screw it up. People didn’t want to see that team wasted, and that made the stakes higher.

People don’t think this year’s team is a special team. Manny Ramirez is a year older, and Kemp’s spot in the batting order is the least of anyone’s concerns about him. There’s plenty to be happy about, but the team got off to a grim start instead of a great one, and the McCourt saga has sapped that extra bounce from everyone’s step.

Even though the Phillies seem less a threat now than they did a year ago, even though the path to the National League pennant is arguably more wide open than it was a year ago, even though the Dodgers currently sit only a half-game out of a playoff spot … no one seems all that excited.

The one fella that actually seemed to galvanize some fans was John Ely. His burst onto the scene was magical, spreading the kind of fairy dust that, accompanied by a nice month of May, made the eyes of Dodger fans twinkle. But for now, midnight has struck Ely down, and few seem very confident that we’ll make it back to the ball.

I wouldn’t have been writing this piece today if Clayton Kershaw had beaten St. Louis on Thursday, because I don’t think it would have occurred to me to do so after a victory. But I don’t think a victory would have changed the underlying feeling I’m getting. The ennui that seemed to accompany the 7-1 defeat crystallized some thoughts I’ve had percolating for a while.

After 10 or 20 years when Dodgers fans were grateful just to win a single playoff game, that’s no longer enough. They want the World Series. And with but a few exceptions, they don’t think they’re gonna get it.

It’s not that Dodger fans no longer care, or no longer desire. By and large, they just don’t believe.

Jul 15

Second half starts same as the first

A six-run loss to kick off the second half for the Dodgers tonight, 7-1, mimics the six-run loss that started the first half. And Clayton Kershaw, who failed to get out of the fifth inning in his first start of the first half, had the same problem in tonight’s second-half opener.

In fact, for the first time in his LXX-start career, Kershaw struck out only one batter.

Andre Ethier’s home run was all that saved the Dodgers from a shutout.

Pitcher-in-limbo George Sherrill faced three batters and retired two.

Jul 15

Kershaw LXX: Kershawt Tub Time Machine

What a matchup we have for you tonight, sports fans. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Carpenter in caliente conditions. Lots of good hard-c sounds there.

To make room for Manny Ramirez’s return from the disabled list, Reed Johnson was placed on the disabled list with back trouble, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Johnson last played on July 8, so he would presumably be eligible to come off the disabled list July 24. Xavier Paul and Garret Anderson get to co-exist for a little while longer.

If the Dodgers make it through tonight’s game without any injuries, it will be the second day all season that they have had a healthy top-eight starting position players, top-four starting pitchers and top-two relievers (Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo) at the same time all season. The only other time was June 28 in San Francisco, the day Chad Billingsley was activated from the DL and the day before Ramirez hurt himself in the first inning.

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  • James McDonald is the scheduled starter for Albuquerque on Friday, so if he’s scratched from that start or only works for a couple innings, we should have our biggest hint yet about whether he’ll be called up to start for the Dodgers on Monday.
  • The U.S. Postal service is releasing a Negro Leagues baseball series of stamps.

* * *

Update: George Sherrill talked to David Lassen of the Press-Enterprise. Sherrill confirmed that he was placed on waivers and said he wasn’t sure what would happen next.

… ” If I go down and I’m doing OK, then I’m just kind of stuck. If I go down and look like I’ve figured it out, I could still be stuck, because you go down, and say the club rattles off like eight in a row. George who, you know?

“So you’ve got to make sure every T is crossed, I guess, and make sure everything is right for the club but also everything is right for me and and my family.”

If he clears waivers, Sherrill will have the choice of accepting a minor-league assignment, refusing it, or declaring himself a free agent. Only in the last scenario would he forfeit the remainder of this year’s $4.5 million salary.

“I’ve got to talk to my agent and just make sure what’s what and see what options we do have,” Sherrill said. “… I don’t really fully understand it. That’s kind of why you sort of have an agent, to protect us on stuff that we have no idea what’s happening. So it’s just a matter of talking to him and ironing everything out and having him talk to them and see what’s what.” …

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.

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

Jul 14

Reports: Sherrill could be headed off active roster via waivers

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
This guy allowed two runs with the Dodgers last year.

It hasn’t been confirmed on the record, but it is being widely reported (first by Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, then by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com among others) that the Dodgers have place George Sherrill on outright (i.e., irrevocable) waivers.

That could mean that Sherrill (and his remaining 2010 salary) will either be claimed by another team, Sherrill will accept an assignment from the Dodgers to the minor leagues or Sherrill will elect to become a free agent. He has not necessarily thrown his last pitch for the team. We’ll know the answer within three days of the start of his placement on waivers. Jackson’s story has more details.

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  • Phil Wallace wrote a really nice piece at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence, rebutting Bill Plaschke’s lionizing of Angel Stadium over Dodger Stadium in the Times.
  • The first half of Albuquerque’s season is reviewed and second half previewed by Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Jamey Carroll talked defense with Dingers (link via Memories of Kevin Malone, which had several to choose from).
  • Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has an update on scheduling issues with the new, expanded Pac-12.