Jun 17

Lakers Game 7 chat



Ron Artest, Rasheed Wallace, Andrew Bynum

Boston at Los Angeles, 6 p.m.

The Dodgers have never played a World Series Game 7 in my lifetime, but Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics came during my heyday as a Laker fan. And I have no memory of it. It’s bizarre. I remember so much of what led up to that seventh game, but the game itself jogs nothing in my brain. Basically, when I think of the 1984 Finals, I think of Gerald Henderson’s steal. For all that went on, that tells the story.

So maybe tonight’s won’t be a game for the ages, for me, anyway. When I think of the 2010 NBA playoffs, maybe I’ll be more likely to think of Ron Artest’s put-back against Phoenix than anything else.

Maybe.

The push and pull of this series has revved me up. I went to Game 2 of the NBA finals and left in defeat but with relative piece of mind, believing that the Lakers would have no trouble regaining home-court advantage by winning one of three games in Boston. And so they did, in their next opportunity.

But by the time Game 5 came, I was dying as Boston made shot after shot. With Game 6, the turnaround by the Lakers brought back the passion of my days as a no-holds-barred Laker fan — not so long ago, really.

I’m not as hardcore as I once was. Almost nothing in the NBA regular season affects me anymore, and if the Lakers had bowed out in earlier playoff rounds this year, I would have been disappointed but similarly composed.

But tonight, I’m back. It’s not a matter of being a fair-weather fan, because the Lakers’ nearly bottomless pit of fair weather this year has mostly anesthetized me. It’s this all-stakes, live-or-die night that’s done it. I want this. I really want this. I hope it’s one worth remembering.

Jun 17

Report: Manny Ramirez sought drug exemption in ’09, Dodgers deny involvement

The New York Times has a story today, anonymously sourced, stating that representatives for Manny Ramirez in 2009 explored seeking an exemption to baseball’s drug policy (link via L.A. Observed).

Around the time Major League Baseball suspended Manny Ramirez for violating its drug program last season, his representatives told officials in the commissioner’s office that they planned to file for permission to use a banned drug that would boost his testosterone levels.

Ramirez’s representatives, including his agent, Scott Boras, decided not to file for the exemption then, but the idea of seeking one was resurrected in September, two months after Ramirez returned to the field, though he ultimately never received one.

The second time the idea came up, the Dodgers were in a close race in the National League West and Ramirez was struggling at the plate. In that instance, high-ranking Dodgers personnel, including General Manager Ned Colletti, discussed how they could help Ramirez and whether he had enough of a medical problem to obtain an exemption for a testosterone-boosting drug.

Baseball’s independent drug-testing administrator granted 115 exemptions last season to players who proved a medical need to use a banned substance. All but seven of the players received a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Two players received exemptions for drugs to boost their testosterone levels.

The accounts of the discussions about Ramirez’s obtaining an exemption were based on interviews with three people in baseball who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing medical and drug testing matters.

A spokesman for the Dodgers, Josh Rawitch, said team officials did not look into getting Ramirez an exemption. He declined further comment. …

Jun 17

Ely’s struggles are a middle, not an end


Al Behrman/AP
John Ely’s ERA rose today to 4.15 — a number the Dodgers would have been glad to have when he was first called up.

After six consecutive good starts, John Ely has had three consecutive poor ones — the latest, seven runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings, including a three-run homer by opposing pitcher Bronson Arroyo — in the Dodgers’ 7-1 loss at Cincinnati.

That wasn’t an earthquake you just felt in Southern California, that was the thud of Dodger fans leaping off Ely’s bandwagon. But Southern Californians tend to overreact to the slightest rumble in their sports universe. (Get your psyches retrofitted for tonight’s Lakers game, just in case.)

Back when things were going well for Ely, all of two weeks ago, we all knew he eventually would have some subpar performances, so I don’t know why there should be any surprise that it has happened. A quick look around the comments sections of various sites and Twitter already shows some fans not only disappointed, but giving up on Ely as quickly as they fell in love with him. If it weren’t for Chad Billingsley’s injury, it appears that some of them would expect Ely be sent back to Albuquerque tonight.

It almost never fails to stun me that even the most experienced baseball fans expect players to deliver the same level of performance every time out. A pitcher whose ERA is around 4.00 isn’t going to allow four runs each and every nine innings. Ups and downs are a fundamental part of this game. Yet somehow, a good player is always supposed to be good — if he’s not good, he must be bad.

What I think happens is this: There’s an insatiable rush to judgment. So many fans are determined to know, to draw conclusions. “Wait and see” is not a comfortable place for people to be. It’s easier for a lot of people to give up on a player, or at the very least drop their expectations down to nothing, than to simply ride out his struggles.

As excited as I was about John Ely during his hot streak, his future remained a mystery. No big deal: I watch the games like I turned the pages of Agatha Christie novels as a kid — to see what happens next. A guess at the future doesn’t change the text on the next page. Now that Ely is slumping, I can say, “That’s too bad.” But there’s a difference between saying “That’s too bad” and “He’s a fraud.”

My point is, we learned very little about John Ely today. He gave up three home runs in a place where home runs are frequently given up. We always knew that was possible — there’s no news there. Much more relevant will be what John Ely might have learned about John Ely today. It might well be that this is the beginning of the end of Ely’s young career, that he has fooled all the people he can fool, but much more likely is that it is one of many twists in a windy road. For all we might think we see at the horizon, we don’t know yet what’s going to be coming around each and every turn. We just know the turns will be there.

Jun 17

Rafael Furcal placed on bereavement list

No details yet, but the Dodgers announced in a 7:30 a.m. e-mail that Rafael Furcal had been placed on Major League Baseball’s bereveament list. Chin-Lung Hu has been called up to take his roster spot, though he will not arrive in Cincinnati in time for the start of today’s early game.

Placement on the bereavement list means that Furcal will miss from three to seven games.

All my sincerest condolences to Furcal.

Update: Furcal went to the Dominican Republic to see an ailing family member, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

  • Nick Green opted out of his minor-league contract and became a free agent, reports Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Claudio Vargas returned to the Dodger organization, signing a minor-league contract with the Isotopes, whose pitching has been trashed by injuries, absences, promotions and demotions.
  • Russ Mitchell homered twice and singled for Albuquerque on Wednesday, while Michael Restovich doubled, tripled and homered, and Xavier Paul and Ivan De Jesus, Jr. also each had three hits.
  • Kyle Russell hit his first AA home run for Chattanooga, while Trayvon Robinson had three hits.
  • Fred Claire has a nice story at MLB.com about Monte Irvin, who at age 91 will have his number retired by the Giants. Among other tidbits was this revelation:

    … Irvin revealed that when he got out of the service in 1945 he signed a contract with the Dodgers.

    “I had been selected by Branch Rickey to break the color barrier,” said Irvin. “I had the talent and I was easy to get along with.”

    Irvin said that even though he had signed the contract with the Dodgers, he asked to return to play in the Negro Leagues “because I didn’t want to go to the Major Leagues until I had my game back after three years in the service.”

    Irvin said a dispute developed over the contract between his Negro League team and the Dodgers, and he didn’t get his opportunity in the Major Leagues until a deal was worked out with the Giants in 1949.

    “Things have a way of working out and I’m just happy that I had the chance to play the game that I loved,” he said.

  • Matt Kemp’s struggles get an analysis from Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • Second-round draft choice Ralston Cash is close to signing with the Dodgers, reports Bill Murphy of the Gainesville Times.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven passes along a neat find: a 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers ticket order form. Get your box seats for $3 …
  • Here’s a fun historical site: CalTrafficSigns.com (via Franklin Avenue).
Jun 16

Dodgers win a close rout, 6-2


Al Behrman/AP
Dude – nice work.

Clayton Kershaw didn’t walk anyone in the first inning. Or the second, the third, the fourth or the fifth.

In the bottom of the sixth, the first moment he pitched when the game wasn’t close, he walked the leadoff batter.

Pitching is such a mystery, isn’t it? And so is baseball, for that matter.

For a game the Dodgers just about ran away with and eventually won, 6-2, there were more than a few tense moments. The Dodgers would get up, but never too far up. They’d be in peril, then escape like Bugs Bunny.

They’d break a 0-0 tie with two runs in the fifth inning on yet another James Loney double, but strand runners on second and third with one out. They’d give up a fourth-inning single with a runner on second, only for Manny Ramirez to throw the guy out at home. They’d enter that bottom of the sixth with a 5-0 lead, but would escape the none-out, bases-loaded inning only thanks to a controversial, two-ejection strikeout.

The bottom of the eighth might have been most vexing of all. With a 5-1 lead, Joe Torre had Clayton Kershaw bat for himself in the top of the inning despite being past the 100-pitch mark, then removed him from the game following a one-out error by Blake DeWitt. Two relievers and two baserunners later (including a Hong-Chih Kuo walk to load the bases), the Dodgers used a line-drive double play, Rafael Furcal unassisted, to amscray.

In the ninth, with the Dodgers up 6-1, Kuo gave up his first run since April 22 on the first homer he allowed since Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, before getting the final out on a lunging catch by Matt Kemp, but that was a pocket full of posies compared to what had preceded. And so on a night that Andre Ethier singled twice and hit a three-run homer, that Loney had two more hits to raise his OPS to .810, that Manny Ramirez homered for the third time in seven games, that Kershaw lowered his ERA to 2.96 with 7 1/3 innings of seven-hit, seven-strikeout, one-run and yes, one-mystery-walk pitching, the Dodgers ran away with the victory … and hid. So close to disappointment, instead it’s two straight victories over the NL Central leaders and, once again, the best record in the National League. They’ll take it.

* * *

Happiness is a married bullpen catcher: A love story involving former Dodger Jason Phillips, culminating in a bullpen wedding ceremony, told by Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times (via Baseball Think Factory).

Jun 16

Kershaw LXV: Kershawnee, Indiana

With 21 doubles in 64 Dodger games this season, James Loney is on pace to tie the franchise record of 52 in a season and break the Los Angeles record of 49.

If that doesn’t suit you, there’s always this: Will Loney become the first Los Angeles Dodger to finish a year with single-digit homers and triple-digit RBI?

Jun 16

Dodgers call up Travis Schlichting

Travis Schlichting, the hero of the 14-inning 1-0 victory over Arizona on June 2, was called up to take Chad Billingsley’s spot on the Dodger roster, the team announced today.

In the two weeks since throwing four shutout innings that day, Schlichting has made three appearances for AAA Albuquerque, totaling 4 1/3 innings. He has allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out two.

Jun 15

Dodgers a-splishin’ and a-splashin’, 12-0


Al Berhman/AP
The Reds couldn’t stop Rafael Furcal – they could only hope to tag him out trying to steal in the sixth inning.

In the middle of tonight’s game, the Dodgers worried that their three-run first-inning outburst might be washed away by rain. Turns out the team was just getting started.

On a night that Rafael Furcal had five hits, the Dodgers scored nine runs after the tarp was removed at soaked and nearly empty Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, finishing off a 12-0 romp at 12:52 a.m. on the East Coast.

With Hiroki Kuroda leading the pitching before and after the rain delay, the Dodgers stayed within a half-game of San Diego for the best record in the National League. Yet for the season, the Dodgers had only outscored their opponents by two runs, 292-290, before tonight.

Furcal, who grounded out in the ninth while bidding to tie the Dodger team record of six hits, had four singles and a double, and also dazzled defensively. James Loney (now the team’s RBI leader) added three doubles and a single, giving him seven hits in his past nine at-bats. Left field also had four hits for the Dodgers, with Manny Ramirez homering and singling twice in his second consecutive three-hit game, and Reed Johnson adding a single. The Dodgers had 25 baserunners in all – Ramon Troncoso even had a bases-loaded walk.

According to the Dodger TV broadcast, the last time two Dodgers had at least four hits in a game was when Jeff Kent and Marlon Anderson did it in the 4+1 game on September 18, 2006.

Jun 15

Rain on the parade: Did Kuroda make a risky return?


Al Behrman/AP
It was a long night, but Hiroki Kuroda struck out eight in five shutout innings with no walks.

After a rain delay of more than two hours, Hiroki Kuroda came back out to pitch the fifth inning for the Dodgers tonight in Cincinnati.

I have no expertise to be able to discuss if this was a risk or not. All I know is that in my roughly 35 years of following baseball, this kind of thing is almost never done because of the fear it will bring injury to the pitcher. But on the day they announced Chad Billingsley was going on the disabled list, the Dodgers did it.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to gain:

1) The 23rd win in the United States for Kuroda, who had thrown four one-hit shutout innings while striking out seven.
2) Possibly a better chance of winning tonight’s game, because Kuroda is better than the Dodgers’ middle relievers.
3) A little more rest for the bullpen, which figures to be taxed between now and Sunday.
4) Status as pioneers in the You Can Bring Back Starting Pitchers After Rain Delays Movement.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to lose:

1) The game, if Kuroda couldn’t regain his effectiveness after the break. He loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth before getting the final out.
2) The sanity of Dodger fans.
3) Shine off Torre’s reputation.
4) Kuroda.

The Dodgers might have made the right decision. I don’t know. I do know that most people would say it was a bad bet, and I’m curious why they made it.

Jun 15

Chad Billingsley to the disabled list


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley

Well, now that changes everything.

The Dodgers announced this afternoon that Chad Billingsley would go on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. I’ll update this post with the news of who is being added to the roster as soon as I hear.

Billingsley was scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Thursday. John Ely could make that start on four days’ rest, with Vicente Padilla then being activated to pitch Friday in Boston. Charlie Haeger, by the way, is scheduled to pitch for Albuquerque tonight.

Kinda amusing to think of what would happen if Padilla and Haeger aren’t ready to go by Saturday. With James McDonald and Scott Elbert out, do we start talking about guys like Seth Etherton? Alberto Bastardo? Or do the Dodgers call up another reliever and give Jeff Weaver a spot start?

The road just got a little rougher.

* * *

In other malady news, another celebration yielded a big injury. UCLA’s No. 3 hitter, Tyler Rahmatulla, broke his wrist in the dogpile celebrating the Bruins’ advance to the College World Series.

* * *

Update: Joe Torre told reporters that Padilla is ready to go and will be activated. Ely starts Thursday, Carlos Monasterios on Friday, Padilla on Saturday and then back to Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday before Monday’s off day. Torre said Padilla is ready to throw 100 pitches.

Billingsley strained his right groin in the last inning of his last start, the Dodgers said. An MRI showed no structural damage. The team wasn’t expecting him to miss any time, but he felt tightness during his latest bullpen workout at the very end on his pushoff leg, and the Dodgers didn’t want that to mess up his mechanics.

Jun 15

A hint of weather

From the Dodger press notes:

RAINY DAY TUESDAY – The National Weather Center is now predicting a strong chance of severe weather (with the potential for tornadic activity) late this afternoon and early evening. If the nasty weather becomes a reality, all credentialed press will be sheltered in the left field level media interview room as the press box and broadcast booths will need to be evacuated.

The Weather Channel paints a rosier, if plenty muggy, picture.

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 14

Who will Vicente Padilla displace on the roster?


Jayne Oncea/Icon SMI
Justin Miller is on the Dodger roster bubble despite a 3.48 ERA.

Vicente Padilla isn’t a 100 percent lock to rejoin the Dodger starting rotation this weekend, but you can pretty much count on it. Though he gave up four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings for Albuquerque on Sunday, he threw 81 pitches and didn’t walk a batter. Assuming he feels fine physically today, he should be on the Fenway Park mound Friday or Saturday, with John Ely starting the other day and Hiroki Kuroda going on Sunday. (It would make more sense to have Padilla wait until Saturday, thereby giving the Dodgers an extra day with an extra relief pitcher, unless that upset Padilla’s rhythm somehow.)

Padilla’s return means someone on the Dodger pitching staff must get displaced. Justin Miller presents yet another case of a pitcher whom the Dodgers would like to retain but is out of options. Miller, who gave up what turned out to be a critical eighth-inning home run Sunday, hasn’t pitched badly for the Dodgers, allowing 13 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings while striking out 10, but he is the least important person on the staff at this point. Jon Link, among others, provides insurance for the Dodgers if Miller ends up in another organization.

Risking the loss of Miller is the only viable move the Dodgers have besides finding a person to go on the disabled list. There has been some talk that John Ely would go back to Albuquerque on Saturday morning precisely because he does have options remaining, but I think it’s safe to dismiss that possibility. Ely hasn’t pitched badly enough to warrant the demotion, and Joe Torre seems eager to get Carlos Monasterios back into the bullpen. So even though the Dodgers’ June 21 off day would allow them to go with a four-man rotation through June 26, expect Ely to stick around. (If Ely were demoted, then Monasterios would be starting the middle game against the Yankees unless the Dodgers performed some more roster shenanigans).

As far as the disabled list goes, well, there’s always a recurrence of George Sherrill’s back injury, not to mention “elbow soreness” for someone like Ramon Troncoso.

At this point, this problem feels like a good one to have. Not everyone was excited about Padilla’s impending return, but they’re probably a little less unexcited after seeing Monasterios struggle Sunday. I don’t expect Padilla to be the pitcher he was at the end of 2009 – though in any short spurt he might be – but if he’s even the average pitcher he was before he came to the Dodgers, that’ll probably be fine. Let’s face it, the Red Sox are a challenge for any Dodger pitcher.

Jun 13

After the sweep, time to get dirty again

Let me tell you something about my checking account. It has a winning history and much potential, but not a lot of depth at the current time. It can build up a little cushion and then just get knocked around, a few steps forward, a few steps back. And I should probably be able to say where it’s going to finish the year, but I can’t.

Well, you don’t really need me to connect the dots for you, do you? The bills for John Ely and Carlos Monasterios came due this weekend, not to mention Matt Kemp, and so the Dodgers have to go back to earnin’. On the bright side, three games do not a season make, and we saw signs of life from Manny Ramirez and even a near-comeback victory. Still more good signs on this team than bad. The Dodgers hit the road a game behind San Diego and half a game ahead of San Francisco.