Oct 25

Don Mattingly, Trey Hillman, Sue Falsone and our ignorance

Well, folks, we sure got a humbling wakeup call about our understanding of the Dodgers this week.

For starters, all season long, everyone — and I mean everyone that wrote, commented, tweeted or otherwise published a word about the 2013 Dodgers — attributed in-game strategic decisions wholly to manager Don Mattingly. Then, this week, all of a sudden there was Trey Hillman.

Sure, the bench coach had been there all along, been there for three years, but he had walked the Dodger planet in almost complete anonymity, save for taking over after a rare Mattingly ejection. Hardly a word was uttered about his role with the team until Monday, when he was fired for whatever advice he did or didn’t give, day after day, to Mattingly. Even today, no one seems entirely clear what that counsel was or wasn’t.

Mattingly was the guy in the driver’s seat, of course. The in-game buck stopped with him. But now we’re told that the bench coach played a much more significant role with the Dodgers than anyone realized. There was this nearly invisible x factor that reminds all of us that as much as we think we know everything that’s going on with the team, we still operate in large pockets of complete ignorance.

On top of that, a new mystery about what exactly the Dodger clubhouse was like in 2013 emerged Monday, via the infamous Mattingly-Ned Colletti press conference. I made the point, on Twitter I believe, that this seemed to be the most peaceful Dodger clubhouse in my memory — certainly in my time doing Dodger Thoughts. Outside of roughly 24 hours worth of quickly defused tension between Mattingly and Andre Ethier and whatever wrassling might have been going on with Yasiel Puig, there was no hint of conflict reported by the media.

But on Monday, Mattingly opened a small window into what may actually be a large world of in-house second-guessing and authority-undermining, the extent of which still isn’t clear. Whatever it is, it was not a part of the published story of the 2013 Dodgers until after the 2013 Dodgers were history.

Part of what made Monday’s awkward press conference so shocking is that the organization has seemed so amazingly united this year. Even when Mattingly’s job was in jeopardy in May/June, the manager displayed a rather remarkable level of poise and understanding. Mattingly, in a fashion I’ve seen other managers make little use of, accepted the blame for the team’s last-place start and hardly hid behind the injuries. Even the incident with Ethier has always struck me as more about getting the team more focused than anything else, which is why I think the team moved on from it so quickly. From May 25:

… while I think Andre Ethier was clearly in mind as Mattingly spoke about what it takes to win and all that, I don’t think Mattingly was singling out Ethier.  I think he was making an example of Ethier, which is an entirely different thing.

Take note of this. The Dodgers put out their Wednesday lineup. Ethier isn’t in it. Reporters ask why. Mattingly doesn’t directly answer the question, instead delivering his rugged sermon about what he expects from every member of his squad. It’s clear that Ethier is falling short of this standard. But it’s also clear that Ethier is not the only one falling short of the standard (in Mattingly’s mind), and I don’t know why people didn’t see this. …

Ultimately, Mattingly seemed at peace with the responsibility of being the fall guy. But clearly, he was wrestling with other feelings that emerged this week, and even more clearly, not everyone was on the same page when Monday’s press conference was called. Perhaps rather than the epilogue of the 2013 season, what Monday brought us was the first page of the book on the 2014 Dodgers.

As for head trainer Sue Falsone’s departure (once more, the Variety term “ankling” seems useful here), it was celebrated by numerous fans who weren’t in thrall to her or her pioneering position in the guys’ club. But our ignorance about the impact of her presence or absence could hardly be higher.

Few inside the organization, and fewer still outside of it, have any idea how Falsone, Stan Conte or anyone on the Dodger medical staff improved or diminished the team’s overall health — that is, on the injuries they actually might have had any influence upon. There was undeniable inevitability of injuries to middle-age players like Chris Capuano, Carl Crawford or Mark Ellis, while putting mishaps like Zack Greinke’s broken collarbone on the staff’s plate is particularly ludicrous. Logically, the only question is not whether the 2013 medical staff wasn’t good, but whether anyone could do better. That’s a much different way of framing things than assuming they were actually contributing to the Dodger injury problems, which I’ve seen some fans posit.

Look, I’m not above questioning things that the Dodgers do, from player transactions to bunting decisions to the presence of in-stadium pregame hosts. Not only is that part of following the team, but sometimes, I think outsiders really do know better. But be wary of having too swollen a head about this stuff. There’s lots going on beneath the surface that we don’t know about until much, much later.

Aug 07

The summer of bliss

The joy in this Dodger summer is not just in the winning, or being in first place.

It’s that the Dodger summer is about the game.

Three years ago, two years ago, the Dodger universe was mired in L’Affaire McCourt. Even last year, in the months following the ownership change, there was still a detox period.

This year, good or bad, the conversation has been about the game. The worst it has gotten was the debate over the fate of Don Mattingly in the spring (here and here, for example) — a debate that clearly wasn’t a figment of our imagination. There’s been all the injuries, carping out this player’s performance or that one’s. But it’s all about the game.

Meanwhile, baseball at large is enveloped in a conversation about performance-enhancing drugs and punishments that Los Angeles is not really a principal part of. It’s not that Dodger fans don’t have a tangential interest in it, just as it wasn’t that baseball fans didn’t have a tangential interest in the McCourt trauma.

But mainly, we get to go our merry way, winning and losing, living and dying with our team, the way we were meant to, the way we were deprived of from the moment Frank and Jamie figured out they couldn’t make it work.

Of course, the more it remains about winning and not losing, the better.

May 25

Livestream of consciousness

Cardinals at Dodgers, 4:15 p.m.

Nick Punto, 3B
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Dee Gordon, SS
Ted Lilly, P

With today’s funky starting time and the kids occupying themselves for an indefinite amount of time, I’m going to try to do some live-blogging while I can, catching up on some stuff from the past week and commenting on at least the start of the game. So keep refreshing until I tell you to stop …

3:26 p.m.:  The Don Mattingly saga this week stirred so many thoughts in me that I didn’t have time to get to and, at this point, I’m not sure where to begin.

If this makes sense, while I think Andre Ethier was clearly in mind as Mattingly spoke about what it takes to win and all that, I don’t think Mattingly was singling out Ethier.  I think he was making an example of Ethier, which is an entirely different thing.

Take note of this. The Dodgers put out their Wednesday lineup. Ethier isn’t in it. Reporters ask why. Mattingly doesn’t directly answer the question, instead delivering his rugged sermon about what he expects from every member of his squad. It’s clear that Ethier is falling short of this standard. But it’s also clear that Ethier is not the only one falling short of the standard (in Mattingly’s mind), and I don’t know why people didn’t see this.

3:31 p.m. Do you see what I’m getting at? Perhaps this is more of a nuanced position than I wish to acknowledge. Consider, for example, what happened with Matt Kemp in 2010. Ned Colletti makes some critical comments about Kemp that are clearly about him, right? At the time, Kemp appeared to have been playing particularly well, which made the criticism surprising. But even if you grant that behind the scenes there was a level of commitment Kemp wasn’t living up to, Kemp was being singled out.

What happened this week with Ethier is not that, especially if you consider that Mattingly had already been talking publicly in recent days about the shortcomings of other Dodgers, such as Dee Gordon and Luis Cruz – who also, you might notice, were not in Wednesday’s starting lineup.

It’s clear that Mattingly believes that multiple people on his roster aren’t pulling their weight.  Anyone who made this about Ethier missed the point.

I certainly agree with the idea that Mattingly needs to communicate with Ethier directly and not through the press. Mattingly and Ethier are publicly disagreeing about whether that has happened.

3:37 p.m. The two oldest kids are screaming upstairs. I’m trying to ignore them.

3:38 p.m. As long as I started down this nuanced path, let’s go farther.

Mattingly was wrong when he said that sabermetrics don’t account for the level of play he is seeking – or at a minimum, he is underestimating how much they count. Preparation, grit, intensity, fight – these are all attributes that ultimately will manifest much of their value through statistics.

Let’s say Smith works harder than Jones. What does that mean? Nothing, unless it leads to more production on the field. Now, that production could mean better stats for Smith. It could also mean better stats for Jones as well, if Smith inspires him to do better. It could even mean better stats for Jones and not Smith if, for example, Smith makes sacrifices that boost Jones.

Our ability to quantify effort might be imperfect. But there is a statistical outcome. When Kirk Gibson rebelled against Jesse Orosco’s eyeblack prank in the spring of 1988, there was a tangible result.

Am I playing semantics? Perhaps. But no more than those who are citing hard work and effort as a counterpoint to statistical value. They walk hand in hand.

3:46 p.m. With that said, let’s talk about grit and effort and determination.

For the most part, these are pregame activities. These things are about preparation. And I imagine there’s no limit to the preparation you can do before the first pitch is thrown, whether you’re talking about work during the offseason, an off day or the hours before gametime.

Once the game starts, things change a bit. In my view, there is a limit to how much mental energy is useful when you’re at the plate. Overthinking is a huge danger when a pitch is coming at you. By the time you are in the batter’s box, everything should be instinctive.

This brings us back to Ethier, and Mattingly’s famous quote that the outfielder gives away at-bats because of his emotional state. That might or might not be true – it reeks of exaggeration, but I don’t know. In any case, this isn’t a question of effort, unless you’re arguing that Ethier hasn’t put in sufficient effort (I have no doubt there’s been some effort) to channel his emotions positively.

You can understand how simultaneously Mattingly could be correct and Ethier could be offended. Again, this is nuanced. Ethier doesn’t dog it. Ethier gets angry at himself. Ethier gets frustrated. Ethier wants the best for himself. And yet Mattingly could be right that Ethier’s still not getting it.

I find myself sympathetic to both sides because I feel that I hear both Mattingly and Ethier in my own head on a regular basis.

3:55 p.m. The Angels won their seventh in a row today. Does this mean the Dodgers are unlucky that the Angels have gotten hot just in time for their series next week, or the Dodgers are lucky that the Angels’ hot streak may run out before they meet?

That Mike Trout is, once again, something else.

3:58 p.m. I might be the last outsider not to give up on Ted Lilly. I mean, he was more or less getting by on wiles before last year’s injury, right? Was that injury specifically a career-ender? I’m not aware it was that significant.

4:02 p.m. Apparently the screaming was part of an iMovie the kids are filming. I told them to do a script rewrite.

4:04 p.m. Youngest Master Weisman has come downstairs. The liveblog could be in trouble. One of the reasons I suspended Dodger Thoughts in September was that I was less and less comfortable with it taking me away from devoting time to the kids when it was available. But it is a tug in both directions. I want to be a good father, and I want to write, and it’s tough when the two come in direct conflict.

Obviously, I don’t have to write right this second. But it’s hard to walk away when you’re just in the mood.

4:09 p.m. Scott Van Slyke’s current value to the Dodgers, however intermittent, has been so pleasing to be not just because of how desperately it’s needed – how can he be the only power threat on the team – but what it says about the game. I love the idea that it’s not over for a player just because the establishment decides it’s over.

At any given moment, some players are better bets to contribute than others. But the line to decline is not a straight one. The game is forever one of adjustments, and you never know when someone has a last burst. That’s part of what makes baseball such a great American drama.

4:12 p.m. I remember when I used to look forward to the Dodgers being on a national telecast. But that was when they were good, and when I didn’t have to hear the simplistic summaries of national broadcasters.

How long has Joe Buck had that beard? I’m not sure it works, and yet it probably looks better than my wintertime scruff.

4:15 p.m. If you don’t have the confidence in Dee Gordon to be a starter, you might as well send him back to the minors unless you think his best long-term contribution to the team is as a bench player. But as thin as the Dodger bench is, they probably can’t afford to carry a guy whose only contribution is as a pinch-runner. Prove me wrong, Dee …

4:17 p.m. “Mostly sunny – it’s L.A. It could be a little hazy or a little … whatever, but it’s L.A.” – Joe Buck

4:18 p.m. First pitch from Lilly is a strike, 85 miles per hour. Second one is also 85 mph, and lined right back through the box by Matt Carpenter.

“Through the box” is pretty archaic, huh?

4:22 p.m. Matt Holliday slashes an 0-2 pitch from Lilly deep down the right-field line, and Ethier makes a running catch – degree of difficulty 6. The replay indicates that Mattingly applauded.

4:23 p.m. Allen Craig is badly fooled on a 72 mph curve to fall behind 0-2.

4:24 p.m. Gritty player makes error on routine grounder. Seriously, what does that tell you?

4:25 p.m. Yadier Molina is called “the most irreplaceable guy on any roster in major league baseball” by Buck.

4:27 p.m. A sinking, medium arc fly to left center field eludes a diving Scott Van Slyke for an RBI double and an unearned run. It was a good effort.

4:28 p.m. The next pitch from Lilly hits David Freese in the back to load the bases.

4:29 p.m. Jon Jay grounds out to end the inning. Are you disappointed anyone scored or grateful that it was only one?

4:30 p.m. Thoroughly feels like I’m ignoring my 5-year-old, who is out in the backyard by himself with the dog. I’m not sure how much longer I can tell myself this is character building.

4:32 p.m. Punto and Adrian Gonzalez, who I think both have good fielding reputations, are now tied for the team lead with five errors. How the heck has Gonzalez racked up five errors? Matt Kemp is next with four.

4:33 p.m. Leadoff walk from John Gast to Nick Punto. See, good teams make mistakes too!

4:34 p.m. WIll I get to see even this much of Clayton Kershaw vs. Shelby Miller on Sunday?

4:35 p.m. Mark Ellis hits a ball to left fielder Holliday that the back of my brain tells me would have been a home run if a Cardinal hit it.

4:36 p.m. On a 2-0 pitch, deep fly by Gonzalez that turns Jay around in center field and bounces at the wall, for an RBI double that ties the game, 1-1. And again, why not just a clean and pretty home run?

4:37 p.m. Kemp grounds to third on the third pitch, sparing us a longer discussion from Buck and McCarver of his woes.

4:38 p.m. Andre Ethier Chat!

4:39 p.m. Youngest Master Weisman can’t open the Pringles can by himself. Does he not want them enough?

4:40 p.m.  Ken Rosenthal, who if I understand correctly was wrong in a column this week about the Dodger managerial situation, is about to talk about the Dodger managerial situation.

Though I suppose you could argue that Rosenthal hedged his bets a bit.

4:45 p.m. San Francisco losing in the 10th inning at home against Colorado. Game’s not over, so I can’t quite say out loud what I’m thinking.

4:46 p.m. Laptop battery level: 18%. Plug location: distant.

4:47 p.m. With one out in the top of the second inning and the Cardinals’ pitcher batting, I check Mike Petriello’s handy bullpen chart to see who is likely to get action today. Confidence!

Lilly strikes out Gast on the next pitch, then retires Carpenter to complete a perfect inning. Still not used to a different Carpenter on the Cards.

4:48 p.m. The kids are now filling up water pistols.

4:51 p.m. A Van Slyke is batting in the late afternoon sun at Dodger Stadium.

4:52 p.m. As Rosenthal talks, the Cardinals go to the mound and pull Gast from the game for medical reasons, following a ball four to Van Slyke that was more like a lob. Joe Kelly enters the game, and it’s time for me to go get that charger.

4:54 p.m. Good lord, the Giants win on a two-run walkoff inside-the-park homer.

4:57 p.m. A.J. Ellis strikes out on three pitches from Kelly, none slower than 96 mph. Bodes well for Gordon.

4:58 p.m. The Dodgers do a hit-and-run on a one-out, 0-2 pitch to Gordon with Van Slyke taking from first base and Molina behind the plate. A foul ball preserves the comedy, and Gordon strikes out two pitches later.

5:00 p.m. Gast left with left shoulder tightness.

5:01 p.m. Kelly has an ERA over 7 but he throws fire. Nothing below 95 mph. Lilly becomes his third strikeout victim in a row to end the inning. (OK, that hasn’t actually happened yet – the count is 2-2.)

5:02 p.m. OK, now it’s happened. Three outs.  Buck teases a Kershaw interview for the third inning.

5:03 p.m. The kids are soaking wet. One of them threw one of the water guns. A piece broke off and the dog snagged it and chewed it up. Total time of ownership for that toy: 3 1/2 hours.

5:06 p.m. As Kershaw talks to Buck, Lilly gets an easy first two outs in the top of the third. But now the trainers are visiting Gordon at shortstop.

5:09 p.m. Kershaw on having the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher since 1920: “I’ve only been playing for five years. I’ve got a lot of time to screw that up.”

5:10 p.m. Whatever it was, Gordon is staying in the game. Kershaw is now talking about his batting strategy against Miller.

5:11 p.m. Buck says he’s worried about asking his last question to Kershaw, about the mood of the team, because he can’t see who’s standing around Kershaw. Kershaw does a mock look around to see who’s eavesdropping, then replies.

“There’s no doubt that there’s some stuff going on, but if we win some games, that’s really all that matters,” Kershaw says. “Donny’s doing everything he possibly can. We all have his back. Personally, I love him to death, and he’s such a great guy to have as a manager. It’s really not fair to him just because we haven’t been performing as a team. That’s on us. It’s a lot easier to look at one guy than 25 but at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out and win some games. The pressure’ll be taken off, and we’ll be good to go from there. ”

Lilly strikes out Craig to end the top of the third. So far: three innings, two hits, no walks, one hit batter, one unearned run, 45 pitches.

5:16 p.m. Punto, leading off the bottom of the third, hits a low liner to right-center, and Jay was shaded toward left-center. A double.

5:17 p.m. With first base open, the next pitch hits Ellis in the hip. Retaliation? Ah, who cares? Two on, none out for Gonzalez.

5:19 p.m. Gonzalez was in a 4-for-32 slump with three walks and no extra-base hits going into today’s game. But he’s got RBI hits in his first two trips to the plate today, driving home Punto here with a single to center.  And suddenly we know how Kelly has an ERA over 7. As of this moment, it’s soaring through the air at 7.47.

5:22 p.m. Sigh. Kemp strikes out on three pitches.

5:23 p.m. Siiiigh. Ethier pops out to third. Some boos. Will Van Slyke keep it going?

5:25 p.m. Full count, two out.

5:26 p.m. Van Slyke sends one high and deep to center, but it dies on the warning track.

OK, I’m more than two hours into this, and definitely on borrowed time right now. Posting might become a bit sporadic in the middle innings as I try to figure out dinner.

5:34 p.m. Lilly has a perfect fourth and has retired … hello, 10 in a row.

Mac and cheese for kids’ dinner with green beans. My wife doesn’t think I use enough water in the pot for the mac. But she ain’t here …

5:38 p.m. Gordon ends an 0-for-25 skein with a one-out single off Kelly, setting up a potential Gordon-Molina showdown.

5:43 p.m. Lilly strikes out trying to bunt – giving Kelly a career-high six strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings so far. Now, you might as well send Gordon with two out and Punto up.

5:45 p.m. Gordon doesn’t test Molina. Lilly’s failure to bunt is underscored when Punto singles to left and Gordon goes to third base. Punto has been on three times in the first four innings.

5:47 p.m. Craig makes a nice running catch of a Mark Ellis foul ball near the stands to end the fourth. Dodgers still lead, 2-1.

Young Master Weisman is eating a giant pickle as a pre-mac appetizer.

6:02 p.m. Lilly cruises through the top of the fifth – now 13 in a row against the National League elite – and then Gonzalez kicks off the bottom of the frame with a legitimate solo four-bagger. That’s three straight RBI hits for Gonzalez, by the way. After a walk to Kemp, Kelly is pulled from the game, having gone three innings and 62 pitches in his emergency appearance.

6:11 p.m. Mom’s home! (Postscript: Dinner was not my best work, but it did what it needed to do.)

6:17 p.m. Catching up here. Carlos Martinez  – not this one – relieved Kelly and retired the next three batters (two on strikeouts) to strand Kemp. St. Louis relievers have eight strikeouts in four innings, and the Dodgers have struck out 19 times in 14 innings against the Cardinals so far in this series.

6:18 p.m. After retiring 14 in a row, Lilly walks Holliday with one out in the sixth – his first walk of the game – and just like that, he’s pulled from his first start since his return from the disabled list by Mattingly. He threw 79 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, allowing a run (unearned), two hits (one unearned) and a hit batter (unearned) while striking out three.

Ronald Belisario enters. I can already hear Mattingly saying, “I was not going to let Ted Lilly lose that game.”

6:22 p.m. See 3:58 p.m. I feel inappropriately vindicated by Lilly’s excellent outing.

6:23 p.m. Craig forces Holliday at second for the second out. By the way, Carl Crawford came in with Belisario in a double switch, replacing Van Slyke. Crawford will bat second in the bottom of the sixth.

6:24 p.m. Trouble. Molina singles, bringing Freese to the plate with the tying runs on base.

6:25 p.m. Freese hits a ball not unlike the one Molina hit in the first inning, right to the same spot, and Crawford does the same dive as Van Slyke did and comes up the same empty. It also goes for a double, the Cardinals have cut the Dodgers lead to 3-2 and Jon Jay is walked intentionally to load the bases with two out for Pete Kozma, who popped out twice against Lilly.

6:26 p.m. Hard smash down the third-base line. Punto makes a diving backhanded stop, beautifully. No time to recover and step on third, and he can’t get to his feet to make a throw to first in time to get Kozma. The game is tied, as Belisario can’t preserve Lilly’s lead.

6:28 p.m. If the bullpen were in better shape, I’d have been more content to see the Dodgers quit on Lilly while they were ahead. But it’s just hard to watch Belisario enter games with any kind of stakes these days.

6:30 p.m. Pinch-hitting for the Cardinals is left-handed batter Matt Adams, who is 16 for 40 with three walks, a .442 on-base percentage and a .700 slugging percentage this season. All of that damage is against righty pitching, however. Paco Rodriguez relieves Belisario, and Adams pops out on the third pitch. We’re tied going into the bottom of the sixth, 3-3.

6:35 p.m. A.J. Ellis has struck out in his first three at-bats. Previously in his career, he had one other three-strikeout game and one four-strikeout game.

6:36 p.m. With Crawford on deck, Gordon flies to the sun field in right to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Crawford then reaches base on an error by Carpenter, bringing Punto and his .844 OPS to the plate.

6:40 p.m. Argh, Punto strikes out. Mark Ellis up.

6:41 p.m. There it is – Ellis lashes a double down the line, and Crawford, “flying around the bases,” as McCarver says, comes all the way around to score to give the Dodgers back the lead.

6:42 p.m. Gonzalez needs a triple for the cycle – he has 12 in his career. But he’s walked intentionally to put runners at first and second with two out for Kemp.

6:45 p.m. Kemp strikes out on a 2-2 pitch that’s ankle-high. That’s 10 strikeouts in five innings for the Cardinal bullpen.

6:48 p.m. I don’t know if this feels like one of the more interesting Dodger games of the year only because I’m paying this much attention.

6:50 p.m. Dodger defense has come to life the past two innings. Gonzalez dives to his right to intercept a potential single by Carlos Beltran, then throws from his knee to Rodriguez covering first base for the second out of the seventh.

6:51 p.m. Mattingly brings in Kenley Jansen to face Holliday with the bases empty.

6:52 p.m. And you don’t see this much: Kemp is removed from the game in a double switch, with Skip Schumaker entering. It’s fairly sound strategy – Jansen would have been the third batter in the bottom of the sixth – but you do have to ask yourself, is Schumaker better to have in the game than even a struggling Kemp?

You now have the pitcher’s spot behind Gonzalez, which isn’t a good position for a team whose remaining bench is Luis Cruz, Ramon Hernandez and Juan Uribe. Gonzalez might not see a strike until Sunday.

6:59 p.m. Everyone on Twitter talking about Kemp’s negative reaction in the dugout to being pulled. By the way, Jansen struck out Holliday to end the top of the seventh.

7:00 p.m. Matt Holliday almost Matt Hollidayed that fly ball by Andre Ethier, but he caught it.

7:01 p.m. McCarver and Rosenthal are saying that Kemp’s removal by Mattingly is a pure strategy move. But clearly, it’s a move that never happens if Kemp isn’t struggling.

7:02 p.m. Schumaker, for his part, reaches base on an infield single to third base.

7:04 p.m. A.J. Ellis walks to end his strikeout streak, but Gordon flies to center for the second out. Crawford now batting to try to give the Dodgers a bigger cushion.

7:07 p.m. Didn’t mention that old friend Randy Choate is in the game for St. Louis. He has allowed nine baserunners in 7 1/3 innings with two strikeouts entering the game, but has a 1.23 ERA.

7:08 p.m. After hitting a foul ball off someone’s Dodger cap in the front row of the seats near first base, Crawford hits a fly to right-center. Jay and Beltran come close to each other before Jay gloves it for the inning-ending out.

7:13 p.m. If Jansen can get all three batters in the eighth, the closer in the ninth would face the bottom third of the Cardinals order in the ninth. Jansen strikes out Craig, but Molina singles to left for his third hit of the game.

7:16 p.m. Jansen goes 2-0 to Freese, and I’m starting to worry. The next pitch is a high strike, followed by a swing and a miss on a 90 mph pitch down the middle.

7:17 p.m. High heat, upstairs. Freese strikes out, bringing on Jay.

7:19 p.m. Jay hits a 200-foot drop shot into right field for a single. Kozma, who tied the game in the sixth, is up at the plate with two on and two out.

Again, there are ramifications beyond this inning. Even if Kozma is retired, Carlos Beltran is now guaranteed to bat in the ninth inning, with Holliday after him if anyone else gets on.

7:21 p.m. On his 23rd pitch of this outing, Jansen goes 3-0 to Kozma.

7:22 p.m. I’m corrected! Beltran came out of the game in a double switch for Choate.

7:23 p.m. The count is 3-2. Runners going. Jansen throwing his 27th pitch. It catches the edge of the zone for a called strike three.

Dodgers head to the bottom of the eighth, trying to add to their 4-3 lead. Due up in the top of the ninth for St. Louis: light-hitting reserve outfielder Shane Robinson, Carpenter and then probably Daniel Descalso as a pinch-hitter.

7:28 p.m. I don’t think it’s possible for me to jinx an already-struggling Brandon League, but it occurs to me that if he gets the save, he will get cheered on a night that Kemp got booed. Bizarro world.

7:30 p.m. Punto reaches base for the fourth time today with a hard single to right.

7:32 p.m. After Mark Ellis fails on a bunt attempt, he hits a grounder to short slow enough to allow him to avoid a double play. Gonzalez now bats with two out and a pinch-hitter on deck against Mitchell Boggs.

7:30 p.m. Punto reaches base for the fourth time today with a hard single to right.

7:32 p.m. After failing on a bunt attempt, Mark Ellis hits a grounder to short that’s slow enough for him to avoid the double play. Gonzalez now comes to the plate, with Uribe on deck to hit for Jansen.

7:35 p.m. One of the more predictable walks of the season is issued to Gonzalez. Here comes Uribear!

7:36 p.m. Uribear!  A hard shot off the glove of Freese and down the line, an RBI double.

It’s come to this. Dodger fans are excited to see Uribe bat instead of Kemp, and are rewarded.

Uribe raises his 2013 on-base percentage to .371 and OPS to .727.

7:38 p.m. Ethier is walked intentionally, loading the bases for Schumaker.

7:39 p.m. Schumaker hits a weird chopper just over Mitchell Boggs that Carpenter is able to flag near second base and convert into a double play.

We’re heading for the ninth, League tasked with protecting a 5-3 lead.

7:42 p.m. League starts with a first-pitch strike to Robinson, clocked at 94 mph, then follows with an 87 mph called strike two. After a ball, it’s 95 mph for a swinging strike three.

7:44 p.m. Punto’s diving stop in the sixth inning is Fox’s play of the game.

7:45 p.m. Carpenter grounds to Gordon, and the Dodgers are one out away from victory. Ty Winnington is the batter.

7:46 p.m. It’s a grounder to Punto, and just like that, the Dodgers win. Man, how they had to scratch and claw, but they won.

It’s a story of redemption … for Punto, who made the first-inning error that got the Dodgers off to a stumbling start, then did everything right after that … and for Lilly, who showed he can still contribute as a major-league starter. Keep that in mind as we await other redemption songs.

Thanks for reading – good night!

May 10

A new Don Mattingly brush fire

This excerpt from Barry M. Bloom’s interview of Dodger manager Don Mattingly for MLB.com could fan the flames of Mattingly’s detractors.

MLB.com: You’re a guy who constantly analyzes himself. How do you evaluate the job you’ve done this year?

Mattingly: Here’s how at look at it: Are we losing because I’m making mistakes? I look at the baseball side of it. Sure, I’ve made some mistakes, but I’m not sitting here crushing us every day, costing us games. Then I look at it from the standpoint of, am I not getting my message through to the guys? Are we not playing the game the way I want it to be played? Are we not playing with the energy and urgency? I don’t go about it asking myself how I’m doing. I know my club is not playing well. But I feel like I’m doing fine the way I’m handling it.

Mattingly isn’t single-handedly costing the Dodgers games, but he might be downplaying the impact of some of his decisions. But in Mattingly’s defense, no, he’s not crushing the Dodgers.

There’s no mistaking that the discussion around Mattingly’s future has turned into a firestorm.

Joe Sheehan voiced this thought in a podcast appearance with Will Leitch of Sports on Earth recently, and I’m not sure I disagree with it. Baseball managers are really middle management. They have a role, but the buck just doesn’t stop with them. There’s no dismissing the responsibility of the front office to deliver the right players and for the players to deliver the right results.

Sheehan suggested that the time has really come to divide the manager’s job where necessary, to ensure that you have someone who can inspire and teach players and someone who can effectively execute in-game strategy and tactics. It’s the same notion that finds the head coach leading the team on the field but the offensive and/or defensive coordinators calling plays. In baseball, the bench coach could evolve to be more than, as Sheehan put it, “a drinking buddy.”

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Will Don Mattingly make it back to Yankee Stadium as Dodger manager?

* * *

Scott Van Slyke has been put on the Dodger roster, with Elian Herrera returning to Albuquerque and Chad Billingsley going to the 60-day disabled list.

* * *

Marlins at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.

May 08

Will Don Mattingly make it back to Yankee Stadium as Dodger manager?

Seven thoughts about Don Mattingly, 13-19 this season, 181-174 in his career:

1) Setting up a homecoming for the longtime Yankee great, the Dodgers are scheduled to make their first regular-season visit ever to Yankee Stadium on June 18. However, if the Dodgers continue to flounder – this is the earliest they have had two six-game losing streaks since, of all things, the sinking of the Titanic, notes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com – you can expect to see a rising chorus calling for Mattingly to attend that game only as a fan.

2) At the outset, let’s stipulate that there are reasons to fire Mattingly and reasons not to – just as there are reasons one might expect the Dodgers to and reasons not to.

3) Mattingly has always made some confounding things decisions as manager, from bullpen management to strategic choices on offense. That distinguishes him from … practically no one. Few managers in history have ever been immune from fans thinking they could do better. That doesn’t mean you can’t do better, but until the Dodgers are ready to hire one of those fans, there’s probably not a huge potential for improvement here.

4) Mattingly deserves at least something of a mulligan for the state of his roster. For all the talk about how the Dodgers had more pitching than they could handle at the start of the season, the facts are these. He has only had 2 1/2 effective starting pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and the four starts provided by Chad Billingsley and Zack Greinke). On top of that, he has had only 4 1/2 effective position players: Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, A.J. Ellis and Mark Ellis, with Nick Punto off the bench.

I suppose one could blame Mattingly for the underperformance of the other 18 of 25 slots on the squad – and it’s not like any manager gets great work from his entire team – but this seems like way too much to lay at Mattingly’s door. You can’t win with seven good players. You certainly can’t win with half a starting rotation.

Digression: At a minimum, Ned Colletti, who last year received the contract extension that has avoided Mattingly, holds some responsibility for the effectiveness of the Dodgers, good or bad.

5) From Day 1 … from before Day 1 … Mattingly’s relationship with his players has been considered one of his virtues. It’s neither clear how much true value there was to that relationship in previous seasons, nor clear now much there is now. The idea, of course, is that those intangibles are the thing that will make a bad team good and a good team great, and there’s no better time like the present to prove that. But looking at the Dodgers’ roster, you can argue that you should get more than a third of the season to find out.

6) Mattingly’s postgame comments this past weekend in San Francisco, in which he went out of his way to find the positive amid a sweep at the hands of the Giants, seemed like they might be a turning point in his fate, a “Remain calm, all is well” in the face of the Deathmobile. At the same time, Mattingly hasn’t been afraid to point out when his team has been truly playing badly, as was the case Monday against Arizona. Some losses are worse than others. Mattingly shouldn’t be punished for knowing the difference, even if the comments didn’t play well.

7) What will the Dodgers do? There are tea leaves for every vision. You have a squad for which expectations are high and for which, if you pay attention to Magic Johnson, failure is not an option. You have a team president, Stan Kasten, who has espoused a long-term vision for the future of the Dodgers. You have the mixed signals of the team not extending Mattingly’s contract but Kasten calling that fact meaningless. In general, you have a management team that has been unafraid to make bold – even radical – moves, while preaching the virtues of stability.

It’s hard to deny that the value of a manager is one of the most difficult things to judge in baseball. If it’s true the Dodgers can do better with their manager, it’s also true that it won’t matter, at all, if they don’t get better performances from virtually everyone else.

Apr 01

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2013!

I’m in the press box today, taking a day off work to freelance a piece for Sports on Earth that you’ll see tonight. In the meantime, here are some notes from Don Mattingly’s pregame session:

• Everyone seems at ease with Chris Capuano in the bullpen for now, but neither Aaron Harang nor Don Mattingly seem sold on Harang’s presence there.

“Aaron is a little bit for me someone who we’ll have to learn (about) as we go,” Mattingly said. “He’ll be a bit more of a challenge, in terms of how long it takes him to get going, how long it takes him to get loose. … I’m a little more concerned with Aaron than I am with Cap to be honest.

It didn’t sound as if Harang had really even bought into the program at this point.

“Maybe he hadn’t quite accepted it,” Mattingly said. “Now reality has hit, and we need to get down to brass tacks.”

• Mattingly likes Paco Rodriguez, the young reliever who last year became the first from the 2012 draft class to reach the majors, and he likes him not only as a guy to focus on left-handed batters.

“This guy can get righties out, too,” Mattingly said. “He’s a strike-thrower. … All our lefties for me can get lefties and righties out.”

• There is no medical watch on Carl Crawford beyond simple common sense.

“At this point, I think Carl is off the (medical) list,” Mattingly said. “That being said, we know he’s coming off major elbow surgery, and we have to pay attention.”

Mattingly also made the case that concern over Crawford’s throwing arm – never a strength of his game, the manager acknowledged – is a bit overblown.

“He’s more of a speed guy,” Mattingly said. “He gets to it quick and gets rid of it quick.  … (But) it ain’t like he can’t throw. We think he’s going to continue to get better.”

Mattingly added that Skip Schumacher “throws as good as anybody (the Dodgers have) in the outfield” and he would be the primary defensive replacement should the team feel it needs a better arm in the late innings.

• Dylan Hernandez of the Times asked Mattingly, “How did Ted Lilly react when you told him he was injured.” Mattingly smiled somewhat sheepishly for several seconds, then said, “Ned (Colletti) took care of the DL, so I’ll leave that there.”

•  ”Voila,” Mattingly said at one point in the pregame. On principle, I’m not providing the context, allowing you to imagine him as a magician.

Giants at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Kershaw CL: Kershawn the Waterfront

Dodgers starting lineup
Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

Mar 12

We’re talking about what now?

Dodgers at Angels, 1:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr, 3B
Cory Sullvian, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Josh Fields, 1B
(Aaron Harang, P)

More than once already this morning, I’ve seen pieces making arguments that I didn’t think needed to be made.

First: No disrespect to Buster Olney, but I can’t imagine the Dodgers are going to hit Opening Day with a 13-man pitching staff, as he suggests is possible, especially with Chris Capuano in the bullpen because of the day off April 9.

David Schoenfeld of ESPN.com and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness were compelled to analyze the pros and cons of this — they’re correct in concluding that the 13-man staff would be a mistake, but this was one of those things that wasn’t really worth worrying about.

Barring anything out of the ordinary this spring, the Dodgers have six bullpen locks and an opening for a seventh reliever. After Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Todd Coffey and Mike MacDougal, the Dodgers are going to be deciding whether they think it’s worth hanging on to a non-roster invitee like Jamey Wright or keep Josh Lindblom from going to the minors. That’s it. Going with a nine-man bullpen and a four-man bench for the first four games of the season makes so little sense, I just don’t believe it’s a consideration. That 25th roster spot will go to Jerry Sands or an infielder.

* * *

This was the second of two topics today whose origin confused me. The first was Eric Seidman’s piece on Fangraphs, “Will A.J. Ellis develop any power?” I don’t mean to be critical at all — the piece is completely well-argued (spoiler alert: answer is probably not) — but I’m not understanding why the question is being asked.

There’s no reason to suspect that Ellis will suddenly become a slugger … but so what?  While it’d be nice if Ellis suddenly blasted balls out of the park, I think the Dodgers and their fans will all be quite happy if Ellis maintains his on-base skills over the long haul. How likely is it that he’ll do that? That’s a question worth exploring.

Seidman replied in the comments of his piece:

All good points, guys. Intention wasn’t to argue anything, really, just to take a historical look at a somewhat rare player. I think his OBP and defense make for a solid backup, but his slugging inability will hurt his effectiveness over 450+ PAs. Thought it was interesting that nobody has really had a similar OBP/SLG disconnect like his while also making it in the majors at a relatively older age.

* * *

Interesting tidbit from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Although the Dodgers are off to a sizzling start in the Cactus League with a 5-1-2 record — something that in reality means absolutely nothing — Mattingly is growing impatient with the unusual number of fundamental miscues.

“For me, we have gotten a little lazy lately,” he said. “We have missed some cutoffs and missed some signs. I think it’s just that part of the spring where we have to push ourselves to be a little better.”

* * *

The famous 1980 Pat Jordan piece for Inside Sports on Steve and Cyndi Garvey has been rerun in full by Alex Belth at Bronx Banter.

* * *

Jay Jaffe analyzes National League starting rotations at Baseball Prospectus.

Sep 07

Does Matt Kemp need a rain dance?

While I ponder what a potential rainout of Thursday’s Dodgers-Nationals doubleheader — with the games unlikely to be replayed — might do to Matt Kemp’s MVP chances, here are some links:

  • Juan Uribe’s season-ending surgery for a sports hernia is today, the Dodgers announced.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation offers a history of suicides among baseball players, with some particularly grim anecdotes from the distant and more recent past.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. on the broken dreams of Ivan DeJesus Jr.:

    … In addition to his two walks in 35 at-bats with the Dodgers, DeJesus had just 16 walks in 245 plate appearances over 57 games in Triple A through July 21, just 6.5% of his plate appearances. However, as the season wore on DeJesus showed improvement with 29 walks in his final 43 games, walking in 14.6% of his plate appearances during that span, showing glimpses of his prior days as a viable prospect. DeJesus even hit six of his eight home runs this season in a 16-game span in mid-August.

    Whether it was for attitude, or performance, or both, DeJesus did not get the call. Again. If the Dodgers thought anything of DeJesus, he would be up with the big league team. It appears his days in the Dodger organization are numbered, which is a shame.

    It’s not clear to me why, even if De Jesus doesn’t loom large in the Dodgers’ future plans, he would get buried by Eugenio Velez, who is 0 for his last 40 in the majors — unless the Dodgers’ share the same perverse fascination with how long Velez’s streak can go on that we do.

  • Stephen also points out that Andre Ethier now has at least 30 doubles in five consecutive seasons, a figure exceeded by only four players in Dodger history: Zack Wheat, Dixie Walker, Jackie Robinson and Steve Garvey.
  • Don Mattingly gave an interview to Jim Rosenthal of Los Angeles Magazine (link via L.A. Observed, which also points to a science-flavored Times op-ed piece by Frederick M. Cohan related to Sandy Koufax’s perfect game). An excerpt from the Mattingly interview:

    Managers have people second-guessing them all the time. But even you’ve second-guessed some of your decisions in the press.
    If you don’t second-guess yourself, then you are not trying to get better. Joe would always tell me that you are going to make decisions. Some of them are not going to work out, and it does not mean that they were the wrong decisions. I have had many occasions this year where I questioned and second-guessed my decision in a game, but it comes down to learning from mistakes and being accountable for what you did right or did wrong.

    Can you think of a decision you second-guessed recently?
    The Mets had Jason Bay waiting on deck with an open base, and I could have walked the lefty hitter and pitched to Bay. Instead the lefty got a hit, and I kicked myself for not challenging Bay and walking the other guy with an open base. We all have the temptation to be backseat drivers when it comes to decisions that don’t work out the way we want. …

  • Is Biz of Baseball founder and Dodger Thoughts friend Maury Brown bringing down the Jim Crane ownership of the Houston Astros (with an assist from Frank and Jamie McCourt) before it even begins? Take a look at this piece and this one by Brown and judge for yourself.
  • J.J. Cooper of Baseball America stacks Minor League Player of the Year Mike Trout’s 2011 season against the best ever by age-20 players.
  • Satchel Price of Beyond the Boxscore looks at the offseason market for catchers (in case the Dodgers decide they need to stick a dagger in A.J. Ellis’ heart one more time.
  • A big topic of conversation in the online sabermetric world Tuesday was this piece appearing on It’s About the Money, which calls into question the value of the Wins Above Replacement stat because of its reliance on fielding metrics that are questionable. This led to a discussion at Sean Foreman’s Baseball-Reference.com blog (including the comments) about how much consistency one should expect in fielding stats for individual players from year to year.
  • Baseball Toaster founder Ken Arneson explores on his new blog why he’s not ready to “commit to a life as a chicken.” I can relate:

    … It’s partly because I don’t have all my ducks in a row in my personal life to make that practical right now. I quit writing regularly two years ago because I was juggling too many balls in my life, and I ended up doing a half-assed job on all of them. I hate feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, I hate feeling like I need to work 24/7 in order to avoid feeling like I’m not living up to expectations, so I resist making commitments that would create any expectations. Hence, for now, this blog, where I can do what I like, when I like, how I like with maximum flexibility and minimum commitment. …

Jun 19

Mattingly deserves mulligan for Dodger collapse


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireDon Mattingly

I’ve noticed on different parts of the World Wide Internet that frustration about the Dodgers has started being directed toward manager Don Mattingly, something that I suppose is predictable and unexpected all at once.

It’s predictable because frustration about losing always falls at some point in the manager’s lap, as we can see by the end today of Edwin Rodriguez’s 163-game tenure skippering the Florida Marlins. But at the same time, I’m taken aback by the idea of Mattingly as whipping boy, because I don’t know how people can expect Mattingly to do much more about the situation than he already has. And I say this as someone who was repeatedly skeptical about his being hired in the first place.

If anything, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes, Mattingly has every right to share in the current frustration, rather than be a target of it.

Starting pitching: Not much to say here. The relative strength of the team, it has faltered in recent days, but as we’ve seen by his recent comments about Chad Billingsley, Mattingly is if nothing else trying to do something about it.

Bullpen: Working without Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario for long stretches this season – in case you hadn’t noticed, that’s pretty much an entire bullpen right there – Mattingly has actually managed better in this area than I would expect from a protege of Joe Torre. He hasn’t overworked any pitchers, and he has not let a player’s lack of experience get in the way of using him if he’s the best option. Mattingly’s a bit more infatuated with inherited runner-squanderer Mike MacDougal than I would like, but again, when a non-roster invitee is the only member of your expected Opening Day bullpen not to end up on the disabled or restricted list, you’re not always going to have the ideal man out there.

There are always going to be moments where a manager makes a pitching change that you disagree with, but I don’t know how you can say that Mattingly has been below-average here.

Starting lineup: Mattingly hasn’t been afraid to start sitting the slumping James Loney or even acknowledge Andre Ethier’s struggles against lefties. I think he’d be even less afraid if he had alternatives. Except on occasional days, he has recognized that Jamey Carroll, on pace for 603 plate appearances this year, is about the best option he has in the infield.  Kids such as Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon have gotten trials – in Sands’ case, 144 plate appearances in under two months. The Dodgers don’t have an answer for the left-field question, but is that Mattingly’s fault? Juan Uribe has been terrible, but is that Mattingly’s fault? Casey Blake is aging and fragile, Rafael Furcal has disappeared … you get the idea. As with the bullpen, there’s stuff to quibble about, but I don’t know of any manager who could make this offense work.

One of the next tests for Mattingly will be how much he plays A.J. Ellis while Rod Barajas is out. But regardless of how well he does, does anyone think Ellis will be a difference-maker?

Motivation: Jackson reports that Mattingly held a team meeting after Saturday’s loss, the Dodgers’ fifth straight, all at home. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. writes that with that defeat, the 2011 Dodgers have matched the 1992 team for the worst 72-game start in Los Angeles Dodger history. All I can say is that one of the main arguments in Mattingly’s favor as manager was his ability to relate to players. What’s happening on the field isn’t pretty, but I’m not sure why we’d pick this moment, 2 1/2 months into his career, to decide that Mattingly is hopeless to motivate his players.

I’m sure there are some of you who will still be wondering where this piece is coming from, that see the Dodgers’ problems originating, as I do, from the people wearing the suits and sport coats, not the uniforms and caps. But all I can say is that there are those who have already lost patience with Mattingly. Perhaps someday we’ll find, as I considered a year ago, that he isn’t the best man for the job, but there’s no way you can base that decision on what’s happened in 2011.

* * *

Crazy one in Albuquerque on Saturday: Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner writes that the Isotopes had 13 consecutive batters reach base in the 11-run second inning of their 13-10 victory over Iowa, a game in which all 23 runs had scored by the middle of the fourth inning.

John Lindsey survived being hit by pitches twice in the single inning, only to leave the game after reaggravating a calf injury in the third.

Trayvon Robinson went 3 for 3 with two walks and has now reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances. Robinson has a .500 on-base percentage and .705 slugging percentage in June. Though he’s still averaging more than one strikeout per game, perhaps Robinson will be the next kid for Mattingly to play with.

Apr 26

Broxton’s status in turnaround

Making more front-page drive-in news is Jonathan Broxton. An excerpt follows, but be sure to read the full story on Broxton’s status from Tony Jackson at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Jonathan Broxton was told by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Tuesday that he is still the team’s closer despite widespread media reports that the team had decided to go with a closer-by-committee approach in the wake of Broxton’s blown save on Monday night against the Florida Marlins.

Mattingly saw one of those media reports, on the MLB Network, while working out on Tuesday morning and immediately decided to meet with Broxton to reassure him that the job was still his. That closed-door meeting, which also included pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, took place in the visiting clubhouse at Sun Life Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before the Dodgers played the Marlins. The Marlins scored three runs off Broxton after two were out and nobody was on base in the ninth inning on Monday night to beat the Dodgers 5-4.

“I’m the closer right now, so I just have to go out there and continue to throw,” Broxton said after the meeting. “I just have to turn the page. That is the big thing about closing or doing anything, setting up, relieving. You have to turn the page. … [Mattingly] said he liked what he has been seeing and that I’m throwing the ball good. I just have to get back to that attack mode, especially with two outs.”

Those media reports stemmed from comments Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti made during his weekly radio interview on Tuesday morning with KABC’s Peter Tilden. Although Colletti never used the term “closer-by-committee,” he did mention the names of at least two other pitchers — Hong-Chih Kuo, who is on the disabled list but expected to return as early as Friday, and Vicente Padilla, who came off the disabled list on Friday and has since had one strong outing and one shaky one — as possible closer candidates.

“I can’t help but be concerned,” Colletti said when Tilden asked about Broxton. “I’m one of those people who are pretty much concerned about everything anyway. I am concerned about him. Hopefully, we will get Kuo back Friday, and Padilla has been back for a couple of games. Hopefully, we can give Donnie three choices or so at the end of a game and let him make up his mind by matchup or whatever until Broxton can get his confidence back and get settled.”

Contacted by ESPNLosAngeles.com, Colletti downplayed the implications of what he had told Tilden earlier in the day.

“I just said when we get Kuo back and Padilla back to 100 percent, it’s going to give Donnie some options, depending upon matchups and the previous day’s usage, things like that,” Colletti said. “But that doesn’t mean Broxton isn’t the closer.”

Both Mattingly and Honeycutt said Broxton wasn’t available to close on Tuesday night against the Marlins, but only because he had pitched each of the previous two games. …


Also, Jackson reports that Frank McCourt is meeting in New York on Thursday with MLB execs — but not commissioner Bud Selig.

Finally, Xavier Paul was claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh, where he’ll be a teammate of Brandon Wood, recently claimed from the Angels, and former Dodger James McDonald.

Apr 09

The lowest moment of James Loney’s career?

Tie game, 11th inning, Juan Uribe on second with none out. A single gives you the lead. No double-play threat. Right-handed pitcher on the mound.

And Don Mattingly has James Loney bunt.

So much for Mr. RBI. If that’s not the lowest moment of Loney’s playing career, it’s the lowest moment of Mattingly’s managing career.

Loney took three pitches, fouled off a bunt, hit another foul swinging away, then popped out.

Feb 22

Davey Lopes gets me excited about 2011

Kirby Lee/US PresswireYou’ve come to the right place.

Tony Jackson’s Spring Training update today for ESPNLosAngeles.com focuses on Davey Lopes’ tutoring the Dodgers. Some good stuff therein:

… The 45-minute session dealt mostly with the basics. But Lopes delivered his message in a charismatic, entertaining way, with a lot of the no-nonsense language one might expect from a 65-year-old baseball lifer who believes in doing things the right way, mixed with a little bit of humor.

The audience appeared to include every non-pitcher the Dodgers have in camp, and that audience burst into laughter on a few occasions, usually when Lopes would get especially animated while demonstrating the wrong way to do something.

For those who were paying attention, though, there were a lot of lessons.

For one, Lopes isn’t a fan of the headfirst slide. He also isn’t a fan of the slide into first base.

“There are two reasons why you slide,” Lopes told the assembly. “First, to slow your body down. … Second, to avoid a tag.”

And thus, Lopes said, the only time a slide into first base is justified is to avoid a tag if the player covering has to come off the bag to take an off-line throw. …

Elsewhere …

Feb 19

Now batting, Don Mattingly


Morry Gash/APDon Mattingly: Five-tool manager?

The most fun and interesting detail to come out of Camelback Ranch today was the tidbit that Dodger manager Don Mattingly will stand in the batters box during bullpen sessions for his pitchers. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

In Mattingly’s first spring as the team’s manager, he already has employed at least one unconventional tactic. Often, when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, Mattingly will grab a bat, step into the left-handed batter’s box and get into the familiar stance he employed for so many years as a six-time All-Star first baseman for the New York Yankees.

“It gives me a better look at a guy’s stuff,” Mattingly said. “[By standing there], I can tell if what a guy is throwing can get somebody out or it can’t.”

Mattingly conceded that some of his pitchers — especially those who will spend the spring fighting for a roster spot — might be a bit unnerved by firing a baseball in the general direction of the boss’s body. In deference to that, he said he steps out of the box when it comes time for a pitcher to throw to the inside part of the plate.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more.

… Mattingly’s participation in the bullpen sessions had the players talking.

“First time I ever saw that,” said catcher Dioner Navarro. “Caught me off guard. I did a double take. You know, you don’t want to drill him. But you can see he wants to be involved in everything, to know everything. It’s like he’s back to being a player. He knows what it takes. It brings confidence to the team to see that. It’s exciting.”

Mattingly, 49, said he no longer gets the urge to actually hit, having retired after the 1995 season. And he only steps in to his natural left-handed side, because he said he might not know how to get out of the way from the right-hander’s box.

Among the pitchers he “faced” Saturday were veterans Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla. Mattingly said he’d think twice if he saw a pitcher was having control problems.

“Managers do that in Japan and it’s considered an honor,” said Kuroda. “They do it for top young prospects and established veterans. And in the middle of Spring Training you have a session when you throw 200 to 300 pitches to establish endurance, and the manager steps in then, so you don’t slack off.” …

* * *

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles DodgersMatt Kemp works out at Camelback Ranch today.

Davey Lopes baserunning tutorials are in full swing. From Jackson:

… Lopes has been giving these tutorials every morning this spring, and after a few minutes on Saturday, (Matt) Kemp was joined by outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., shortstop Rafael Furcal, highly touted prospects Dee Gordon and Trayvon Robinson and non-roster outfielder Trent Oeltjen. Not one of those players is required to be in camp until Monday, but several of the team’s position players chose to report early.

Lopes’ group spent the entire session taking leads off first, crouching and breaking toward second base, though they weren’t running at anything close to full speed and they stopped about halfway there.

“Right now, I’m just trying to get an idea of what they do and what they attempt to do and see if there is something we can try to adjust to make it a little better fit for them,” Lopes said. “Basically, we’re just breaking down their movements.” …

* * *

Hiroki Kuroda is working on adding a curveball to his repertoire. Dylan Hernandez of the Times has more:

Last spring, Kuroda tried to add a changeup to his arsenal, but the project was abandoned early in camp. Kuroda said he’s more optimistic about his curveball.

“I’ll throw it during the exhibition season and see how it feels,” he said.

Kuroda said he has received tips from Clayton Kershaw, but that he learned the curveball grip over the winter by watching videos.

* * *

Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports writes about the importance to Rafael Furcal of the fire truck recently donated to his hometown in the Dominican Republic:

“I’ll sleep better knowing people will be safe,” Furcal said. “I’m the only guy who made it. It’s like a responsibility to me.”

His love of firefighting was noticed by Dodgers public relations director Josh Rawitch, who mentioned it to general manager Ned Colletti during Furcal’s contract negotiations after the 2008 season. Colletti included the truck in discussions with Furcal’s agent, Paul Kinzer. Furcal was torn between signing with the Braves – the team that first signed him in 1996 and for whom he played his first six years in the majors – or returning to the Dodgers.

The fire truck was the ideal perk. It spoke to something close to his heart. And it convinced him the Dodgers cared about him as a person, and about his hometown.


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Farewell, Ollie Matson.

Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

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