Jul 30

Almost heaven

A perfect lineup, as I call it, is when a team only uses nine players from the start of the game to finish to deliver a victory.

Tony Gwynn Jr.’s eighth-inning entry Sunday as a defensive replacement cost the Dodgers their first perfect lineup since August 19, 2010. That day, Los Angeles defeated Colorado, 2-0, using this lineup of perfection:

Scott Podsednik, LF
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
James Loney, 1B
Casey Blake, 3B
Reed Johnson, RF
Jamey Carroll, SS
Brad Ausmus, C
Ted Lilly, P

* * *

  • A new biography of Jim Murray, Last King of the Sports Page, gets a tremendous review by John Schulian at the Wall Street Journal.
  • Reggie Smith, the subject of my piece in The Hall of Nearly Great, gave an Old School interview to the New School’s Fangraphs and David Laurila.
  • Former Dodger general manager Dan Evans provides Baseball Prospectus with an insider’s view of the trading deadline.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball gives a midseason update on his top 20 Dodger prospects list.
  • None of the nine Colorado Rockies in the field during the fifth inning of their game Sunday realized they had recorded the inning’s third out, writes Mark Townsend of Big League Stew.
Aug 04

Hocus focus

I’m no ballplayer, nor do I play one on TV. But though I don’t have to recognize the spin on baseballs coming at me at 132 feet per second, I do depend on my vision for my work quite a bit.

Basically, I spend most of my waking moments staring at small type on a computer screen. And sometimes, staring at even smaller type on my cellphone.  And at night, I go back and forth between staring at the small type and images on a TV screen. Food and shelter for a family of five largely depends on my ability to perform these tasks and then move my fingers on a keyboard while I do it.

Historically, this has been as easy as blinking. But in this, my 43rd year, it has finally gotten more difficult. I look up from looking down for a while, and at first the TV is blurry. I look down from looking up, and so is the fine print.  Most of the time, it comes into focus, but sometimes, I can’t focus at all, except maybe if I move into some much better light. A few times, I’ve given up.

My eye doctor’s diagnosis is blunt. Turns out, I am not immune from getting older.

Not that I ever thought I was. I mean, I was in sixth grade when I first noticed that the numbers on the clock on the other side of my bedroom seemed to change as I was looking at them. I got my first pair of glasses at age 11 and my first set of contact lenses two years later. But nearsightedness (to go with my congenital color-blindness) had been my status quo for three decades.

Now, I’m heading down the other side of the cliff. Or at least a lovely rolling hill – let’s imagine one in bonny Ireland, just because I’ve always wanted to go there. It’s one thing to understand you’re going to get older, and another thing to be socked in the eyes with it.

Relatively speaking, I understand, it’s a minor condition. It’s just weird, man. It’s weird to me that something can be working and then stop. It’s weird to me that I find this weird. But there it is. My baby blues have the blues.

Inevitably, when I think of eyesight and writing, it’s impossible for me not to think of Jim Murray, who unforgettably chronicled his vision loss in a series of columns including this one.

OK, bang the drum slowly, professor. Muffle the cymbals and the laugh track. You might say that Old Blue Eye is back. But that’s as funny as this is going to get.

I feel I owe my friends an explanation as to where I’ve been all these weeks. Believe me, I would rather have been in a press box.

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy.

You see, the friend I lost was my eye. My good eye. The other eye, the right one, we’ve been carrying for years. We just let him tag along like Don Quixote’s nag. It’s been a long time since he could read the number on a halfback or tell whether a ball was fair or foul or even which fighter was down.

So, one blue eye missing and the other misses a lot. …

I’m not Jim Murray (you can say that again). For now, I’ll make the necessary adjustments. The computer is a stationary target, fortunately. This is not the end. But that last sentence is a double-edged sword, if you can see what I’m gettin’ at …

Apr 30

Like Tony Gwynn Jr., I’m saving the best for last

Reading options:

Feb 28

Jim Murray, 50 years later

It was 50 years ago this month that Jim Murray’s sports column debuted in the Times, notes Larry Harnisch of the Daily Mirror. Some selections from his opening work:

I am against the bunt in baseball — unless they start batting the ball against John McGraw batted against. The last time the bunt won a game, Frank Chance was a rookie. …

I’m glad the Rams traded Billy Wade. I won’t say Billy was clumsy, but on the way back from the line of scrimmage with the ball he bumped into more people than a New York pickpocket. I have seen blockers make ball-carriers look bad. Wade was the only ball-carrier I ever saw make the blockers look bad. …

I really don’t understand why the Angels haven’t signed up Bob Kelley to do their broadcasts. He’s the only guy in town who can prevent Vin Scully from throwing a shutout. …

Here’s what Murray wrote 50 years ago today, about Eli Grba, the Angels’ No. 1 pick in the expansion draft:

“Eli Grba” just isn’t a name you lead off with. It’s like laying down a bridge hand beginning with the deuce of trumps. Your partner is apt to head out of town without waiting to see the rest and we were afraid the Angels’ supporters would similarly run for cover when they failed to see a face card turned up at Boston. …

But there is a solution, it seems to me. The Angels now, granted Mr. Grba is a first-class pitcher even if his name sounds like something that a space chimp might say upon landing, should shop around not for a player or two but a vowel or two.

They might tap their own roster. Kluszewski, for instance, has letters to spare. But Klu runs to a surfeit of “z’s” and “s’s” and they don’t quite fit the bill. If the Angels had a farm system, they might bring up an “i” or two to the parent club. The Dodgers are loaded, but I can see Fresco Thompson scanning the high minors and reporting “not a lousy, stinking ‘e’ we can trade you in the whole lot …”

Aug 16

From the top to the middle

Since holding the best record in the National League on June 9 with a 36-24 record, the Dodgers are 24-34 and have lost 11 games in the standings to the Padres (35-23). Losses today and tomorrow would allow the Dodgers to bookend their two 60-game stretches, 36-24 and 24-36.

* * *

  • Ricky Romero (not Ricky Roma) just signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Toronto. What does that mean for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers? Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness explores the topic. (Perhaps a propos to this, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com asks another question: Is Tim Lincecum’s slump permanent?)
  • Life Magazine has posted some previously unpublished photos of Babe Ruth at his final Yankee Stadium appearance in 1948. (Scroll down for the links to the different images.)
  • If you want a preview of the upcoming free-agent market in starting pitchers, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk has it.
  • Linda McCoy-Murray and her work on behalf of the Jim Murray Foundation are profiled by Shelley Smith for ESPNLosAngeles.com.