Aug 01

Nope – it’s Abreu

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, 3B
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Stephen Fife, P

Well, I was wrong. The Dodgers have designated Bobby Abreu for assignment to make room on the roster for Shane Victorino.

Abreu OPSed .905 in his first 33 games as a Dodger, through June 11, but since then the outfielder has been 16 for 90 with 11 walks and two extra-base hits in 37 games for a .490 OPS.

I’m genuinely surprised. In this money-is-no-object era for the Dodgers, I still see more potential for Abreu to help in the stretch run than Juan Uribe.

* * *

  • Victorino will wear No. 8 with the Dodgers, with Don Mattingly switching to No. 12. The switch-hitting Victorino is wearing the same number as the switch-hitting Reggie Smith did as a Dodger in the 1970s. Smith took No. 8 because Steve Yeager already had the outfielder’s preferred No. 7.
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked the prospects traded at the deadline this week. Ethan Martin is 11th, Scott McGough 24th, Logan Bawcom 25th and Leon Landry 30th out of 43.
  • Goldstein also produced a new ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, with Zach Lee on the list at 47.
  • In the wake of Martin’s departure, the Dodgers promoted Andres Santiago to Double-A Chattanooga, reports Robert Emrich for MLB.com. The 22-year-old righty had a 1.76 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 41 innings for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in July, while allowing only 21 hits and nine walks.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr. had an obscure but memorable throw, captured by Chad Moriyama.
  • Buster Olney names 10 leading August trade candidates in his column for ESPN.com.
  • This past weekend, I discussed Chad Billingsley’s season-long improvement in throwing strikes. At Fangraphs, Michael Barr delves deeper, noting that Billingsley is “going to his four seam fastball far more regularly and he’s almost abandoned his cutter.”
  • A year after it happened, the Trayvon Robinson trade gets a positive review from Scott Andes at Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Dodger Stadium cuisine was recently reviewed by Jeanne Fratello of the Jolly Tomato.
  • Former Dodger general manager Dan Evans had a post-deadline live chat today at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Houston finished July with a 3-24 record, the worst July any team has had in at least 50 years, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings.
  • With no further introduction, a recent piece from Josh Wilker.
Jul 20

Vin Scully’s brush with Monday Night Football

If you haven’t read the 1964 Robert Creamer feature on Vin Scully, don’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, Scully told Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News that he was approached to be the original play-by-play man for ABC’s Monday Night Football.

… Scully stands by the Red Barber philosophy of having one voice in the booth narrate for radio or TV. He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on “Monday Night Football.”

“He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV — and he was right,” said Scully.

Scully declined, in part, because “the more I thought about it, I realized it would conflict with the Dodgers’ schedule.” But another reason he passed, he said, had to do with how he saw the play-by-play man’s role being diluted.

Keith Jackson ended up with the job for the first year of “MNF” in the debut year of 1970, with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith as the analysts. Frank Gifford replaced Jackson in 1971 and stayed on play-by-play until 1985, when Al Michaels came in, and Gifford moved to an analyst until 1997.

“Because of how football was going to be televised, you’d have one or two analysts now in the booth,” Scully said. “I had been doing games with Jim Brown on one side and George Allen on the other, and there were times I wasn’t sure, ‘Do I turn to him first for an opinion?’”

Scully said the emergence of John Madden, who he had as a partner at CBS, “really put the analyst front and center. And baseball picked up on that. The whole business changed in my opinion because of the way ‘Monday Night Football’ did it.”

Change, maybe not for the better, as far as how local baseball broadcasts were influenced by the national presentation. …

* * *

  • Mike Sandlock, at 96 the oldest living former Dodger, will have a meet-and-greet with the team today, writes Jack Cavanaugh for the Times.
  • J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News checks in with Javy Guerra, who just returned from caring for his ailing father.
  • In May 1960, a 24-year-old Sandy Koufax threw 785 pitches in a 22-day stretch, capped by a 193-pitch, 13-inning outing. Geoff Young discusses at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Via a conversation with Dodger president Stan Kasten, Dylan Hernandez of the Times analyzes the Dodger trade-deadline prospects.
  • De Jon Watson talked about Dodger minor-leaguers with Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Believe it or not, the Dodgers have been the fourth-most clutch team in baseball in 2012, according to a study by Ari Berkowitz of Beyond the Box Score.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods offers The Bad News Bears in Breaking Bad.
  • Happy birthday to Rachel Robinson, who turned 90 on Thursday.
Jun 15

Working my way back to you

It’s been so long since I’ve pointed some bullets …

Apr 11

Kershaw’s winless dominance

F-18s fly over Dodger Stadium prior to the home opener. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Some Tuesday postgame data, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:

How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Pirates despite not picking up a win:
- Sixty-five of Kershaw’s 88 pitches (73.9 percent) went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.
- Kershaw went to a three-ball count to the first hitter of the game, the only one he went to all game. The one three-ball count matches his career low in a start.
- Pirates hitters were 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with Kershaw’s slider.
- With two strikes, Pirates hitters were 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts.

Kershaw held the Pirates hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, continuing his dominance of hitters when getting into a jam.

Lowest BA Allowed With RISP, Starting Pitchers, Since Start of 2011 Season

Ian Kennedy .142
Jeremy Hellickson .161
Ricky Romero .173
Jhoulys Chacin .173
Clayton Kershaw .185 (0-6 on Tuesday vs Pirates)

* * *

Matt Kemp went 0-4 on Tuesday, but drove in a run for the ninth straight game. The nine straight games with a RBI ties a Dodgers’ record.

Most Consecutive Games with RBI, Dodgers History
Matt Kemp 9 (2011-12)
Roy Campanella 9 (1955)
Augie Galan 9 (1944)

* * *
Andre Ethier, on his 30th birthday, hit a game-winning home run in the eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Pirates. The last player to celebrate his 30th birthday by hitting a game-winning homer in the eighth inning or later was Jerry Mumphrey for the Yankees against Milwaukee on September 9, 1982. Mumphrey hit a 10th inning homer in that game. (Elias Sports Bureau)

* * *

  • In a story for Variety, I explore how much TV networks can justify bidding billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast baseball games. Nice to see Dee Gordon flying across the top of the paper …
  • In five games, Gordon has four steals in five tries, and replays showed he was safe on the time he was called out.
  • MIke Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness conveniently tackles a subject I was mulling myself: how Chad Billingsley does in his next start following a great outing. It might also be worth looking at how Billingsley does after a high pitch count in his most recent appearance.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A photo gallery from the home opener.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey has its own nice photo recap of Tuesday.
  • His Dodger shortstop predecessor, Rafael Furcal, is 10 for 23 with three doubles, two walks and two steals to start 2012: 1.045 OPS.
  • Here’s an Associated Press story on security at Dodger Stadium for the first home opener since Bryan Stow was attacked.
  • Joe Torre conceded to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that at times, Matt Kemp was a difficult player for him to manage.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs discuss the need and desire to kill the save statistic and replace it with something more useful.
  • Don Mattingly and Peter O'Malley. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

    Another gem by Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods, inspired by the hyphen.
  • A baseball card featuring Reggie Smith and Ryne Sandberg is the subject of a piece by Bruce Markusen for the Hardball Times.
  • Dixie Walker will be played by Ryan Merriman of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • Eleven contract extensions have been signed by pre-arbitration-eligible players since the end of last season; Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at the trend.
  • Carlos Santana became one of those players, signing a five-year, $21 million extension. Mike Axisa of Fangraphs examines the deal.
  • At the bottom of this Fangraphs post, you are asked to rate Dodger radio announcers Charley Steiner and Rick Monday.
Feb 03

Keeping busy in their spare time

We often joke about the Dodgers and their community efforts, ever since Jamie McCourt made her ill-fated “Dreamfields” comment a few years ago, but the scope of what the organization does for the community is pretty massive.

To get a grasp of it, check out their 2011 Community Report.

* * *

  • Josh Wilker, again. Tragic news regarding one of his inspirations.
  • Cincinnati slugger Joey Votto will become a free agent after the 2013 season. David Schoenfield of ESPN.com’s Sweet Spot speculates that the Dodgers will be one of six teams in most dogged pursuit of Votto at that time — if they can wait that long.
  • Scott Andes of Lasorda’s Lair chronicles the long list of injuries the Dodgers suffered in 2011.
  • Casting has more or less just gotten underway for pilots under consideration for the 2012-13 TV season. For Variety, I wrote a story about how familiar female names are dominating the early going: Kirstie Alley, Roseanne Barr, Jami Gertz, Judy Greer, Marcia Gay Harden, Anne Heche, Reba McEntire, Rhea Perlman and Sarah Silverman. Some might call it “proven veteran leadership.”
Feb 02

Durocher Day

Dodger Thoughts commenter Bob Hendley passed along this photo of Leo Durocher and Laraine Day with his mother-in-law in Santo Domingo during Spring Training. 1948. Very cool.

Speaking of Durocher: Variety reported Wednesday that Christopher Meloni has been cast to play Durocher in “42,” the upcoming feature film starring Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey.

For more on Durocher, check out chapter 57 of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die: “The Head-Spinning, Allegiance-Shifting, Authority-Defying Leo Durocher.”

Elsewhere …

  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods: still writing, still wonderful.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Pitching in his first major-league game in Canada on May 17, 2001, Eric Gagne gets a standing ovation from fans in Montreal. In that game, Gagne allowed two solo homers in the first inning, then pitched two-hit, shutout ball over the next five innings, striking out seven and walking none — but the Dodgers lost, 3-1.
  • Steven Cohen, one of the well-funded Dodger bidders, is pursuing a minority share in the Mets for the time being, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times. If Cohen ended up winning on the Dodgers’ front, he would then sell that Mets share. Shaikin notes that “Cohen has cleared a Major League Baseball investigation, the people said, which could bode well for his chances in the Dodgers sweepstakes.”
  • “The Verducci Effect,” which states that young pitchers who have large increases in innings pitched will decline the following year, is built on faulty methodology, concludes Derek Carty of Baseball Prospectus.
  • Former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla is facing legal problems in Nicaragua over child support payments. That could prevent him from reporting to Spring Training on time, although the amount in question has been reported to be only $4,200.
  • Instant-replay reviews in sports aren’t as cut-and-dry as you might think, writes David Cohen in his column for Variety.
  • Here’s a cute follow-up from Volkswagen to last year’s awesome kiddie Darth Vader ad for the Super Bowl.
Aug 03

What’s so funny about … you know

The day began when Young Master Weisman came out of his bedroom at 6:30 a.m. on this, his seventh birthday. I called him over to me, and he gave me, well, he gave me a hug that was the biggest, longest hug any of my children has ever given me.

I would say that roughly 75 percent of that hug was pure excitement about his birthday, but you know, I think maybe a quarter of it had something to do with me. And I’ll take that combination. It felt really, really good. Just the fact that he was that purely happy … I’ll take it.

Then I learned that Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods became a father. It was on July 30, the same birthday as baseball’s youngiest youngster, Joe Nuxhall. How absolutely great.

That brings me to Grant Brisbee’s piece for Baseball Nation today. Brisbee, some of you know, runs San Francisco Giants blog McCovey Chronicles. He happens to be one of the best, funniest and most imaginative and insightful baseball writers around, in any medium. And today, he wrote a very nice column entitled, “The Los Angeles Dodgers Are Not Having A Good Season.”

As a Giants fan growing up in the ’80s, I went to baseball games in a concrete abomination known as Candlestick Park. The Dodgers had a quaint and airy ballpark. I stuffed tauntaun blubber down my jacket to stay warm during the day games. Dodgers fans wore short-sleeve shirts to the ballpark at night. I watched a team lose year after year. The Dodgers won every year. When the Giants did win something, it would be immediately followed by a sharp, piercing playoff exit. When the Dodgers made the playoffs, they’d skip through and win the World Series.

So the dislike is true and pure, forged in the fires of youthful resentment and envy. Not a fan of the Dodgers. And I figured if they ever became the 1899 Cleveland Spiders — earning every bit of a 20-134 record — it would be delightful. When the McCourt madness started happening, it was somewhat amusing. When Selig took financial control of the Dodgers, it was hilarious. And then there were allllll those losses. The German word for taking pleasure in the suffering of others is schadenfreude, and this season has been the freudiest.

At this point, though: enough. We get it.

The tipping point was Rubby De La Rosa needing Tommy John surgery. Fans of under-.500 teams are people too. They have certain rights — things you can’t take away. And the most important, inalienable right of the fan of a bad team is the right to watch a top prospect’s rookie season. The Royals, for example, have stunned the world by not contending, but every Royals fan in the world can turn on a TV and watch Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy and Mike Moustakas play. The performances are up and down, but that’s not the point. The point is that they can watch a bad team and project how the prospects will be responsible for the eventual turnaround.

De La Rosa came up and featured a right-handed repertoire that the Dodgers hadn’t seen from one of their young pitchers since the days of Eric Gagne. And then as quickly as he was up, he was gone in a puff of smoke.

That’s not right. I know I’m supposed to be a partisan fan of a team in a historic rivalry … but, come on … really, when Rubby went down … that’s too much.

The reaction some would say I should have to this is horror. A Giants fan taking pity on us — can things sink any lower?

But that’s not me. I’m glad when someone understands, when someone extends me a hand instead of kicking me when I’m down. That’s the way the world should be.

Giants fans want to win. Dodger fans want to win.  Those are two missions forever in conflict.  But there are moments, such as when Giants and Dodger fans joined forces to condemn the Bryan Stow violence, when our shared humanity — not to mention some “There but for the grace” knowledge — transcends our differences. And I don’t care how trite that sounds — I’m a flat-out sucker for it.

Happy birthday, my boy.

Jun 08

Josh Wilker’s new book on an unlikely subject (well, not for him)

“The Bad News Bears” is my favorite baseball movie. “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training” is … not.

Nevertheless, my interest in the sequel has shot through the roof thanks to the fact that Cardboard Gods author Josh Wilker has a new book out about it: “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (Deep Focus).” From the product description at Amazon:

In 1977, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training had a moment in the sun. A glowing junk sculpture of American genres—sports flick, coming-of-age story, family melodrama, after-school special, road narrative—the film cashed in on the previous year’s success of its predecessor, The Bad News Bears. Arguing against the sequel’s dismissal as a cultural afterthought, Josh Wilker lovingly rescues from the oblivion of cinema history a quintessential expression of American resilience and joy.

Rushed into theaters by Paramount when the beleaguered film industry was suffering from “acute sequelitis,” the (undeniably flawed) movie miraculously transcended its limitations to become a gathering point for heroic imagery drawn from American mythology. Considered in context, the film’s unreasonable optimism, rooted in its characters’ sincere desire to keep playing, is a powerful response to the political, economic, and social stresses of the late 1970s.

To Wilker’s surprise, despite repeated viewings, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training continues to move him. Its huge heart makes it not only the ultimate fantasy of the baseball-obsessed American boy, but a memorable iteration of that barbed vision of pure sunshine itself, the American dream.

For an example of what Wilker can do with this subject, just take a read of this piece at his website on Rudi Stein. And while you’re there, make sure you don’t miss the Chico’s Bears with Charlie’s Angels.

May 25

Hong-Chih Kuo making progress

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has an update on Hong-Chih Kuo:

… (Kuo) appears to have regained his command while throwing off a mound at the team’s spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz.

“He has been throwing a lot,” Dodgers manager Ned Colletti said. “He is at about 90 percent intensity and having no problems with his command. We’ll see where we go from here.”

Colletti said Kuo eventually will face hitters in extended spring-training games, but that there is no target date for that to happen, nor is there a target date for Kuo to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment, which would be a necessary precursor to him coming off the disabled list and rejoining the Dodgers bullpen. …

Elsewhere …

Apr 23

And once more around the block for Brett Tomko …

You didn’t see him mentioned in my last post because he hasn’t gotten into a game yet, but Brett Tomko is back in the majors, with Texas. Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com has the story.

Here are some other links from the past week …

Jun 09

Cardboard Gods comes to town: Interview with Josh Wilker

Readers of this site will know of my evangelism for Josh Wilker’s website, Cardboard Gods. That appreciation redoubled when I read his book, Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards, which I couldn’t recommend more highly to you all. It is at once entertaining and deeply affecting – kind of magical, really.

Wilker’s book tour reaches Southern California on Thursday with his 7 p.m. appearance at the South Pasadena Library, co-hosted by the Baseball Reliquary. (This takes place in conjunction with the Reliquary’s exhibit, “Son of Cardboard Fetish.”) This seemed like a perfect time to talk with Wilker about a few of the many things that make his writing so compelling:

A big part of Cardboard Gods that migrated from the site to the book is the importance of what you think a player’s pose or expression on the card is telling you. Obviously, these are guesses on your part, but do you think the photos on the cards are nevertheless windows to the gods’ souls – a veritable truth you wouldn’t necessarily get any other way? Or are they more just windows to our own souls?


Lookin’ sharp, Steve

I don’t know if they get me to any truths, but they definitely have always been able to get me to start wondering. The moments captured in my cards from the ’70s would seem to most people to be flat and trivial, the kind of thing that no one, not the player, not the photographer, not the great majority of people who would ever look at the card, could ever care much about. But because I cared about them as a kid, the stiff poses and enigmatic expressions continue to have a hold on me now, especially because many of them seem to include the same element of aimlessness and absurdity that has threaded through my post-childhood years. So they exist in two worlds for me, the adult world and the child world, and so it’s no wonder I’m drawn to them, since I’m an adult who has been kind of perpetually haunted and fascinated by his own childhood.

Aimlessness is an important theme in the book, especially after your brother put up boundaries between the two of you as he got older. But one thing about your family is that it seemed passionate about intellectual pursuits – your dad, your mom, Tom, even Ian with all the reading he seemingly did. And even in your aimless days, you were thoughtful and imaginative to say the least. How come that didn’t translate for you into more interest or dedication to schoolwork as a kid? Was life just too painful to allow you to focus on school, to allow that to be an outlet?
Continue reading

Apr 13

Kershaw LIII: Kershawme Opener


John Cordes/Icon SMI
Andre Ethier blasted two homers and drove in four runs in the Dodgers’ home opener a year ago today.

They were overshadowed by Orlando Hudson producing the first Dodger cycle in 39 years, but there were plenty of heroes that made last year’s Dodger opener a laugher in the best kind of way for the fans. Every Dodger starter had at least one hit, Andre Ethier homered twice, Chad Billingsley scattered four singles and a double over seven innings while striking out 11 – heck, even Will Ohman pitched a shutout inning. All against the Giants. The good times rolled on through April’s record streak of consecutive home victories to start a season.

Things are a bit cloudier a year later, with the Dodgers 3 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West before the home crowd has even seen a regular-season pitch. But Monday’s gray skies have cleared up, just as Albert Peterson predicted. Let’s go have some fun!

* * *

  • Joe Torre-managed teams have won 12 consecutive home openers, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Stephen has more Dodger home opener details here.
  • In the comments of that thread, BHSportsGuy lists the 15 Dodger pitchers credited with a win since Clayton Kershaw’s last on July 18.
  • Via Twitter, Stephen points to a nice feature by Tom Krasovic on Dick Enberg, reborn as a Padres play-by-play announcer. Related: Rob Neyer of ESPN.com heard Enberg say that he tried to write a screenplay about legendary spy/catcher Moe Berg.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone took a close look at the Dodger defense.
  • Padres pitcher Chris Young went on the disabled list, where he’ll find Arizona catcher Miguel Montero and might soon be joined by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Juan Castro is the Phillies’ current replacement for Rollins.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods gets some nice Huffington Post exposure in writing about the anniversary of Mark Fidrych’s death and the connection with his childhood.
  • Blue Heaven passes along a March 6, 1948 letter from Branch Rickey to Walter O’Malley (written from Spring Training at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic) calling for a trade of Eddie Stanky “even if we were getting nothing for him at all,” to create  an opening in the Brooklyn infield. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Stanky was traded within 24 hours with a player to be named later to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later, Bama Rowell, Ray Sanders and $40,000. (A month later, the Dodgers completed the trade by selling Sanders back to Boston for $60,000.)
  • Four-hit nights for Dodger minor leaguers on Monday: Xavier Paul had three singles and a homer for Albuquerque, Dee Gordon had three doubles, a single and an error for Chattanooga and Jerry Sands had two doubles and two singles for Great Lakes. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus writes that after an 0-for-6 start in AA, Gordon has six hits (including four doubles) in his past seven at-bats.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach is having a Sherrill of a time in his first two games of the year.
  • Matt Hiserman, son of Times assistant sports editor Mike Hiserman and a college pitcher for the University of San Francisco, has come back inside of two months from a liner to the head that landed him in intensive care for four days, writes Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • The crackdown on Dodger Stadium pregame tailgating was scheduled to begin at dawn in Elysian Park, according to Zach Behrens of LAist (via L.A. Observed, which also points to a David Kipen piece talking about the origins of the Dodgers’ “LA” logo.).
  • How much of a difference does payroll make in baseball? Tom Tango writes at TMI: “If you spend at the league average (Payroll Index = 100 percent), your chance of making the playoffs is 27 percent. If you spend at double the league average (Payroll Index = 200 percent), your chances are 77 percent. And if you spend at half the league average, your chances dwindle to almost 0.”
  • Bob Timmermann wrote movingly about his grandmother, Ella Kimberling, for L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
  • Quick entertainment notes from my day job: 1) Definitive details on Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS, 2) DirecTV will broadcast all five seasons of “The Wire” commercial-free, 3) Three major new hits (“The Good Wife,” “Modern Family” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” premiered within 25 hours of each other.
  • Leaving you with this: Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters is thinking of hanging up his blog if he has to hang up his spikes. While I certainly hope he signs with another team, reading his latest post will serve as a reminder that no matter what, he should keep writing.