Oct 02

Vin Scully hints at retirement after 2014 season

In an interview with KPCC 89.3 FM, Vin Scully indicated that he is leaning toward retiring after the 2014 season.

“Right, I’m pretty well sure – and I don’t want to go back and forth with it – but I’m looking to next year and figuring that should be about it,” Scully said.

It’s not a definitive statement, but always remember to cherish him while we still can.

Aug 22

The Class of 65: Vin Scully to return for 65th year with Dodgers in 2014

Bill Shaikin of the Times has the best news of a fantastic Dodger summer:

… The Dodgers are expected to announce Friday that Scully, the finest broadcaster in baseball history, will return for a record 65th season in 2014.

Scully is 85. The Dodgers never would kick him out of the broadcast booth, but he respects his audience too much to mumble around a microphone the way Willie Mays stumbled around center field for the New York Mets, in a sad close to a brilliant career.

So Scully takes it year to year. This year, he has been invigorated by the best reality show in town, the richest-to-worst-to-first Dodgers. Next year? Sign him up.

“It has been such an exciting, enjoyable, wonderful season — the big crowds in the ballpark, everybody is talking about the ballclub, and I really respect, admire and love the management — so everything just fell into place,” Scully said.

“I really still enjoy it immensely. My health is good, thank God. So why not? And my wife said, ‘Why not?’ as well.

“Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement — and looking out the window or something? It’s just too good. As a baseball man, and someone who has always loved the game, the situation and the conditions are perfect.” …

Update: The Dodgers have made it official.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, an icon in American sports history, will return to the Dodger broadcast booth for an unprecedented 65th season in 2014, it was announced. Scully will again call all Dodger home games and road games in California and Arizona.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of this season and there is no way I could leave this truly remarkable team and our great fans,” Scully said. “With my wife Sandi’s blessing, I’ve decided I’d like to come back and do it again next season. I love what the new ownership has brought to the team, and the energy provided by the fans, who have packed renovated Dodger Stadium. It reminds me that other than being home with my family, there is no place else I’d rather be.”

Widely regarded as the finest sportscaster of all time, Scully’s 64 years of service mark the longest tenure in his field. He will call all nine innings of the team’s television broadcasts on Time Warner SportsNet LA beginning in 2014, with the first three innings of each of his games also simulcast on AM 570 Fox Sports LA.

“The Dodgers are overjoyed to have Vin back with the team in 2014,” said Dodger Chairman and Owner Mark Walter. “Vin IS Dodger baseball. The Dodgers, the sport of baseball and the city of Los Angeles are extremely fortunate to have him in our midst.”;

“We’re so grateful that Vin wants to continue to call Dodger games,” said Dodger owner Earvin Johnson, “Being able to listen to Vin helps make every Dodger game something special.”

“Vin brings a unique perspective to Dodger baseball,” said Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten. “Everyone in the Dodger family and within the sound of his voice benefits each and every time we are afforded the opportunity to hear him call a Dodger game. We are thrilled to know that experience will continue through at least the 2014 season.” …

Apr 03

Does loud equal fun?

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (March 29, 2013)

“Boy, the music is loud,” said Vin Scully with some apparent irritation as the Dodger broadcast came back from commercial tonight, before following with his usual geniality, “Let’s get back to this one.”

It was the top of the sixth inning – typical storytelling time for Scully – but one of two things happened. Either the telecast came back too late to capture the bulk of a story for which “Boy, the music is loud” was the punchline, or the music was just so loud that no one could think straight.

It doesn’t really matter, because this much we know: The music at Dodger Stadium is loud.

And here’s the thing. One assumes the music is loud because loud equals fun in the modern-day math. But what I don’t understand is whom they’re making it loud for.

In general, older people a) don’t want loud music and b) have more trouble hearing than younger people. So if the music was a touch softer, it would still be plenty loud for the hipsters, and the old folk would be just as happy.

This is before we even address how rarely Nancy Bea Hefley gets to play anymore.  Am I wrong? Millennials, give me the straight scoop. I know how writing this makes me sound, but would anyone care if there were fewer decibels at the diamond?

Mar 11

Revelation of the day/week/month/year

Thanks to this Lyle Spencer interview with Vin Scully on MLB.com, we learn that the night Scully broadcast the Dodgers’ 1955 Game 7 World Series win, he went on a date with future “Sesame Street” creator Joan Ganz Cooney.

… “After the third out, Johnny Podres having shut them out, I was taken in a car to the Lexington Hotel with some other Dodgers people,” Scully said. “I had a date, and I left the group to get my car and go pick her up. We drove over to Brooklyn for the party at the Bossert Hotel.

“It was like V-J Day and V-E Day rolled into one when we came out of the tunnel. There were thousands of people on the sidewalks leading to the hotel. There were policemen, and parking attendants who took your car about a block from the hotel. Walking down that street to the hotel, that was an unforgettable scene.”

Young Vin really knew how to impress a date.

“Her name was Joan Ganz,” Scully said. “She was from Arizona. I’m pretty sure she later became the creator of ‘Sesame Street.’ You can check on that. We liked each other and stayed in touch, but it never got serious. I haven’t told this story, but what the heck. That was a long time ago.”

An internet check confirmed Scully’s recollection of the future of Ms. Ganz, a publicist in New York City when they met. In 1966, Joan Ganz Cooney oversaw and directed the creation of “Sesame Street,” which premiered in 1969. As the first executive director for Children’s Television Workshop, she was among the groundbreaking female executives in American television.

A Presidential Medal of Freedom award winner in 1995, Ganz Cooney was elected in 1989 to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, and three years later was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Her date that memorable October night in 1955 also is a Hall of Famer, of the Cooperstown variety. …

Aug 16

In praise of Rick Rhoden

Dodgers at Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
Shane Victorino, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Joe Blanton, P

Some morning notes before a mid-day game …

  • Vin Scully gave an interview this week to the SI.com Hot Clicks podcast.
  • Ryan O’Sullivan, a righty with a 3.05 ERA and 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings for two Single-A teams this year, has gone to Philadelphia to complete the Joe Blanton trade. O’Sullivan will turn 22 next month.
  • Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan wrote a lovely farewell piece for the publication that he is (mostly) retiring from after 44 years.
  • Rubby De La Rosa has resumed his rehab, throwing three innings of shutout ball in an Arizona League game Monday.
  • Expressed Written Consent is a program that “brings non-traditional broadcasters into the booth to have a go at the pastime that’s evolved alongside the pastime: calling the game,” writes Jeremy Brisel for MLB.com.
  • Former Dodger pitcher Rick Rhoden — the subject of one of the two calls I made to sportstalk radio in the 1970s as a child — is the inspiration for Josh Wilker’s latest piece at Cardboard Gods. The last two paragraphs explain why …

Aug 03

Tweet Yo Self: Scully beguiled by Ellis’ big night

Even after ESPN the Magazine writer Molly Knight explained Twitter to Vin Scully earlier this year, the beloved Dodger broadcaster still hadn’t quite mastered it as of earlier this week, when he was charmingly saying such things as “The twit read …” Tonight, however, after Scully received a Twitter refresher course, the social media outlet became the spine of his broadcast tonight.

A.J. Ellis was a major part of tonight’s Twitter talk by Scully, and darned if Ellis didn’t have the most productive game of his career, hitting two solo home runs and singling for a third RBI in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory over the Cubs.

“They are trending, twittering, tweeting, you name it, about ‘A.J. Ellis’ all over the United States,” Scully said mid-game, before signing deeply, almost exhaustedly, adding, “Ahhhh – he’s a nice boy.”

The way Scully got Twitter talking about Ellis was reminiscent of the way he would get the transistor radio crowd at Dodger Stadium in the 1960s to follow his lead.

Ellis and Hanley Ramirez, who had two hits and two RBI, weren’t the only Dodgers to give fans something to flap their fingers over.  Chad Billingsley went seven breezy innings, allowing six baserunners on 105 pitches while striking out seven. In three starts since coming off the disabled list, Billingsley has pitched 20 1/3 innings and allowed only 15 hits and three walks while striking out 13. His ERA in that time is 0.89, and he continues to maintain his season-long progress in attacking the strike zone.

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.
Jul 07

The trauma of potential

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Silly me – when I described the yin and yang of Clayton Kershaw in Arizona on Friday somehow I left off the third rail. (Or maybe I included the first and third rails but left off the second.) Read more about that – as well as Vin Scully’s latest moment of ethereal insight – in my latest piece for Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog.

 

Jun 20

R.A. Dickey and Colorado: Climbing the mountain, falling off a cliff


All this and Mt. Kilimanjaro too? Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is everything Dodger fans wanted Charlie Haeger to be and more.

You might have thought climbing the big mountain or publishing a book might be Dickey’s biggest accomplishments of the year, but perhaps not.

Dickey, as David Schoenfield of ESPN.com notes, has not only thrown consecutive one-hitters, but in his past six starts, “Dickey is 6-0 with a 0.18 ERA (one earned run in 48 2/3 innings), 63 strikeouts, five walks and a .131 average allowed.”

Venerable New Yorker writer Roger Angell offered this:

… Dickey, whose full beard and peaceable appearance suggest a retired up-country hunting dog, is thirty-seven years old, with ten years and three prior big-league teams behind him, and hard work has brought him to this Shangri-La, perhaps only briefly. He’ll hope for another visit on Sunday, against the Yankees. Watching him, if you’ve ever played ball, you may find yourself remembering the exact moment in your early teens when you were first able to see a fraction of movement in a ball you’d flung, and sensed a magical kinship with the ball and what you’d just done together. This is where Dickey is right now, and for him the horrendous din of the game and its perpetual, distracting flow of replay and statistics and expertise and P.R. and money and expectation and fatigue have perhaps dimmed, leaving him still in touch with the elegant and, for now, perfectly recallable and repeatable movements of his body and shoulders and the feel of the thing on his fingertips.

* * *

Pitching is easy to predict – and hard too!

“Colorado’s rotation has undergone the most turnover and is the hardest to peg in the division, though you could say it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” I wrote in March for ESPNLosAngeles.com. “A look at Colorado makes one appreciate the apparent stability of the Dodgers’ starting rotation.”

Basically, while there were several grim preseason forecasts about how the Dodgers would do this season, the one thing I was most sure of was that they wouldn’t finish behind the Rockies, whose pitching seemed to be in disarray.

Vindication of that position has come throughout 2012, with the Rockies’ starting pitchers combining for an ERA of more than 6.00. That has brought one Jim Tracy to the brink of … something: a four-man starting rotation with pitch-count limits of 75 per game.

Here’s Rob Neyer’s take at Baseball Nation:

… Tracy’s just guessing, of course. And there’s another, perhaps larger issue. If Tracy sticks to that 75-pitch limit, he’ll routinely be turning to his bullpen in the fifth and sixth innings. Now, if managers are crying for relief help with starting pitchers on 100-pitch limits — as they do, routinely — what’s going to happen with 75-pitch limits?

Theoretically, it could work. Tracy’s starters have been terrible, so he’s been going to his bullpen early in most games, anyway. The hope, I suppose, is that Tracy keeps going to his bullpen early, but with his starting pitchers allowing fewer runs than they have been. It’s a lot better to call the bullpen when you’re ahead 4-3 than when you’re losing 6-4.

So this should be interesting. For a week or two. Which, if history’s any guide, is how long this experiment will last.

Said Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN the Magazine:

… Tracy seemed almost stunned when talking to reporters about the plan. Obviously, this is not what he expected prior to the season when the Rockies were a trendy pick to win the NL West. Instead, just minutes before taking the field for batting practice Tuesday, Tracy gathered his pitching staff and told the players the surprising news.

The asterisk in the plan is that nothing is definite. Tracy conceded that anything could be modified should one of his starters excel during a particular start. The 75-pitch limit could be ignored. Heck, if Guthrie pitches well in relief, it’s not inconceivable to think that he would be placed back in the rotation.

For the past several weeks, Colorado reportedly has been looking to trade Guthrie — who is making $8.2 million this season, the highest salary on the pitching staff, excluding the injured Jorge De La Rosa. A demotion to the bullpen won’t help his trade market. But the only way for Guthrie to reclaim any trade value is to pitch well, and maybe pitching out of the bullpen is the solution.

“We don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Tracy said.

Hey, credit Tracy — at least it wasn’t bland and boring.

And finally, this from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post:

… The defining moment, with the beaker fizzing, will arrive when a starter actually performs well. But Tracy insisted that even if a starter is working a shutout, he will be removed at roughly 75 pitches.

“He has got to come out, because he has to pitch four days later,” Tracy said. “But if he goes five innings, he has pitched you to the point where you can go to a bullpen with some very significant people.”

But as easy as Colorado’s woes might have been to predict, you might not be able to say the same about Atlanta’s – at least, that’s what Michael Barr of Fangraphs argues.

And Tim Lincecum’s struggles are another thing unto themselves, becoming fodder for a discussion of luck and pitching by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.

… Saying that Tim Lincecum has been unlucky is probably not true. He’s struggling with his command, falling behind in counts more often, and throwing pitches that are rightfully getting crushed based on movement and location. If Wells had fouled off that fastball on Saturday, that would have been luck, so maybe you could argue that Lincecum is suffering from a lack of good luck (in that it’s quite possible that hitters aren’t missing his mistakes as often as they used to), but that’s not the same thing as suffering from bad luck.

And that’s why we should probably try to reduce our usage of the word luck to begin with. Yes, there are bloopers that fall in, broken bat squibs that find holes, or times when a defender just falls down and the pitcher gets blamed for his defensive miscue. There are definitely instances of luck in baseball, and they do effect the results that a pitcher is credited with. I’m not arguing against DIPS theory – I’m just saying that perhaps we should try to do a better job of talking about it when a guys results aren’t lining up with his process because he’s throwing bad pitches that hitters aren’t missing.

What Voros McCracken and the others who followed his research really showed us wasn’t that pitchers have no control over batted ball outcomes, but that the things that cause those gaps don’t hold up over time. Lincecum can be doing things that are causing him to give up a lot of runs now but history suggests that he won’t keep doing those things in the future. He’s either going to figure out how to fix his command or he’s going to change his approach to pitching, and he’s not going to keep locating 91 MPH fastballs middle-in at the belt with regularity. Maybe hitters will start missing his mistakes more often. Maybe he’ll start making fewer mistakes. Whatever the cause is, the effect is likely to be that Lincecum is going to get better results in the future than he has in the first two months of the season.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t earned his poor results to date. The word luck absolves him of blame for the outcome, which shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do. Blame Tim Lincecum for throwing terrible pitches – just realize that it doesn’t mean that he’s going to keep throwing terrible pitches in the future.

* * *

Elsewhere around the small white stitched globe …

Jun 15

Vin.1

Observation: Vin Scully is the only person I know of who typically expresses ERA to one decimal place.

White Sox at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXX: Kershawtter Pops
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, LF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Clayton Kershaw, P