May 03

Matt Kemp and .400: One in a million

After ESPNLosAngeles asked me to write a piece exploring whether Matt Kemp could hit .400 this year, I was tempted to turn in a one-word column, but I ultimately went with this:

When a ballplayer takes a .400 batting average into May, you’re supposed to know not to ask whether he can take it through the end of the season.

You know that no major leaguer has hit .400 over a season since Ted Williams in 1941. You know it’s a barrier that has withstood Stan Musial, Rod Carew, George Brett, Andres Galarraga, Tony Gwynn, Larry Walker, Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton, Barry Bonds and Ichiro Suzuki — all of whom have hit at least .375 since ’41, but never .400.

What does Matt Kemp, now batting .411 on May 2, have that these guys didn’t have? Probably nothing, or a figure approaching nothing.

Last weekend, David Pinto of Baseball Musings ran some numbers. Kemp had just gone 2-for-4 in Friday’s Los Angeles Dodgers victory over Washington, raising his batting average to .452. Pinto found that Kemp’s probability of hitting .400 this year was 0.0000016.

If he played a million baseball seasons, the odds say Kemp wouldn’t hit .400 in two of them. And that was before his batting average fell 43 points in less than a week.

So what are we doing here?

Here are two reasons to keep having the conversation …

Read the entire piece here.

* * *

  • Stan Kasten, the most impressive figure at Wednesday’s Dodger press conference, is profiled by Kevin Baxter of the Times, while colleague Peter Guber is interviewed by the Times’ Roger Vincent.
  • Mark Walter is profiled by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Despite the fact that the number of cars parking in Dodger Stadium has no bearing on how much money Frank McCourt will receive going forward, the Times decided to perpetuate the mistaken assumption of others by running an op-ed from David Kipen calling for a boycott of the parking lots — or, if I’m reading correctly, a half-boycott.
  • Dodger batting practice pitcher Pete Bonfils was interviewed by Ron Cervenka for Think Blue L.A.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly close to taking a minimum-salary flyer on Angels castoff Bobby Abreu. Given that Abreu would probably replace one of four third basemen on the roster — Juan Uribe if he goes on the disabled list, Adam Kennedy otherwise — I’ve heard worse ideas.
  • A pairing to treasure, courtesy of Jon SooHoo:

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Apr 16

Scully reminisces about ‘Public Enemy No. 1′

Vin Scully came back to the ballpark Sunday in first-rate storytelling mode. This morning, Sons of Steve Garvey passed along this big Jackie Robinson anecdote.And in the midst of Clayton Kershaw’s sixth-inning struggles Sunday, Scully talked about one of my favorite memories.

“You know when Clayton Kershaw really got my attention?” Scully began. “I don’t know that it’s a big deal that it got my attention – I don’t mean that, but it’s just something that I will forever have in my mind when I hear his name.

“It was an exhibition game, in Vero Beach. … And it was just one of those games, and here was this kid lefthander named Clayton Kershaw. And he had two strikes on a veteran left-hand hitter by the name of Sean Casey. Remember Sean Casey? Good hitter – Cincinnati Reds, later on went on to the American League. Casey came up …

“Kershaw threw maybe the greatest single pitch I’ve ever seen. It was just such a great big overhand curveball at just that moment. I’ve never forgotten it. And every time I’ve come to see Clayton pitch, I’ll always remember Sean Casey — frozen. I mean the players laughed, not really at Casey, but just the inability of anybody to hit that pitch.”

Here’s the audio (clumsily recorded by me) that goes with it: Vin on “Public Enemy No. 1.”

* * *

  • It was far from inevitable that baseball would integrate had Jackie Robinson not succeeded in the big leagues, writes Keith Olbermann at Baseball Nerd.
  • At the Hardball Times, Chris Jaffe recalls Burt Hooton on the 40th anniversary of his no-hitter. (Without meaning to single Jaffe out, he also perpetuates one of the odd things about Hooton – I’m not sure I’ve seen a player – including Doug Mientkiewicz – who had his name more frequently misspelled by so many writers.)

    … As April 16, 1972, came to an end, Hooten had pitched 30.2 IP in his career and only allowed eight hits. Yes, only eight.

    It’s actually a bit more extreme than even that implies. In June of 1971, Hooten came up for a cup-of-coffee start and couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. He allowed three runs in 3.2 innings on five walks and three hits. In his next three starts, Hooten tossed three complete games, allowing a total of five hits. Yeah, that’ll get people’s attention.

    The second and third starts came in September of 1971. In his second start, Hooten allowed only three hits while striking out 15 batters. That tied the Cubs all-time franchise record for punchouts in a game. Oh, and those three hits allowed? They all came late in the game. Hooten went 6.2 innings with a no-hitter intact.

    In his next turn, Hooten pitched a two-hitter for his first career shutout. There was no flirting with a no-hitter, as Bud Harrelson led off the game with a single, but it’s still five hits allowed over two games. Many fine pitchers never did that in their careers.

    But the main event was April 16, 1972….

  • Jaffe also has a story about the peculiar career arc of former Dodger manager Jim Tracy.
Apr 15

Look out – Vinny’s back in town

Vin Scully on his way to the broadcast booth Sunday at Dodger Stadium. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXIX: Kershawstakovich
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

I feel privileged that I’ll be able to be home in front of the TV set today to see Vin Scully’s return to Dodger Stadium.

J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News has a quick blog post chronicling Scully’s reunion with the media this morning.

… “As God as my judge, I did not sleep one wink Saturday night,” Scully said, while sitting in the Vin Scully Press Box as the Dodgers took batting practice on the field below.

“You try not to cough because you know when you’re going to cough, you’re going to become hoarse. So I packed the pillows up to try and prevent myself from coughing. Well I cut down on the coughing but I packed the pillows up so much that I wasn’t sleeping. I went to the ballpark [a week ago] Sunday and I thought, ‘oh, Lord, if I can somehow get through this one.’ We did the game, [Chase] Headley hit the grand slam home run, the Dodgers lost the game and I went home and I was done. I could not have done anything from then on, almost until today.”

The bad cold that forced the 84-year-old broadcaster to miss the Dodgers’ first five home games of the season is gone, and Scully will be calling today’s game against the San Diego Padres on Prime Ticket.

It is Jackie Robinson Day, a fitting day for Scully to return, but more importantly it’s a day game.

“The doctors kept telling me if you go and it’s cold you could easily have a relapse or, more importantly, in your weakened condition you could pick up something else and then you’re really in trouble,” he said. “So that’s why I stayed away.” …

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has more on Twitter, which I expect he’ll compile into a blog post shortly.

Apr 10

Impressions of Dodger Stadium Opening Day

The scene approximately one hour before today's first pitch.

Seeing Vin Scully being introduced, in absentia, during the pregame ceremonies for the Dodgers’ first home appearance of the season, his image on the scoreboard without his voice, put pressure directly on my heart.

My understanding is that Scully is going to be fine and is simply doing what any sensible person with a bad cold does – staying home and getting better. I expect him to be in fine fettle in no time.

But the small reminder of the inevitable and just how devastating it’s going to be – for me, for you, for the city – turned me upside down. No person that is not a family member has meant more to me.

We are so, so lucky to have had Scully in our lives for so long. For most of us, he’s been there since before we were born. But it’s a measure of the man that it still doesn’t seem like enough.

It was hard enough to imagine a world without Chick Hearn or a world without John Wooden, or a world without my grandmother. For a moment, I was forced to confront a world without Vin Scully, and I just wanted to turn and run.

* * *

Dodger Stadium has been blessed with wonderful weather in recent home openers. Today was downright exquisite – a vista in which Scully would have found poetry.

* * *

Highlight of the pregame ceremonies: the return of Peter O’Malley and his sister, Terry O’Malley Seidler to the field of Dodger Stadium. They might still be on the ownership sidelines, but it certainly looked like they belonged.

Tommy Lasorda caught Seidler’s pitch, then took off his mitt and waved his fingers as if she had burned them with the heat.

They showed the familiar image of O’Malley with his mother Kay throwing out the original first pitch at Dodger Stadium 50 years ago, and it just is remarkable to me how young he was. Twenty-five years old, with this new stadium as your home base? Could life have been sweeter?

* * *

The appeal of daytime fireworks has long been lost on me. They take something dazzling and loud and replace them with something … loud. But, they’re a Dodger Stadium Opening Day tradition at this point, just like the release of doves in pristine white flight at the end of the National Anthem.

Never, however, had I seen the doves fly directly into the path of the fireworks.

There was a gasp in the crowd as it appeared for a moment that about a hundred birds were being blown to smithereens right before our eyes. However, they continued on their journey, deafened but unbowed, as my brother commented regarding the narrowly avoided avian calamity, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

* * *

I’ve always been one to downplay the legacy of Maury Wills. The subject of one of my earliest posts at Dodger Thoughts was how Wills was not as important as his reputation suggests, nor as revolutionary.

But the folks who watched Wills play insist that I can’t possibly appreciate him without having seen him.  Baseball Analysts founder Rich Lederer, as faithful an adherent to statistics as they come, would always challenge my take on Wills. And it’s not like it was a point I really was interested in strenuously contesting.

Fifty years later, the arrival of Dee Gordon has set the stage for me to have my own Maury Wills experience. On-base percentage and home runs be damned, I just know that every time this guy comes up to the plate, I’m excited, and every time he starts running those bases, even on a grounder to second, I’m on the edge of my seat.

Some people might say that Gordon is no more than Juan Pierre. That might be true, if Pierre played a promising shortstop instead of a feeble-armed outfield and was paid 5 percent of that big contract he signed instead of every penny.

In the first inning today, more than any pregame ceremony could, the Roadrunner brought us back to 1962. A single. A stolen base on the next pitch. A jaunt to third on a 4-3 groundout by Mark Ellis, and another jog home on Matt Kemp’s grounder to short. A 1-0 lead, Kid Koufax on the mound. These are days …

* * *

When Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch that isn’t a strike, I’m surprised. When he gives up a hit, I’m a bit taken aback. And when he gives up a run … give up a run?

Leading off the top of the second inning, Casey McGehee hit a deep fly to center that had a hint of home run potential. One thing’s for sure: Kemp didn’t look like he was going to catch it.  At best, Kemp was in the same zip code – he never got a good read on the soaring sphere in the afternoon sun, and it landed at warning-track distance for a stand-up triple.

(If Vin were here: What’s the old Noel Coward line? ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun …‘)

The play cost Kershaw a no-hitter – which I know I wasn’t alone in speculating about. It also threatened to cause the Dodgers’ lead to disappear just like that.

Strikeout. Strikeout. Fly to left.

These are days, to remember.

* * *

Those of us waiting to see James Loney and Juan Uribe get untracked got mixed results today. Loney drew a walk in his first at-bat, but went 0 for 2, including a meek, check-swing groundout in the fourth, leaving him 0 for 12 this season.

Uribe, on the other hand, went 3 for 3, but his first hit was a tit-for-tat sun single to center field in the bottom of the second, and his third hit was a dribbler well shy of the infield basepaths. But you take what you can get in this game.

A.J. Ellis, who has been my unsung hero in this season’s outer atmosphere, went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Not once in 2011 did he have a hitless game with two strikeouts.

But Kershaw nearly was the game’s other offensive gem. With Loney and Uribe at first and third, it took a strong play by second baseman Neil Walker to steal an RBI single from Kershaw.

* * *

I had a chocolate malt and it seemed less rich than I was used to. The ingredients were led by “skim milk.” Is this something new, or have I just noticed it for the first time?

* * *

Bottom of the sixth inning. Two out. Juan Rivera takes a 1-2 pitch for a ball.

“Deuces wild,” my brother says.

Vin.

* * *

One to nil into the seventh inning, the game proceeding at the quick step. Aside from the triple, Kershaw has allowed one other baserunner, a fourth-inning single by Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia (who was then picked off), while striking out seven.

Alex Presley begins the new frame with an infield single, and Andrew McCutchen sends him to second with the Pirates’ fourth hit. Nobody out, and it’s all on Kershaw’s shoulders again.

McGehee hits another fly ball, this one to left field. Rivera catches it, but thinks he can throw out a tagging Presley at third base. No dice, and McCutchen glides into second. Fundamental error that won’t go in the boxscore.

Sure enough, the next batter, Matt Hague, whom I know nothing about but can only hope hails from The Hague, hits what would be an inning-ending double-play grounder to Gordon. But Gordon can only make the play at first. The game is as tied as can be.

Pirates 000 000 1 – 1 4 0
Dodgers 100 000 - – 1 4 0

Kershaw gets another grounder to end the top of the seventh. He’s thrown only 88 pitches, and I’m not sure there’s anyone on the Dodger bench the fans would rather see at the plate. But he’s still on the mend from his sad stomach of yesterweek. So with Uribe on first and two out, Adam Kennedy pinch-hits. And singles.

Gordon takes a ball, fouls off two pitches, and strikes out swinging. Kershaw’s row in the ledger for 2012 is updated: 0-0, 0.90 ERA, 10 innings, 10 strikeouts.

* * *

Kenley Jansen enters in the eighth inning with Merlin Olsen’s No. 74 on his back. Jansen sacks Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes, then tackles Garrett Jones for no gain as the two-minute warning approaches.

* * *

Bottom of the eighth. It’s not even 3:30 p.m. But I’m wondering if we might still be here when 7 o’clock rolls around.

Mark Ellis and Kemp strike out, bringing up Andre Ethier. I’m watching, languidly. I probably should be expecting more, but my thoughts have already turned to whether the Dodger bullpen can keep the Pirates scoreless into dusk.

And then Ethier just blasts one. Boom! Somewhere, a white dove has an aftershock. High, far, long, deep, distant, going, gone.

“Happy birthday, Andre Ethier” flashes the scoreboard. The guy who fought for his job for what must have seemed so long to him, the guy who has fought for respect even after he seemingly earned it … the fighter is now 30. He’s 30 and he’s taking a curtain call from 50,000-plus agog fans at Dodger Stadium.

I spent my 30th birthday at a Westside pool hall, wondering if I might get a kiss from a girl that I didn’t even like that much, then settling in for drinks and bar food with a few close friends. Same thing, right?

* * *

Javy Guerra, future ex-closer according to Jansen’s fantasy league owners, enters in the ninth inning. He strikes out Jose Tabata, but Presley singles.

“Andrew McCutchen is the Pirates’ best hitter,” I tell my brother. “He’s the guy who can hurt us.”

That double play the Dodgers didn’t get in the seventh inning? McCutchen gives it to us in the ninth, Gordon to Ellis to Loney. Ballgame.

Is it over too quick? Too busy celebrating the win to decide.

* * *

The Dodgers are 4-1. They have won four games without Kershaw getting credit for any.

Andre Ethier sounds like the mayor of Los Angeles on the radio postgame show.

Just 76 more wins, I say to myself. That sounds doable, especially if they can keep beating the likes of the Padres and Pirates.

Hours later, I realize I meant 86. Oh well.

* * *

I’m driving home at 4 p.m. after a day at the ballpark. Every day should be like this. Only with Vin.

Apr 10

Vin Scully resting at home with cold

The 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers - (c) Los Angeles Dodgers/Walteromalley.com

Pirates at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXVIII: Kershawmazing Grace
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

The Dodgers’ home opener celebrates the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium and the exciting 1962 team, but it will be missing a central component. This morning, the Dodgers announced that Vin Scully is resting at home with a bad cold and will miss today’s game. I know everyone is wishing him the fastest and easiest possible recovery, while being relieved he is putting his health first rather than trying to gut it out.

And, as we all know, Vin would want the rest of us to have a fun, exciting and responsible home opener. So here’s to a great day.

Mar 19

Clayton Kershaw birthday flashback: Public Enemy No. 1

In honor of Clayton Kershaw’s 24th birthday today, let us return to a time of innocence and wonder.

It has only been four years and 10 days since I posted a video of the first game Kershaw pitched in that was broadcast by Vin Scully. Wearing uniform No. 96, Kershaw dazzled our fair Vinny with a curveball that froze Sean Casey of the Boston Red Sox.

That video, to my astonishment, earned more than 750,000 hits on YouTube before copyright issues forced its removal. I still have the original copy on my computer, but as far as online goes, it’s harder and harder to find. But here, in not-so-pristine condition, is a link to that video.

That afternoon, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com published a feature on the not-quite-20-year-old Kershaw.

… the buzz Kershaw has created with his 97-mph fastball and jaw-dropping curveball already had teammates raving. Then Torre watched another inning and joined in Clayton-mania.

“That was pretty good, wasn’t it?” Torre asked, knowing the answer.

He said the Dodgers were “not really looking at that” when asked if Kershaw was competing for the fifth-starter spot, although Torre didn’t say no, either. He said the No. 1 priority is Kershaw’s “well-being,” but acknowledged that “you never know for sure the best way to proceed.”

Meaning, if a young player is special enough, there’s no such thing as rushing him. Torre even used the word “special” to describe Kershaw’s curveball. He talked about Kershaw facing “a pretty good part” of a World Series championship lineup with a two-pitch repertoire. While discussing a still-developing changeup Kershaw throws to right-handed hitters, Torre couldn’t help but draw a reference to the greatest Dodgers left-hander of them all who, coincidentally, spent part of this game in the clubhouse talking pitching with Scott Proctor.

“There was a left-handed pitcher in this organization with only a fastball and curve and he was pretty good,” said Torre. “But I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. He’s not too far away from the changeup. He’s got it; it’s a matter of locating it.”

Yes, Kershaw’s got it. He’s also got the clubhouse sensing that an impact player has arrived. Catcher Russell Martin has already said Kershaw throws the best curveball he’s caught.

“He’s really good, man,” said Martin.

Kershaw would give the Dodgers a left-hander in an otherwise all-right-handed starting rotation. It’s hard to find a current Dodgers player who watches Kershaw and doesn’t believe he’s ready for the Major Leagues.

“I wish you could see a video of what I saw from center field,” said Matt Kemp, who made his spring debut in center field Sunday. “He throws that curveball so hard and it snaps 12 to six like you’ve never seen.”…

To think he has fulfilled so many expectations so far.  Amazing.  Happy birthday, Clayton.

Mar 14

‘High Fives’ for new Dodger books

Join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness Tournament Challenge here.


You might remember Paul Haddad, the longtime Dodger fan whose childhood audio recordings of Dodger broadcasts provided source material for the ESPN documentary Fernando Nation. Haddad has now published a book based on those recordings: High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fernandomania — A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years, 1977-1981.

It’s a fun, sprightly read that I think any Dodger fan will enjoy. I was honored to be asked by Haddad to write the foreword, but you can find out much more about the book at Haddad’s website, Dodgerglory.com, including book excerpts and samples of some of Haddad’s recordings. Perhaps you might start by hearing Vin Scully call an inside-the-park home run by Davey Lopes in 1978, or Joe Ferguson’s memorable homer on the final Friday of the season to beat Houston in 1980. A treasure trove, I tells ya.

* * *

That’s not all from the bookshelf today. My past newspaper colleagues and longtime friends, Dodger team historian Mark Langill and publications director Jorge Martin, have put together a book, Dodgers: From Coast to Coast – The Official Visual History of the Dodgers, with 256 pages of first-person essays by past Dodgers, classic magazine articles and wonderful photos. Vin Scully wrote the foreword.

It will be released the day of the Dodgers’ home opener, April 10, and you can also order it online. Looks like another keeper.

Mar 01

Pigs in a news blanket


Above: How the story of the Three Little Pigs would be covered in today’s world, as presented by the Guardian.

Below:

  • Vin Scully tops the broadcaster rankings of the national readership of Fangraphs.
  • Ramona Shelburne has a nice piece at ESPNLosAngeles.com about Francisco “Chico” Herrera, a Dodger bat boy who went to today’s open tryout.
  • James Loney ranked behind only Oakland’s Daric Barton defensively among first basemen in the statistical rankings provided by David Pinto at Baseball Musings.
  • Chad Moriyama presents his top-25 Dodger prospect rankings at his blog.
  • Eric Fisher of Sports Business Journal has an extensive article on a very real issue for many sports fans — the challenges in maintaining an effective wireless system at ballparks and stadiums.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN.com looks at baseball’s scheduling imbalance problems.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports gave a good interview to Jason McIntyre of Big Lead Sports.
Feb 20

President’s Night links


Because the night belongs to links …
Because the night belongs to us …

  • ESPNLosAngeles.com’s new Dodger blog, Dodger Report, has launched with the great Tony Jackson at the helm. Here’s his introductory post.
  • Here’s video of Vin Scully at Spring Training 1988, supplied by Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: a nice salute to photographer Herb Scharfman.
  • Recently in Jon SooHoo: Darren Dreifort 1998 pretends to be Mike Scioscia 1988.
  • Yep, Manny Ramirez and the A’s have agreed to that minor-league deal, for whom he’ll be eligible to play after serving out a 50-game suspension. Here’s reaction and analysis from David Schoenfield of ESPN.com and Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.
  • Ned Colletti would like to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term contract, he told Fox in this video interview embedded by Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now.
  • Steve Yeager has taken the role of special-assignment catching instructor, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Kansas City reliever Jonathan Broxton (yep, that looks funny) seems confident enough about the 2012 season, in this Associated Press story.
  • As expected, Blake DeWitt has remained in the Cub organization, notes MLB Trade Rumors.
  • DodgerFan.net has a roundup of stories on several other new ex-Dodgers, such as Rafael Furcal.
  • Dodger minor leaguer Blake Smith was interviewed by Dustin Nosler of Feelin’ Kinda Blue.
  • Former Dodger manager Jim Tracy has received, unexpectedly in my mind, an “indefinite” contract extension from Colorado.
  • The LFP found a great picture of Frank Howard, Gil Hodges and Gil Hodges Jr. from 1961.
  • Keith Olbermann explores a mystery about 1964 Mickey Mantle baseball cards at Baseball Nerd.
  • Robert Lipsyte penned a first-person remembrance for the New York Times on the Mets’ first Spring Training, 50 years ago.
  • Such sad news: Fox sportscaster Chris Myers’ 19-year-old son died in a car crash last week (via FishbowlLA). Please keep their family and friends in your thoughts.
Feb 14

St. Bobby

On this Valentine’s Day, Josh Wilker makes Bobby Valentine the subject of his Cardboard Gods offering, linking to a 1971 Spokane Daily Chronicle story in which Valentine declares, “I intend to be the Dodger shortstop for many years.” But Valentine, the 1970 Pacific Coast League MVP, had already suffered the injury that derailed his playing career.

But wait, there’s more …

  • In the second part of Bronx Banter’s series on Hiroki Kuroda, William Juliano runs a statistical analysis on the former Dodger righty.
  • Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now celebrates, for good reason, getting a phone call at home from Vin Scully.
  • Dodger Stadium will once again host a college baseball doubleheader, this time on March 13. UC Irvine will play Pepperdine at 2 p.m., followed by UCLA-USC at 6:30. Advanced tickets are $7 ($5 for students). Gates open at 1 p.m., parking is free and concessions are discounted. Details here.
  • Tony Gwynn (Sr.) is having more cancer surgery, reports The Associated Press.
  • From Chad Moriyama: “The article I didn’t want to write: Jeremy Lin and racism.”
  • Hey, it’s not as if I’m immune to the charms of Kate Upton, but thanks to Big League Stew for finding the link from Upton’s MLB 2K12 ad to George Plimpton’s Mattel Intellivision spot.
  • Update: Adding this last bit from Mike Newman at Fangraphs

    … Before scouting Dodgers Rubby De La Rosa in person, a running joke with scouting contacts was that my radar gun must be broken because it had never registered a velocity above 96 MPH in a season and a half of lugging it around. I headed to Chattanooga knowing De La Rosa threw hard enough to surpass 96 MPH, but was not prepared for just how much harder he threw. Seeing a “seven” on the gun was impressive, but when he popped the mitt at “eight” and “nine” in succession, it became obvious De La Rosa’s fastball was in a different league than any I’d seen previously. (For those who are wondering, when a pitcher throws in the 90+ MPH range, scouts will drop the nine and refer to the pitch by its second digit.) And while I generally ignore stadium guns at all cost, seeing 101 MPH flash on the scoreboard was a first, and left onlookers buzzing in the stands.

    And while De La Rosa lacked command in the upper registers, the one 98 MPH fastball he located belt high on the inner half is seared into my scouting mind as it bored down and in on a right handed hitter to devastating effect. It was the single most dominant pitch I’ve seen live …

Feb 08

Scully wants to keep working


Above: Vin Scully talks in 2008 about meeting John Wooden.

Vin Scully has an interview in the March issue of Golf Digest (for now, I believe, it’s available only in print). Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed links and excerpts:

Some people die twice: once when they retire, and again when they actually pass away. Fear of the first one is a big incentive for me to keep working. Players, writers, people who work at the ballpark and front office, when I quit I know I’ll never see them again. I’ve never been the type to come to the ballpark and hang out; I’ve gone to one game in the last 60 years that I wasn’t working. I keep working because I don’t want to lose my friends.

It’s an interesting passage, particularly for “when I quit I know I’ll never see them again,” since this would be up to Scully to a large extent. One could easily envision the kind of pilgrimages that John Wooden was the centerpiece of.

Roderick also notes this Scully quip about having bad teeth through the years: “if I were to write my autobiography — which I will never do, by the way — I would title it, ‘My Life in Dentistry.’”

Scully’s first Spring Training broadcast appearance will be March 17. Eric Stephen of breaks down the Dodger exhibition broadcast schedule at True Blue L.A.

Elsewhere …

  • TMZ has posted audio of a 911 call reporting James Loney’s freeway crash in November. No matter the legal disposition of the case, if you were there, it sounds like it must have been utterly frightening.
  • The Dodgers signed 37-year-old Jamey Wright to a minor-league deal. Wright hasn’t been a starting pticher since 2007, but his past season-and-a-half out of the Seattle bullpen was passable in a Mike MacDougal sense. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweeted that Wright can opt out of his contract in late March.
  • Former Dodger shortstop Bill Russell can be seen with former Yankee counterpart Bucky Dent in this commercial (posted by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy), airing at 1981 World Series time, for Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. Dent sounds a little like a grown-up Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • Baly had a pleasant surprise when he went to the Dodger caravan Tuesday — he was there to see Clayton Kershaw as Kershaw’s new contract with the Dodgers was being announced.
  • Daily News writer Tom Hoffarth is auctioning an autographed copy of Kershaw’s book, “Arise,” at eBay, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to support Friends of St. Lawrence – Watts Youth Center, which empowers the children and families of Watts through educational, advocacy, and enrichment programs.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweet Spot looks at historical comparables for Kershaw. It starts on a downbeat note but gets more whammo after that. Schoenfield also invites you to an over-under game on Kershaw’s 2012 ERA here.
  • Evan Bladh passes along the story of Brooklyn Dodger batboy Charlie DiGiovanna at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • “What happened to the spitball?” Jonah Keri asks (and answers) at Grantland.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Mike Scioscia and Gary Carter together at Spring Training, February 1991.
  • Aaron Miles, who waited until this time last year to sign with the Dodgers, is waiting even longer for a 2012 contract this time around.
  • Not every baseball parking story has Frank McCourt’s name attached. “Fans of the New York Yankees may soon have to pay as much as $55 to park at Yankee Stadium thanks to the poor planning by New York City, the Yankees and a private firm that is running low on cash,” writes Rob Iracane at Big League Stew.
Jan 28

Expanded playoffs could lower bar for Dodgers in 2012

Can the seventh-best team in the National League in 2011 become the fifth-best team in 2012?

  • Nothing’s official yet, but Bud Selig thinks the expansion of MLB’s playoffs to 10 teams could come this year, reports The Associated Press. “Under the new format, whenever it begins, the non-division winners in each league with the two best records will be the wild cards, meaning a third-place team could for the first time win the World Series.”
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A contemplative Vin Scully inside the Green Monster at Fenway, 2004. (And from a couple days ago, here’s Scully interviewing Tommy Lasorda at Busch Stadium in the 1980s.)
  • Hiroki Kuroda talked to Dylan Hernandez of the Times at some length about leaving the Dodgers for the Yankees.
  • Paul DePodesta talked to MLB Clubhouse Confidential’s Brian Kenny about “Moneyball,” the Dodgers and his current team, the Mets.
  • The Mets could have the largest single-season payroll cut in MLB history – more than $50 million, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Speaking of money: Here’s a yearly progression of the highest-paid player in baseball dating back to Nap Lajoie’s $6,200 salary in 1902, provided by William Juliano at Bronx Banter.
  • Juan Pierre, 34, has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies, joining Scott Podsednik in the competition for a spot on their roster.  Something tells me that a .279 hitter in 639 at-bats with 27 steals would have gotten a better contract if evaluation methods in baseball hadn’t changed to de-emphasize batting average. His OPS+ was .657 and he was caught stealing 17 times.
  • Another former Dodger, Brad Penny, might be headed for Japan, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Penny, 34 in May, had a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts and 181 2/3 innings for Detroit in 2011.
  • Noted by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports: If Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension is upheld, his first 2012 game would be May 31 at Dodger Stadium. It’s a weekday afternoon game.
  • This year, Stanford may well have first pair of classmates picked first in both the NFL and MLB drafts: quarterback Andrew Luck and pitcher Mark Appel, writes Jack Blanchat of the Stanford Daily.
  • Some of you might find this interesting: According to this MediaPost story by Mark Walsh, ESPN now feels that “instead of determining how to shoehorn its programming from traditional media to mobile platforms, the process is now reversed, with mobile becoming the starting point.”
  • Maybe the craziest collection of trick shots you’ll ever see is in this video, which is kicked off by Don Mattingly and his son Preston.
  • Even crazier … this IHOP commercial from 1969 (via Emma Span).
  • Farewell, Robert Hegyes. Hegyes wrote about his “Welcome Back, Kotter” experience at his website. Groucho Marx and Lucille Ball were fans.

* * *

The deadline is fast approaching, but there are still spots open to play in TheLFP.com Softball Tournament on February 11 at Big League Dreams in West Covina, where readers of Dodger blogs will play with and against each other. Sign up and be part of the fun.

Jan 11

In left field for the Dodgers, Ted Williams …

Funny one-line intro …

  • Here’s video of John Candelaria no-hitting the Dodgers in 1976. Check out how excited color commentator Bob Gibson is alongside play-by-play man Al Michaels for the final out.
  • Manny Ramirez talked at length with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez about events of the past year and his desire to play again. It’s self-serving but take it for what you will.
  • Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner looks at how different this year’s Triple-A Isotopes will be. An excerpt:

    A total of 19 additional players who spent time in Albuquerque in 2011 became free agents after the season.

    Left-handed starter Alberto Bastardo (4-3, 5.38 ERA) has signed with the Marlins organization, which puts him in contention for a rotation spot with New Orleans.

    Closer Jon Link (2-2, 4.24, 11 saves) inked a deal with the Orioles, enabling him to potentially pitch closer to his Virginia home with Norfolk, another Triple-A team run by Isotopes owner Ken Young.

    Right-handed reliever Travis Schlichting (5-3, 7.10, four saves) will join the wide-open competition for a roster spot in cash-strapped Oakland.

    Corner infielder Corey Smith (.239, 7 HR) joined the White Sox, while utility player Eugenio Velez (.339, 31 RBI) will take his 0-for-37 skid in the Majors to the Cardinals organization.

    The free agents still looking for work include pitchers Roman Colon, Roy Corcoran and Randy Keisler, plus catcher Damaso Espino, first baseman John Lindsey and outfielders Brad Coon and Jay Gibbons.

  • For Variety, I took a look at the state of NFL, MLB and NBA sports broadcasts on mobile and digital platforms.
  • World Series MVP David Freese will risk killing all his postseason good vibes with a guest appearance on maligned ABC sitcom “Work It” on January 24, if the show isn’t canceled first.
  • Vin Scully talked to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News about his upcoming bobblehead night. “Since I won’t be here for the 100th anniversary (of Dodger Stadium), I agreed to do the 50th,” Scully said. “Otherwise, I would be open to questions as to why I didn’t do it. It’s far easier this way.”
  • Ted Williams, 1940: “If I were a free agent and each major league club offered me identical contracts, I’d sign with the Dodgers. … I know I’d be a hero in Brooklyn.” (Link via Larry Granillo and Baseball Prospectus.)