Nov 30

Hey, what’s going on?


Some midweek news and notes …

  • Best friend of Dodger Thoughts and ESPN reporter Molly Knight and her friend and fellow ESPN contributing writer Anna Katherine Clemmons have had the story of their cross-country road trip (which began as fodder for a magazine article) optioned for a movie. My Variety colleague Jeff Sneider has the details.
  • Larry King is reportedly joining the Dennis Gilbert-headed group bidding to by the Dodgers, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Hank Aaron inquired whether Medallion Financial Corp., on which he serves on the board of directors, might make a bid to by the Dodgers, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times. The answer: No.
  • A bow-hunting trip (no, not the kind where you hunt Ken Rosenthal’s ties) with Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur and manager Ned Yost helped lure Jonathan Broxton to Kansas City, writes Kevin Kernan of the New York Post (via Hardball Talk).
  • Jim Breen of Fangraphs takes a closer look at Kenley Jansen’s dominant fastball, an interesting piece given what we’ve heard of Jansen’s eventual desire to emulate Mariano Rivera. “The 24-year-old not only threw approximately 87% fastballs in 2011, but he also filled up the strike zone,” writes Breen. “Only relievers Matt Belisle, Octavio Dotel, and Matt Capps threw more pitches inside the zone than Jansen. So opposing hitters knew which pitch he was going to throw and knew that it would more than likely be within the strike zone, but opposing hitters still struck out 44% of the time.”
  • Here are some childhood photos of Clayton Kershaw with longtime buddy Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions quarterback.
  • And, here’s a great prep school picture of birthday boy Vin Scully via Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News.
  • Some nifty portraits accompany this interview by Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven with artist Tommervik.
  • Evan Bladh looks back at the 2003 Dodgers at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Ken Arneson discusses the two systems of thought with regards to statistics, and how they relate to kids learning to read.
  • In a guest post for The Platoon Advantage, Dan Hennessy explains why “the less I hear my team’s name associated with free agency, the happier I am.”
  • Very, very cool skiing and outdoors footage in “Winter,” which will screen at the Village in Westwood on Sunday.
  • Finally, if you haven’t seen “Beginners” with Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent and Goran Visnjic, I really recommend it.
Nov 01

Progress toward a sale or posturing?

Not getting too excited about this, but let’s just say I’m hoping it’s one more roll of the boulder downhill …

  • Frank McCourt might be closer than he’s ever been to selling the Dodgers, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.

    … McCourt has long vowed not to surrender the Dodgers. In April, as Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a trustee to oversee the team and attendance plummeted at Dodger Stadium, McCourt insisted he would not sell.

    However, analysts suggested McCourt now might be willing to sell for a simple reason: Even if he won in court, he could lose.

    Based on figures McCourt submitted to the Bankruptcy Court, he would be hard-pressed to sell the Dodgers’ television rights, settle his divorce and be left with enough capital to renovate Dodger Stadium and restore the team to prominence.

    “I don’t know that there’s a way for him to win,” said Marc Ganis, president of the sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.

  • Shaikin also writes that if Fox Sports loses local rights to the Dodgers when the current contract expires following the 2013 season, it could lead to the consolidation of the two Fox Sports cable channels into one.
  • How will Prince Fielder age? One day at a time — and here’s one analysis of how those days will go, from Ryan Campbell of Fangraphs.
  • Hardball Talk has begun its review of the 111 free agents on the market this winter. Here’s something about two 34-year-old players that might amuse you:

    Marcus Thames, 2010: .350 on-base percentage, .491 slugging
    Andruw Jones, 2011: .356 on-base percentage, .495 slugging

  • Dodger prospect Allen Webster gets an evaluation, with video, from Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Matt Kemp is scheduled to be a guest on “Last Call with Carson Daly” in Thursday late-night programming, which really means Friday morning.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. went the extra mile in looking at the Dodgers’ Gold Glove finalists.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness presented his 15-point plan to make the Dodgers the best they can be in 2012.
  • Bob Timmermann shared some great old baseball photos on Twitter on Saturday, including Vin Scully getting stats from Allan Roth, Dick Enberg in a Valley State (now Cal State Northridge) uniform and Willie Davis’ bad day.
  • Former Dodger Tom Goodwin was named first-base coach for the Mets.
  • Best headlines of 2011 has to include this from Alex Belth of Bronx Banter on CC Sabathia: “The Stay Put Marshmellow Man.”
  • In case you’re curious, Sabathia’s new deal pays out in the following manner: $23 million each of the next four seasons (as had already been in place), $25 million in 2016, $25 million vesting option in 2017 or $5 million buyout. More from ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Across town, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he doesn’t expect to trade third baseman David Wright.
Oct 24

‘Vin Scully and Nobody’

During Sunday’s World Series game, Joe Posnanski asked fans on Twitter “if you could have any two living people (broadcasting) tonight’s baseball game, who would you choose?” He soon noted that he received “526 responses in two minutes, the vast majority of them being some variation on ‘Vin Scully and Nobody.’ ” Posnanski elaborated in this column:

… No second person. Just Vin. Brandon McCarthy chose Vin and someone to bring him water. Several chose Vin and Teller from Penn and Teller. And so on. I could not agree more. What I think makes Vin such a wonderful listen — and has for more than a half century — is that his voice stays in the background, the statistics he uses make sense and feel true, his stories enhance what you’re watching, he’s honest about whatever he’s seeing and he has Coltrane’s sense of rhythm. It’s a remarkable combination. Baseball is a tough game to announce. The action is spread out. The pace is uneven. The strategies are often intricate and not especially interesting for casual fans (they don’t call boring politics “inside baseball” for nothing). The statistics are often wonky. But there are great opportunities, too — baseball’s a wonderful game for stories, for drama, for insight. Yes, it would be great to hear Vin Scully call a World Series again. Well, hey, at least we got him to trend on Twitter for a while.

The conversation even managed to steal the spotlight from whether Game 4 national anthem singer Zooey Deschanel is an agent of good or evil.

In any case, I have to say again, as much as I would love Scully to do the World Series, I have seen no indication that he has any real desire to do one with the Dodgers not involved.  Tony Jackson backed me up on this with a tweet: “Vinnie’s last WS was 1997 (on radio). He stopped doing them because he wanted to stop doing them.”

If Scully were to do a World Series, it would almost certainly be as part of a three-man booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. I can’t see Fox being willing to open the can of worms of pushing its favorite baseball announcers aside. Roaming the country for the better part of two weeks, when he has actively sought to reduce his travel schedule to spend more time with his wife, just to be one of a trio, doesn’t sound like our friend Vin.

Sep 24

September 24 game chat

Once more unto the breach, dear friends …

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com traces Clayton Kershaw’s development to superstar.

    … When Kershaw’s second pitch in the top of the sixth inning hit Parra on his front elbow, plate umpire Bill Welke ejected the pitcher immediately.

    The next day I asked the same veteran player who had told Kershaw it would be OK to back away from this fight whether or not Kershaw had proved something to him, whether he liked him more or less than he had the day before.

    “Neither,” the player said. “I already knew him.” …

  • Here’s an interview on YouTube with Vin Scully talking about Matt Kemp, Kershaw and more, courtesy of Marty Caswell.
  • Peter Gammons endorses Kemp for NL MVP in a long piece at MLB.com.
  • Joe Block of Dodger Talk speculates that, because of the theory of “progression to the mean,” injuries deprived Juan Uribe the opportunity to recover from his poor first half of the season.
  • Kevin Baxter of the Times runs a list of the top 10 free agents this offseason alongside the cautionary tale of the top 10 free-agent flops of last offseason.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball checks in on some minor-leaguers with major-league bloodlines, including one Matt Scioscia.
Sep 22

‘Unreal’ Kemp hits three doubles and 36th homer

“That’s not a bat he uses – that’s a magic wand.”
– Vin Scully

NL batting average leaders
.330 Ryan Braun
.329 Jose Reyes
.326 Matt Kemp

NL home run leaders
37 Albert Pujols
36 Matt Kemp
35 Dan Uggla

NL runs batted in leaders
118 Matt Kemp
113 Ryan Howard
112 Prince Fielder

Hiroki Kuroda deserves his due, but I’m sorry – I can’t think of anything else right now.

Kemp homered to dead center in his final at-bat of the game. A Dee Gordon caught stealing in the sixth might have cost him the at-bat, but Gordon walked in the eighth to give Kemp that last chance.

This was the 14th time that a Dodger had at least four extra-base hits in a game.

Sep 18

September 18, 2006: Here comes the end of the world


Jeff Lewis/APThere’s home, Nomar. There’s home.

For the five years since it took place, I’ve had this vision of the 4+1 game.

September 18, 2006. I replay the game in my head, a game that, unfathomably, stood toe-to-toe with the R.J. Reynolds game in 1983 as the greatest game in Dodger Stadium history, and I hear The Who’s “Had Enough” as the soundtrack.

As the 2006 baseball season bore down on its finish, the Dodgers were in a vexing battle with the San Diego Padres for first place in the National League West. An 11-5 pasting by the Padres knocked Los Angeles into last place on May 5. The Dodgers staggered back and reached first barely a month later, but in a tight division, San Diego drove them back to last with a 7-6, 11-inning victory July 24.

It was that kind of year. When the first day of August dawned, the Dodgers were still on the bottom looking up. Just 10 days later, Kenny Lofton’s walkoff RBI single beat Colorado, and the Dodgers were atop the NL West looking down.

And there in first place they stayed, until September 17, when Padres pinch-hitter Termel Sledge’s RBI single in the ninth inning broke a 1-1 tie, leading to Jonathan Broxton’s first career loss in the majors. The Dodgers had handed first place back to San Diego again.

And so when I think of September 18, 2006, I hear Roger Daltrey singing, practically shouting …

I’ve had enough of bein’ nice
I’ve had enough of right and wrong
I’ve had enough of tryin’ to love my brother …

* * *

It was an unusual night – a Monday finale of a four-game series. “Here we go ahead for the final time,” Vin Scully said at the start of the local cable broadcast, “the Dodgers desperate for a win. … If it feels like a playoff or postseason game, that of course is the aim of each team.”

Three players who had begun Sunday’s game on the bench were in the Monday starting lineups. The fellow batting cleanup for San Diego was familiar – his name was Mike Piazza, slugging .500 in his first season in San Diego after 7 1/2 in New York and in his final season in the National League.

For the Dodgers, the two big changes were these: Rookie outfielder Andre Ethier was rested in favor of new acquisition Marlon Anderson, and returning to play after missing two games with a strained quad was Nomar Garciaparra, who had talked manager Grady Little into starting him. At the time, you had to know their numbers or their looks to know who these guys were – this was part of the brief era in which the Dodgers wore no names on the back of their jerseys.

On the mound, who knew what to expect? Brad Penny had earned a start in that summer’s All-Star game, striking out Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz in the first inning, but had been inconsistent ever since, posting a 5.81 ERA. In his past two starts, he had lost 7-0 to the Mets and won 6-0 against the Cubs. On the other side, Jake Peavy had been dominating the Dodgers as usual (two runs allowed in 14 previous innings that year), but his overall season ERA was a modest 4.17.

Jeff Lewis/APRussell Martin tries to settle down Brad Penny in the midst of San Diego’s four-run first inning.

With fans still pouring in to the ballpark, Penny retired the first two hitters, Dave Roberts and Brian Giles, before Adrian Gonzalez lined a 3-1 pitch into center field, bringing Piazza to bat.

“In recent games against the Dodgers, Mike looked like he was pressing,” Scully said as Piazza worked the count full. “He was trying to pull pitches that were down and away.” Almost on cue, we saw vintage Piazza, hammering the 3-2 pitch, driving it five feet below the top of the center-field wall on the fly, for an RBI double. The game was on: 1-0 Padres.

Penny walked Russell Branyan, bringing a visit to the mound from Rick Honeycutt and a visit to the plate from Mike Cameron, whom Scully pointed out had hit five home runs against the Dodgers so far in 2006. On the first pitch after Honeycutt returned to the dugout, Cameron shot the ball off the short wall in right field for a standup triple, driving in two runs (Nos. 14 and 15 vs. Los Angeles that year) to make the score 3-0.

“The Dodgers in a huge hole,” Scully said. Down in the Dodger bullpen, Aaron Sele began to warm up – not for the first time this night. Not by a longshot.

Nor was the hole finished being dug. Geoff Blum hit an 0-2 pitch to right field to drive in Cameron for a 4-0 lead, before Josh Barfield flied out to finally end the inning.

But the Dodgers wasted no time trying to rally. Rafael Furcal bunted for a single, and Lofton’s hit sent him to second. Garciaparra hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but ever-irascible Jeff Kent doubled to deep center field, driving home Furcal to get Los Angeles on the scoreboard. Peavy limited the damage to one run, but as he walked off the mound, he and Dodger first-base coach Mariano Duncan began shouting at each other.

I’ve had enough of bein’ good
And doin’ everything like I’m told I should
If you need a lover, you’d better find another …

* * *

The Dodgers pulled closer. After Penny struck out three in the second inning, Anderson – the August 31 discard from the Washington Nationals who had made surprising contributions in Los Angeles – hit a one-out solo home run. And after Russell Martin threw out Cameron trying to steal to end a two-out Padre threat in the top of the third, Furcal hit a solo homer of his own to dead center field.

“A mighty man is he,” Scully said of Furcal, who hit 15 home runs that year. “And you want to talk about a team trying to bounce back.”

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesJeff Kent, shown here against the Padres in August, went 4 for 5 with three extra-base hits.

Before the inning was over, Kent hit his second double in as many at-bats, once more to center field, a ball at the wall that Cameron leaped for but came up empty. “Standing hands on hips, trying to figure out how he missed it,” Scully observed.

J.D. Drew entered the box next, and he sliced a breaking ball left up in the zone by Peavy for a ground-rule double to left field to tie the game, bringing the crowd to its feet. In fact, Martin then almost put the Dodgers ahead right there, but Peavy speared the first-pitch line drive off his bat.

The score was 4-4 after three innings. Not once over the next four innings was a team retired in order, but not once did a team score.

Each missed a tremendous opportunity. In the top of the fifth, after another Gonzalez single, Penny walked Piazza and Branyan to load the bases with two out, but Cameron flied to right. In the bottom of the sixth, Anderson singled, Wilson Betemit walked and pinch-hitter Oscar Robles loaded the sacks with none out when he sacrificed and reached first on a fielder’s choice. But Furcal hit into a forceout at home, and then Lofton grounded into a 1-2-3 double play.

By the eighth inning, the starting pitchers were long gone. And so was any remnant of sanity in this game. The attendance was announced. Five years ago tonight, the Dodgers drew a legitimate 55,831 fans. Five years ago tonight, the Dodgers registered their highest ticket sales for a Monday game ever, capping a record for a four-game series: 219,124.

Broxton entered the game in the eighth inning. Scully commented that after Sunday’s loss, Broxton had said wasn’t nervous, but he was worried he had been tipping his pitches. “Jon was just 22 in the middle of June when he made the jump from Jacksonville, and now he has the key role as the set-up man.” It was his fifth game in seven days; he had thrown 88 pitches since the previous Tuesday, and was about to throw 22 more.

Things soon turned grim. With one out, Blum walked, and Barfield drove one to right-center field that Drew couldn’t get. Lofton overran the carom, Martin dropped the throw home, the go-ahead run scored and Barfield ended up on third base. Pinch-hitter Todd Walker then hit a flare over the drawn-in infield to give San Diego a two-run lead.

Roberts struck out (a career-high fourth for the former Dodger outfielder), but Walker went to second on a steal and third on a wild pitch. Giles then sent Drew to the right-field wall, which he banged into while making the inning-ending catch.

Not once had the Dodgers led, but not once had they failed to score in an inning in which they trailed. Sure enough, off reliever Scott Linebrink, Anderson drove one down the right-field line, running through a stop sign to reach third base with a triple, and Betemit lined an 0-2 pitch up the middle. Just like that, the lead had been reduced to one.

“Boy is this a game, huh?” Scully marveled. “Wow. And this crowd loving every moment of it. It’s been a roller-coaster ride from depression to euphoria and all the stops in between.

“Boy, it’s not Monday night here. It is Mardi Gras night. It is New Year’s Eve night.”

With two out, Lofton doubled with two out to send pinch-runner Julio Lugo to third base. Tying run was 90 feet away, go-ahead run one base behind him.

But Garciaparra struck out. You could practically fit the goat’s horns for him.

Life is for the living
Takers never giving …

* * *

Takashi Saito, the 36-year-old first-year major-leaguer from Japan, was asked by the Dodgers to protect the one-run deficit. There was little reason to expect he wouldn’t: In 70 innings, emerging in the spring in the wake of Eric Gagne’s last gasp as a Dodger, Saito had a 1.93 ERA and 93 strikeouts against 63 baserunners in 70 innings.

The importance of keeping the Padres close was clear, as Scully noted. “They’ve won 26 games by one run,” he said, “and one of the big reasons is warming up in the bullpen. Yep, it’s Trevor time.”

But Gonzalez led off the ninth with his third single of the game, and Manny Alexander (Piazza had exited the game for a pinch-runner in the seventh) bunted him to scoring position. Up came Josh Bard, the Padres’ lesser-known catcher but one who had an .869 OPS, even better than Piazza at that moment.

On a night filled with long fly balls, Bard drove what appeared to be the capper of the night, to deep center. Lofton went back. He leaped. His glove went over the fence; the ball banged off his wrist and back onto the field, while an uncertain Gonzalez advanced only to third. “Goaltending,” remarked Scully as he watched the replay.

Saito walked Cameron intentionally in the hopes of forcing an inning-ending double play, but his next pitch to Blum went to the backstop, and the Padres doubled their lead. Then Blum hit a sacrifice fly, and San Diego led by three in the ninth. Scully practically threw the white flag.

“And the Dodgers will have to collect themselves and go after Pittsburgh,” he said. “It has been a Friday night and a Saturday night combined emotionally, but now it’s starting to feel like Monday.”

It’s not as if the Padres got greedy after that, but you could argue they suffered from an embarrassment of riches. After Barfield singled to drive in Cameron and give San Diego a 9-5 lead, Scully glanced back at the Padres bullpen, looking to see if Trevor Hoffman was still getting loose.

“We said it was Trevor time, but maybe not,” Scully reported. “Nope, it’s Jon Adkins now. That figured.”

Jack Cust made the third out of the top of the ninth. The Dodgers trailed by four runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Up to that point, Adkins had allowed one home run in 51 1/3 innings in 2006.

“The Dodgers are asked to do what they did (before), but they’ve run out of innings,” waxed Scully.

Here comes the end
Here comes the end of the world …

* * *

Francis Specker/APJ.D. Drew follows through, bringing the Dodgers within two.

And then, a symphony …

Kent conducts a 1-0 pitch to center field, over Cameron, and out of the park.

“So Adkins is rudely treated,” Scully says. “Two pitches, one run.”

Drew, strumming the strings on a 2-1 pitch …

“And another drive to deep right center, and that is gone! Whoa, was that hit!” exults Scully.

“What is that line? Do not go gentle into that good night. The Dodgers have decided they’re not going to go into that night without howling and kicking.”

Hoffman is quickly rushed into the game. “He has been absolutely magnificent against everybody, but especially against the Dodgers,” Scully says, adding that Hoffman’s last blown save against the Dodgers was in April 2001.

Francis Specker/APMartin hits it a ton, bringing the Dodgers within one.

Hofman throws his first pitch.

“And a drive to left center by Martin,” calls Scully. “That ball is carrying into the seats! Three straight home runs!”

Bedlam at Dodger Stadium, bedlam like it’s the ninth inning on September 11, 1983. But the Dodgers, as Scully reminds us, “are still a buck short.”

Francis Specker/APMarlon Anderson lets it fly, and the Dodgers are tied.

Anderson is the next batter. He has four hits and needs a double to hit for the cycle.

Hoffman throws his second pitch. Anderson swings. Immediately after his follow-through, he jolts out of the box …

“And another drive to right center …”

… two arms thrusting in the air …

“Believe it or not, four consecutive home runs! And the Dodgers have tied it up again!”

As Martin practically had to be restrained in the dugout from running onto the field, Anderson raced around the bases, leaping into his high five at home plate before sprinting to the dugout, where he disappeared under a white and blue volcano.

It was the first time since 1964 that a team had hit four consecutive home runs, and the first time it had ever been done in the ninth inning, let alone to erase a four-run deficit. (The six homers in nine innings were also the most by the Dodgers since they hit eight in the Shawn Green game in May 2002.)

“Can you believe this inning?” exclaimed Scully, still agog. “Can you believe this game? … It is an unbelievable game.”

Before the cheering had even begun to subside, Lugo swung at his first pitch – still only the third pitch Hoffman had thrown in the game – and hit it on a trajectory to right-center that, for an instant, made the fans double-take. But it landed in Cameron’s glove. Ethier, batting for Saito, blooped out.

In the Dodgers’ last chance to win in nine innings, Furcal, 2 for 5 with a home run already, tattooed one himself, taking Giles to the warning track to right field before it was caught.

“Well, wouldn’t you know this was gonna go extra innings?” Scully said. “No, I don’t think you did when it was 9-5 in the ninth.

“This crowd is beside itself with joy. You can come down the wall now.”

* * *

With their top relievers already used, the Dodgers turned the guy that had warmed up for the first time back in the first inning, Aaron Sele. One of general manager Ned Colletti’s ongoing reclamation projects on the mound, Sele had joined the Dodger starting rotation in May and had a 2.91 ERA in 65 innings before the All-Star break. After a couple of poor July starts, soon followed by the acquisition of Greg Maddux, Sele ended up spending most of his second half in the bullpen (the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter that September, you might be surprised to remember, was Hong-Chih Kuo). Sele’s ERA had risen to 4.35, and he had pitched three total innings in the past two weeks.

But with the score 9-9, the Dodgers went to Sele over the other available options in the September Dodger bullpen: Giovanni Carrara, Elmer Dessens, Tim Hamulack and Eric Stults.

Sele retired Roberts (0 for 6) on a fly to center, but Giles doubled on a sharp hit down the left-field line past Lugo. Gonzalez, who had been tormenting the Dodgers all night – then again, who hadn’t – was walked intentionally.

Paul McAnulty, pinch-hitting for Alexander, killed a Sele pitch that Lofton caught at the wall. “That ball had a chance to go out but just died at the last minute,” Scully said. “There is a light breeze, but barely a zephyr.”

Sele dodged that bullet, but couldn’t avoid the next. Bard singled to right field, and Giles came home from second to score and once again give the Padres the lead.

Threatening to once again put the Dodgers down by four, Sele walked Cameron, who became the 23rd Padre to reach base. With no room to put anyone else, Sele, on the Dodgers’ 200th pitch of the game, induced an inning-ending fly to right.

“Boy, you talk about the anguish of a fan,” Scully said. “There’s a lot of it, but they’ll remember this game for a while.”

Padres 10, Dodgers 9, heading into the bottom of the 10th.

Rudy Seanez, who had pitched for the Dodgers in 1994 and 1995 (and would do so again in 2007), was the Padres’ 23rd player of the game and seventh pitcher, chosen ahead of relievers Scott Cassidy, Brian Sweeney and Mike Thompson. Nearing his 38th birthday. Seanez had struck out 52 in 51 innings combined with Boston and San Diego, but he had walked 29 and allowed seven home runs.

His first pitch to Lofton was a called strike, but his next two missed the zone. Strike two came on a check swing, but the next pitch was high and the one after that was inside, “and the Dodgers have a rabbit as the tying run,” Scully said as Lofton dropped his bat and headed to first base.

To the plate came Garciaparra.

Low and outside for ball one. Fastball for a strike. Low and outside for ball two. Inside for ball three.

Francis Specker/APNomar, hero.

On the 376th pitch of the night of September 18, 2006 …

“And a high fly ball to left field – it is a-way out and gone! The Dodgers win it, 11-10! Ha ha ha – unbelievable!”

The end of the world.

“I forgot to tell you,” Scully said after watching the celebration at home plate. “The Dodgers are in first place.”

* * *

Jeff Lewis/APGarciaparra celebrates on behalf of Dodger fans around the ballpark – and televisions and computers.

To this point, I haven’t quoted from the Dodger Thoughts game thread from the night of September 18, 2006. But while any one of us would rather have been in the ballpark, the online experience is not one I’ll forget.

You can see some of the highlights here, or you can go back to the original thread and re-experience from start to finish. But there’s only one way to finish this remembrance, and that’s with this classic:

2006-09-18 22:40:43
604. Xeifrank
Gameday seems to be broke. It keeps on saying every Dodger hitter is hitting a home run. Major software bug or something.
vr, Xei

Sep 09

‘A pretty good line’

Vin Scully gave an interview to Daniel Riley of GQ in which he comments and reflects upon his greatest calls. There are audio recordings of the interview excerpts if you click the link; here’s GQ’s roughly transcribed version of how Scully’s comments on Kirk Gibson end:

… So when he hits the home run, the whole building… from the empty dugout to the walk, to him suddenly using the bat as a cane… it was just the most theatrical home run. And the place went crazy. I don’t know where it came from, but out came a line that later on I thought only could’ve come from The Boss. That line, ‘In a year of the improbable, the impossible has happened’ — which, I must admit, is a pretty good line — it just totally came out of nowhere. My heart, that’s where it came from, and God helped me out.”

Sep 04

Kershaw adds ERA title to targets

Amid all of Clayton Kershaw’s accomplishments this season, one feat has been seemingly out of reach – an ERA title.

As recently as a week ago, Kershaw trailed Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto by about half a run, 2.51 to 2.05. Today, however, Kershaw takes the mound trailing Cueto by only 0.16, 2.45 to 2.29.

Since Independence Day, Kershaw has an ERA of 1.18 with 74 strikeouts in 76 innings and an opponents’ OPS of .533.

* * *

  • The Dodgers, who have needed nine reliever innings in the past two days, added Ramon Troncoso to their roster for today’s game. More help will be on the way after the Albuquerque season ends Monday. Reinforcements from Chattanooga, if any, will take longer because the Lookouts are headed to the Southern League playoffs, running through at least September 10.
  • In the New York Times on Friday, Richard Sandomir wrote about how much the Dodgers are being billed by their bankruptcy lawyers.
  • Thanks to Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven for the link to Vin Scully’s 1963 description of “What Is a Dodger?” Suitable for a bedtime story …

    There’s more – all on the album “Jackie Barnett Presents The Sound of the Dodgers” – from noted stage and singing stars Stubby Kaye, Jimmy Durante, Maury Wills and Willie Davis. And to wrap things up, one more piece from Vin: “The Story of the Dodgers.” Note his pronunciation of “Chavez.”

Aug 27

Vin Scully, ‘Flashing Spikes’

You can see Vin Scully below in 1962 teleplay “Flashing Spikes,” which aired on anthology series “Alcoa Premiere.” John Ford directed, Jameson Brewer wrote the script and Jimmy Stewart starred with John Wayne, Fred Astaire, Jack Warden, Tige Andrews and Don Drysdale as “Gomer.”



Courtesy Los Angeles DodgersMatt Kemp after Friday’s game.
Aug 26

A night not to balk at being a Dodger fan


Mark J. Terrill/APMr. 30-33, Matt Kemp, is now on pace for 37 homers to go with 41 steals this season.

Ted Lilly giving up an early home run? Typical game.

The Dodger offense struggling to put a single run on the scoreboard? Typical game.

A six-run rally driven by two balks, a James Loney homer and a Dodger joining the 30-30 club? Not such a typical game.

Mark J. Terrill/APJim Tracy wasn’t seeing straight after two balks were called on his team in the seventh inning.

The Dodgers trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, but they rolled a six on the Rockies and moved directly to a 6-1 victory.

It was the Dodgers’ fourth straight victory, their second in a row with a six-run inning, and their first with confirmation that Vin Scully would be back for more in 2012.

Working on a 1-0 shutout, Colorado starter Esmeril Rogers walked Andre Ethier and Aaron Miles, and Rod Barajas (after being forced to bunt for two pitches) singled to load the bases. However, the Dodgers seemed doomed – rather typically doomed, as it were – when Ethier tried to score on Jamey Carroll’s fly ball to center field and was thrown out, as we’ll get to continue hearing Vinny say, “from you to me.”

But after pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked – I’m not sure about the smarts behind that one, by the way – Miles goaded Rogers into committing a balk that moved everyone up and tied the game. And then, with runners on second and third, Justin Sellers’ single drove in two more runs to give the Dodgers the lead.

A bitter Rogers was relieved by Matt Reynolds, who immediately picked off Sellers – only to have another balk called. That was all Jim Tracy could stand, and he couldn’t stands no more, his determination to protest the call getting him thrown out of the game.

With the reprieve, the Dodgers doubled their fun. Loney hit his seventh home run of the season – five of them against Colorado – to make the score 5-1. And then Kemp hit his crowning-glory absolute rocket to center.

Loney, 2 for 4, is now 13 for his last 21 with a walk and 22 total bases: a .636 on-base percentage, 1.048 slugging percentage and 1.684 OPS.

Kenley Jansen made a successful return from the disabled list with a 14-pitch perfect eighth inning, and Scott Elbert took on the ninth, allowing two hits but no runs. Lilly got the win with his fourth outstanding start out of his past five, a stretch in which he has a 2.20 ERA.

* * *

Tweets from Beto Duran of ESPN Radio:

  • Vin Scully held impromptu press conference in elevator after game. By far coolest ride ever!
  • Vin “winning and losing doesn’t bother me, it’s just love of people. Just don’t know what I’d do”
  • Vin on announcing return during game. “Didn’t want to make big deal. Not trying to be a Brett Favre”

Aug 26

Vin Scully – the Cookie Monster – says he’ll be back in 2012


Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesVin Scully at Jackie Robinson Day in 2007

Vin bless us every one.

Vin Scully told fans watching the Dodgers-Rockies game tonight that he would return to broadcast Dodger games in 2012, his 63rd season behind the mic with the team.

As he has in recent years, Scully will call Dodger home games and road games in Colorado and west of the Rockies.

Scully began speaking by holding up a chocolate-chip cookie:

“Every year this time of year a nice lady in Woodland Hills named Mrs. Marti Squires sends me some chocolate-chip cookies. This year when she sent them in the letter it said, ‘This is a bribe to get you to come back next year.’ Well, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, I mean, you and I have been friends a long time. But after a lot of soul searching and a few prayers, I’ve decided that maybe we can do it. We’ve decided that we will come back with the Dodgers for next year. God’s been awfully good to me, allowing me to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do. I asked him one more year at least and he said, ‘Okay and be quiet and eat your cookie.’ I’ll do the same thing. Let’s go back …”

The timing of the announcement isn’t unusual – in fact, it came only four days earlier in 2010 – but it comes in the wake of T.J. Simers’ column in the Times this week about a Dodgers marketing survey that included an evaluation of Scully among its questions. The ensuing controversy – driven by the idea that the survey was a path toward the Dodgers letting Scully go – grew way out of proportion, however weird the question seemed, especially considering that right in Simers’ column was a quote from the Dodgers saying that Vin’s job “is his as long as he wants it.”

But in any case, there’s no more welcome news this year than this.

Jul 24

Billingsley rallies himself, Dodgers rally to victory

Chad Billingsley needed 31 pitches to get his first out today, but only 84 pitches to get the next 20 outs. His own personal rally cap led to a seven-inning, 10-strikeout, two-hit performance in the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over Washington today. Tony Jackson has more at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Billingsley had a day to remember, while Albuquerque’s Tim Sexton had a night to forget. Forced to take one for the team because of a pitching shortage, Sexton was charged with 16 runs in five innings of a 17-9 Isotopes loss to New Orleans.

We’ll wrap up this quick post with this video, provided by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Dancing Vinny?

Jul 08

And a good night was had by all …

Jamey Carroll called a players’ only meeting before Thursday’s dominant 6-0 victory by Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Meetings like this can’t save a season, but it sounds like it was a positive event.

ESPNLosAngeles.com also has a piece that you might call “The State of Vin Scully,” featuring an interview with the man himself.

The biggest local baseball news is the Angels’ promotion of 19-year-old super-prospect Mike Trout to replace an injured Peter Bourjos. Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.  The timing is funny because this was happening right around the time that Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts, at Thursday’s fun Fangraphs panel (thanks to everyone there for hosting), was extolling the virtues of Trout, saying that he would sign the player to a 10-year-contract right now.

Jul 07

Buck supports Scully trip to the World Series

Fox baseball announcer Joe Buck is all for having Vin Scully participate in a World Series broadcast. Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News passes along the quotes.

… “Personally, I’d love it,” Buck said the other day. “We’ve always toyed with the idea of having the hometown guy involved in a World Series broadcast. I’m from that camp. In my dad’s era, we paid a nod of tribute to the greats. And there’s no one like Vin, or close to Vin.

“I’d happily step aside to hear his voice (on the World Series). I would not fight that at all. That’s just how I grew up.

“As far as I’m concerned, he could be part of it every year. I’m not selfish. I realize who the game’s greats are, and I always defer to them – my dad (Jack Buck), Ernie Harwell, Curt Gowdy, Harry Caray. There are only a handful of guys who are as identifiable with their organizations as any player is.” …

I think Fox might be less of a hurdle for Scully at this point than the possibility that the World Series will take place entirely on the East Coast this year.

* * *

  • The final batch of your Dodger fan stories submitted to ESPNLosAngeles.com is up on the site.
  • Bud Selig scored a victory over Frank McCourt in a bankruptcy hearing today, when Judge Kevin Gross denied a request to order Major League Baseball to turn over numerous documents. “This is clearly in my mind not an appropriate occasion to turn the hearing into a trial of the commissioner,” Gross said.
  • The Dodgers have gone 283 plate appearances since their last home run, Aaron Miles’ midgame shot on June 28.
  • Trayvon Robinson will compete in the Triple-A Home Run Derby on Monday.
  • Dodger farmhands Dee Gordon, Zach Lee and Allen Webster are in Baseball America’s midseason top-50 prospects list.
  • Andre Ethier was unable to top Shane Victorino of Philadelphia for the final fan-elected spot on the National League All-Star roster.
  • Former DodgerTalk host Ken Levine, now broadcasting Seattle Mariners games, wrote a piece on a “day in the life” of a baseball broadcaster.
  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” might finally be on its way out of Dodger Stadium, reports Sons of Steve Garvey, while “God Bless America” could be reduced to Sundays and special occasions.
  • At Bronx Banter, Jon De Rosa writes about parking at Dodger Stadium and then walking all the way to Phillippe’s for a pregame bite.

    … It seemed very straightforward, the only tricky part was crossing the 110. The walking map/GPS on my phone had it pegged as a 25 minute walk. The phone is lucky it was not smashed on the sidewalk.

    Maybe if you were one of the Elves from Lord of The Rings, it would have been a 25 minute walk. But my family moves at Dwarf or Hobbit-speed, especially in the heat.

    Did I forget to mention my wife was pushing a double stroller? Disaster. You can imagine that an area not expecting pedestrians would skimp on sidewalks. There’s maybe 50 feet of sidewalk around Dodger Stadium that can accommodate the girth of the doublewide stroller. The road ahead was so treacherous that we had to send a scout 100 yards in advance in order to map where we could walk.

    The sandwich at Phillippes is good, and probably deserves a Tasters Cherce, but the lines go on and on and noboby eles has planned to walk back – ever. So as we ate, the spectre of the return journey hung above us.

    But as with any disaster, it’s all about the people you’re with and how they react. We couldn’t stop laughing at ourselves, for thinking like New Yorkers and getting ourselves in this mess. My wife put a gob of their mustard on her sandwich before realizing how hot it was. We cracked up again. We missed the first pitch, and the first inning, but we caught the other eight and didn’t leave early.

    Good thing, because the Dodgers won in a walkoff. We even hung around so the kids could run the bases. As we were leaving, my older son said, “When I grow up, I’m going to play baseball like those guys.” I think we were the last non-employees to leave Dodger Stadium. Great day and a walk I’ll probably never forget.

  • I’m off to Fangraphs Live, but I’ll be taking my car.