Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Pitchers

Having glanced a snapshot of the position players on the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers, let’s now turn to the pitchers. 

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Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Position players

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Hey there! Since I haven’t actually written much on the defending World Series champions this year, I thought I’d throw down some of the stuff that’s been percolating inside my head about the 2021 Dodgers ahead of Thursday’s Opening Day. Let’s start with the position players. (Note: Some of these thoughts materialized during the chats we’ve had on Clubhouse.) 

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In defense of baseball in 2021

Dodger Stadium, timeless (i.e., not 2021)

There has been one durably unifying complaint about baseball in its history: It’s boring. This is not as serious a criticism as, say, banning people with a certain skin color or heritage from the sport until after two World Wars, but it’s one that transcends time and demographics. 

Lack of action has long been the Achilles’ bunion of baseball, even before sports like football and basketball emerged from their primordial muck with sprightly feet. Sure, those sports have their own pace-of-play issues — the gridiron is the longtime home of 30-second huddles interrupted by a few moments of fury — but baseball boasts the most obvious perpetual pregnant pause. 

Traditionally, the fault line of baseball ennui has been bridged by fans who dismiss the complaints as a lack of sophistication among the complainers. (Translated: “If you’re too dumb to appreciate the greatness, I can’t help you.”) But lately, the uprising has come from within. The loudest cries against the state of baseball have come from some of its most diehard fans or reporters, legions of whom have testified to the lack of action, as Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated described the final game of the 2020 World Series.  

Over the final 26 minutes of play, viewers saw only two balls put into play. Over the three hours, 28 minutes it took to play the 8 ½-inning game, they saw 32 balls in play, or one every 6 ½ minutes. They saw more pitchers (12) than hits (10). They saw 27 batters strike out, or 42% of all plate appearances. That is, if they saw anything at all.

I can’t argue the numbers, nor would I argue that the baseball we see today is baseball at its all-time best. If your lifelong devotion to the sport is in jeopardy, I don’t know if I can talk you off the ledge.

But hey, let me try.

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Fun, funny and funky facts about Kershaw at Coors

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw will look to put his 10.22 Spring Training ERA behind him by … pitching in the friendly confines of Coors Field for Opening Day on Thursday. Here’s a random set of data points about the 33-year-old’s experiences there, thanks to the database from our friends at Baseball-Reference.com

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Kindness for Kenley Jansen

This post is not a retrospective of Kenley Jansen’s career. It is not a profound look at what will be his 17th and quite possibly final season in the Dodger organization. It is, above all, not an evaluation of his merits as a relief pitcher or “closer.” 

I’m writing about nothing more than Kenley Jansen and the start of the 2021 regular season, beginning a week from Thursday on April Fool’s Day. 

The first four days of the season will take place in Denver, a location where Jansen has had at least three heart scares relating to episodes of atrial fibrillation. He has since had an ablation procedure and taken other precautions to prevent recurrences, but as Jansen told J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News in April 2019, “it’s still a little nerve-wracking because it’s in the back of your mind somewhere.”

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Dodger drafts since 2010
— a quick recap

On the occasion of Grant Holmes’ 25th birthday today, here’s a quick and dirty rundown of the past 11 drafts by the Dodgers. 

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Dodger Thoughts community chat on Clubhouse

Looking back, the heyday of the Dodger Thoughts commenting section at Baseball Toaster was relatively brief. It’s been nearly 19 years since I founded Dodger Thoughts, but the Toaster era only accounts for four of them, from 2005 when I migrated from All-Baseball.com to 2009 when I left for the Los Angeles Times.  

But those four years, man, they were amazing.

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Farewell, Don Sutton

Photo: Baseball Hall of Fame

Befitting the longest and in some ways most complex pitching career in the history of the Dodgers, Don Sutton has the longest chapter in Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. For someone who was a Hall of Famer without much doubt, Sutton was almost chronically underestimated in his value. 

In tribute to Sutton, who has died at the age of 75, here is that chapter:  

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Thinking of Vin

Today’s Instagram post by Vin Scully has shaken me.

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Farewell, Tommy Lasorda

The amazing life of Tommy Lasorda ended Thursday at the age of 93

I was just becoming a baseball fan when he became the Dodgers’ manager in September 1976. Nearly 40 years later, I would find myself in the Dodger press box cafeteria at lunch as an employee and introducing my two sons to Lasorda, and having him shake hands with them.  

Here is my chapter on Lasorda for 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:

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Novel progress, 2020

Nope, I haven’t stopped.

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Dick Whitman at 100: Mad Men namesake played for Brooklyn

Today is the 100th birthday of Dick Whitman, who falls into the category of worlds colliding for me.

Dick Whitman was the birth name of the character known as Don Draper on one of my all-time favorite shows, Mad Men. Coincidentally (or not), Dick Whitman was also the name of a major-league outfielder who made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

That debut came after serving in a war, which both the real and fictional versions of Whitman had in common.

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First names of the President rarely begin with vowels

Joe Biden will be the 28th consecutive President of the United States whose name does not begin with a vowel. There have only been four presidents out of 46 whose names began with vowels, and three of them came consecutively: Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant. The other was Andrew Jackson. 

Note: This might not be the most significant aspect of this election. 

Brothers in Arms excerpt: Clayton Kershaw and the World Series

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers

Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition comes to a conclusion with a focus on Clayton Kershaw at the end of the 2017 season. The book was published in 2018, without any knowledge of what was to be revealed about that 2017 World Series. 

Below, I’m reprinting the final 1,000 words of the book, just to serve as a reminder of where we stood at that time and to help underscore what it meant for Kershaw to get his World Series title. 

In the first World Series game for the Dodgers since 1988 and the hottest World Series game on record (first-pitch temperature: 103 degrees), against the top offense he had ever faced in the playoffs, Kershaw presented his biggest nationwide audience with his most dominant playoff start, throwing seven innings of one-run ball against the Astros in which he allowed three hits and no walks while striking out 11—the first World Series pitcher of any stripe to fan at least 11 with no walks since Newcombe in 1949. This was Kershaw incarnate, the one everybody had expected all along. After Los Angeles and Houston went on to split the first four games of the Series, Kershaw returned to the mound in Houston for Game 5, and with the Dodgers scoring three runs in the first inning and another in the top of the fourth, there before Kershaw stood the most pristine opportunity to seal his legacy.

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For a moment, I’m 20 again

I realized something while out walking early this morning. It has, of course, been 32 years since the Dodgers won the World Series, and I’m 32 years younger than my father.

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