Sep 18

Rockies leave Dodgers feeling mighty Tulo, 12-2

Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireTroy Tulowitzki: Two first-inning homers in two days and two homers today.

Pedro Guerrero hit 15 home runs in June 1985, and it was one of the greatest things I ever saw.

So I’m afraid to try to express what that makes Troy Tulowitzki’s 14 homers in the first 18 days of September.

Tulowitzki hit two blasts early, and Melvin Mora had a grand slam late, as the Rockies handed the Dodgers their hats, 12-2.

John Ely was the victim of Tulowitzki’s latest superhero flights, his ERA rising to an all-too-round 5.00 (50 earned runs in 90 innings) for 2010. Jeff Weaver’s ERA soared to 6.14 after allowing Mora’s slam in a six-run eighth inning.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via the Dodger postgame press notes), Tulowitzki tied Albert Belle (1995) and Barry Bonds (2001) for the modern day MLB record for home runs in a 15-game span.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Russ Mitchell had his second hit and second homer of the season (with Jay Gibbons aboard), preventing the Dodgers from suffering their worst loss of the season. Mitchell is 2 for 22 on the season with four strikeouts.

The rest of the best news for the Dodgers was A.J. Ellis producing his second consecutive three-hit game (along with a walk), raising his season on-base percentage to .340, while Gibbons added a double and single for a 2010 OPS of .991 in 63 major-league plate appearances. Oh, the other good news is the Dodgers have already surpassed their 2005 win total of 71, so they don’t have that to worry about.

Clayton Kershaw pitches Sunday.

Sep 18

Dodgers traded James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for player to be named later …

… plus the 18 2/3 innings they got in between from Octavio Dotel, who went to Colorado in another trade today. That would be the Dodgers cutting their losses. Dotel will help the Rockies try to make the playoffs but is ineligible for the postseason because the trade happened after August 31.

Sep 18

The future of remembering Joe Torre

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Joe Torre conducted himself with a level of class and warmth that will probably be the standard future Dodger managers are measured by … until there’s a Dodger manager who succeeds in a different style.

In 2008 and 2009, he reestablished the World Series as a legitimate possibility for the Dodgers, guiding the team to the brink of the Fall Classic … unless it wasn’t so much him as the confluence of talent that had coalesced around him.

In 2010, that team fell apart, with Torre himself conceding that perhaps he was no longer the best man for this particular job … except maybe that it wasn’t the manager who blew it for the team, but the team that blew it for the manager.

If three years are long enough for an era, I suspect that the Joe Torre Era will be remembered fondly overall, even with the bad taste of this year’s team, which needs to go 9-5 for a .500 finish and at least 6-8 to avoid, as Eric Stephen points out at SB Nation Los Angeles’ The Red Carpet, saddling Torre with his 2000th career loss. If the Dodgers continue their downward trend, Torre’s Time might even be remembered as the good ol’ days. And if the Dodgers reverse their cursed ways of 2010, well then, no real harm done in this final year.

But it would be incomplete not to acknowledge that over his three seasons in Los Angeles – including even the winning years – that Torre exasperated a healthy segment of Dodger followers, whose interest in his gravitas was run over by his debatable baseball decisions on a number of fronts. Whether pro-Donnie Baseball or con, more than a few people were waiting fervently for Friday’s official announcement in a way that the Torre hagiography doesn’t quite recognize.

Torre came to Los Angeles with questions about whether the New York Yankees succeeded because of him or whether he succeeded because of the Yankees, and he leaves Los Angeles (at least as its skipper) with those same questions lingering. And so the fuzzy answer to defining Torre’s legacy in a larger sense, in and beyond Los Angeles, is a compromise: It was part him, and part everything else. How much of each? Who knows?

The practice in baseball of hiring and firing managers – the same guy who won you a title then is somehow responsible for your downfall now – dates back more than a century, and not even Torre was even able to change it. In fact, given his comments Friday about feeling young, wanting to continue to feel young and never saying never to what might come next, Torre did nothing less than extend that practice to himself. (Even if he resigned as Dodger manager for no other reason than to get away from the McCourts, it would somehow reflect his own opinion of the limits of his ability.)

For me, there will always be the Torre I liked and the Torre I didn’t. I think the Torre I liked probably stands out more, because there was more success than failure, and because I did feel warmth toward him. Others will feel differently, no doubt. Both Torres are there, and neither can be denied.

Sep 18

‘Ball Four’ at 40 celebration in Burbank 

Today, the Baseball Reliquary is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” with six hours of events at the Burbank Central Library.

Bouton, Tommy Davis and others will be on two panels taking place, beginning at 11 a.m. Baseball Reliquary executive director Terry Cannon recommends you arrive at 10:30 a.m., and notes that posted parking time limits are being waived at “a small lot which adjoins the library, and a larger lot across the street on Glenoaks and Olive (entrance on Olive).”

Click the links above for more details – could be a tremendous way to spend your Saturday.

Sep 17

And that’s the way it is, for Kemp and the Dodgers

Alex Gallardo/APMatt Kemp is congratulated by present and future managers Joe Torre and Don Mattingly after scoring in the second inning.

With the tying runs on, Matt Kemp struck out to end the game. He did. He swung, he missed, Rockies 7, Dodgers 5.

He had a beautiful triple in the second inning, taking an outside pitch hard the opposite way. He singled, stole second and scored in the fourth. In the seventh, with the bases loaded, he again went with the outside pitch, sending it into the stands just to the right of the foul pole.

And then he grounded out on the next pitch. And with the tying runs on base in the ninth inning, he got ahead 2-0, and he struck out.

And that’s Matt Kemp’s terrible, no good, horrible, very bad year.

And I still think he’ll bounce back. That he’ll find the way.

  • Andre Ethier walked four times, the first Dodger to do that since he did it last August. His bid to become the first Dodger to walk five times in a game since Greg Brock in 1983) was thwarted by a single up the middle on an 0-2 pitch. Five times this year, a Dodger has reached base five times in a game; Ethier twice, Rafael Furcal twice and Matt Kemp once.
  • Furcal’s first-inning error enabled a two-run home run by Troy Tulowitzki (12 taters in his past 14 games), two unearned runs that matched the margin of defeat. Furcal also went 0 for 5 and is now 8 for 45 with six walks and one extra-base hit since returning from the disabled list this month.
  • Two runs were also charged to Jonathan Broxton, who allowed three walks and two hits in two-thirds of an inning.
  • Hiroki Kuroda: six innings, three earned runs, eight baserunners, seven strikeouts.
  • Thanks to his three-hit night, A.J. Ellis (.237) actually a chance to finish the year with an unshameful batting average.
  • Jay “Pabst Blue” Gibbons had three more hits and is now OPSing .973.
  • Saturday’s game will not be televised live, but rather on tape delay at 4 p.m.
  • Tweet of the night, passed along by Dodger Thoughts commenter CraigUnderdog: “RT @charles_star: I don’t care what your contract says, Mattingly. Jay Leno will be managing the Dodgers by the All-Star break.”
Sep 17

The managerial transition press conference

The press conference, blow-by-blow.

Joe Torre looks emotional as he sits with Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti.

Frank McCourt is making brief introductory remarks, thanking Torre, including for always doing the right thing for the organization, including the difficult trips overseas in Spring Training. He then welcomes Mattingly, jokingly asking, “Are you ready?”

Colletti speaks next, also with the praisy stuff for Torre and Mattingly. Mattingly’s work ethic is big for Colletti.

Torre: “This decision was a long time coming. It wasn’t easy.”

“Baseball has been my life, and hopefully will continue to be my life in some other capacity.”

He reiterates that he thought, after he left the Yankees, that he was done managing until the Dodgers called. He was reluctant to accept at first because New York was his daughter Andrea’s only home, but his wife convinced him she would adjust.

“This year has been a struggle, no question, but the fun of managing was still there. I was telling someone today, I manage a lot by instinct, and you have to make decisions by instinct … and that’s what I did today.”

“Up until the All-Star Game, we were very excited about where we were going. Since then, we have struggled, and I have (had trouble) finding something to help. … During the second half of the year, it got to the point where I just felt that this ballclub needed a different voice, a younger voice, and there’s no one I feel more secure in turning the ballclub over to than Donnie.”

“Donnie, it’s all yours, pal.”

Mattingly: “Watching Joe the way he treated people, the way he handled situations, there was always a different perspective when you talk to Joe. … Joe’s helped me, and I thank Jo so much.”

“I think maybe I sabotaged his second half … our offense since the break. Sometimes you think you don’t quite know what you’re doing out there.”

“But I’m excited about this opportunity. I’ve been working a long time toward it.”

“I’m sure I’m going to make mistakes and plenty of them.” But he added he would learn and work hard to overcome them.

Now, questions from the media.

Back to Torre:

“Turning 70 (was the turning point). It sounds funny because I don’t feel hard, and I hope that continues. … but as I said a few minutes ago, maybe they need a different voice. … Even though the game has not changed in terms of the way you play it and the way you win it, but the players have changed.”

“(Ally) didn’t believe me until we’re sitting here today that I wasn’t going to do this anymore.”

“Ned and I are going to talk about (a next job) sometime in the next month probably.”

Colletti: “Joe and I talked the other day in San Francisco … very recently, a couple of days ago.”

“When I talked to Joe about coming here, I talked about … the continuity we’d like to establish. I’d like to have a successor on the staff.”

“We talked to Major League Baseball, and told them what our thoughts were, and they gave their blessing to it (exempting the team from minority interviews).”

Torre: “I don’t anticipate (managing somewhere else). If I say I never want to manage again, it closes a door and really makes me feel old. I don’t anticipate managing again, but I’m certainly not going to not listen to somebody if it sounds intriguing. … But I certainly don’t have any visions of that being the case, that I’m going to manage.”

Mattingly: “I know the one thing is, you’ve gotta be yourself. There’s going to be parts of Joe in me, but there’s also Billy Martin in me, there’s parts of Lou Piniella in me, there’s parts of Dallas Green. … (But) I’ve got to do it my way.”

“There’s only one way to play the game, and that’s the right way. Small things change games. Guys might do different things (in the locker room) but you still … do what you have to do to win the ballgame.”

“Billy Martin was lots of things, as a young player you were catching the grief. I learned that real quick … if it’s between you and an old guy, you’re getting the blame.”

“Yogi, I played for Yogi, and if you were 0 for 4 or 4 for 4, he treated you exactly the same. I really felt that was the way to go.”

“I have a confidence in myself. I feel ready. It’s baseball, and I’ve been around the game a long time, not necessarily in the manager seat, but you have relationships with players, you see how the game’s played when you win (and) when you lose.”

“I know people are going to question, and that’s understandable. In my heart, I know I can do this. It’s not something you back away from … it’s a simple process, a belief in myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.”

Torre: “Right now our plans are to be in California, yes. Ned and I are going to talk next month. We moved our Safe at Home Foundation (here) … and certainly going to spend more time helping Ally.”

“I just need to be involved in baseball, because I’m most familiar in that, most comfortable in that – something where I think I can be of use.”

Mattingly: “Definitely want a bench coach with experience. Something Ned and I will sit down over the next few weeks and discuss.”

“I’ve seen ’08 and I’ve seen ’09, and we were able to do some pretty good things. I’ve also seen young players come and struggle at times … you hit a little plateau and you have to reevaluate where you’re at … have to take that step back to go forward.”

“I’ve seen it before (in the younger players), I know it’s there. It’s just a matter of reaching it.”

Torre: “I had heard that Los Angeles was laid back. In the time I’ve been here, not only have they made me feel welcome here, but I sense so much passion at this stadium that made me feel very special, and I know the players fed off of that, so I’m certainly going to miss the fans out here.”

Sep 17

Dodgers take leap of faith with Don Mattingly

Dustin Bradford/Icon SMIDon Mattingly will be the Dodgers’ seventh manager since 1996.

The Tim Wallach bandwagon seemed to be gaining steam in recent weeks, but in the end it was as everyone foretold: The Dodgers have officially announced that Don Mattingly will manage the team in 2011, succeeding Joe Torre.

With any first-time manager, you don’t really know how it’s going to go until it goes (that’s my poor imitation of Joni Mitchell). Wallach was something of a sweetheart candidate, partly with his echoes of Mike Scioscia (even though Wallach mainly spent his career in Montreal), but more because he just seemed to have earned the job more than Mattingly had. Player reports were glowing. But unless you’ve been hanging with the Isotopes, you didn’t really see how he managed a team, and even if you were in Albuquerque, you don’t know how his strategy might change with winning a priority over player development.

Of course, Mattingly is an even bigger mystery. The Dodgers are betting that his understanding of the game and Torre’s tutelage trumps any need for having done this before, and that managing in the Arizona Fall League will seal the deal.  I wasn’t convinced all year that this was a good bet, and I’m not convinced now. I poured my thoughts out on this in June, and my take on this remains what it was:

… I don’t know of anyone, even his stanuchest supporters, who touts Torre as a brilliant tactical manager. He has had moments of strategic inspiration, but they seem more than undermined by his justifiably maligned use of his pitching staff and other odd lineup and bench moves. Some of the criticism of Torre is overblown, but there’s a layer of truth to it that dates back to his Yankee days.  …

Obviously, Mattingly’s baseball knowledge is not limited to his time by Torre’s side, but surely his tactics are going to be heavily influenced by Torre. And that, while not being the worst thing in the world, is not anything to be excited about.

Then you have to ask yourself, is Mattingly the type of person who can nurture a clubhouse, who can make a team better when the game isn’t going on?

I don’t know Mattingly at all, so I’m not qualified to answer that question. But my concern is that Mattingly is being handed this job not because of any actual qualifications, but because he’s perceived (hoped) to be Torre II. He’ll continue Torre’s winning ways just by having soaked up his innate Torreness.

If it were that simple, I don’t think Lakers fans would be concerned about Phil Jackson leaving.

As a counter-example, Tim Wallach has both coached on the major league level and managed on the minor league level for the Dodgers. He was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009. This season, he has been doing a barefoot walk across the coals, because the Dodgers’ pitching problems have absolutely burned their top affiliate in Albuquerque. In this season alone, Wallach has had to use 17 starting pitchers this season in 74 games. He has very little in the way of top-rated Triple-A prospects right now. He has had to work without the safety net of a Joe Torre and then some.

This resume doesn’t prove that Wallach will be a successful major league manager. But I can’t see how it isn’t a better resume than Mattingly’s, whose entire managerial C.V. consists of, “He’s Don Mattingly, Yankees legend and student of Joe Torre.”

As the Dodgers prepare to bid farewell to Torre, this year, next year or whenever, they have some responsibilities, some explicit, some implicit. For one thing, Major League Baseball requires the Dodgers to interview at least one minority candidate for the position. Whether you believe in this rule or not, I’d argue that the Dodgers should not make this interview a token activity, but rather at least one of a number of serious interviews, a wider exploration into whether anyone is better than Mattingly for the job. Clearly, Mattingly has impressed people in the organization, but has he done so in ways that really matter? If they pause and step back, are there not potential managers out there who would be more compelling?

By writing this piece, I risk giving this decision more importance than it deserves. The talent on the field is still more important than the talent in the dugout, and a hire of Mattingly isn’t going to ruin the Dodgers. Mattingly is not Torre, and given what happened Sunday, some might say that’s a good thing. But the Dodgers should ask themselves whether a Mattingly hire would bring continuity in all the wrong places.

I really do think the Dodgers or MLB need to answer why the minority interview requirement for the Dodgers is being bypassed for the second time in a row.

In the end, Mattingly may turn out to be the real deal as a manager, just as he was as a player. Just like Torre, in fact. Keep in mind, though, that Torre (who took over the Mets as a novice manager while still on the active playing roster) didn’t have a winning season until his seventh season.

So maybe the way to look at this is you’re giving a young prospect with great potential a quick route to the big leagues, just like, say, Clayton Kershaw. Or Matt Kemp.  Or Joel Guzman. You know, one of those.

Sep 16

Moral of the story: You shouldn’t

Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/AP ImagesLouie De Palma

In the first season of “Taxi,” there was an episode, “Bobby’s Big Break,” where the aspiring actor played by Jeff Conaway got the big role he had been waiting for, and with a grand gesture, quit the cab-driving racket.

The job fell through, and it became clear to the conscience of the Sunshine Cab Company, Alex Reeger (Judd Hirsch), that Bobby would be crawling back to ask his dispatcher Louie (Danny De Vito) for his old job.

Louie was beside himself. He reveled in the anticipation of how he would rub his nose in Bobby’s failure. It was a bravura performance by De Vito, one of the highpoints of this classic show. Louie would be going in for the kill.

Alex urged Louie not to do it, to hire back Bobby without doing any more damage. Louie cackled. Why on earth would he ever do such a thing?

“Because,” Alex said, with dead seriousness (and nothing else to offer), “you shouldn’t.”

Louie went nuts. “I shouldn’t?  I shouldn’t?? Oh no, I shouldn’t!”  It went on and on. You’ve never seen such fine mockery of such a preposterous notion.

Bobby entered. The moment was coming.  Louie could barely contain himself, purring like a tiger poised for the pounce.

Bobby asked for his job back.

And Louie said, polite as can be, “Welcome back.”  And turned away, growling.

As far as Dodger fans are concerned, this is all we have. Despite Peter O’Malley, whom Bill Plaschke of the Times correctly describes as the conscience of the Dodger legacy, voicing what so many have been thinking – that the Dodgers don’t belong in the McCourt hands – we are at that family’s mercy, at least until the matter is resolved in the courts. And it could be a long time before that resolution comes.

The McCourts have the Dodgers, and have shown no sign they intend to get rid of them voluntarily. Everyone in that splintering family aims to keep them.

And all we can say to them is: “You shouldn’t.” And ask that they can reach the moral heights in the business world … of Louie De Palma.

Wish us good luck.

* * *

Congratulations to Russ Mitchell on his first major-league hit and home run. Giants 10, Dodgers 2.

Sep 16

Report: O’Malley says McCourt ownership needs to sell

Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, who has publicly been almost completely silent on the current ownership issues with the team, told Bill Shaikin of the Times that he believes the team should have new ownership.

He said he is not interested in returning to ownership but would be willing to smooth the transition for potential new owners on what he called a “short-term” basis.

“For many years, the Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious institutions in our city and throughout professional sports,” O’Malley said. “Sadly, that is not the case today.”

McCourt responded through a statement from his spokesman, Steve Sugerman.

“Frank has made it abundantly clear he is the long-term owner of the Dodgers,” Sugerman said, “and he looks forward to the day when his four boys own and operate the team.” …

* * *

Dodger coach Bob Schaefer had some weirdly noteworthy comments today in an interview with Jim Bowden on XM radio. Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has details.

One of them was a no-comment on Matt Kemp that was followed by a comment that indicates there is no love lost there. Another reportedly had Schaefer saying that Don Mattingly had turned down “managerial positions” to stay in Los Angeles, but I’m wondering if Schaefer really meant or said “managerial interviews.”

Also, it’s one thing for me to say the Dodgers have issues for next season, but it’s a bit unusual for a coach to say the team “will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat” to contend. Presumably, Schaefer has already plotted his own exit from the organization.

Schaefer said he doesn’t think Joe Torre will manage the Dodgers next season, but that he will stay in the game in some capacity. However, Torre told reporters that

* * *

  • David Brown has a barrel-of-fun interview with Vin Scully at Yahoo! Sports’ Big League Stew.
  • Russ Mitchell is the only Dodger since 1920 to start a game at first, third and the outfield in his first season, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
  • One of my earliest memories as a baseball fan is reading in Baseball Digest about Rennie Stennett’s 1975 7-for-7 game, in which Pittsburgh shut out Chicago, 22-0. Chris Jaffe recalls the event in The Hardball Times.
  • Howard “Howie” Levine, the longtime Grant High School boys basketball coach whom I first met more than 20 years ago as a Daily News sportswriter, has worked as a Dodger Stadium usher for 38 years. On Tuesday, the night that the Dodgers honor their employees of 25 years or more, Levine will sing the National Anthem.
Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer

Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million — a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit — committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Sep 15

Chad Billingsley, the almost-Kershaw, almost wins

The zeroes continued for the Dodgers and Giants tonight, scoreless once again into the seventh inning, before Chad Billingsley, trying to duplicate Clayton Kershaw’s majestic effort from the night before, finally succumbed on a double, a wild pitch and a soft single for a run.

A second run came across for the Giants in the eighth against Dodger relievers George Sherrill and Kenley Jansen – the latter’s wild pitch key to that score. That allowed Giants closer Brian Wilson not to fret about giving Andre Ethier a home run pitch in the ninth, and San Francisco held on for a 2-1 victory.

The Dodgers had run-saving diving plays from Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier and Jay Gibbons in the field, but the offense is 5 for 57 in the two games.

Billingsley allowed eight baserunners in seven innings, striking out seven and lowering his ERA to 3.55.

Sep 15

Tonight’s feature presentation: Obscure but memorable cleanup hitters

Jay Gibbons is batting cleanup tonight for the third time as a Dodger. That would not have seemed likely a month ago, but Gibbons is far from the most unlikely Dodger cleanup hitter of the past seven seasons. Who’s your favorite from this list?

Dodger cleanup hitters since 2004
James Loney (50 games), Matt Kemp (43), Manny Ramirez (41), Casey Blake (7), Jay Gibbons (3), Andre Ethier (2).

2009: Blake (43), Ethier (42), Kemp (27), Ramirez (26), Loney (21), Russell Martin (3).

2008: Jeff Kent (74), Loney (28), Ramirez (25), Martin (18), Blake (8), Ethier (3), Nomar Garciaparra (3), Andruw Jones (2), Mark Sweeney (1).

2007: Kent (132), Luis Gonzalez (20), Loney (6), Martin (1), Mike Lieberthal (1), Olmedo Saenz (1), Shea Hillenbrand (1)

2006: J.D. Drew (83), Kent (59), Saenz (7), Ethier (5), Garciaparra (3), Kemp (2), Loney (1), Joel Guzman (1), Ricky Ledee (1).

2005: Kent (110), Saenz (26), Ledee (10), Jason Phillips (8), Jose Cruz, Jr. (3), Jayson Werth (2), Hee-Seop Choi (1), Mike Edwards (1), Milton Bradley (1).

2004: Adrian Beltre (92), Shawn Green (63), Milton Bradley (3), Saenz (2), Juan Encarnacion (1), Robin Ventura (1).

* * *

Al LaMacchia, the 1940s major-leaguer who became a scout for six decades thereafter, finishing up with the Dodgers, has passed away at the age of 89.

Bill Plaschke of the Times shone a light on LaMacchia when he talked about the scout’s recommendation that the Dodgers acquire Andre Ethier — a column that (and I certainly mean no disrespect to LaMacchia) inspired this response from Fire Joe Morgan.

My most sincere condolences to LaMacchia’s family and friends.

* * *

Today is the 30th anniversary of Fernando Valenzuela’s major-league debut, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. The Dodgers will pay tribute to the occasion on Sunday’s game.

Sep 14

One hit, one run, one Kershaw, one shutout win over the Giants

Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe man.

Give Clayton Kershaw a hit, and he’ll take it a mile.

It wasn’t quite the same as Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, 45 years and five days ago, but it was close enough. It’ll do, pig.

Supported by exactly one hit and exactly one run from the Dodger offense, Kershaw wrote another chapter in what looks like a storybook career, pitching his first complete game and shutout to defeat San Francisco, 1-0.

Kershaw, who appeared to have perfect game stuff himself in the early going, retired the first 10 batters before allowing the first of his four hits. He struck out only four – including the game’s final batter, Aubrey Huff – but he walked none while throwing an oh-so-appropriate 111 pitches. He now has 201 strikeouts and a 2.85 ERA on the year. The Giants, essentially, couldn’t touch him.

The same was essentially true for the Dodgers against San Francisco starter Barry Zito. Matt Kemp had the game’s only hit, a second-inning single. That was preceded by a first-inning walk by Rafael Furcal. And Los Angeles did nothing else … but win the game.

The Dodgers scored their run in the following manner: With one out, Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch and sacrificed to second base by Kershaw (his league-leading 17th sacrifice hit of the season). Zito pitched around Rafael Furcal, walking him to get to Andre Ethier, who had hit into a double play and struck out against the lefty in two previous at-bats tonight. In one of the more suspenseful at-bats this doleful Dodger team has seen in a while, Ethier worked out a full-count walk.

With the bases loaded, Casey Blake hit a ball up the middle that looked like it might be a single or a double-play ball when it left the bat. It was neither. Shortstop Jose Uribe reached it but bobbled it for an error, allowing Johnson to score. And that was it. The Dodgers didn’t get another baserunner for the rest of the game.

Of course, it has only been two years since the Dodgers won with fewer hits – their hitless victory over the Angels on June 28, 2008. It was a great September game to be a part of, even for a losing team. Kershaw made it happen.

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  • With a bout of plantar fasciitis, Scott Podsednik has joined Vicente Padilla on the probably-out-for-the-season list, reports Tony Jackson of Podsednik, who had a .313 on-base percentage and .338 slugging percentage with five steals in eight attempts after coming to the Dodgers in exchange for Elisaul Pimentel and Lucas May, has the option of accepting $2 million from the Dodgers for the 2011 season – if the Dodgers don’t buy out his option for $100,000 –  or becoming a free agent.
  • Given the possibility that litigation in the Dodger ownership battle could drag out for years, Bill Shaikin of the Times explores whether MLB commissioner Bud Selig will or even can intervene.
  • Travis Schlichting’s attempts to come back from injury woes are documented by David Lassen of the Press-Enterprise.
Sep 14

Kershaw LXXXI: Kershawctupus

Let me introduce you to a really cool website, (which I found via Baseball Think Factory). It offers all kinds of historic film footage — here’s a link to what comes up under a Dodgers search. For example: a quick newsreel peek at the Dodgers during Spring Training, 1953. I’ve also gotten lost looking up various old pieces of Los Angeles history.

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Dodger manager Joe Torre, who has indicated he wanted to play the most competitive Dodger lineup in remaining games against contenders, chose lefty-hitting Jay Gibbons at first base over lefty-hitting James Loney against lefty San Francisco pitcher Barry Zito. Loney is 2 for 26 with no walks in his career against Zito. Gibbons is 3 for 15 with a double and two walks.

Using this criteria, Torre ran out of options somewhat quickly.

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Late add: the 2011 tentative Dodger schedule. Season opener on April Fool’s Day at home against the Giants. It’s the first Friday opener for the Dodgers in 32 years, Tony Jackson writes – changes things up, but I kind of don’t mind it.

Sep 14

McDonaldmania in Pittsburgh

Kathy Kmonicek/APJames McDonald pitched eight shutout innings for the Pirates on Monday.

It’s not like he’s got the upside of Carlos Santana, but will you look at what James McDonald is doing for Pittsburgh?

McDonald has a 3.49 ERA in eight starts with the Pirates. That includes five runs he allowed in the seventh inning of a game in which Pittsburgh couldn’t come to his rescue in time; otherwise his ERA with the team would be 2.59, with more than eight strikeouts per nine innings.

The most telling stat in the above paragraph? Eight starts. That’s three more than McDonald had in his Dodger career, and they’ve all come right in a row. Even if McDonald had a disappointing start, Pittsburgh put him right out there again.

Now, perhaps that’s a luxury that the Pirates can afford that the Dodgers felt they couldn’t. And maybe McDonald needed the so-called change of scenery — although I think that’s more often a mythical benefit than a real one. Maybe this is just McDonald’s version of Elymania, a hot streak whose end is around the corner.

The fact remains, the Dodgers parted with their two-time minor league pitcher of the year and an effective member of their 2009 bullpen, earning a minimum salary, in order to acquire Octavio Dotel. They nurtured McDonald through eight years in the organization, and then gave up too soon.

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Ramona Shelburne, on a roll, continues reaping the rewards of her investment of time in the Albuquerque Isotopes with this feature on Dodger managerial candidate Tim Wallach. The Wallach bandwagon has enough momentum that it’s going to be quite jarring if he doesn’t get the job.

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Update: Jack Moore of Fangraphs says McDonald’s peripheral stats compare well with David Price of Tampa Bay.