Dodger Thoughts

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

Month: May 2011 (Page 6 of 7)

Broxton goes to disabled list, Jansen to return

Following his MRI exam, Jonathan Broxton is headed for the disabled list, with Kenley Jansen making his trip to Chattanooga a mere layover on his way to New York to replace Broxton on the active roster.

There were different ways to interpret the news that an MRI revealed Jonathan Broxton had, according to the Times, a bone spur but no structural damage. On the one hand, the pain caused by the bone spur could account for Broxton’s awkward appearance Tuesday and even his rough-and-tumble 2011, but it wouldn’t seem to add much to a physical explanation of why he’s been so off his game since mid-2010 — unless it has been a recurring problem.

We’ll undoubtedly hear more on this as the day progresses.

Update: Broxton could be out for a month, according to Ken Gurnick of

… Broxton said he was told he would be shut down for two to three weeks to allow dissipation of fluid in the joint, then resume throwing. He said also had a pre-existing bone spur in the back of the elbow that showed up in a 2010 MRI, but that wasn’t the cause of his latest trouble. …

He was examined by team doctor Neal ElAttache, who told him the injury was probably the result of his joint opening and closing at high velocity “and the bones slam against each other. It takes a while to get the fluid in there.”

He said he was told he could take three or four days off and continue pitching, but the best course of action would be to shut down and let the bruise completely heal. Broxton said he didn’t think this injury was related to his second-half collapse last year.

“It probably started in the spring and caught up to me now,” he said. “The ligament is fine, there are no chips or anything. It’s just bruised.” …

Update 2: More from Tony Jackson of

* * *

After writing that Wilson Betemit should have let himself get hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Kansas City Star sportswriter Lee Judge decided he should step up and see what it would be like. The video is pretty great.

ESPN introduces Spanish-language Dodger blog

Bill James appeared on “The Colbert Report” on Thursday (mainly to promote his new book, “Popular Crime.”) Asks Colbert: “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her father 40 whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her mother 41. What’s her whack average there?” was formally introduced Thursday, and with that came the official arrival of Frecuencia Dodgers, with posts by Noel Pineiro Planas. I’ll be waiting for the French Dodger blog before I can do much foreign-language reading about the team, but this should be a great addition to Dodger coverage.

Pineiro also caught up with Rafael Furcal earlier this week for this story. Here’s a Google Translate version.

Elsewhere …

  • Bryan Stow is scheduled to have another surgery, his family said on its website (via The Associated Press).
  • Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports writes at length about how the Dodgers’ ownership situation could affect Los Angeles’ NFL plans.
  • The Dodgers have a lot of financial issues, but it’s some small saving grace that they don’t have this one: owing a fading Derek Jeter $51 million, as Joe Sheehan writes at
  • Meanwhile, almost-a-Dodger Eric Chavez “suffered ‘a small fracture” of the fifth metatarsal, or the bone between his ankle and pinky toe, on his left foot while running out his fourth-inning triple” Thursday.
  • Dodgers 2010 top draft pick Zach Lee has a 1.17 ERA after six starts for Great Lakes. Though he struck out 25 in his first 19 2/3 innings, he has struck out three in his past 11. Teammate Garret Gould, the Dodgers’ most ballyhooed pick from 2009, has a 1.93 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 28 innings. Over at Rancho Cucamonga, Allen Webster has a 1.44 ERA and 26 strikeouts in his past 25 innings.

Happy 80th birthday, Willie Mays

Willie MaysKidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesWillie Mays poses at the Polo Grounds during his rookie season in 1951.

Baseball legend Willie Mays turns 80 today. David Schoenfield of’s Sweet Spot blog, from which I borrowed the above photo, has a piece arguing that Mays was the greatest ever, while John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle catches up with Mays today. Happy birthday, Willie.

Mets (and health) stand in between Andre Ethier and Willie Davis

The heat map above shows Andre Ethier’s “hot” and “cold” zones against left-handed pitching since 2009. The red areas are his “hot” zones. The blue are his “cold” zones.

Hi everyone – the following is a guest post from Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Information:

The last time a Dodger brought as long a hitting streak as Andre Ethier into a meeting with the Mets, an ESPN baseball analyst named Bobby Valentine was making his big league debut.

Willie Davis was able to extend his hitting streak to a club record 30 games in a meeting with the Mets on September 2, 1969. But later in the game, after a call of “In comes Valentine!” from Dodgers radio voice Vin Scully on a two-run single by Andy Kosco, Mets reliever Tug McGraw struck Davis out with the tying run on third base to end a 5-4 Mets victory, one of many amazing wins for the eventual champs. Davis got his streak to 31 the next day, a number that still stands as the top Dodgers mark.

Ethier will get a chance to better Davis at Citi Field, with Jonathon Niese the first moundsman in his way.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’ll be the fifth hitter to bring a hit streak of 29 or more games into a meeting with the Mets, along with Davis, Pete Rose, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Rose was able to set the NL record for a hitting streak by hitting in his 37th, 38th, and 39th straight games against the Mets in 1978 (the streak would stretch to 44 games before ending).

Rollins reached 33 games with hits in three straight games against the Mets late in 2005. The one hitter the Mets stymied was his teammate, Utley, who had his 35-gamer snuffed on August 4, 2006 by Orlando Hernandez, Darren Oliver and Pedro Feliciano.

Let’s take a closer look at the potential matchups that could come between Ethier and history this weekend, presuming he’s healed enough from his elbow injury to play.

Friday vs. Jonathon Niese

Never faced

Ethier is 8-for-35 against left-handed pitching this season, a .229 batting average that is 200 points below what he’s currently hitting against right-handed pitching. But keep in mind that he went hitless in his first 11 at-bats of the season against lefties. Since then, he’s 8-for-24 against them, his most recent hit being an infield single against James Russell that pushed the streak to 29.

There are significant differences in how Ethier hits right-handers, compared to how he fares against lefties for his career. He’s a .312 career hitter against righties, averaging a homer every 22 at-bats. Against lefties, he’s hitting .246 (.214 since 2009), with a homer every 49 at-bats.

Ethier’s biggest issue against lefties is his propensity for swings and misses. Since 2009, he’s missing on one out of every four swings against a left-handed pitcher, compared to one of every six swings against righties.

At the top of this piece is a heat map, that shows Ethier’s performance when he puts the ball in play against a lefty. He has two vulnerable spots—the blue shaded areas that are up-and-in and down-and-away.

The one area in which he’s working from a position of strength is the red-shaded area, down and in. Closer examination of the pitch type data from video review shows that most of Ethier’s hits come against fastballs to that area.

Comparatively speaking, Mets starter Jonathon Niese is a much easier target for Ethier than most left-handed pitchers, as he’s not someone who generates a lot of swings and misses.

Lefty hitters are hitting .286 in 217 at-bats against Niese for his career (11-for-40 in 2011). That’s among the worst for any active lefty pitcher who has faced at least 200 lefties.

Saturday vs. Chris Young

.414 BA, 6 HR in 29 AB

If Ethier can get to Saturday with his hitting streak intact, he’s probably going to be feeling pretty good heading into that day’s matchup. His numbers, particularly his power numbers, against Mets starter Chris Young, are amazing.

Whether that’s enough of a sample size to predict future performance is another discussion for another time. The history available says Ethier should feel confident. He has six home runs against Young, against whom he’s hitting .414 in 29 at-bats. There’s no other pitcher against whom he has more than two homers. Their last meeting was June 9, 2009, a game in which Ethier went deep three times against the then-Padre. Two of the fly balls left the ballpark. The other was well-struck but caught in center field.

“He seems to punish me,” Young told the media after that game.

Most left-handers don’t hit Young with the same rate of success that Ethier does. Lefty hitters are hitting just .223 against Young in a career sampling of 1,420 at-bats. The only active starting right-handed pitchers with better success against lefty hitters are Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy (.218) and Giants ace Tim Lincecum (.222).

Left-handed hitters are 5-for-48 with 16 strikeouts against Young this season., a .104 opponents batting average. The Phillies loaded their lineup with batters who hit left-handed against Young on Sunday Night Baseball last week, but they were a combined 1-for-17, with 0-fors from among others, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard.

Sunday vs. R.A. Dickey

.500 BA, 2 AB

If Ethier survives to Sunday, he’ll see a pitch with which he has not had a lot of familiarity over the last two seasons, the knuckleball.

Dickey and Ethier met last July 25 and it was a fastball on which Ethier got one of the two hits the Dodgers mustered that day through 5 2/3 innings of facing him. In Ethier’s other turn, a Dickey knuckleball yielded a ground-ball double play.

According to our video review data, Ethier has seen 15 knuckleballs since the start of the 2009 season. He’s swung at 10 of those pitches, missing four of them (including once when he was struck out by Tim Wakefield) and putting five into play.

Whoever figures to be the Mets second baseman on Sunday should come prepared. Of the five times that Ethier has put a knuckler into play, four of those balls have been hit right to the spot where a second baseman would normally play. His next hit against a knuckleball will be his first since 2009.

Dodger Cogs and Dogs 2011: Edition 3

Jake Roth/US PresswireNon-roster Spring Training invitee Mike MacDougal has the lowest ERA on the pitching staff.

I don’t know, maybe I’m going about this all wrong.

When you can’t even find 10 players you really feel good about ranking out of a group of 35, maybe you need to start ranking something else. For example, if I were ranking TV Cogs and Dogs, I wouldn’t start to worry I was running out of great players after Ron Swanson and Raylan Givens.

I dare say that after rounding out my top 10 with an injured Casey Blake, hit-by-pitch magnet Juan Uribe, a slumping Jamey Carroll and a battle between relievers Blake Hawksworth and Mike MacDougal, I’m ready to go back to reading about all the challenges that Josh Fisher lists for Dodger monitor Tom Schieffer and wondering how Frank McCourt can blame Major League Baseball for the Dodgers’ inability to make 1/12th of his $100 million-or-so payroll at the end of this month. I mean, Luke Walton probably has enough saved to cut the Dodger players their paychecks.

Anyway, as always, Cogs and Dogs mixes subjectivity and objectivity and focuses on what’s already happened, not what’s likely to happen. And afterword, don’t miss Mike Petriello’s interview at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness with Albuquerque Examiner writer Christopher Jackson about the Isotopes, which is overflowing with interesting information.

Today 4/28 4/7 Player Comment
1 1 2 Matt Kemp Still rates slightest edge over Ethier, but back to nearly a strikeout per game.
2 2 3 Andre Ethier If elbow trouble is chronic, put Dodgers out to pasture.
3 3 4 Hiroki Kuroda 36-year-old on track to lower ERA for third straight year.
4 4 1 Clayton Kershaw Allowing HRs at career-high 1.2 per nine innings.
5 8 Jon Garland In past three starts, only 18 baserunners in 22 innings.
6 7 18 Chad Billingsley 1.98 ERA, .554 OPS against him in past four starts.
7 5 10 Casey Blake .956 OPS will keep him in top 10 for a little longer if no one steps up.
8 10 25 Juan Uribe Postgame X-rays on hand were negative.
9 6 5 Jamey Carroll In 4-for-28 slump (with two walks).
10 15 22 Blake Hawksworth .203 opponents’ batting average lowest on team (minimum 10 innings)
11 11 13 Mike MacDougal Keeps walking guys but ERA remains below 1.00
12 12 8 Matt Guerrier Most innings on staff without allowing home run.
13 9 6 Rod Barajas Four walks, 26 strikeouts.
14 17 12 Tony Gwynn Jr. Should see more playing time if Ethier is out for long.
15 19 Vicente Padilla Four straight hitless innings (two walks).
16 14 Jerry Sands Fewest PA (55) of any Dodger ever with at least six doubles in career.
17 18 14 Ted Lilly No one noticing, but only two quality starts in seven tries.
18 20 24 Kenley Jansen Working on that second pitch? Gave up 3-R HR for Chattanooga Wednesday.
19 16 9 Jonathan Broxton Allowing .387 OBP this season.
20 21 20 Aaron Miles This year’s Angel Berroa.
21 22 15 A.J. Ellis .438 OBP in Triple-A since demotion.
22 13 19 Marcus Thames .501 OPS as a starter (21 plate appearances).
23 24 7 Rafael Furcal Last played April 11, hopefully will start baseball activities soon.
24 25 16 Hong-Chih Kuo Strikeouts are there, just needs sharper control (and health).
25 27 11 Xavier Paul Was 6 for 14 with Pirates before 0 for 5 on Wednesday.
26 26 John Ely Five runs, 15 strikeouts in past 19 1/3 innings.
27 29 Dioner Navarro Knocked his second hit of season.
28 30 21 Hector Gimenez 35 days since his last game – 60-day DL beckons.
29 Russ Mitchell After no BB in 2010, walked in first ’11 plate appearance.
30 Jay Gibbons First three AB were three strikeouts on 24 total pitches.
31 31 Jamie Hoffmann On another Triple-A hot streak: 1.004 OPS.
32 23 17 James Loney Friday marks one month since last extra-base hit.
33 27 26 Ivan De Jesus Jr. Most at-bats on team (28) without extra-base hit.
34 32 23 Lance Cormier 24 pitches thrown since April 15.
35 33 Ramon Troncoso Eight earned runs allowed in past 9 1/3 minor-league innings.

Maury Wills, Pete Gray, Chicken elected to Shrine of the Eternals

Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty ImagesMaury Wills, 1959

Dodger speedster Maury Wills has been elected to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals, along with World War II-era ballplayer Pete Gray and Ted Giannoulas, aka the San Diego Chicken.

Wills’ candidacy rested on his role in popularizing the stolen base as well as his lifelong devotion to the game, while Giannoulas earned his popularity in a much different way, strutting through Padres games in his Chicken costume.

Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty ImagesPete Gray

Gray, who lost his right arm in a childhood accident, began in professional baseball in 1942 at age 27 and gained national attention two years later when he batted .333 for the Memphis Chicks with a league record-tying 68 stolen bases. Entering the majors with the St. Louis Browns during the wartime player shortage, Gray had a .259 on-base percentage and .261 slugging percentage, but still wowed fans with his ability to catch a fly ball, roll the ball across his chest as he tucked his glove under his right shoulder and then throw in one motion. Gray continued to barmstorm for years in the minors. He passed away in 2002 at age 87.

The trio join the previously elected Eternals: Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Roger Angell, Emmett Ashford, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Bill Buckner, Roberto Clemente, Steve Dalkowski, Rod Dedeaux, Jim Eisenreich, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, William “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Roger Maris, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Fernando Valenzuela, Bill Veeck, Jr. and Kenichi Zenimura. Induction day is July 17 in Pasadena.

Here are the 2011 Baseball Reliquary vote percentages (top three earn election):

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Wounded Dodgers suffer latest loss, 5-1

Reed Saxon/APDioner Navarro tries to settle staring pitcher Ted Lilly in the sixth.

A grim morning of injuries bled into a grim afternoon for the Dodgers today.

Ted Lilly matched zeroes with Carlos Zambrano for four innings, before homers by Geovany Soto in the fifth and Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd (with two on) in the sixth sent Lilly and the Dodgers to a 5-1 defeat.

To add to the Dodgers’ woes, in the fourth inning, Juan Uribe was hit by a pitch for the fourth time this season, then later apparently spiked in the same spot on his left hand. He left the game in the sixth inning. If he misses any more time, it will be the third injury to sideline him in this still-young season, and the Dodgers would once again be down to one starting infielder.

For good news, we’ll turn to Hong-Chih Kuo, who walked the first batter he faced in relief of Lilly on four pitches but then retired the next three, two on strikeouts. Mike MacDougal and Vicente Padilla also pitched shutout relief innings as the Dodgers awaited word on Jonathan Broxton’s MRI.

The Dodger offense was limited to a sixth-inning leadoff double by Tony Gwynn Jr., a single by Aaron Miles (2 for 4) and a sacrifice fly by Jay Gibbons. James Loney (2 for 4) and Dioner Navarro were the only other Dodgers with hits, and Gwynn had the only walk off Zambrano, who threw 107 pitches over eight innings and struck out four.

Matt Kemp went hitless, as did Russ Mitchell, who started the game at third base and finished it in right field. There was never really a situation where Don Mattingly had to think about inserting Andre Ethier and his 29-game hitting streak as a pinch-hitter.

Broxton, Ethier both have elbow concerns

What has seemed so inevitable for some time now has finally come to pass: Jonathan Broxton is hurt.

At the same time comes just about the last thing anyone wanted to think possible: Andre Ethier is also ailing.

Ethier, whose hot start in 2010 ended abruptly almost exactly one year ago with a pinky injury, has been nursing left elbow inflammation for two weeks, reports Tony Jackson of He was pulled from today’s starting lineup about an hour before gametime.

… Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said an hour or so before removing Ethier from the lineup that Ethier believes the issue might have started during a series more than two weeks ago against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“We’re keeping an eye on it,” Mattingly said. …

Mattingly said before the game that even with the hitting streak on the line, he would have no hesitation to use Ethier as a pinch hitter in a key situation on a day when he wasn’t in the starting lineup.

“No, because we’re trying to win a ballgame,” Mattingly said.

Broxton has been shut down with right elbow pain and will have an MRI exam, reports Jackson:

… Mattingly said no determination will be made on whether to place Broxton on the 15-day disabled list until the results of that exam are known.

Broxton, who apparently already had left Dodger Stadium to undergo the exam, wasn’t available for comment.

“He came in today complaining about some stuff,” said Mattingly, who wasn’t sure how long Broxton had been experiencing discomfort. “I told him it was honorable that he wanted to pitch through that, but that in the end, it doesn’t do him any good. It’s not fair to him, and it’s really not fair to anybody else either.”

Broxton won’t pitch until after the MRI, and Vicente Padilla will be the team’s first-choice closer for now. …

“[Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] and I were looking at tape,” Mattingly said. “The way the ball was coming out, we felt like something was wrong. We were going to bring him in this morning, but [trainer] Stan [Conte] came in and said Brox came in talking about pain. Brox actually came in with him and told us what was going on.” …

Mattingly said that if Broxton goes on the DL, the team likely will recall reliever Kenley Jansen, who was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga on Sunday.

For all the talk about Broxton’s mental makeup, his biggest brain cramp will have been if he has been keeping his soreness a secret.

Since June 27, Broxton has pitched 42 1/3 innings and allowed 53 hits and 32 walks (6.5 walks per nine innings) while striking out 35 (7.4 per nine innings), for a 7.02 ERA.

From the start of the 2006 season through June 26, 2010, Broxton pitched 336 innings, allowing 254 hits and 119 walks (3.2 walks per nine innings) while striking out 446 (11.9 per nine innings), for a 2.60 ERA.

Ken Gurnick of added the following:

Mattingly said one of the immediate issues was to find an MRI tube large enough for Broxton to get his 300-pound frame into.

“I’m serious,” said Mattingly.

Jay Gibbons’ 10-pitch at-bat Tuesday was enough to convince Mattingly he was ready for a start in today’s day game. He was originally slated for left field, then moved to right after Ethier was scratched, with Tony Gwynn, Jr. taking left.

Russ Mitchell also gets his first start, as Jamey Carroll, who has played in 30 of 31 games this season and hasn’t missed an inning since April 18, gets a rest and Juan Uribe moves to shortstop.

That leaves Matt Kemp as the lineup’s main anchor. It’s no 29-game hitting streak, but Kemp has hit in 27 of 31 games this season. His walks have declined, however, to only two in his past 10 games.

Pac-10/Pac-12 TV deal announcement

If anyone’s interested in watching the press conference officially announcing the 8 a.m. Pacific 10/Pacific 12 Conference TV deal, watch the live stream above – or if for some reason that isn’t working, click this link.

Sure Broxton isn’t injured? Reliever looks all wrong in Dodger loss

Gus Ruelas/APJonathan Broxton leaves the game after walking two of three batters.

Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley allowed only one run in seven innings, all for naught.

Jonathan Broxton has given Dodger fans a lot of heartache this year, but tonight he looked as sickly as he ever has in my memory.

Broxton entered tonight’s game in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie. After retiring Aramis Ramirez on two fouls and a popout, Broxton walked the next two batters on eight pitches, and few of them were close to the strike zone. According to MLB Gameday, the pitches were all fastballs, one reaching 93 miles per hour and the average at 91. That’s just not the Broxton of 12 months ago, and I’m not convinced it’s even the Broxton of 12 weeks ago.

People have been strangely fascinated with Broxton’s facial expressions and posture, but here’s a suggestion: Someone needs to look at his arm. Even if they’ve looked at it before, look at it again.

After the first walk, Blake Hawksworth began warming up in the bullpen, and after the second, Don Mattingly came to the mound. He talked to Broxton and the other assembled Dodgers, clearly stalling for time as Hawksworth raced to get ready, before finally telling home-plate umpire CB Bucknor to call for a rare mid-inning hook of the Dodger reliever.

Though I’ve always suspected Broxton’s been off physically since his serious struggles began in late June, this was possibly the first time I watched him and said to myself, “There’s a guy that’s headed straight for the disabled list.” Of course, what I observe from my seat far from the pitcher’s mound has no real relevance, but I just offer it as an impression.

It is, I will say, a little peculiar to me that it doesn’t occur to the people who are calling for Broxton’s head and questioning his mental makeup that Broxton is possibly pitching hurt, and maybe has been for some time. If he has been concealing an injury, I sure hope he comes clean. (Update: From KABC 790 AM via True Blue L.A.: “After the game, Don Mattingly told reporters that Broxton was still his closer, but didn’t sound convincing. “When guys tell you they’re fine, you believe that. The inconsistency in velocity concerns me. You don’t know if you’re getting the whole story. We need to figure this thing out.”)

Hawksworth looked like he would bail the Dodgers out after he got Alfonso Soriano on a can of corn to Matt Kemp, but the next batter, Geovany Soto, drove one to right-center that split Kemp and Andre Ethier for a double, driving in two runs. Blake DeWitt followed with his second pinch-hit single in two nights, capping the Cubs’ 4-1 victory over Los Angeles.

On the bright side, Ethier got the business of taking his 28-game hitting streak to 29 out of the way in the fourth inning with a single over leaping second baseman Darwin Barney, tying Ethier with Zack Wheat’s 1916 skein for the second-longest in Dodger history. For anyone complaining about Ethier getting a couple cheap hits this week, he got robbed of one by a diving Barney in the eighth inning.

Two innings later, after a single by Jamey Carroll, a sacrifice by Jerry Sands and a groundout by Ethier, Kemp gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a single to center – the only run the Dodgers got against Ryan Dempster, who entered the game having allowed 33 earned runs in 31 innings this season.

Another struggling Cub, Carlos Pena (.171 slugging percentage), got well with one out in the top of the seventh. Pena tied the game with a high fly over the short fence down the right-field line for his first homer of the season, this coming off Chad Billingsley, who only allowed three other hits and two walks all night while striking out eight. And that took us to the ninth.

Elsewhere …

  • Emo Juan Uribe is an instant Hall-of-Fame website. (Thanks, Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.)
  • Marcus Thames is likely to be out at least four weeks, Don Mattingly told reporters today.
  • No combo of two players has ever contributed a higher percentage of a team’s offense than Ethier and Kemp, writes Jonah Keri for
  • Francisco Liriano walked six but threw the first no-hitter for the Twins since ex-Dodger Eric Milton in 1999. By the score of 1-0, he beat former Dodger Edwin Jackson, who threw an even wilder no-hitter in 2010.
  • As David Schoenfield of’s Sweet Spot notes, this was the first two-strikeout no-hitter since the Dodgers’ Jerry Reuss in 1980.
  • From KABC 790 AM’s Joe Block on Twitter: “How rare is a 30-game hitting streak? There have been 43 since 1900. Liriano’s no-hitter was the 228th in MLB since 1900.”
  • How do major-league cities rank if you go strictly by the value of sitcoms that were set there? Grant Bisbee of McCovey Chronicles answers the question at SB Nation. Fun list – now quibble away!
  • The soon-to-be Pacific 12 Conference on Wednesday will officially announce a 12-year TV deal with Fox and ESPN networks that is going to bring in approximately $3 billion to member schools over a 12-year period. You can get a hand on some of the details in my Variety story.
  • Alex Belth’s Bronx Banter has a cool new redesign, co-produced by Baseball Toaster’s Ken Arneson.

McCourt puts his word against everyone else’s

“If the stuff that was written about me was true, I wouldn’t trust me either,” Frank McCourt said early in his conversation with Steve Mason, John Ireland and fans calling into ESPN AM 710 this afternoon.

I’m a journalist, and I’ve seen journalists get things wrong. It happens.

But let’s keep this in mind …

The McCourt ownership, particularly since Frank’s separation from Jamie became public in 2009, has perhaps been the most doggedly reported off-the-field story in Los Angeles Dodger history — certainly in recent Los Angeles Dodger history.

It has been covered by a number of sources both local and national. It has been built not only upon first-hand interviews but documents filed in court by the principals themselves. It has been, in recent days, augmented by the words and actions of Major League Baseball’s executive office and ownership group, which have sent in a rescue missionary in Tom Schieffer.

And McCourt continues to tell us that all these people from every side of the fence, West Coast and East Coast, print media and electronic, sports and business, inside the game and outside the game, have it wrong.

That includes many people who have absolutely no dog in this fight, people coming at the story, unlike McCourt, from an entirely neutral perspective. They have it wrong.

And he asks us to believe that they have it wrong even has he says one thing after another that is dubious on its face. Just today, he told us that all of the Dodgers’ current financial issues are entirely the fault of MLB forestalling the Fox deal for future TV rights and have nothing to do with his own practices. That the assets Jamie might ultimately end up with are mere hypotheticals that we shouldn’t be concerned about. That the Fox contract, negotiated with his back against the wall, is every bit as lucrative as the separate Dodger regional sports network he previously aspired to when everything was rosy. That Bud Selig, the man who paved the way for McCourt to own the team and more than anyone at MLB was convinced of his virtues, is second-guessing his own approval for no good reason.  And so on …

Neither the objective evidence nor common sense back up his assertions, but he asks us to simply believe him. His interpretation of the facts are supposed to be more trustworthy than the facts themselves.

In my view, McCourt is playing a shell game with the truth.

There’s no doubt that some critics of McCourt have gotten carried away, exaggerating his mistakes, sometimes for effect, sometimes out of frustration. The exaggerations don’t mean that the mistakes aren’t there.

When you boil everything down, there is really only one pressing question to answer at this time: Is MLB justified in subjecting the Dodgers’ major day-to-day operations to its approval?

McCourt’s argument for “no” is this: Take my word for it.

Thames heads to disabled list, Gibbons activated

Marcus Thames has been battling some leg issues for some time now, and the powers that be have finally decided that he needs some extended rest. So he’s off to the disabled list thanks to what’s listed as a right quad strain, with the Dodgers activating Jay Gibbons in his stead.

Gibbons, of course, had been battling vision issues for months now, but he’s been playing consistently for the past week or so, including a recent stretch in which he went 9 for 25 with a homer and three walks. The rub is that he bats left-handed, so that means Jerry Sands has one less right-handed bat to compete with for playing time.

Thames is only 6 for 34 this season with two homers (both as a pinch-hitter), two walks and 11 strikeouts — a .634 OPS. In his most recent 12 games, he had a home run and a walk in 16 plate appearances.

McCourt to take calls on AM 710 at 3 p.m.

Frank McCourt is scheduled to join Steve Mason and John Ireland at 3 p.m. on ESPN AM 710 and take a few listener phone calls. Could be interesting theater …

Halftime: Ethier hits 28 as Kershaw, Dodgers dump Cubs

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAndre Ethier’s 28th straight game with a hit was barely within reach.

Streak of inches.

Two games in a row now, Andre Ethier has extended his hitting streak with a single off an infielder’s glove: San Diego Padres first baseman Brad Hawpe on Sunday, and Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro on Monday night in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 5-2 victory over Chicago. Both plays were correctly called hits because each would have required an expert play to get Ethier, but that doesn’t mean that Ethier isn’t a little bit lucky that the expert plays didn’t come.

As a result, Ethier is three games from tying Willie Davis for the Dodger record, 16 games from Pete Rose’s post-1900 National League record of 44 and halfway to the hallowed ground of Joe DiMaggio’s 56. It’s crazy to think that Ethier can repeat what he’s done to reach DiMaggio, but moments like those two infield hits certainly keep the dream alive.

Vin Scully and Prime Ticket noted in Monday night’s broadcast that of the 42 hits Ethier has had during his streak, eight have been infield hits and four of those have kept the streak going. Considering Ethier’s no speedster, that’s quite a stat.

As for the game, it was a bit of an unusual night for Clayton Kershaw in that he didn’t have a strikeout until the fifth inning. But after allowing three two-out hits for a run in the first inning, Kershaw (who walked none) breezed until giving up Alfonso Soriano’s 11th homer of the year to lead off the seventh.

One out later, Kershaw put Don Mattingly in what has recently become a familiar position. Ex-Dodgers Reed Johnson and Blake DeWitt singled, bringing the tying run to the plate. In Kershaw’s past three starts, Mattingly has tried to coax him to the end of an inning, only to see Kershaw give up multiple runs. Finally reversing the trend, Kershaw retired Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney to get out of the jam.

In fact, the Cubs didn’t muster another baserunner again, with relievers Vicente Padilla and Jonathan Broxton finishing out the game on 19 pitches combined. The beleaguered bullpen really slammed the door this time.

As for the offense, Dodger rookies played a big role. After Matt Kemp singled, stole second and scored on Juan Uribe’s double to tie the game in the second inning at 1, Ivan De Jesus Jr. got his first major league RBI by singling home Uribe with two out. In the fifth, Jerry Sands, who just missed his first big league homer in the first inning, stroked a nice two-out, two-run double — the sixth double of his young career — to right-center to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead. Sands took third on an error and scored on Ethier’s hit.

Sands started at first base in place of James Loney, whom Tony Jackson of reports isn’t going to be platooned but is being asked to stop hitting fly balls to left field.

In other news:

  • The Dodgers are offering members and veterans of the military and their families free tickets to Dodger Stadium for the month of May. Details:
  • All members of the joint services with a valid military ID, including active, reserve and retired veterans as well as their dependents, may take advantage of this offer by showing their military ID at any Dodger Stadium ticket booth day of game. Each military ID will be good for two complimentary tickets, based on availability.

  • The Long Beach Press-Telegram has eliminated its sports department, outsourcing sports to the Daily Breeze, according to the Long Beach Post (via L.A. Observed). Frank Burlison, Bob Keisser and Doug Krikorian are among those whose jobs are up in the air.

When Willie Davis’ streak was on the line …

Rogers Photo Archive/Getty ImagesWith Walter Alston looking on from the dugout, Willie Davis stands in the batter’s box in 1969.

Four years ago, I wrote about the 31st game of Willie Davis’ record-setting Dodger hitting streak and Vin Scully’s broadcast of it:

… In the bottom of the seventh inning of the 1969 game, his hitting streak on the line, Davis tried to bunt his way aboard, to no avail. With the Dodgers still leading by four runs, and starting pitcher Claude Osteen having thrown 25 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, it appeared Davis’ pursuit was done.

But in the top of the eighth, New York’s Tommie Agee and Donn Clendenon each hit two-run home runs, tying the game. The Dodgers were stunned — so stunned, they didn’t collect themselves before the next Mets batter.

“Ron Swoboda hits the ball to Osteen, who throws him out — and [Dodger manager] Walter Alston was on the field! He was heading to take Osteen out, when Swoboda hit the first pitch back to the box,” Scully exclaimed with amazement.

On top of that, the tie meant that opportunity had made a U-turn back toward Davis. And in the bottom of the eighth, two walks alternating with two strikeouts presented a unique conundrum for Dodger fans, one that Scully didn’t hesitate to point out.

“If the pitcher makes out, or whoever bats for him [it would be Willie Crawford], then Willie Davis will then be the No. 3 hitter in the ninth inning — unless the Dodgers get a run and win it, of course,” Scully said.

“And boy this is a really tough one, isn’t it? Crawford is trying to win the game. If he makes the last out in the eighth, Willie Davis will get another shot at extending his streak.”

Crawford grounded out, and then the Mets stranded a runner at second base in the top of the ninth, setting up Maury Wills, Manny Mota and Davis to bat in the bottom of the inning.

Delightfully for drama’s sake, Wills singled sharply to left field.

“And for more of the fun for the folks in the stands trying to figure out about Willie Davis,” Scully said, “if Mota sacrifices Wills to second, will they pitch to Willie? Left-handed pitcher on the mound. He’s a left-handed batter.”

“And now we are faced with that situation — do you walk Willie Davis?” Scully continued after Mota did bunt, successfully. “He’s getting an ovation. The one thing in his favor, oddly enough, is there’s a left-handed pitcher on the mound. If there’s a right-hand pitcher, the odds figure for sure they would walk him intentionally. But what will they do with a left-hander? I tell you what, if they walk him, you’re going to hear a few boos.

“Duffy Dyer is standing up behind the plate. And let’s see. If he does not go in a crouch, they’re going to put him on. Dyer looks over at [Mets manager Gil] Hodges. He’s not in a crouch … and now he goes in a crouch! They’ll pitch to him. Dyer kept looking at Hodges, and finally settles in a crouch. And Davis has one last swing — or is it the last swing?

“Bottom of the ninth, 4-4. [Jack] Dilauro looks at Wills. The left-hander at the belt. The pitch to Willie. … Soft curve — it’s a base hit to left! Here comes Wills; he will score!”

As he knows to do so well, Scully stayed silent to let his listeners hear the crowd cheer — for 44 seconds. And when he came back, he had this:

“Day after day, and year after year, the Dodgers remain the Dodgers. And through all the lightning bolts, the thunder, the heartbreaks, the laughs and the thrills, it’s comforting to know in this wacky world, the Dodgers are still the Dodgers. Incredibly enough, Willie Davis, on one last shot, when the question was in doubt if he would be even allowed to swing the bat, gets a ninth-inning game-winning base hit to extend his hitting streak to 31. And as Alice said, ‘Things get curiouser and curiouser.’ What a finish.” …

If Andre Ethier blows past the halfway point to Joe DiMaggio tonight and is going for 31 games in a row Friday, it will be against … the Mets — but in New York. Unfortunately, unless he decides to make an exception to his travel schedule, Scully wouldn’t be there to broadcast it.

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