Jun 23

Don’t demand the waffle

I’ve written in the past about my recurring dream, in which I’m trying get somewhere but never make it. It takes on many scenarios, but I’m good for having it at least once a week – and those are merely the ones that I can remember when I wake up.

Last night I had one, though with a bit of a twist in that at one point, I actually was moving fast toward my goal. The fact that my goal in this case was completing the buffet on a cruise ship is probably neither here nor there.

There were two lines, and in a fortuitous stroke, I picked the right one. While the buffet line on the left remained stagnant, the one on the right that I found myself in flew forward, and I was ready to get my food far sooner than the random person I had lined up with.

Unfortunately, things ran aground after that. I believe holding out for a waffle was a key factor, but in any case, I found myself stuck in the line as others flowed past me. When I finally sat down, it was in a bad spot with no friends or family and a sparsely filled plate.

The message is clearly this: If the Dodgers unexpectedly get on a win streak, just enjoy the meal. Asking for the waffle on top of it is probably too much.

Dodgers at Padres, 1:10 p.m.

Jun 22

The Pit of Despair

How low can they go?

The Dodgers’ current .417 winning percentage would be their worst over a full season since 1992, their second-worst since 1944.

Though it’s possible I’m just repressing it, I can’t recall ever expecting a Dodger team to be bad. There have been plenty of times when I wouldn’t have predicted them to win a title, and I was sufficiently skeptical this year, but a truly terrible record always takes me by surprise. That’s one difference I think Dodger fans – even cynical ones – have with fans in Pittsburgh or Kansas City. If you’re predicting horror in a given year, you’re probably in the minority.

The Dodgers won 86 games last year and didn’t hurt themselves in the offseason. Sure, there were weaknesses headed into 2013, but here are the 10 most prominent players the Dodgers shed from 2012: James Loney, Shane Victorino, Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu, Matt Treanor, Adam Kennedy, Joe Blanton, Nathan Eovaldi, Jamey Wright and Josh Lindblom. Be honest: How could you have expected those departures would put the Dodgers on their current 68-win pace?

That’s right: 68-94.

Here’s one for you: Forget about the playoffs for a moment. Forget about .500. The Dodgers need to play .450 ball over their remaining 90 games to reach 70 wins. Will they do it?

Yes, there have been injuries – Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp most prominently – but nearly every year has injuries. Team chemistry? The manager? People raise those red flags every time the Dodgers start losing, but are we to believe that this team really has the worst set of intangibles in two decades? You thought the Davey Johnson-Gary Sheffield-Kevin Brown teams were doing a revival of Hair? That Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta were Romeo and Juliet?

Mediocrity comes with the territory in the post-1988 era. But true awfulness has been a rare thing.

With apologies to the 99-loss season in 1992, the worst stretch of Dodger baseball in my lifetime has probably been 1986-87. That’s the only time since the 1960s that the Dodgers have had back-to-back losing seasons – identical 73-89 campaigns. I know how it began: Pedro Guerrero’s gruesome Spring Training slide into third base – but my memories of 1987, beyond the implosion of Al Campanis, are almost non-existent. Guerrero came back with a vengeance (.416 on-base percentage, .539 slugging), and Orel Hershiser and Bob Welch was steady, but the rest of the team was essentially as incompetent as this year’s.

The core of that awful team won a division title in 1985 and a World Series in 1988. Tommy Lasorda managed every year.

I don’t know when the losing is going to end for this current brand of Big Blue Wrecked Crew. I do know that in Los Angeles, things tend to reverse course in a hurry, good to bad, bad to good. We’ve really seen it all in the past 25 years – all except for a World Series.

Perhaps it will come in a year when we least expect it.

Jun 21

Yasiel Puig has a bad three-quarters of a game

Amid everything that was so familiar about a 2013 Dodger defeat – fielding stumbles, poor situational hitting and a bullpen meltdown wasting a capable starting outing – there was something new about Thursday’s 6-3 loss to San Diego: fan frustration with Yasiel Puig.

What’s remarkable – and speaks volumes – is that it came in a game in which Puig hit yet another home run, his sixth (in 16 games) of the season, more than all but one other Dodger.

But after that first-inning, first-pitch blast, Puig struck out a career-high three times, chasing bad pitches like a young Raul Mondesi or Matt Kemp, and from then on you could hear the I told you sos.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com provides the details of Puig’s second at-bat against Jason Marquis:

… with two on and no out in the third inning, he took a sinker he thought was too far inside and stared at the umpire.

“It seemed to irritate Yasiel and he started to swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and the rest of the night Marquis didn’t give in,” Mattingly said. “Yasiel has been fairly patient, tonight [he was] more aggressive out of the strike zone.”

He swung wildly at the next sinker and foul-tipped it. Marquis then came with a pair of down-and-away sliders Puig flailed at. Puig stared at Marquis as he headed toward the dugout and Marquis stared back. …

By the time Puig followed Skip Schumaker’s double-play grounder with a game-ending strikeout in the ninth – turning what for a brief moment looked like the potential for a stirring Dodger comeback into a deeper dive into last place – numerous Dodger fans on Twitter were not only chastising Puig but instructing him how he needs to change his stance.

Reminder: Puig has a 1.267 OPS at this moment.

Three points that should be obvious need to be stated:

• Baseball is a game of adjustments, and without a doubt, at some point Puig will need to make them. It’s understandable why alarm bells went off for fans with visions of a struggling Mondesi or Kemp. It was at a similar stage in his debut – after seven homers and a 1.287 OPS in his first 15 career games – that Kemp’s game first went south, pushing him back to the minors four weeks later.

• That being said, it’s one thing for fans to be frustrated, but after what he’s accomplished, Puig deserves more than three bad at-bats before the wolves come out, much less before people start tinkering with his stance in response to what simply might have been a night of frustration of his own. He is not going to spend his career flirting with a .500 batting average, so there needs to be some amount of pain tolerance.

• Puig is the least of the Dodgers’ worries right now.

The game was not without its highlights. Here’s one, courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez.

But the Padres outdid the Dodgers.

* * *

For you Manny Mota fans out there – and how could you not be one – here’s a detailed piece from Bruce Markusen at the Hardball Times on the famed Dodger pinch-hitter, who will be inducted into the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals this summer.

Jun 19

Rare dominant victory for Dodgers, 6-0

Before there were two out in the first inning at Yankee Stadium tonight, the Dodgers had five hits, which that quickly matched or exceeded their total in nine other games this year.

When the game was over, the Dodgers had a 6-0 victory over the Yankees, matching their second-biggest triumph of 2013. Only a 9-2 victory over Milwaukee on May 22 topped it.

I missed most of what happened in between, because of the sudden death of James Gandolfini, but Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez (each 2 for 4) continued their exploits from Wednesday’s first game, joined by Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Capuano. Puig singled, was hit by a pitch, stole a base and shot his fifth homer of the season over the right-field wall, giving him three runs on the day. Gonzalez doubled and had two singles, Ethier singled and doubled, and Skip Schumaker added two singles.

Capuano, meanwhile, came off the disabled list to pitch six shutout innings, allowing three baserunners and striking out four. Chris Withrow followed with two perfect innings, and Brandon League pitched the ninth to complete the Dodgers’ eighth shutout of the year.

The victory pushed the Dodgers back to within 10 games of .500 at 30-40, eight games behind Arizona in the National League West.

Jun 19

Yankees, miscues bury Dodgers, 6-4

Well, they could have won.

That’s the positive to take away from the Dodgers’ 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees in today’s doubleheader lidlifter. And if that positive sounds a little Little League, well, the shoe kinda fits.

Los Angeles actually scored four runs, and Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed three. But as you know by now, there’s going to be more to the story.

There was Andre Ethier’s line-drive 1-5 double play with runners on second and third and none out in the fourth inning. That would be the 2013 Dodger season in a nutshell, if that nutshell didn’t also need to account for someone ripping a tendon and a bullpen meltdown.

In the seventh inning, J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario cooperated with the latter, which featured a double non-play – a bobble and a throwaway — that gave Los Angeles four errors on the day and helped the Yankees go from a 3-2 lead to 6-2.

Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez did their best to help the Dodgers overcome their foibles. Puig was a very loud 2 for 5. He hit a grounder up the middle in the first inning for a single but was caught trying to stretch it into a double — a boneheaded running play except for the fact that he almost made it. In the sixth inning, he hit a thunderbolt up the middle that brought Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano to the ground before the out was completed at first.

And in the eighth, Puig legged a double and then, in a rare feat, actually scored on someone else’s RBI. Ramirez’s fourth straight hit was a home run to left field that would have been quite the thrill if the previous inning hadn’t put the Dodgers down by four.

Back-to-back walks by Ethier and Juan Uribe put the tying runs on base with one out, but Skip Schumaker (who, mind you, had two errors in the game) popped out, and A.J. Ellis grounded out.

The two walks did help guarantee that Puig would bat in the ninth inning for the Dodgers … against Mariano Rivera. That happened with the bases empty and two out, and after taking two balls and swinging at two strikes, Puig froze on a called strike three down the middle from Rivera to end the game.

Puig remains an astonishing 25 for 53 this season.

Hiroki Kuroda went 6 2/3 innings for the Yankees, allowing two runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out two.

Dodgers at Yankees, 4:05 p.m.

Jun 19

Bill James on the 1981 Dodgers

From the 1982 Bill James Baseball Abstract:

… When I was young the Boston Celtics used to coast through the season with a 50-32 sort of record, far behind the best mark in the league which might in a given season belong to Philadelphia or Los Angeles or whoever. But come playoff time, the Celtics would crush those teams with no apparent ease but considerable regularity. When Bill Russell retired he attributed this to the fact that during the season the Celtics, knowing that they could make the playoffs, would take care to develop their sixth and seventh and eighth players, as well as being careful to decentralize the offense, not relying on any one or two or three scorers to put the points on the board. And then come playoff time, the Celtics would have more weapons than their opponents. Russell could fight Chamberlain to a standoff and the Celtics would win because the rest of their roster was ready to contribute, whereas the reliance on the big man would have gradually weakened the rest of the roster.

I thought of that when I noticed a pattern in the Dodger playing time in the second half of the season. Three of the four first-half champions were veteran teams, near the point of having to start getting some new names in the lineup. But only the Dodgers seemed to realize that, with a spot guaranteed, they might as well start developing some more weapons. All of the Dodger regulars, with no exceptions, batted fewer times in the second half of the season than in the first. The team did play four more games in the first half, but that’s not the cause of it; all eight regulars batted more times per team-game in the first half than the second. The extra at-bats were absorbed by Derrel Thomas, Rick Monday, Reggie Smith, Steve Yeager, Steve Sax, Candy Maldonado and Mike Marshall, who all batted more times in the second half, despite the four fewer games, than they had in the first. The Dodgers also took the opportunity to take a look at Tom Niedenfuer and Dave Stewart and Alejandro Pena, pitchers who figure to help them sometime later.

Then you look over the score sheets of the Dodger victory that led them over the World, and you see Monday’s home run, Yeager everywhere, Derrel Thomas tracking balls down on the track, Niedenfuer shutting people down, Jay Johnstone hitting a key home run. I can’t remember a World Championship that was won with so much help from the bench. Lasorda’s a conservative manager, not really a very interesting manager in substance. But I think you have to give him some real credit here. …

James was in his ascendance at this time – this was his first Abstract that had a formal publisher. The year before, I ordered a copy of the 1981 Abstract from a small ad in The Sporting News, and it came with a hand-designed cover and essentially was photocopied and bound. Reading James at this time was like Clayton Kershaw pitch — you practically salivated over every insight with excitement and no small amount of awe.

Reading the passage above three decades later, I can’t avoid having some amount of skepticism. I don’t necessarily doubt the Dodgers used their bench more than other teams did that year, but a) they might simply have had a more talented bench (I mean, those are some good names up there) and b), I question whether their use of the bench was as revolutionary or as James asserts.

But like I said, James was Kershaw. So I am tempted to take it as gospel. And certainly, a similar formula helped propel the 1988 Dodgers to their title. The bottom line is, much like with a bullpen, you need a good bench to win, though it might not be something you plan.

Dodgers at Yankees, 10:05 a.m.

Jun 18

What will replace my beloved Google Reader?

I’ve been putting it off, but I’m soon going to have to find a new means of digesting the Internet to replace Google Reader, which is going out of business July 1.

If you have any suggestions, pass them on below. I’m not looking for bells and whistles (and certainly not looking to spend any money) – I just want the closest equivalent to Google Reader that will allow me to easily scroll through the hundreds of stories that come across each day.

Jun 18

Five things you might not remember about the Dodgers’ 1981 clincher

You no doubt recall the story of the final game of the 1981 World Series in broad strokes. Tommy John gets removed for a pinch-hitter after four innings, and the Dodgers score eight runs off the New York bullpen, five of them driven home by Pedro Guerrero. George Frazier took his third loss in four games.

But here are five bits of trivia you might have misplaced:

1) Steve Howe entered the game with an 8-1 lead … and got a save. He replaced Burt Hooton with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, gave up an RBI single, then allowed only a single and a walk over the final 3 2/3 innings and 54 pitches. Only Baltimore’s Sammy Stewart, pitching in the 1983 American League Championship Series, has had a longer postseason save since.

In his previous outing, four days earlier, Howe went three innings and 33 pitches, and got the Game 4 win.

2) Ron Cey, who went 2 for 3 and shared series MVP honors with Guerrero and Steve Yeager, went out for a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth. Derrel Thomas replaced Cey at the plate and hit an RBI groundout. Cey had been hit in the head by a pitch three days earlier, in Game 5.

3) Ken Landreaux, who caught the final out, didn’t start. He entered the game in the bottom of the sixth as well.

4) Landreaux wouldn’t have caught the final out, except that Davey Lopes made an error on a Reggie Jackson grounder (capping a nine-pitch at-bat) on what could have been the last play of the game to keep the Yankees’ slim hopes alive. Mickey Owen, however, this wasn’t.

5) Longtime nemesis Jackson went 0 for 5. In fact, Nos. 3-5 hitters Dave Winfield, Jackson and Bob Watson combined to go 0 for 14.

 Dodgers at Yankees, 4:05 p.m.

Jun 18

Conversation with Bronx Banter’s Alex Belth

It’s not easy for me to stop and smell the roses before they’ve been delivered. But somehow it registered before the first pitch: Today, the Dodgers will officially be at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the final out of the 1981 World Series.

In the name of all that is Hiroki, if that isn’t enough reason to pause for a conversation with my blogging hero and former Baseball Toaster teammate Alex Belth (far right, opposite not me), the man of Bronx Banter, I don’t know what is.

JW: So Alex, how have the past 32 years been treating you?

AB: Welp, it didn’t start well. I remember waking up the day after the Dodgers beat the Yanks in the ’81 Series. I heard the news on WABC radio followed by Howard Cosell’s commentary. I was 10, my parents had just split up, and I cried on the spot. All that remember from that Series was a string of errors and blown leads when the Yanks were in L.A.

Then things just got worse for the next decade. The Yanks got worse, the Boss became an uncontrollable ogre and the Mets were the darlings of the town at a time when bragging rights meant something – meaning me being in middle school and high school.

But who can complain? Cause a few years after college the Yanks went on a run that would humble even the most entitled and pompous fan. So they’ve only won one World Series since 2000. This is something to complain about?

Truly an odd year for them so far with tons of injuries and a ever-changing lineup of players that make even dedicated followers say, “Who?” And yet – even as their Cinderellas have turned back into pumpkins – they are hanging around mostly due to good pitching – thank you Hiroki Kuroda. And Mariano Rivera’s final season has been an honor to follow, of course.

And the Dodgers? Nu? What gives? How much angst is there for another big-dollar team wrecked by injuries and underperforming stars? And a bonafide folk hero?

JW: My teenage years were basically spent wondering why the Dodgers couldn’t win every year. Having Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark beat you with home runs in the National League Championship Series was a crushing disappointment with little silver lining. But ever since ’88, we’ve been relieved just to make the playoffs. In the past 25 years, there has not been a single moment the Dodgers have played a game to win a World Series berth. The echoes between the Dodgers’ unfulfilled dreams and my own – not that we haven’t both had fantastic moments through the years – are basically responsible for Dodger Thoughts existing.

Going into this season, I never bought into the idea that the Dodgers’ newfound wealth guaranteed any real success. But I have to say I never expected to spend a huge chunk of the season in last place in the NL West. The Dodgers haven’t even had as much as a three-game winning streak since early April. Yasiel Puig is reaching base at a .500 clip, and the Dodgers have kept right on losing. Even with the team remaining only 7 1/2 games out of first, it’s going to take a series of massive individual turnarounds alongside Puig to get them into the race.

AB: This is a decent Yankee season to smell the roses because, payroll aside, they were predicted to be in last place by so many people who make predictions at the start of the season. Pettitte, Rivera and Jeter are in their last act, the transition is about to happen. So expectations were lowered. There is less excitement about them in New York this season but in some ways they’ve been a pleasure to watch because they’ve been better than decent with a lot of spare parts.

In my mind’s eye I still think of the Dodgers as West Coast royalty and forget how long it’s been since they’ve been in the World Series. It doesn’t quite compute. And these days I sort of like them because Mattingly is their manager. What do you make of him? Is he well-regarded out there?

Are the Dodgers unlucky or are there some chumps on their team?

JW: When the Dodgers didn’t extend Mattingly’s contract before the season, it was assumed he needed to at least make the playoffs to make it to 2014. As you can imagine, that ship is ready to leave port. While the daily updates of his status have receded a bit, and there’s an understanding that the injuries the Dodgers have had have been devastating, you can basically assume that next year’s managerial job is open.

I don’t think Mattingly is much worse than 90 percent of the guys you see in that role – he makes inexplicable decisions, but truly, who doesn’t? It doesn’t particularly pass the logic test that he is being singled out as the fall guy while general manager Ned Colletti has job security — objectively speaking, if one should or shouldn’t be safe, why not the other? But as with any position, the Dodgers are entitled to ask themselves if they can do better. For all we know, Mattingly might go on to have a Joe Torre like career – maybe it’ll be his third or fourth job where it really takes off for him.

The Dodgers have been anything but lucky in the health department, and you could argue that their struggles with runners on base, which define their offensive failings this year, are another element of bad luck. The bullpen has been almost completely unreliable, as bullpens simply sometimes are. But there are guys who just have flat out not been producing, like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp (the latter still recovering from his labrum surgery while dealing with hamstring issues).

With my time to write about the team limited in the past several months by my day job, I have not wallowed too much in their failings. Clayton Kershaw remains an ongoing delight, and Puig brought a burst of excitement. Baseball is addictive in part thanks to how much fun can pop up even with an absolutely, unbelievably frustrating ballclub.

I’d like you to talk about your approach to Bronx Banter in the post-Toaster era. You haven’t stopped being a Yankee fan, but it isn’t all-consuming for you. How did things evolve?
AB: I’m as much of a fan as ever, but the site is less focused on the Yanks. That was a conscious decision and one that happened naturally, really. One thing was back in the Toaster days, and even the early days when the site was hosted by SNY here in New York, I had Cliff Corcoran as a co-writer, not to mention a group of regular contributors. That helped bring perspective and depth to the Yankee coverage but also took the pressure off of me to only write about the team. Also, during the Toaster years I had ambitions to become a baseball writer somehow and thought that covering the Yankees exclusively was the ticket. But the nature of blogging changed, I don’t know the years exactly, 2005-2006?, and you had Pete Abraham at the Lo-Hud paper doing a blog from inside the clubhouse, with access. And he just killed it, just as his successor Chad Jennings does. Then there were new Yankee blogs, tireless and fresh like River Ave Blues, that were run by guys younger than me and speaking to a younger crowd or a more analytical mindset.

Initially I thought being with SNY would get me more access to the team but that didn’t happen. Even if it had, though, I think I would have quickly tired of just writing about the Yankees or even just baseball. By this time I’d written a book on Curt Flood, edited a collection of Pat Jordan’s sports writing, and was really more interested in writing bonus pieces, character studies, than about baseball. I didn’t think of myself as an analysts or, God help me, an expert on anything other than being a fan. So the kind of column-writing that was available at a place like SI.com was fun for a while because I got to go to the games, talk to players, but it got dull pretty fast. And so what was once an ambition became a dead-end.

I’d always snuck in memoir stuff on the Banter or something about life in New York so I just decided to follow what interests me and that’s how the site became more a NYC-culture site. There’s still an emphasis on the Yanks, and a loyal group of commenters who follow the games, but I’m not sure I’ve got much interesting to write about baseball these days. And I save most of my considered writing time for other projects. That said, I’m as happy doing the Banter now as I’ve ever been.

I was always amazed that you held down Dodger Thoughts by yourself. Do you miss it now that you don’t do it as often as you had?

JW: Essentially, what you’ve done with Bronx Banter is very similar to what I would have liked to have done with Dodger Thoughts, because there’s so much more I like to write about in addition to the Dodgers, but I simply haven’t been able to pull it off. Dodger Thoughts is kind of a source of pain for me. The site’s foray into the paid content world was a mixed blessing to say the least. And when that period ended, somewhat coincidentally, things with my day job at Variety made the level of posting I did for the first nine years impossible to maintain. I’ve gone back to semi-regular posting since the 2013 season began, but it’s not quite the same. The readers who have stayed with me have been tremendously forgiving of how inconsistent I have been, but others justifiably took their clicks elsewhere.

Probably to my detriment, I’ve just never been interested in sharing authorship of the site beyond the occasional guest post. Most of the time, I felt I could do it alone and took pride in that. Now, with the proliferation of other Dodger sites, it feels kind of pointless. Bob Timmermann, who guest-hosted last week while I was on a family vacation and absolutely kicked butt in doing so, is probably the one person I would be comfortable sharing the reins with, but it remains for me an existential question of “Why?” Bob, after all, has his own outlets where he can (and does) write about the Dodgers and other subjects any time he wants.

I definitely miss the Toaster-era heyday of Dodger Thoughts. I was not very good at reading the tea leaves of what would happen after Toaster was gone, though in my defense, I was in no position to turn down the money being offered. Overall, my goal is to write and write well, on more fronts than I can count, amid the ongoing time and financial pressure I face with work and family. It might be years before I solve that juggling act, so I do try to focus on the positives of the occasional decent post I do. Oh, and the fact that my family is amazing.

The Dodgers remain a remarkably interesting team to write about – an epic story with unreal characters in a level of disarray comparable to what we’re seeing this season with Don Draper and “Mad Men.” But they’re not the only story out there that I want to write about, and it does kind of kill me that I don’t have the bandwidth, as people say these days, to tackle those other stories. Someday!

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that the thing that inspired this conversation – Dodgers vs. Yankees, 4 p.m. Pacific – is an event I’ll see almost none of. Will you be out at either of the games?

AB: I never saw it as a detriment that you didn’t have other writers, though I’m sure it made it more taxing on you. I always took the banter part of Bronx Banter seriously in that I liked a conversation, enjoyed different perspectives and opinions. Like I said, I’ve never thought of myself as an expert in anything. I think of myself more of an enthusiast. But people have their own busy lives and for various reasons most of the contributors have moved on. And that’s cool, too. I’ve been pleased to let the Banter evolve as it needs to. And at this point doing it is like breathing, it’s just part of life for me. You know that Woody Allen quote about 80% of success is just showing up? That’s what the blog means for me, it gives me a purpose to commit to something, which had been a problem for me before that.

Funny how the Toaster days were a little glory period in a way, all those cool blogs and voices under the same umbrella. I appreciated it at the time and appreciate it even more now.

I’m not going to any of the games but will be watching, of course. The Yanks struggled to score runs in Oakland and Anaheim this past week so I’m hoping being home helps. That short right field porch should look inviting to the Dodgers’ hitters, too.

JW: Well, the atmosphere tonight should be fairly electric, relative to the fact that one of the teams is 10 games below .500. Puig goes to right field, so he might be the best bet to take advantage – though it’s interesting, even with all his hitting, he hasn’t had an extra-base knock since June 7. Heaven knows who will DH for the Dodgers – it could be Hanley Ramirez, or someone you never heard of like Alex Castellanos.

It will be fun to have Hyun-jin Ryu on the mound – he has been one of the few bright spots this year. And then we’ll have our reunion with Kuroda, the definition of what Vin Scully would call an “old friend.” (Unfortunately, Vin himself won’t be there.)

I feel like I’m failing to find perspective on this first-in-a-generation visit to Yankee Stadium, though. Maybe it’s not to be found. The Yankees and Dodgers have played each other, after all – including some real barnburners at Dodger Stadium. There was that Sunday game several years ago that we all wrote about at Toaster. And the game more recently, where Joe Torre seemed to essentially destroy Jonathan Broxton. But you think of all the great Dodgers and Yankees that didn’t match up against each other on the field – including Mattingly – and somehow it seems wrong. There should have been a World Series between the two teams sometime in the past three decades, right?

Still, maybe that allows me to retain the memory of Ken Landreaux caressing that final out in ’81. I was nearly 14, watching my team win the title for the first time. I didn’t know how rare that moment would be.

AB: With an emphasis on fairly. Yankee fans can be apathetic even during times of great success – like in the early 60s when the Mets outdrew them each year. And we bust Dodger fans’ chops for leaving early but are collectively as guilty of front-running. Yankee fans seem especially uninterested this season in relation to recent years. I’m sure there will be plenty of Dodger fans there and a two-game series does spike the curiosity factor. Everyone will be happy to see Mattingly. No Vin does spoil it some.

The sight of those two uniforms will be appeal and even a little jarring but at this pernt, I’m just looking for a couple of wins and I don’t really care who they come against.

JW: Yeah, that’s kind of true. Forget the pomp and circumstance: The Dodgers just need the Ws. And away we go …

AB: So in conclusion and with all due respect, kiss my ass.

JW: Oh, it is on …

Jun 16

Dud for Dad as Pirates double up Dodgers

Showing little kindness to their fans and their fathers Sunday, the Dodgers dropped the rubber game of their series in Pittsburgh, 6-3.

Zack Greinke allowed 11 of 25 batters he faced over five innings to reach base, and it was the 11th who was the killer. Pedro Alvarez broke a 2-2 tie with two out in the fifth inning by hitting a full-count, no-doubt three-run homer to center off Greinke, whose 2013 ERA rose to 4.22.

Los Angeles had a chance to get right back in the game in the top of the sixth, when with two out, Adrian Gonzalez doubled, Yasiel Puig (3 for 4, plus his first career stolen base) singled him to third and Andre Ethier (2 for 4) singled home a run, cutting the deficit to 5-3. Tim Federowicz, who in the fourth inning grounded into an inning-ending double play with two runners on, then walked to load the bases.

Don Mattingly let Luis Cruz, with a sub-.200 on-base percentage in 2013, come to the plate. As I watched Cruz strike out, I figured Mattingly was conserving players because Juan Uribe was a late scratch with back tightness. (Note: This was what counts for an optimistic assessment of the Dodgers’ travails.) Instead, we came back in the bottom of the inning to find that Mattingly had made a double switch, putting third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. into the game in the pitcher’s spot and putting Matt Guerrier in Cruz’s spot.

Double-switching so that you can get an extra inning out of Guerrier is a waste, especially when, if you don’t get the lead back, you’re only going to be playing an eight-inning game. (Right now, it’s hard to think of any Dodger reliever for whom you’d make an effort to  double the innings.) Meanwhile, Hairston is no guarantee to get a hit if he bats in place of Cruz, but surely it would have been better to see him or another pinch-hitter up in that situation.

And as a topper, Guerrier allowed a solo homer to Alex Presley in the bottom of the sixth to put the Dodgers behind by three again. Los Angeles had two walks but no hits over the final three innings, going quietly to another defeat that put them 10 games below .500 again.

After an off day Monday, the Dodgers make that long-awaited regular season appearance in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. Neither team should be anything less than ornery. The Yankees, though doing better than the Dodgers in 2013, nearly blew a 6-0 lead in the ninth inning against the Angels today before avoiding their sixth loss in a row.

Jun 16

Anchors a-whoa

I spent the past week like a Merchant Marine on a ship at sea, if the Merchant Marines had three kids to wrangle but otherwise every whim catered to, thanks to the generosity of their in-laws.

During my absence from the States, it was another eventful but victory-challenged week for the Dodgers, who continue generating all manner of interesting side trips but can’t much alter their main journey of failing to execute when it counts.

Almost every aspect of the team is so inconsistent, so unreliable, that to form any expectations of sustained success – and by sustained success I simply mean nine innings of winning baseball – is foolhardy. The ship was built with good intentions, but clearly the seas have their own agenda and we are at their mercy. Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

Overall, however, the National League West requires medication for all, in its bizarre mix of mild overachievers and dyspeptic disappointments. Arizona, Colorado, San Francisco and San Diego aren’t exactly drowning their rivals in their wake. The waters aren’t kind to anyone these days.

And so we raise our sails on this Father’s Day, a day devoted to appreciation of those who captained us and championed us, and continue our voyage (weather permitting). Why do we do it? I guess because we are sailors, and because they keep putting that ocean out there.

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Bob Timmermann held the fort here for the past several days and reminded us all of his genius. For more of his writerly stylings, please continue to check out his work at The Portable Griddle, L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence and on Twitter.

Dodgers at Pirates, 10:35 a.m.