By Jon Weisman
Here’s a link to Jon SooHoo’s package on Saturday’s Kings-Ducks fiesta.
I met Brian Wilson in a flash for the first time tonight and never figured I was on exactly the same mental wavelength as the Dodger reliever, but shortly before the Stadium Series NHL game between the Kings and Ducks began tonight at Dodger Stadium, he said in an interview with NBC Sports Network precisely what I had been thinking.
“It makes me kind of want to start baseball right now.”
As much fascination as tonight’s successful notch on history brought — once the puck dropped on a material previously only seen inside beverage cups in the ballpark’s 51-year-history, the first outdoor NHL game ever in California began — it was the pregame that revved the engine. It was the sights and sounds of Dodger Stadium flying back to life.
Atmosphere is so much of the appeal of baseball, and tonight’s event brought a tremendous one, from the crescending anticipation, the marveling at the classic ballpark’s transformation and the roar of the fans of the Kings (the home team in this scenario) and their counterparts exhorting the Ducks. If you were a Dodger fan in attendance, you’d be hard-pressed not to be champing for Opening Day’s arrival (take your pick: Australia on March 22, San Diego on March 30 or Chavez Ravine on April 4).
Three months have gone by since Dodger fans have had the chance to go into full-throated cheer, and even if you were already antsy for the arrival of Spring Training, watching tonight’s extravaganza made you seriously stir-crazy.
A great regular-season hockey matchup in a pristine setting was plenty. And then, there was this:
— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 26, 2014
“It’s time for … NHL hockey,” said Vin Scully.
Scully joined his peer, Kings announcing legend Bob Miller on the field, for the pregame introductions, and also narrated a special video shown on the scoreboard that mixed Dodger and NHL lore.
“Today, California’s best venture outside to a fabled playground,” Scully said. “Welcome, the boys of winter, to the place where dreams come true.”
* * *
Below, a look at the red carpet scene at Dodger Stadium tonight before the game.
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By Jon Weisman
Well, today’s the day. The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are set to play their historic hockey game at Dodger Stadium tonight at 6:30 p.m. surrounded by extensive hoopla – or, to use a less basketball-friendly word, puckla. Dodger Insider will be on site, and of course you can also follow the Dodgers on Twitter to keep up.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com posted a piece late Friday setting the stage:
… The forecast for Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. PT is 66 degrees. An unseasonably balmy winter, even for Southern California, has made for tough sledding in ice-rink management. The sport was never meant to be played in Santa Ana wind conditions, so NHL official Dan Craig has been sweating out the past two weeks of preparation, even though the 53-foot, 300-ton refrigeration truck has kept the sheet of ice icy, an elaborate system removing the heat to stabilize the temperature and ensure player safety.
Whether the ice is frozen or melted, the game already is a box-office hit with an anticipated attendance of 50,000. TV cameras will pan the expensive seats for Hollywood “A-listers,” while the Dodgers will be represented by stealth hockey aficionado Yasiel Puig.
Both teams gave the rink a test skate Friday, the “home” Kings emerging from the Dodgers’ dugout at 4 p.m. under hazy skies and a temperature of 72 degrees.
Forward Kyle Clifford described the ice as “slushier” than he hoped. Defenseman Robyn Rogehr said, “I’ve played on a lot worse.” …
… In addition to the ambitious ice rink, which runs from just past each dugout and out to shallow outfield, the field has been transformed into a multi-entertainment center.
There’s a beach volleyball court (of course) in left field, a “duck” pond in right-center, a concert stage in right field where KISS will perform, a roller-hockey rink between the mound and home plate, and a mini stage between home plate at the backstop screen that will feature performances from recording artist Jordin Sparks and singer/songwriter John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting. NHL Network has erected a studio on scaffolding in the Dodgers bullpen.
“It’s such an iconic stadium,” said Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy. “It’s so cool. Nothing I did as a kid was as cool as skating at Dodger Stadium. It’s crazy, nothing any of us thought would ever happen.” …
Gurnick also talked with Dodger team historian Mark Langill about where the game ranks in Dodger Stadium’s non-baseball history. Read the story to find out.
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By Jon Weisman
Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín was presented with the Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award from the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters at a luncheon held in Studio City. Vin Scully made the presentation, which you can see in this lovely video above celebrating Jarrin.
The upcoming season on KTNQ 1020 AM will be Jarrin’s 56th with the Dodgers, the second-longest tenure in MLB history behind Scully.
By Jon Weisman
The Dodgers have confirmed that they have signed utility man Chone Figgins to a minor-league deal, with an invite to major-league camp, following a workout for scouts last week (covered in detail by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports).
After a successful tenure with the Angels that earned him a four-year deal with Seattle, Figgins struggled considerably in three years up north (.585 OPS is the short version), then was out of the majors in 2013 but impressed enough at his showcase last week to earn a spot in the Dodger roster competition.
Los Angeles also is bringing back Trayvon Robinson on a minor-league deal. The 26-year-old Robinson, who went to Seattle in the 2011 three-team deal that brought Stephen Fife, Tim Federowicz and Juan Rodriguez to the Dodgers, had a .272 on-base percentage and .330 slugging in 319 plate appearances with the Mariners, spread over two seasons. Seattle then traded him to Baltimore, for whom he spent 2013 in the minors (.329/.394).
Robinson piqued considerable interest when he excelled for Chattanooga in 2010 and Albuquerque in 2011.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 24, 2014
By Jon Weisman
The first full-squad Dodgers workout at Camelback Ranch is three weeks from today. Three weeks.
… In 1964, the 17-year-old Crawford drew the interest of every one of the 20 major league teams in existence. With his combination of five-tool talents, clubs like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Kansas City A’s envisioned him as the centerpiece to their outfield futures.
Dodgers executive Al Campanis simply raved about Crawford’s ability. He filed a scouting report with his superiors that indicated Crawford “hits with the power of Roberto Clemente and Tommy Davis at a similar age.” A’s owner Charlie Finley offered an even higher opinion of Crawford, calling the teenaged flychaser “a Willie Mays with the speed of Willie Davis.” In the context of early 1960s baseball, it was hard to get much better than a combination of Clemente, Mays, and the two Davises.
Finley liked Crawford so much that he gave the youngster a large, framed, signed portrait of himself, which eventually hung in the Crawford living room. Even more pertinently, Finley offered Crawford a bonus of $200,000 to play center field for his A’s; it was a staggering amount of money in the mid-1960s scheme of things. Crawford seemed genuinely intrigued by the advances of Finley, referring to him as “one of the nicest millionaires I know.”
Crawford gave serious consideration to Finley’s offer. At the same time, he also received warm overtures from the Dodgers, who sent a young scout named Tommy Lasorda to Crawford’s home. Only two days after he graduated from Fremont, Lasorda reached an agreement with Crawford. The youngster signed a contract giving him a bonus of $100,000. While it was only half of Finley’s offer, it was the largest bonus ever secured by an African-American player, exceeding the previous amounts given to Richie Allen and Tommie Agee.
So why did Crawford take the lesser sum of money? As a native and resident of the Watts section of Los Angeles, Crawford simply did not feel comfortable moving far away from the California coast. He also found himself swayed by Lasorda, a Dodgers scout at the time and a man who had taken the time to attend the funeral of Crawford’s grandfather. …
By Jon Weisman
At first, when the run that became the Dodgers’ 42-8 midseason gambol began last year, it merely solved the dilemma of “This team can’t be this bad.” Los Angeles had spent the better part of 2½ months taking jokes that it was the worst team money could buy, and so when the Dodgers won six in a row to just to improve to 36-42, there was a sense that a modicum of balance was being restored. Only six games below .500? OK, maybe the team could be that bad.
The Dodgers were in last place, a position that seemed further justified when a 16-1 trashing by Philadelphia on June 28 ended the initial winning streak, their first of the season longer than three games, with a tremendous thud. The Dodgers’ final pitcher that day was utility player Skip Schumaker, who threw an inning of shutout ball – for the second time in 2013. That the Dodgers had twice need to turn to Schumaker said a lot about their struggles, and yet didn’t begin to tell the full story.
Injuries were such a big part of it. Hanley Ramirez was only one of many. Matt Kemp, bothered sequentially by three separate injuries, including lingering effects on his labrum from a 2012 collision with a Coors Field outfield wall, had a year so star-crossed, he might as well have been considered to be on walkabout. Carl Crawford, himself recovering from 2012 Tommy John surgery, gingerly made it back to the lineup after missing much of 2012, though not without his own 30-day stay on the DL. Andre Ethier stayed on the active roster despite a trip to the hospital to investigate a slow-healing bruise that had prompted fears of serious, limb-threatening malady. With Yasiel Puig (a latter-day Pete Reiser in the way he seemed like a collision waiting to happen), the Dodgers had four starting outfielders on paper, but only once before rosters expanded in September were all four active for the same game – and in the ninth inning of that one, Kemp gnarled his ankle sliding into home with the Dodgers ahead, 9-2, not even completing his first game back from his second DL stint.
Dodger pitchers offered little in way of contrast. Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley, putting off surgery after his 2012 season was cut short in August, succumbed after two starts in 2013. Josh Beckett was shaky, allowing a 5.19 ERA in eight starts (6.75 in the final five) before going on the disabled list with both a groin injury and tingling in his right arm, diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome and culminating in season-ending surgery to remove a rib and relieve pressure on his nerves. Chris Capuano, slated for the bullpen in Spring Training because of a perceived overload of starting pitchers for Los Angeles (a perception, it is to laugh, that lasted about two seconds), made two trips to the disabled list in 2013, as did Stephen Fife, the 26-year-old ticketed to the minors who had a 2.47 ERA in his first nine major-league starts when he wasn’t sidelined with bursitis.
Most of these injuries were taken with resignation, the inevitability of baseball in general and the Dodgers in particular. Kemp’s status, given his importance in the lineup – especially before Puig and Ramirez began their dance in June – was the one genuine frustration. But nothing vexed more than what happened to Zack Greinke.
The most expensive pitcher in Dodger history to date, Greinke was critical in the Dodger plans to mitigate concerns about offense with tough moundswork. Despite a Spring Training that had some hint of elbow soreness, Greinke was ready to go when the regular season began, In his first start as a Dodger, Greinke shut out the Pirates for 6⅓ innings of a 3-0 victory and held a 2-1 lead going into the sixth inning of his second outing, in San Diego.
Carlos Quentin was the batter. Greinke alternated balls outside the zone with swinging strikes, and the count went full. The next pitch sailed inside. Quentin turned to his right, and the ball struck him on his left arm below the right shoulder. Although there had been an 0-2 pitch by Padres starter Jason Marquis near the head of Matt Kemp in the first inning, the game scenario didn’t indicate intent to harm on Greinke’s part. But as the baseball world was soon to learn, Quentin – in his mind, at least – had a running vendetta with Greinke. He took a step toward the mound. Greinke slung out an undisclosed word or three in response, and Quentin charged.
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Greinke’s options at that moment were few and far from ideal. He could run away, at least until others were able to protect him. He could cock a fist and fight fire with fire. What he chose was what seemed the least horrible of horrible choices – he dropped his glove, lowered his upper torso as if he were about to go bodysurfing in the Pacific, and faced the charging Quentin, who drove into him with the same arm that had been hit by the baseball four seconds earlier.
From the melee that followed, Greinke emerged with what the Dodgers announced after the game was a fractured left collarbone. Though the Dodgers had won the game to improve their record to 6-3 on the season, the postgame was filled with anger and depression. Los Angeles then lost seven of its next eight games and went 10-19 with Greinke sidelined.
Greinke returned to the mound three weeks sooner than the initial eight-week forecast suggested, but he wasn’t a consistent pitcher. From May 15 through Independence Day, Greinke had a 4.84 ERA in 10 starts, averaging 5⅔ innings per start. He, like his teammates, had to figure it out, to dig themselves out of a hole.
Baseball doesn’t play like the lottery. You don’t change your fortunes in one play. You can have the game of your life, or the week of your life, but it’s just one game, just one week. You have to keep grinding, day after day after day. The excuses don’t matter. They are explanations, but no one’s really interested in explanations. People want results.
Injuries? Yeah, we understand that injuries hurt. What else is new? You need to beat your opponent, and if you can’t do that, we’ll see you next year. Get better at the game, get some luck, get whatever it takes. Baseball’s Shawshankism: Get busy winning, or get busy losing.
Somehow, the Dodgers got busy winning. Day after day after day.
The Dodgers’ 11th annual community service caravan, Pitching in the Community presented by State Farm, gets rolling Monday and continues through January 30, followed by a host of community service activities by Dodger players January 31.
This year’s caravan is making stops at the following locations and will be joined by these Dodger alums:
While SportsNet LA is set to air on Time Warner Cable when it launches February 25, it doesn’t mean that it won’t air on other distributors, such as DirecTV, Dish, AT&T U-verse, Cox, Verizon FiOS, Charter, Comcast. The network is actively seeking distribution of SportsNet LA with all of those providers.
If you’re eager to ensure that the 24/7 Dodgers channel airs on your home television, one click will take you somewhere to express that desire to your provider: ineedmydodgers.com.
You’ll also find a Frequently Asked Questions answer page there.
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By Jon Weisman
Above, Orel Hershiser talks about coming back to the Dodgers as a broadcaster for SportsNet LA.
At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Castillo is a righthanded hitter with experience playing second and third base in addition to center field, so his versatility could be intriguing to a variety of teams. …
I worry. A lot. Which makes me a pretty good barometer for not worrying. If it doesn’t bother me, it probably shouldn’t bother you.
This fear that the Dodgers have one too many starting outfielders, I’ve pretty much dismissed. Not just that there are worse problems to have, but that this isn’t even a problem.
Whether it’s the timing of Matt Kemp’s return to regular action, fear that Yasiel Puig will run into one wall too many or general concern over the vulnerability of Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, the chances that the Dodgers will have four healthy outfielders for the entire year seem about as likely as the 2013-14 Lakers will string together four wins in a row the entire season. (Yeah, I went there.)
Worrying about a surplus is so Spring 2013. There was the Dodgers’ so-called overload of starting pitchers, and we know how that turned out.
But since no one’s rooting for bad health or bad karma, and it is possible that Kemp and Co. hit April at full strength — even if Kemp were to sit out the Dodgers’ Australia games — how uncomfortable could it be?
Let’s start by defining some kind of ideal. In 2011, the year of his near-Most Valuable Player campaign, Kemp played 1,380 innings in the outfield and had 689 plate appearances. Let’s call those the benchmarks of happiness – or to make them easier to remember, the Benchmarks of Happiness.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers can expect to have no more than 4,400 innings to pass around the outfield this year (162 games x three outfielders x nine innings = 4,374). That number’s on the high side, even allowing for extra innings, if you factor in that some games will require only eight outfield innings unless the Dodgers go undefeated on the road. Plus, there will be 10 games in American League parks in which a healthy starting outfielder might be the designated hitter.
That means that if all four outfielders were completely healthy and Don Mattingly divided their time equally, they could each get 1,100 innings, or 80 percent of the Benchmark of Happiness. Not bad, especially considering how good their bodies would feel under this scenario.
Of course, this isn’t the scenario that worried people. That was the scenario where there were four healthy outfielders but one got the short straw, the straw that, to paraphrase Reggie Jackson, doesn’t stir the drink, unless that drink is in a shot glass.
If three teammates each took 1,300 innings in the outfield and left you with only 500, that’s a pretty big difference, especially if you consider yourself All-Star caliber, as Kemp, Ethier and Crawford have been and Puig is poised to be.
Lazy as I can be, I wouldn’t want to be the 500-inning guy, not if I felt I could do more.
Nevertheless, to that, I say the following:
The bottom line is this: Would it be worth it for the Dodgers to weaken their outfield depth, in the face of potential injuries, just to ward off this potential of pouting so powerful that it would derail the team? I don’t see it.
When Spring Training arrives next month, we’ll no doubt see a round of stories addressing the four-outfielder dilemma, and the Dodgers’ position, I suspect, will be as it’s been this offseason – that there is no dilemma. And they’ll be right. True, one of these guys will be on the bench for the first pitch of the season. What happens next is anyone’s guess, which is why it’s not worth worrying about.
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By Jon Weisman
Today brings the official announcement that the new 24/7 Dodgers channel, SportsNet LA, will launch February 25, along with the official introduction of its on-air talent team: Orel Hershiser, Nomar Garciaparra, Charley Steiner, Jerry Hairston, Alanna Rizzo and John Hartung, along with of course the previously announced master of it all, Vin Scully.
In addition to televising more than 140 live regular season games and every Spring Training game (with the exception of split squads) in its inaugural season, SportsNet LA will air classic games, live studio shows, numerous original programs and more.
Scully will call all Dodger home games and road games for SportsNet LA in California and Arizona. Steiner and Hershiser will team up on the other SportsNet LA games, with Hershiser appearing on the pregame and postgame shows when Scully is broadcasting.
Steiner and Rick Monday will be the radio team for Dodger games that Scully is manning for television, following the simulcast portion.
Garciaparra (who will provide color commentary next to Monday’s play-by-play on the remaining road radio games) and Hairston will contribute to the pregame and postgame. Rizzo will host those shows from Dodger Stadium, while also serving as an in-game reporter for the Steiner-Hershiser telecasts.
Hartung will be the in-studio host for Sports Net LA’s live studio shows.
Time Warner Cable is committed to carrying SportsNetLA when it launches, and discussions are taking place with other distributors, such as DirecTV. To make your voice heard on this matter, visit sportsnetla.com or call your provider to tell them you need the network.
Yasiel Puig spent his Martin Luther King Day with kids at the Amigos For Kids Reading Enrichment Program in Miami, during Unite4:good Day of Unity, whose goal is to inspire charitable action globally.
Fans arriving at Dodger Stadium are already subject to bag searches and, in some cases, hand-held magnetic wand scans. Kasten said that no security devices are being installed as part of the ongoing stadium renovations.
In the opinion of fans at least, the current screening process has proven effective. MLB’s mandate had more impact on the decision to install permanent metal detectors than any fan feedback, Kasten said.“I can’t tell you that we had a lot of specific complaints about that,” he said. …
Adding to the organizational depth at catcher heading into February, the Dodgers have signed free agent backstops Miguel Olivo and Griff Erickson to minor league contracts with invites to big league camp at Spring Training this year.
Erickson, who has spent his entire pro career in the Dodger organization, became a free agent by virtue of spending seven years in the the minors. He had a .324 on-base percentage and .414 slugging with Double-A Chattanooga in 2013 (including the interesting combo of 36 hits and 31 walks). In his best year, Erickson, who turns 26 in March, had an .866 OPS in 2011, split between Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Chattanooga.
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Olivo, 35, spent 2013 with his sixth major-league team, Miami, posting a .250 OBP and .392 slugging in 80 plate appearances, slightly below his career numbers of .275 and .417 in nearly 4,000 plate appearances.
The Dodgers also invited minor-league pitchers Zach Lee, Chris Reed, Ross Stripling, Red Patterson and Carlos Frias to spring camp, as well as outfielder Joc Pederson, infielder Miguel Rojas and catcher Chris O’Brien. They join those previously announced: catcher J.C. Boscan, infielders Brendan Harris and Clint Robinson and pitchers Sam Demel and Daniel Moskos.
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By Jon Weisman
I don’t know about you, but Spring Training feels like it’s sprinting toward us.
On to today’s links …
Slumps end — but struggles by these Dodgers are astonishing
September 10, 2021
In 16 innings of insanity, Dodgers revive the joy
of a madcap marathon
August 26, 2021
Clayton Kershaw to return to the Dodgers, A.J. Ellis predicts
August 26, 2021
Two more crazy intersections for the 2005 and 2021 Dodgers
August 18, 2021
The Latest Chapter in Our Great Adventure with the Dodgers
August 13, 2021
Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with
Dodgers at home: 1,028-812 (.558695)
When Jon attended: 338-267 (.558677)*
When Jon didn’t: 695-554 (.556)
* includes road games attended
Dodgers at home: 51-35 (.593)
When Jon attended: 5-2 (.714)
When Jon didn’t: 46-33 (.582)
Note: I got so busy working for the Dodgers that in 2014, I stopped keeping track, much to my regret.