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Here it is, the latest, greatest appearance by A.J. Ellis on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk.” It’s got … a little bit of everything.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
There was some scoffing when Chone Figgins signed on to reboot his Major League career with the Dodgers, but so far, so good.
Figgins has developed a fairly specific role with the Dodgers: Come off the bench to lead off an inning and, without any seeming threat of power, get on base.
In his 27 plate appearances so far this season, 16 of them have been as the first batter of an inning, and he has a .500 on-base percentage (and .455 slugging percentage) in those situations. He also has a .474 OBP as a pinch-hitter.
Tonight, in the Dodgers’ 48th game, Figgins makes only his third start of the year, though his rate should increase now that Juan Uribe is on the disabled list and Justin Turner will be needed over there. Dee Gordon still hasn’t been a convincing hitter against left-handed pitchers, registering a .200 on-base percentage (8 for 40 with no walks) and .250 slugging percentage this year. It would be going too far to say he can’t improve those numbers, but against Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (2.54 ERA, .446 right-handed opponents’ OPS), it’s a sensible enough time to let Gordon come off the bench.
By Jon Weisman
It had happened only five times in the past 30 years, but now it has happened twice in two months. As they did on April 6 against the Giants, the Dodgers won tonight without a single one-base hit.
Los Angeles defeated New York, 4-3, on the strength of solo homers by Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez (the latter two back to back) and doubles by Matt Kemp and Chone Figgins (the latter coming home on an eighth-inning fielder’s choice).
The April 6 game is the only time the Dodgers have had more than five hits in a game without a single. Of course, it was only six years ago that the Dodgers won with no hits at all.
Other tidbits from tonight:
From the Dodgers:
Today, the Albuquerque Isotopes, Triple-A partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, placed catcher Miguel Olivo on the suspended list. Olivo, who is on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, will remain suspended pending the completion of an investigation into the dugout altercation during yesterday’s game at Salt Lake.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
There will be no wait and see with Juan Uribe’s right hamstring strain. The Dodger third baseman is going on the disabled list, with defensive whiz Erisbel Arruebarrena (above left, with Yasiel Puig in Spring Training) coming up to fortify the infield in his absence.
The Dodgers are also expected to activate starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list. A corresponding roster move has yet to be announced. Update: Chris Withrow has been optioned to make room for Ryu.
Uribe injured himself in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game while running out his 11th double of the 2014 season. It was his fourth start and fifth appearance since missing five games with the original hamstring injury.
Following his redemptive 2013 season, Uribe was off to another strong start in 2014. According to Fangraphs, Uribe has been the fourth most valuable third baseman in baseball this year. His .785 OPS and 119 OPS+ are even higher than his totals from last season. Uribe has already reached base more times seven more times in 2014 than he did in all of 2012.
Arruebarrena, whom the Dodgers signed to a five-year contract February 22, has a sterling defensive reputation at shortstop. His bat could be a liability, as illustrated by a .252 on-base percentage and .302 slugging percentage at Double-A Chattanooga, though he is 12 for 37 with a walk, a double and a home run in his last nine games.
At least initially, Justin Turner and Chone Figgins figure to take the bulk of Uribe’s missing innings.
Ryu, who has a 3.00 ERA in seven starts this year, hasn’t allowed a run on the road in 28 innings dating back to last year and has a 0.98 ERA on the road dating back to August 8, with 45 strikeouts against 38 baserunners in 55 1/3 innings.
Withrow has a 2.95 ERA in 21 1/3 innings with the Dodgers, extending his career-long streak of allowing no inherited runners to score to 16.
The Filipino Ticket package includes:
Stay after the game for Friday Night Fireworks!
A portion of the proceeds from this event will directly support the American Red Cross in their Philippine Typhoon Relief efforts.
— Britni Howze
By Jon Weisman
The centerpiece of the May issue of Dodger Insider magazine is our Dodgers Roadshow (excerpted above, click to enlarge). Team historian Mark Langill discussed the history behind 20 pieces of Dodger memorabilia, few if any of which you’ve ever seen before.
In the videos that follow, Langill devotes even more time to these strange and wonderful artifacts. Enjoy!
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By Jon Weisman
Led by four times on base apiece by Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonalez, the Dodgers survived two sixth-inning home runs by the Mets to win going away in New York tonight, 9-4. But it was a costly day.
First was the news of the altercation between Miguel Olivo and Alex Guerrero during their Triple-A game today, a fight that left Guerrero in surgery to repair his ear, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Then came Juan Uribe’s ninth-inning re-injury of his hamstring while running out a double.
Uribe said this strain is worse than last one.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) May 21, 2014
It’s a painful turn of events for several reasons, only one of them being that Guerrero was on fire with Albuquerque, leading the Pacific Coast League with a 1.152 OPS, and was beginning to be tested out at other positions besides second base.
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By Jon Weisman
Josh Beckett’s resurgence is rightfully getting attention, and the best piece about it came from the Register’s Pedro Moura, who chronicled how Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis urged Beckett to use his curveball more.
… And on April 11 in the Chase Field visitors’ locker room, four hours before the Dodgers played the Diamondbacks and two days after Beckett had been lit up in his 2014 debut, the catcher approached the pitcher with an urgent message.
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There are so many things I love about this excerpt from the Dodgers’ 1982 home video — the vintage Vin Scully narration, the glimpses of the post-1981 Dodgers (old for their time, but exquisitely young from this vantage point), and perhaps most of all, the fabulous ’80s music. But I was also struck by how much of the description of young Steve Sax seems to be taken word for word from what we’ve heard about Yasiel Puig over the past 11 1/2 months.
— Jon Weisman
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By Jon Weisman
Memorial Day is only a week away, so don’t wait to make your plans to spent the evening at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers are on the road this week, but soon enough, they will open their next homestand with the Cincinnati Reds on May 26, and it occurred to me this game might be worth a special mention.
If you needed more incentive than the above-mentioned Andre Ethier BBQ apron giveaway (free to the first 40,000 ticketed fans) or the chance to see Hyun-Jin Ryu at home for the first time since April, then there’s this: Lined up to pitch in the 5:10 p.m. game for the Reds is arguably the No. 1 contender to try to steal the National League Cy Young Award from Clayton Kershaw, 28-year-old Cincinnati righty Johnny Cueto. In other words, if the Reds rotation holds, Memorial Day will provide a prime time to size up the opposition.
With a 1.25 ERA heading into his Tuesday start at Washington, Cueto will provide a great challenge for the Dodgers. Among other things, with runners on base, opposing hitters are 6 for 60 with six walks and one homer against Cueto this year. He leads the NL with a 0.71 WHIP and is striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings.
The Dodgers topped Cueto the last time they met, on July 3, 2012, when Luis Cruz hit a tiebreaking double in the bottom of the seventh inning and later stole home. Yeah, that’s right.
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Last year’s Memorial Day at Dodger Stadium brought one of the best games of the year, with the Dodgers rallying from a 6-1 deficit to top the Angels, 8-7. It was a great way to spend the holiday last year, and I’m looking forward to this year’s game.
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By Jon Weisman
Yasiel Puig has been named co-National League Player of the Week, sharing the honor with A.J. Pollock of Arizona.
Puig slugged .870 as he went 8 for 23 with three doubles and three homers, not to mention four walks and being hit by a pitch, in the most recent seven days of play.
The 23-year-old previously won this award by himself after his first week in the majors, for the week ending June 9, when he went 13 for 28 with two doubles and four homers. He had 10 RBI each time.
“Right now, he brings an energy we were missing,” backup catcher Ramon Hernandez told MLB.com at the time.
By Jon Weisman
I’m guilty of a lot of preemptive worry about my job. It’s something that I’m actively trying to fight. It’s not that it doesn’t have its purpose — if I didn’t worry at all about making sure everything got done, deadlines would come and absolutely smack me in the face.
But there’s another level to it, a level where I find I struggle to relax until everything is done — except that everything is never done. There’s always something.
Plus, there’s the humbling frustration that however much I plan, some things still might not turn out the way I hoped. I do believe Vin Scully has a favorite line about this.
In the scattered moments — and I did have one Sunday, coincidentally around the time the Dodgers were losing 5-3 to Arizona — where I exhale and accept that although there’s more to do tomorrow, I’ve done about as much as I can or need to today, life can feel pretty good. That good feeling can be transient, just as the anxious feeling can. But there’s no denying that when you’re stressed, the good feeling is a feeling worth having.
* * *
So the Dodgers are 23-22 in 2014. Average, mediocre, disappointing. More recently, they’ve lost three of their past four, or seven of their past 11, or 10 of their past 16, opening the pathway from disappointing to anxiety-inducing. Many Dodger fans are nervous, many are angry. People want explanations. They want remedies. They want heads to roll.
One explanation is that this is simply not a consistently sharp fielding team. It never shaped up to be a consistently sharp fielding team during Spring Training, and it might never become one. It will win on the nights when the fielding is sharp (being inconsistent means you execute some of the time, not none of the time), or when the team hits and pitches well enough to overcome any fielding follies. Twenty-two times out of 25, this hasn’t happened.
That, to me, is by far the most logical explanation, and really, there’s not much more that needs to be said.
But inevitably — so inevitably that I’m always surprised when some act as if this were unique to a particular team like the 2014 Dodgers — when a team is average, mediocre or disappointing, fans and the media will comment that the team is playing with no energy or emotion. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard or read this in May.
It might or might not be true, but it’s fascinating (not in a good way) the cocksureness that people make this comment just from observing the action on the field, which is the only evidence most people get. Every once in a while, you’ll see a ballplayer dog it running to first on a routine grounder or backing up a potential bad throw. But really, on almost every single moment at a baseball game, there’s no way you can see that a player isn’t doing everything he is capable of.
Not succeeding is not the same as not trying. Moreover, sometimes you can succeed without your maximum effort. Don’t tell me you never have. Yet you’ll never see anyone say “they’re playing with no heart” after a win. There’s this assumption of a clean, moral universe in sports and in baseball and with the Dodgers. If you’re winning, you did everything you could. If you’re losing, it’s a character flaw.
Can anyone, by any significant measure, demonstrate that the Dodgers who won 7-0 on Friday played the game with more energy than the Dodgers who lost 18-7 on Saturday? Surely, you’re not going to be the one to question Clayton Kershaw’s mental and emotional commitment to the game. Was it that the Dodgers played with no heart when they fell behind 9-2, then turned on the heart when they came back to 9-7 with the tying run at the plate, then — for no reason other than to vex us — picked that particular moment to become Grinches and give up nine more runs?
Or was it just a bad night, perhaps one to learn from, but not one of any philosophical significance?
If Matt Kemp’s bases-loaded line-drive in the eighth inning on Sunday finds an opening, everyone would be celebrating the character of this team instead of questioning it. Next time, I suppose, Kemp will have to equip his bat with a literal moral compass.
What’s funny is in one breath you’ll see people comment about the importance of a team’s heart, and in the next, you’ll hear wonderment that an expensive player payroll hasn’t guaranteed success and happiness. As if anyone ever thought money guaranteed success and happiness. Money is a tool, a very good tool, but it’s not the only tool.
* * *
So, back to preemptive worry. That’s what this is about.
You figure that if the Dodgers win 100 out of 162 games during the 2014 regular season, they would be guaranteed a playoff spot, if not the best record in the National League. Everyone would be happy. But for most fans, those 100 wins can’t come soon enough. Why not just get them done now?
Well, while no one in their right mind would believe it possible for the Dodgers to win their first 100 games, there is this temptation to feel that when they’re not winning, I would say, at least 60 percent of the time, that something is deeply wrong.
One of my best friends in high school and college was, among other things, probably the smartest guy I ever met and definitely the most efficient student I ever knew. It wasn’t until we were roommates my senior year in college that I really understood how he did it. He would come back in the afternoon from his classes, go into his room and learn … everything. He was like Jim Carrey at the end of “The Truman Show,” actually reaching the end of a horizon previously assumed to be infinitely distant. He had both the ability and will to simply understand every single thing he needed to know, so that when it came time for a test or any other project, he could do absolutely everything he needed to do.
Then he would eat dinner and go out and get smashed.
This, essentially, is the baseball fan’s dream. Win everything, then party. Never lose. Meet adversity on purely procedural terms, like doing the dishes, rather than as a reality that will defeat you from time to time, sometimes unbearably often.
This, however, is not how it works for 99 percent of us, the Dodgers included, however much we might wish it otherwise. You’re never done churning. Sometimes, success comes late. In the best stories, it almost always does.
* * *
Let’s allow for the possibility — and again, I don’t really believe this is what’s happening — but let’s allow for the possibility that these current Dodgers really aren’t doing their best, that they’re consciously pacing or saving themselves, or that they’re unconsciously unable to produce at an elite level except in response to crisis. They are the fight-or-flight Dodgers.
They will ultimately be judged on results, but if they succeed, then maybe they will have had it right all along. Because I wouldn’t wish the destructive emotion of anxiety on anyone. And there’s a case to be made that the less mental energy the Dodgers expend in May, the more they’ll have in October.
Procrastinators are never role models, because of the deadline bogeyman. There’s always the sense of flirting with disaster, of asking for trouble and having nowhere to turn when it arrives. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, people who leave the hard work for the last minute do succeed (and keep in mind, mid-May is hardly the last minute, and a five-game deficit is hardly an enormous hole). We might resent the success of the procrastinator, even as we grudgingly have to respect it.
We can worry. Oh yes, we can worry. Or, we can understand that every season has its own ebb and flow, trust in the Dodgers to be the agents of their own change and convert our worry into hope.
Perhaps it’s my inability to apply this level of zen to my own work that makes me so believe in it it as a Dodger fan. Those who can’t do, talk about others doing. Each loss aggravates me, but all hail the next game.
I can’t really ask anyone to change what they feel. I can only tell you what I feel, which is that when the team I’m rooting for is losing, the best medicine isn’t to question their heart or wonder why they don’t play to their potential every day. It’s to sit back, put on “Rosalita” and look forward to tomorrow.
By Jon Weisman
As the Dodgers try to get off the canvas from their 18-7 loss Saturday to Arizona, some notes:
What happens when three old friends in crisis fall into an unexpected love triangle? In The Catch, Maya, Henry and Daniel embark upon an emotional journey that forces them to confront unresolved pain, present-day traumas and powerful desires, leading them to question the very meaning of love and fulfillment. The Catch tells a tale of ordinary people seeking the extraordinary – or, if that’s asking too much, some damn peace of mind.
Catch ‘The Catch,’ the new novel by Jon Weisman!
November 1, 2023
A new beginning with the Dodgers
August 31, 2023
Fernando Valenzuela: Ranking the games that defined the legend
August 7, 2023
Interview: Ken Gurnick
on Ron Cey and writing
about the Dodgers
June 25, 2023
Interview: Ron Cey talks about the experiences that led to his new memoir, Penguin Power
June 22, 2023
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.