Dodger Thoughts

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

Month: December 2015 (Page 1 of 3)

From 2015 to 2016: Do you hear what I hear?

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Somewhere in the opaque, decaying memories of my brain, I can hear fans cheering at Dodger Stadium.

The year was 2015. The Dodgers were National League West champions, and they had taken the lead in the first inning of the deciding game of their first postseason series.

For all that had gone wrong, for all the preseason and midseason and even postseason plans chipped and broken, all this had gone right. Los Angeles was eight innings and eight games from winning a World Series.

Against all expectations, the Dodgers were peppering the superb Mets right-hander, Jacob deGrom. After Howie Kendrick lined out to start the bottom of the first inning, rookie shortstop Corey Seager hit the first of four consecutive singles, and Dodger Stadium was electric.

I don’t know how much longer that memory will last. Already, it’s mostly theoretical. I’m not actually hearing the cheering. I just know the cheering was there, and I’m projecting that sound inside my head.

* * *

Now in my brain, I hear bickering. Not muffled. Loud and clear.

It’s not surprising that we bicker. We’re a family, we Dodger fans. The bickering drives everybody crazy, but it doesn’t stop.

We all want the best. And yet, back and forth during the offseason … They don’t know anything. But they think they know everything! 

We’re not only second-guessing methods, we’re questioning intentions.

I’m done with you people. 

Doors slam.

You just don’t understand. 

Windows shatter.

Just listen to me!

Houses explode. Family is complicated, man.

* * *

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Let Vin Scully into your brain, and you’ll hear, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” You’ve heard him say it a dozen times, if not a hundred.

Here’s something else I’ve heard a dozen times this offseason, if not a hundred: “What is the Dodgers’ plan? Do they even have a plan?”

So, I see that, and I scratch my head, because the Dodgers have stated their plan, over and over and over again. Here’s one of a dozen times, if not a hundred.

“We’re tasked with doing everything we can to put ourselves in position to win a World Championship this year, while maintaining the position to sustain success over the long haul,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said early this month.

That’s a plan. No, no — that is a plan.

In greater specifics, the plan included steps to maintain and improve the pitching depth. Most notably, three things went awry. The bidding for Zack Greinke went beyond the parameters of the plan. Then, when problems cropped up before finalizing other potential acquisitions, they broke apart. (This happens every year, occasionally played out front and center in the news, often in private, never to be known.)

In short, the Dodgers made a plan, and Scully can tell you what happened next.

When things don’t go according to plan, one of two things happen. People get angry, or people regroup and move forward.

For the Dodgers, the plan remains in place, with new efforts to execute it (most recently in the signing of Scott Kazmir) because the alternative is to operate just the way you’d doubt the most  — without any foresight at all.

Now you can argue that the Dodgers should have done X or Y or Z. That the Dodgers haven’t done so doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan, or philosophy, or strategy. It doesn’t mean they have given up on 2016 or any year.

My plan is to raise my kids as people with decency and the opportunity to do whatever they possibly can with their lives. Will it be successful? I can only hope. It involves a dozen things going right, if not a hundred.

That’s true even though 29 other families raising children with decency and opportunity doesn’t prevent the same for mine.

* * *

In the end, people hear what they want to hear, and see what they want to see.

Focus on the second half of Joc Pederson’s season and the first half of Chris Hatcher’s, and despair. Do the opposite, and hope. Take in their entire seasons, and you have an open mind, knowing that baseball is predictable and unpredictable at once.

The open-minded make the quietest sound. Maybe they’re the bass players of the band, stagehands at the spectacular, librarians at the gates.

For some — for more each year since 1988 — being a Dodger fan is all or nothing. But all or nothing is a fraught way to live, especially when all or something is a true alternative. You don’t have to sacrifice your dreams to take pleasure in smaller victories. The goal remains the same.

I believe in the all or something.

* * *

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Somewhere in my brain, unleashed like a can hissing open, I hear the crackle of the cleats on Camelback grit, and picture the stream of ballplayers old and young ambling through the low February sun to their morning stretch in Arizona. I hear the pop — that astonishing, glorious pop — of ball into glove.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t miss baseball in the winter. The season is long and grueling and intense, and the break — a relatively short break, three months vs. nine — is welcome. I’m in no hurry to get back to baseball, because I know baseball is coming fast.

Then that crackle and pop arrives, and they are blessed sounds, sounds of serenity, sounds that, at least for a short while, tend to muffle all worries. It’s temporary. It fades into the grind that scrapes its way through spring all the way to fall.

Elation and deflation will do battle in 2016, as they do every year. So will the forces of belief and doom. Like the train rolling out in “The Music Man,” it will all begin again. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker bicker bicker, ya can talk, ya can talk.

Line drives will be snagged, dribblers will roll into glory. The odds will prevail, until they don’t, until they do again.

It’s a game, though we take it seriously. It’s a game we invest our days, our years, our lives in.

It is not a game for the thoughtless. It’s a game for the dedicated. It’s a game that fans, players, coaches and executives stake their lives to.

And why?

To hear those cheers. At least for a moment. Hopefully for an eternity. Loud and clear, and never-ending.

One more look at the 1965 Dodgers

1966 yearbook cover

Having spent this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1965 World Series champion Dodgers — review all the posts here — I thought I’d take one last look at the season through some selected pages of the 1966 Dodger yearbook.

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Dodgers are all right with lefty Kazmir

The Dodgers are Scott Kazmir's sixth team. Here are three of them (Getty Images)

Scott Kazmir is joining his sixth MLB team. Above are three of them. (Getty Images)

leftoriumBy Jon Weisman

Though Scott Kazmir potentially gives the Dodgers an all-lefty starting rotation, the newest Dodger isn’t your usual southpaw.

Over the past two seasons, right-handed batters have a .643 OPS against Kazmir. That’s the seventh-best figure in baseball for lefties, just ahead of Madison Bumgarner. (Clayton Kershaw, not surprisingly, is No. 1, while Alex Wood and Brett Anderson are in the top 15.)

“Kaz is a guy who’s got a very balanced split,” Dodger general manager Farhan Zaidi said in a conference call with reporters today, shortly after the Dodgers announced the acquisition of the soon-to-be 32-year-old. “His best pitch is his changeup, which really neutralizes righties. He’s not a lefty in the conventional sense.”

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Farhan Zaidi comments briefly on Aroldis Chapman

During a conference call with reporters today about the Scott Kazmir signing, Dodger general manager Farhan Zaidi was asked about Aroldis Chapman, who was traded by the Reds this week to the Yankees. Here was his reply …

“We obviously, around the time when this down around the winter meetings, didn’t want to comment, and even now I’ll keep my words fairly brief,” Zaidi said. “This is the one time I’m going to comment on it, because we’re talking about a player on another team’s roster. We did come to an agreement in principle (to acquire Chapman), but as (additional) details came to light, we just weren’t comfortable making the move. Every situation is different, every organization has to make their own decision about it. We made the decision based on the information that (was) at hand, we stand by it and we move on.”

— Jon Weisman

Dodgers sign Scott Kazmir

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

By Jon Weisman

Three-time All-Star left-hander Scott Kazmir has signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers.

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Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as A.J. Ellis and Clayton Kershaw? Sure, why not …

By Jon Weisman

Just for fun during this holiday season, here’s the Turner Classic Movies plot summary for the incredibly realistic 1949 movie “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, with only slight changes. For the names of the characters in the movie, I have made small, modern-day substitutions …

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Think Blue Review: Final edition of 2015

[mlbvideo id=”535679383″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

The latest edition of Think Blue Review looks back at the Dodgers’ annual children’s holiday party, Fernando Valenzuela’s gift-giving event at Estrada Courts and last week’s three-way deal with the White Sox and Reds.

— Jon Weisman

Jackie Robinson statue to grace Dodger Stadium


By Jon Weisman

A statue of Jackie Robinson, approximately nine to ten feet tall, will be unveiled at Dodger Stadium in 2016 at a location to be determined.

California-based sculptor Branly Cadet will create the Robinson statue, which will be followed in the future by other such pieces, according to Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten.

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How Chris Hatcher shone in 2015’s second half

2015 NLDS-Game Two-Los Angeles Dodgers vs New York Mets

By Jon Weisman

He was a top Dodger from August through October, but did you notice?

It’s OK if you didn’t. Chris Hatcher understands.

After spending the middle two months of the season on the disabled list with an oblique injury, the Dodger reliever had a 1.31 ERA for the rest of the season, striking out 26 in 20 2/3 innings while allowing 20 baserunners.

Hatcher topped that off by pitching 3 2/3 hitless innings in the National League Division Series against the Mets, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced.

Considering all the grief he took for his subpar first half (6.38 ERA, 1.52 WHIP), you might think Hatcher would feel cheated for attention over the final three months. But in a phone interview last week, I stepped to the plate with a question about that second-half success, and he whiffed me.

“I wouldn’t really call it success,” Hatcher said. “I would call it doing my job. Obviously, I didn’t do it several times this year, (though) I did it more so than not.

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Though Ryu progresses, Dodgers likely to boost starting rotation

Joc Pederson, Hyun-jin Ryu and Justin Turner at Adrian Gonzalez's Bat4Hope Softball Game on November 7 at Dodger Stadium.

Joc Pederson, Hyun-jin Ryu and Justin Turner at Adrian Gonzalez’s Bat4Hope Softball Game on November 7 at Dodger Stadium.

By Jon Weisman

It’s true that as of now, it’s uncertain who will fill out the Dodger starting rotation when the 2016 season begins April 4. Behind established veterans Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood — all lefties — the next healthy pitchers in line are Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Joe Wieland, Zach Lee and Ian Thomas, as well as newly acquired Frankie Montas.

Then there are those who haven’t even made their big-league debuts, such as Jose De Leon, Jharel Cotton, Ross Stripling and 19-year-old Julio Urias. But any of those, along with any barely experienced veterans, would have to make quite an all-around impression by April to begin the season in the Majors.

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Dodgers acquire LHP Tyler Olson

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

By Jon Weisman

Left-handed pitcher Tyler Olson has been acquired by the Dodgers from Seattle in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later.

To make room for Olson on the 40-man roster, Los Angeles designated right-hander Daniel Reynolds for assignment. Reynolds was claimed by the Dodgers 11 days ago.

Olson made his Major League debut in 2015 with the Mariners, striking out eight while allowing 29 baserunners in 13 1/3 innings. His WHIP was 2.10, but that’s a bit deceptive. Rather remarkably, Olson had seven intentional walks to lead the entire American League, despite pitching his final MLB game of the year on May 2.

To put that in perspective, the Major League leaders in intentional walks, with eight, were Philadelphia’s Luis Garcia (66 2/3 innings) and Atlanta’s Shelby Miller (205 1/3 innings).

Only one pitcher in big-league history, Butch Metzger with the Giants in 1974, has ever had at least seven intentional walks with fewer innings pitched in a season than Olson.

On April 15, Olson intentionally walked Joc Pederson with two out in the fifth and Howie Kendrick with two out in the sixth. Neither scored. Overall, two of the seven players walked intentionally by Olson in 2015 eventually came across the plate.

Spending most of his 2015 season in Triple-A Tacoma, Olson had a 4.47 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings — with no intentional walks. He turned 25 in October.

Dave Roberts talks bullpen management, state of the staff

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt visits Carlos Frias at the mound during a May 24 game. (Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt visits Carlos Frias at the mound during a May 24 game. (Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

As a rookie manager who neither pitched nor caught in his big-league career, Dave Roberts will be scrutinized for every move he makes with the Dodger pitching staff. (I know — I could have just begun, “As a manager.”)

Today, Roberts spoke about his approach will be, and how he will use pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and bench coach Bob Geren as resources.

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Dodgers’ holiday card offers journey to remember

[mlbvideo id=”534936483″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

Vin Scully narrates the Dodgers’ 2015 electronic holiday card, a winter fairy tale like you’ve never seen before.

— Jon Weisman

So, Dave Roberts, what’s a quality assurance coach?

Image via Parks Moving, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Image via Parks Moving, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Not only are there new names in the Dodger coaching staff, there’s a new title — one that might seem kind of out there.

But “quality assurance coach,” the role to be filled by former Dodger infielder and minor-league infield coordinator Juan Castro, is actually a very down-to-earth role, according to Dodger manager Dave Roberts.

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Valenzuela, Scioscia in special event January 21

Scioscia congratulates Fernando

By Jon Weisman

There are limited spaces available for “An Epic Evening with Mike Scioscia and Fernando Valenzuela,” taking place January 21 and hosted by Art of the Game at a vintage hotel in Hollywood.

The evening includes:

  • On-stage Q&A with Scioscia and Valenzuela
  • Professional 11″ x 14″ photo of you and your guest, along with Scioscia and Valenzuela
  • Limited edition, licensed photo canvas signed by both greats
  • Valet parking, buffet dinner and open bar

For more information, visit Art of the Game.

Also: See below for Valenzuela’s responses in today’s live #Ask34 Twitter chat …

[tweet 677573676997316608 hide_thread=’true’]

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