Dodger Thoughts

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

Month: November 2018

An Adrián Beltré appreciation from Los Angeles

It’s impossible for a baseball fan like myself to be blindsided by the news that a ballplayer staring at his 40th birthday, with 3,166 hits already in his back pocket, is retiring.

And yet, when I saw on Twitter at 7:15 a.m. today that the great Adrián Beltré has called it a career, my gut got punched in a way that I was totally unprepared for.

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Who pitched the Dodgers’ top games each year in the 2000s? Some names will surprise you

Clayton Kershaw is by far the most dominant pitcher for the Dodgers — if not all of Major League Baseball — in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, he has pitched the game of the year for the Dodgers more times than anyone else.

But using the tried and true Game Score formula as a barometer, Kershaw has topped the charts in only four of his 11 big-league seasons. During the Kershaw era, some unexpected names have stolen the spotlight from Kershaw, if only for a moment.

In fact, in the 13 seasons from 2001 through 2013, 13 different pitchers had the top Game Score for the Dodgers.

Here’s a year-by-year rundown of the Dodgers’ best Game Score performances each year, dating back to 2000.

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For the Dodgers, payroll is a means — not an end

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Last week, Bill Shaikin of the Times reported on the existence of a private document, prepared nearly two years ago before the 2017 MLB season, proposing that the Dodgers would keep annual team payroll through 2022 below $200 million, a level that would avoid luxury tax penalties.

Coming off a 2018 season in which the Dodgers reined in their previous extravagance under the Guggenheim ownership in the process of losing their second straight World Series, Shaikin’s revelation was sure to anger many devoted fans.

Whether it actually comes to pass remains to be seen …

  • The document was geared for potential investors of artificial intelligence ETFs, so it was designed to make future expenses seem modest.
  • It is, no doubt, at least somewhat obsolete, given that it predated revenue from the past two World Series runs. (Shaikin cited a Dodger official who said he would be shocked if 2019 payroll didn’t surpass $200 million.)

… but nevertheless, it wasn’t the happiest piece of news to reach a hungry fan base.

Not surprisingly, Bill Plaschke of the Times was quick to write about the bad message it sent. But by Plaschke’s standards, his take was fairly measured, and frankly, I thought the uproar that followed would be more intense than it’s turned out to be. The story hasn’t had a great deal of shelf life. It simmers. Many fans seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach with the coming offseason.

That’s not to say distrust doesn’t remain, but the fans most likely to triggered by Shaikin’s story are already so hostile to the Dodger front office that his revelation had little room to move the needle. Like a Spinal Tap cover, their feelings toward the people running the franchise could be “none more black.”

Independent of that, I also think that for all the attention payroll gets, the money that the Dodgers spend is besides the point. They could go bonkers on bucks, and it won’t matter to those fans if the players don’t perform and the team doesn’t win.

We know this, because it happened as recently as 2017. The Dodgers had a payroll that was about 20 percent higher than any other MLB franchise, added Yu Darvish at the trade deadline, and still took a beating when they lost World Series Game 7.

To further verify, I tested a theory on Twitter.

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The Dodgers, Dave Roberts and the human element

Dave Roberts (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

In front of an emotionally eviscerated Dodger fan base, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2018 World Series on October 27, Kiké Hernández came to the plate at Dodger Stadium.

Only an hour earlier, a thrilling glow suffused Chavez Ravine. Having survived an 18-inning Game 3 marathon, Los Angeles had taken a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers were eight outs away from evening the Fall Classic at two games apiece.

Then their world collapsed around them like a dream in Inception. Nine Boston baserunners crossed the plate, the final four in the top of the ninth, obliterating a beautiful consciousness.

In that soul-darkening ninth inning, Hernández stood at the plate as a symbol of star-crossed Octobers. Coming off the most successful regular season of his major-league career, Hernández homered in his 2018 playoff debut, the Dodgers’ 6-0 trouncing of Atlanta in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. The multiposition master, baseball’s Swiss Army knife, then went 12 consecutive games without a single extra-base hit or RBI.

Hernández couldn’t hit right-handed pitching. He couldn’t hit left-handed pitching. He couldn’t hit, period. Entering the gloom of Game 4’s waning moments, Hernández had made 30 outs in his past 33 at-bats.

As another fallen hope stood on first base in the person of Brian Dozier, Hernández took two fastballs from Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, then let rip at a knuckle-curve and launched a fly ball to deep left-center for a two-run home run. Except for the fleeting sliver of hope it kindled in those who could conceive the greatest miracle postseason comeback in Dodger history, it was a footnote. The Dodgers lost the game by the score of 9-6 instead of 9-4.

The next day, in a game the Dodgers could not spare, Hernández was in the starting lineup against Boston lefty David Price, batting third.

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Which free agents might fit with the Dodgers?

Mikey Williams/Los Angeles Dodgers

Amid the flurry of warm, nurturing advice over the past week that followed the Dodgers’ World Series defeat, there was the Facebook commenter who had all the answers, perhaps most notably: “Sign FOUR no. 1 ace starters.”

That seemed like amazingly good counsel, but whether it’s feasible, I wasn’t quite sure. So I decided to check the lists of top 2018-19 MLB free agents and explore — not only in pitching but among position players as well — the top names that might help the Dodgers.

Keep in mind that the Dodgers will always be looking for under-the-radar gems, but that doesn’t mean they might not grab a headline ballplayer or two …

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When aardvarks took over baseball

Photo: Honolulu Zoo

When the aardvark revolution came to baseball, progress was slow at first.

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