Hey there! Since I haven’t actually written much on the defending World Series champions this year, I thought I’d throw down some of the stuff that’s been percolating inside my head about the 2021 Dodgers ahead of Thursday’s Opening Day. Let’s start with the position players. (Note: Some of these thoughts materialized during the chats we’ve had on Clubhouse.)
Month: March 2021
There has been one durably unifying complaint about baseball in its history: It’s boring. This is not as serious a criticism as, say, banning people with a certain skin color or heritage from the sport until after two World Wars, but it’s one that transcends time and demographics.
Lack of action has long been the Achilles’ bunion of baseball, even before sports like football and basketball emerged from their primordial muck with sprightly feet. Sure, those sports have their own pace-of-play issues — the gridiron is the longtime home of 30-second huddles interrupted by a few moments of fury — but baseball boasts the most obvious perpetual pregnant pause.
Traditionally, the fault line of baseball ennui has been bridged by fans who dismiss the complaints as a lack of sophistication among the complainers. (Translated: “If you’re too dumb to appreciate the greatness, I can’t help you.”) But lately, the uprising has come from within. The loudest cries against the state of baseball have come from some of its most diehard fans or reporters, legions of whom have testified to the lack of action, as Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated described the final game of the 2020 World Series.
Over the final 26 minutes of play, viewers saw only two balls put into play. Over the three hours, 28 minutes it took to play the 8 ½-inning game, they saw 32 balls in play, or one every 6 ½ minutes. They saw more pitchers (12) than hits (10). They saw 27 batters strike out, or 42% of all plate appearances. That is, if they saw anything at all.
I can’t argue the numbers, nor would I argue that the baseball we see today is baseball at its all-time best. If your lifelong devotion to the sport is in jeopardy, I don’t know if I can talk you off the ledge.
But hey, let me try.
Clayton Kershaw will look to put his 10.22 Spring Training ERA behind him by … pitching in the friendly confines of Coors Field for Opening Day on Thursday. Here’s a random set of data points about the 33-year-old’s experiences there, thanks to the database from our friends at Baseball-Reference.com.
This post is not a retrospective of Kenley Jansen’s career. It is not a profound look at what will be his 17th and quite possibly final season in the Dodger organization. It is, above all, not an evaluation of his merits as a relief pitcher or “closer.”
I’m writing about nothing more than Kenley Jansen and the start of the 2021 regular season, beginning a week from Thursday on April Fool’s Day.
The first four days of the season will take place in Denver, a location where Jansen has had at least three heart scares relating to episodes of atrial fibrillation. He has since had an ablation procedure and taken other precautions to prevent recurrences, but as Jansen told J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News in April 2019, “it’s still a little nerve-wracking because it’s in the back of your mind somewhere.”
Looking back, the heyday of the Dodger Thoughts commenting section at Baseball Toaster was relatively brief. It’s been nearly 19 years since I founded Dodger Thoughts, but the Toaster era only accounts for four of them, from 2005 when I migrated from All-Baseball.com to 2009 when I left for the Los Angeles Times.
But those four years, man, they were amazing.