As I mentioned a couple days ago, on July 14 I made my second visit to Cooperstown, and first as an adult. I took tons of pictures, and couldn’t help wanting to share some with you. Today, here is a set of shots focusing on the Dodgers, dating from their move to Los Angeles.
Author: Jon Weisman (Page 1 of 369)
During their current run of playoff appearances dating back to 2013, the Dodgers haven’t been in position to focus first and foremost on the bullpen at the trade deadline. There have always been multiple pressing needs.
The upside of the bullpen being the clear weak link of a team that has otherwise been the best in the National League, if not all of the major leagues, has been clarity of focus. It’s not that the 2019 Dodgers can’t improve on the margins in the other areas, but we know they don’t need to prioritize a Manny Machado or Yu Darvish. It’s bullpen or bust.
That said, here are two things to keep in mind:
- Every team would welcome bullpen help — even, for example, the Yankees. (See the chart at right of bullpen ERAs in high-leverage situations.) Even the MLB-leading 3.45 ERA (notably delivered by the Giants) wouldn’t soothe Dodger fans. There aren’t nearly enough high-quality relievers to go around.
- Even the highest quality relievers still give up runs. You can see this both in the overall stats or anecdotally, such as the night this week when Aroldis Chapman gave up Travis d’Arnaud’s third homer of the game for a blown save.
Obviously, the two weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline will be significant if not critical to the Dodgers’ World Series hopes, especially now that MLB has eliminated the August 31 workaround. Just know that no team — not the Dodgers, and just as importantly, not anyone else — can make itself bulletproof.
You make the best team you can.
Last weekend brought me to the wilds of New York for family reasons, on a trip that had been planned for months but near the last minute unexpectedly left me with a free day. Staying only 90 minutes from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I rose at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, on four hours sleep after having traveled all Saturday from home, and made the drive to a little slice of baseball heaven.
At age 51, this was my second trip to the Hall — my first came when I was 14. People have asked me if the Hall seemed different, but so much time has passed that the biggest compare and contrast I can make is doing the trip with my dad vs. doing it solo.
That said, another major difference was having a cellphone, as opposed to only memories that would fade over time. I took more than 200 photos, and with this year’s annual induction ceremony only days away, there seems to be no better time for me to share some of them with you (with apologies for the quality). I’m going to divide them into multiple posts, starting with this one centered on the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I have been walking one or more of my children to that school since 2007. Today was the last day.
This wouldn’t matter so much if those seven-minute walks hadn’t been my favorite moments to be alive.
In a typical regular-season week of NCAA college baseball, schools will play one midweek game (on a Tuesday, for example) against a non-conference opponent and then a three-game series Friday through Sunday. In short, four games every seven days.
In the opening round of the NCAA playoffs, schools participate in a four-team, double-elimination tournament. This means that if a school loses one of its first two games, it must play five games in four days in order to advance.
This presents two problems:
- The regular season doesn’t prepare a team for the playoffs.
- Workloads for pitching staffs are ramped up radically.
Looking back at some old birthdays on this Memorial Day …
- The oldest Ram I saw play in person: Charlie Cowan (June 19, 1938)
- The oldest MLB player I know I ever saw play in person: Vic Davalillo (July 31, 1936)
- The oldest Laker I saw play on TV: Elgin Baylor (September 16, 1934)
- The oldest MLB player I know I saw play on TV: Hank Aaron (February 5, 1934)
- The oldest athlete I know I saw play on TV: George Blanda (September 17, 1927)
- The oldest athlete I know I saw play in person: Marques Haynes (March 10, 1926)
- The oldest athlete I might have seen play, but I can’t remember if I was at a game when he actually pitched: Hoyt Wilhelm (July 26, 1922)
I was 40 years old when Clayton Kershaw first pitched for the Dodgers. He was 20. Brand, spanking new. Back then, he was a perfect toy for my midlife Dodger fan crisis.
Now, there are newer, flashier cars, and he doesn’t run quite like he used to, but he’ll always be my favorite. Classic.
We’re a generation apart, but I feel like we’re growing old together. And I think there’s going to come a day when I look back and think of him as the greatest pitcher of my youth.
Cody Bellinger’s absolutely incredible 2019 start has been covered from many different angles, and I don’t intend to repeat any of it here. I just want to add one thread to the tapestry.
It’s been years since I’ve cared about batting average, except when someone is batting .400. That number will always have magic for me. I’m more impressed, just as one example, by Bellinger’s .500 on-base percentage, which takes us beyond magic into Narnia territory.
Nevertheless, it’s Bellinger’s .420 batting average through the Dodgers’ first 30 games that I’m addressing today.
Normally, when someone is batting .400 or better, you assume he’s been lucky. That’s something you would suspect intuitively even before the analytical revolution began earlier this century. When Rod Carew, George Brett or Tony Gwynn chased .400 in my younger days, it reflected their greatness, of course, but also the understanding that they were catching a certain amount of breaks at the right time.
Right now, Cody Bellinger is earning every bit of his .420 batting average. According to Statcast, his expected batting average (xBA), which measures the likelihood that a batted ball will become a hit, is .428. His .420 is arguably underselling his performance this season.
You might be aware that Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles is closing in on the record for most consecutive hitless at-bats in the majors. If you’re a Dodger fan, you might be even more aware of who holds that record: Eugenio Vélez, whose 0-for-37 2011 season with Los Angeles enabled him to set an MLB record with 46 straight hitless at-bats.
But what you might not realize is that Vélez’s streak never ended. It is still active. In fact, so is Vélez. This past winter, he came to the plate 19 times for Aguilas de Mexicali, capping his seventh straight year in professional baseball since he last took a major-league at-bat.
On top of everything else, Vélez is still only 36 years old, turning 37 on May 16. He is a mere three years older than Davis. There’s still life in him yet.
So Davis may break this record. But as far as I’m concerned, this duel ain’t over.
Exciting news, everyone! Today is Clayton Kershaw’s birthday … which is the perfect release date for the audiobook version of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. The talented James Patrick Cronin reads my words out loud.
Order the audiobook today at Audible.com using the link tinyurl.com/dodgerpitchers-audible! Or order through Amazon, where you can continue to purchase print or digital copies as well!
If you enjoy or enjoyed Brothers in Arms in any format, please leave a review at Amazon. Thank you.
So many times in my life, I’ve heard how Major League Baseball players should be happy they’re getting paid to play a kids game.
Baseball is not a kids game. Baseball is a game, that kids happen to play, that can be unspeakably joyous, but that is almost punishingly adult.
Monday, I ordered a salad for lunch, because I wanted to eat something healthy.
I know when I do this, there are choices. I can ask for light dressing or dressing on the side, in order to combat the otherwise nearly inevitable flooding. That’s what most civilized people are forced to do.
Every so often, however, I test the better angels of my nature and order a salad without any specifics on the dressing, to see if a place can achieve what should be a simple equilibrium on its own. Monday was another try. Sure enough, the salad came with so much dressing that not only was each piece within just soaked, there was a thin liquid layer at the bottom of the To Go container. (Carry-out places should be particularly wary of this issue.)
But why do I have to do this? Why do stores and restaurants err so often on the side of too much, when you can’t remove dressing, instead of too little, when you can always add dressing?
While slurping my leafy lunch, I put a poll on Twitter: For salad orders where you don’t give instructions on the dressing, which is more common?
- Too much dressing
- Not enough dressing
I expect the results to rally America into solving this problem in the food services industry once and for all. Instead came this abomination …