Jul 20

Vin Scully’s brush with Monday Night Football

If you haven’t read the 1964 Robert Creamer feature on Vin Scully, don’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, Scully told Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News that he was approached to be the original play-by-play man for ABC’s Monday Night Football.

… Scully stands by the Red Barber philosophy of having one voice in the booth narrate for radio or TV. He says he saw the trend of analysts taking over came back in the 1970s, when he was asked by ABC producer Chuck Howard if he’d be interested in becoming the first play-by-play man on “Monday Night Football.”

“He said it was going to be the hottest thing on TV — and he was right,” said Scully.

Scully declined, in part, because “the more I thought about it, I realized it would conflict with the Dodgers’ schedule.” But another reason he passed, he said, had to do with how he saw the play-by-play man’s role being diluted.

Keith Jackson ended up with the job for the first year of “MNF” in the debut year of 1970, with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith as the analysts. Frank Gifford replaced Jackson in 1971 and stayed on play-by-play until 1985, when Al Michaels came in, and Gifford moved to an analyst until 1997.

“Because of how football was going to be televised, you’d have one or two analysts now in the booth,” Scully said. “I had been doing games with Jim Brown on one side and George Allen on the other, and there were times I wasn’t sure, ‘Do I turn to him first for an opinion?'”

Scully said the emergence of John Madden, who he had as a partner at CBS, “really put the analyst front and center. And baseball picked up on that. The whole business changed in my opinion because of the way ‘Monday Night Football’ did it.”

Change, maybe not for the better, as far as how local baseball broadcasts were influenced by the national presentation. …

* * *

  • Mike Sandlock, at 96 the oldest living former Dodger, will have a meet-and-greet with the team today, writes Jack Cavanaugh for the Times.
  • J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News checks in with Javy Guerra, who just returned from caring for his ailing father.
  • In May 1960, a 24-year-old Sandy Koufax threw 785 pitches in a 22-day stretch, capped by a 193-pitch, 13-inning outing. Geoff Young discusses at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Via a conversation with Dodger president Stan Kasten, Dylan Hernandez of the Times analyzes the Dodger trade-deadline prospects.
  • De Jon Watson talked about Dodger minor-leaguers with Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Believe it or not, the Dodgers have been the fourth-most clutch team in baseball in 2012, according to a study by Ari Berkowitz of Beyond the Box Score.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods offers The Bad News Bears in Breaking Bad.
  • Happy birthday to Rachel Robinson, who turned 90 on Thursday.
Jul 18

Jim Eisenreich, baseball hero, Dodger nemesis

Phillies at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXVI: Kershawmdog Millionaire
Tony Gwynn Jr., RF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

Tuesday night, when Carlos Ruiz was hit by a pitch in the Dodgers’ dreary eighth inning, I got to thinking about what a constant thorn in the team’s side Ruiz is.

Still, he’s no Jim Eisenreich — the biggest nemesis to the Dodgers in my memory.

In 232 plate appearances from 1993-98, Eisenreich had a .405 batting average, .468 on-base percentage and .620 slugging percentage against the Dodgers. And then, when he signed with the team in ’98, he batted .197/.266/.244.

Eisenreich, who famously overcame a struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome, was a great story in baseball — except when the Dodgers were involved.

* * *

  • The most thorough review of Dodger Stadium beer options that I’ve seen is delivered by Eno Sarris of NotGraphs. “Depending on your goals, Dodger Stadium is either a boom or a bust from a beer perspective,” he writes.
  • Also on NotGraphs: Patrick Dubuque on baseball Shrinky-Dinks.
  • Here’s a nice feature on Dodger prospect Angel Sanchez by Chris Martinez for MLB.com.

    … Sanchez put school before baseball and attended the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, the only public university in the Dominican Republic. There he studied accounting and put school ahead of baseball, even as he dreamed of playing in the big leagues.

    “I had to go to school first because baseball is not forever,” Sanchez said. …

  • Buster Olney’s assessment of the Dodgers at the trading deadline for ESPN.com:

    … In my opinion, the Dodgers’ new ownership shouldn’t feel pressure to make the playoffs. The question that should be asked, in the midst of L.A.’s month-long slump, should not be “What the hell is wrong with this team?” Rather, it should be, “How the heck did these guys win so many games early?”

    It’s a flawed team, and the new ownership really hasn’t had much time to apply its vision of roster reformation. Overpaying to improve the 2012 Dodgers feels like an overreaction.

    But L.A. is being aggressive in trying to make the team better. Other execs continue to view the Dodgers as the front-runners to land Dempster. The club’s new owners seem intent on bolstering the team after its improbable early success. …

  • Stephen Fife has been sent back to Albuquerque, while Javy Guerra has been activated from the bereavement list.
  • Ted Lilly will throw a bullpen session Friday, reports Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
Jul 18

‘The Hall of Nearly Great’ now for sale

I’m happy to announce that “The Hall of Nearly Great,” an e-book with chapters on 42 ballplayers worth remembering despite falling short of the Hall of Fame, is now for sale for only $12. To make a purchase, click the image at right. 

The book includes my chapter on former Dodger outfielder Reggie Smith. Other former Dodgers in the book include Dick Allen, Ron Cey, Eric Davis, Kenny Lofton, Fred McGriff, Andy Messersmith, Fernando Valenzuela and Robin Ventura, as well as manager Don Mattingly. Here’s more on the project from its intrepid editors, Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin:

The Hall of Nearly Great is an ebook meant to celebrate the careers of those who are not celebrated. It’s not a book meant to reopen arguments about who does and does not deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement. Rather, it remembers those who, failing entrance into Cooperstown, may unfairly be lost to history. It’s for the players we grew up rooting for, the ones whose best years led to flags and memories that will fly together forever. Players like David Cone, Will Clark, Dwight Evans, Norm Cash, Kenny Lofton, Brad Radke, and many others.

This is not a numbers-driven project (although our contributors lean analytical in their views). Our plan isn’t to be overbearing with stats and spreadsheets to convince you that these players are worth remembering. What we aim to do, instead, is accomplish that same task through stories. Think of your favorite players growing up: they have their moments, games, seasons, quirks, personalities, and legends worth remembering and sharing. Now, combine the best of everyone’s forgotten favorites, and you’ve got a Hall of Nearly Great. Ask the people who have those memories and love for these players to write essays about them, and you have The Hall of Nearly Great ebook.

It takes a talented writer to give these players their due honors, and we’ve collected forty-two talented writers to do just that. These are All-Star writers, some of our favorite must-reads in today’s expansive baseball coverage landscape. They have diverse voices, diverse backgrounds and diverse interests, but they all love baseball and have a passion for the players they’re writing about.

R.J. Anderson * Cee Angi * Tommy Bennett * Ted Berg * Jon Bernhardt * Jon Bois * Grant Brisbee * Craig Brown * Dave Brown * Craig Calcaterra * Carson Cistulli * Cliff Corcoran * Bradford Doolittle * Craig Fehrman * Chad Finn * Steven Goldman * Owen Good * Jay Jaffe * King Kaufman * Jonah Keri * Matthew Kory * Will Leitch * Ben Lindbergh * Sam Miller * Rob Neyer * Marc Normandin * Eric Nusbaum * Bill Parker * Jason Parks * Jeff Passan * Joe Posnanski * Old Hoss Radbourn * David Raposa * David Roth * Jon Sciambi * Emma Span * Cecilia Tan * The Common Man * Wendy Thurm * Jon Weisman * Josh Wilker * Jason Wojciechowski

This is an ebook, available in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats, suitable for reading on a computer, iPad, Kindle, Nook, other e-reader, or smart phone. It is DRM-free, not because we want people to steal it, but because we’d rather put our efforts into making better products than limiting their convenience. Buy now for immediate download for only $12.

Note: If you buy a copy of the book using any of the links on this page, I will get a $3 slice of the payment. So thanks in advance for your support.

Click here to buy the book

Jul 17

Fife digs the groundball in effective debut

Fanning one batter in six innings, Stephen Fife had the fewest strikeouts of any Dodger starting pitcher in his first major-league game since Sandy Vance went six whiff-free innings in 1970.

But Fife stymied the Phillies tonight, allowing no runs after Philadelphia leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins doubled and scored on a Shane Victorino sacrifice bunt (yes, a sacrifice against a Triple-A pitcher in his debut with a runner on second and none out) and a Chase Utley groundout. Matt Kemp threw out Ryan Howard trying to score from second base on a Hunter Pence single to end the sixth inning, and Fife’s happy debut was complete.

He allowed four hits and three walks, while recording 13 groundouts. That can be a dangerous way to live if those grounders come close to finding holes, but Fife thrived.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, delivered consecutive hits from Andre Ethier, Adam Kennedy, James Loney and Luis Cruz to score two runs in the bottom of the second inning against Roy Halladay, who came off the disabled list to make tonight’s start. “Stubbornly,” as Vin Scully put it, the Dodgers took that 2-1 lead into the eighth inning.

And now you don’t know the rest of the story

Jul 17

Billingsley to disabled list, Fife to make debut

The Dodgers have placed Chad Billingsley on the disabled list, from which he is eligible to return Monday. Stephen Fife has been officially brought up from Albuquerque to make his major-league debut tonight against the Phillies and Roy Halladay.

Update: Here’s a link to Dodger pitching debuts since 1988.

Phillies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Stephen Fife, P

Jul 16

Billingsley MRI results optimistic

Phillies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Nathan Eovaldi, P

Word spread among the Dodger beat writers that Chad Billingsley’s MRI went about as positively as it could have gone, to the point that he was still in the running this afternoon to make a start Tuesday. The alternative appears to be a callup for Stephen Fife, the righthander who came to the Dodgers as part of the Tim Federowicz deal.

Fife is already on the 40-man roster, which makes him easy pickins. The Dodgers could make room for John Ely, but if it’s only a short-term move, they might not want to bother.

* * *

Since the Dodgers swept the Phillies in Philadelphia, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., the Phillies are 11-20 and the Dodgers are 11-21.

Jul 15

Un-done

The Dodgers allowed six unearned runs today. You know how long it had been since the Dodgers allowed six unearned runs in a game? You have to go all the way back to September 27, 2011 – thanks to good ol’ Rule 10.16(i). They all came in the 10th inning that night.

Think that was bad? On June 7, 1945, the Dodgers allowed 10 runs – all unearned – on eight errors. Perhaps they got a little crazy celebrating the anniversary of D-Day the night before.

So Los Angeles gave away two games in the standings this weekend.  That could hurt.

 

Jul 15

Billingsley scratched from today’s start

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Juan Uribe, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

News in today’s lineup:

  • A morning change pushed Chris Capuano into today’s start in place of Chad Billingsley, who has an as-yet undisclosed injury, according to Alex Angert of MLB.com. Jimmy Bramlett of LAist tweets that Billingsley will have an MRI on his elbow.

    “According to Donnie, Bills has had soreness in his elbow the last several starts but thought it was just normal wear,” Bramlett adds.

    The Dodgers say that Nathan Eovaldi will start Monday; Tuesday is TBD.

  • Matt Kemp is getting a rest day to protect his rehabilitated hamstring.
  • Juan Uribe is getting his first start at shortstop since May 4, 2011.
Jul 15

Home, home on the strange

One time during my junior year in college, I failed to set the parking brake on my Scirocco, and it rolled into the middle of an alley. I got a knock at my door saying that a policeman was giving me a ticket.

Don Mattingly had that moment where he made two trips to the mound at once, costing the Dodgers a relief pitcher.

I’m sure we’ve all had such a brain cramp, more times than we’d care to admit, and now Kenley Jansen has had one as well – allowing a steal of home and topping that with a throwing error that left the Dodgers, one strike away from victory, with a 7-6 loss to the Padres.

The defeat came on a night in which the recently recovered trio of Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier each reached base three times, with Ethier (four RBI) hitting a two-run home run that seemed to be a game-winner in the sixth inning.

Chad Moriyama looks at all the things that went wrong on that single play. Not to be forgotten is that the Dodgers also allowed a run-of-the-mill unearned point in the first inning.

* * *

Wanted to send along belated best wishes to Javy Guerra, who is in Mexico tending to his father, who suffered a heart attack. Guerra pitched Friday with the knowledge that his father was stricken. He has now taken literal and metaphorical line drives to the jaw this year, not to mention surgery on his knee, and it’s pretty impressive how he’s handled it.

And congrats to Josh Wall for his promotion to the big leagues. Wall’s Albuquerque stats aren’t impressive except for his 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings, so I’m not sure how much we’ll see him during this initial stint, but I will certainly look forward to it.

* * *

  • The Dodgers have had more games with extra-base hits than you might expect, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. Only five times this year have they gone extra-base-hitless, and that includes a no-hitter against them.
  • The Dodgers had their annual night for independent bloggers. Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A. offers a recap.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation passed along a 26-minute 1946 Pacific Coast League promotional film.
  • Minor-league basethief extraordinaire Billy Hamilton was the subject of a nice profile by Steve Dilbeck of the Times.
  • Newly released documentary “Ballplayer: Pelotero,” about two teenagers in the Dominican Republic with big-league aspirations, is getting largely positive reviews according to Metacritic.
  • One-time Baseball Toaster star Bob Timmermann has toed his way back into blogging with The Portable Griddle.
Jul 13

The resurrection of John Ely

One-time breath of fresh air John Ely is quietly having a stellar 2012, posting a 3.22 ERA in Triple-A Albuquerque with 9.7 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings. You just don’t see those stats with the Isotopes very often. James Bailey of Baseball America has more on the Pacific Coast League All-Star.

“It took a couple of years of getting my head beat off the wall a little bit in this league to try to figure it out a little bit,” Ely told Bailey. “The PCL can get to you, man. Ask anybody out here. It’s a tough league to pitch in with the travel and the ballparks and the matter that you’ve got some pretty darn good hitters in this league. I think I underestimated it a little and I probably didn’t take it quite as seriously as I should have.”

“A lot of it has to do with staying ahead and basically just throwing my best pitches when I have to throw them,” Ely added. “You know, making pitches when you need to and realizing, ‘OK, this is what I want to do with this pitch right now.’ ”

Though the Dodgers’ rumored trade-market pursuits include starting pitching, Ely would certainly seem to have some renewed value – either as a stopgap starter if the Dodgers still end up needing one, or as a trade chip.

* * *

  • Andre Ethier played in rehabiliation games Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to join Matt Kemp in tonight’s Dodger starting lineup, writes Alex Angert of MLB.com.
  • Ronald Belisario’s certainly got the right to go home to Venezuela during the All-Star break, but somehow it isn’t surprising that his return to the States was delayed, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com (pictured, right, with Ned Colletti). However, Belisario is expected to arrive for tonight’s game.
  • Yasiel Puig’s arrival in Arizona is documented by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
  • Kemp will be featured on the next edition of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, premiering Tuesday.
  • A midseason review of the Isotopes is provided by Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • It’s a quirk to say the least, but Zach Greinke of Milwaukee tonight will become the first pitcher since 1917 to start three consecutive games, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. He faces James McDonald of Pittsburgh.
Jul 12

Trade rumors, 2003

How times have changed …

In this Dodger Thoughts piece from July 2003, you can see Ken Rosenthal (then with the Sporting News) report that “the Dodgers continue to target Melvin Mora, and the Orioles might be willing to take third baseman Adrian Beltre if they also received quality prospects in the deal.”

Mora was an All-Star from 2003-2005. Still, it’s amazing to contemplate the idea of needing to give up Beltre and top prospects for him.

Jul 11

Variety Sports Entertainment Summit on Thursday

I’ll be spending Thursday at the second-annual Variety Sports Entertainment Summit, presented in association with the Sports Video Group at the Loews Hollywood Hotel and offering more than a dozen interesting panels about the intersection of sports and entertainment.

For you big spenders who can’t attend, there’s a live webcast you can sign up for.

Along those lines, here’s a look by Variety’s Dave McNary at a new wave of sports films and profiles on more than 30 people whose work bridges sports and entertainment, along with some additional thoughts on the landscape.

Jul 11

Adrian’s head


What’s the deal with Adrian Beltre and people trying to touch his head? Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation investigates in the clip above.

Elsewhere …

  • Chasing October, a book by David Plaut that focuses on the 1962 pennant race between the Dodgers and Giants, is getting a three-part review by Scott Andes of Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers his midseason report card on the Dodger position players.
  • James McDonald’s rise to prominence could be the result of increased use of his slider, writes Ben Duorino of Fangraphs. (Wasn’t the slider the key to Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young season?)
  • ESPN Sweet Spot bloggers preview the second half of the season for National League teams. Oh, and here’s the American League.
  • Matt Kemp is having a post-ESPYs bash tonight to benefit “Kemp’s Kids,” which provides support to underprivileged youth, writes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Meanwhile, Lyle Spencer of MLB.com writes about Kemp’s visit to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at starting pitchers potentially on the trade market.
  • Farewell, Kenny Heitz.