Mar 16

Loney starts his march to 2012 home run title

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me pass along an item with the headline, James Loney: 2012 HR Champ?

You can click the link (which came via David Pinto at Baseball Musings) to see how Dave Fleming at Bill James Online explores the similarities between Loney and Ted Kluszewski, who hit 29 homers in 1952-53 combined, then 40 and 49 the next two seasons. But Fleming wasn’t actually saying that this at all likely to happen, and in fact, the suggestion seemed to be something out of the “#inmyheart” campaign launched by Stephen Colbert on Thursday — if it feels true, than it can be.

Nevertheless, it certainly was nice timing when Loney hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat today, leading the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory over Texas. Every little bit would help.

More from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… It is Loney’s offense, though, that will be the key to his season, and possibly to the Dodgers’ season as well. So far this spring, he is batting .357 (5-for-14), which he says is the result of finally honing in on one hitting style and sticking with it after years of constant tinkering with his stance and his mechanics.

It was something he began about midway through last season, keying a second-half revival in which he hit .320 with eight homers, 34 RBIs and a .380 on-base percentage after the break.

“I think I really just had an understanding of what I was doing as far as knowing what works for me and sticking to that and not swinging back and forth between different types of approaches,” Loney said. “The confidence factor is there. That is one thing no one can take away is your confidence.”

Loney, the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2002 who is entering his seventh season in the majors, was playing for the first time in five days because he had been battling soreness in one of his calves, but that has subsided. He said this is the best he has ever felt at the plate in spring training.

“There have been times when I felt good,” he said. “But now, I actually have a concept of what I want to be doing … in the box. I know what to do. I know how to go about it.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says he is relieved to see Loney sticking with a consistent approach at the plate.

“That is what I like,” he said. “I told him spring training is really a time when guys are searching for that feel. James sat out a couple of days and came back, and everything was exactly the same. I think that kind of made him feel good. I think he looks good right now. He is confident. I think it’s going to be an interesting year for him.” …

Ted Lilly and Kenley Jansen arguably had a body-switching moment, with Lilly allowing one hit in four shutout innings, only for Jansen to give up two home runs in the fifth.

* * *

  • See current Dodgers (plus Aaron Miles) in old-timey style thanks to these Topps Heritage cards featured by Ernest Reyes at Blue Heaven.
  • Re-live the on-field greatness of Jackie Robinson via this post at The Platoon Advantage.
  • Enjoy Dee Gordon’s Thursday steal while the Royals napped, at the end of this clip below.

Mar 16

Can you spare a square for the Dodgers’ next Jami?

Rangers at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Over at Variety, I indulged my TV-Dodger nexus with a short post on the potential that actress Jami Gertz could end up in the Dodger owners box. Here’s a quick excerpt …

With Tony Ressler a principal member of one of the final four groups currently in the running to buy the Dodgers, that leaves open the possibility that the franchise could have a new first lady from the world of television: Ressler’s wife, actress Jami Gertz.

GertzGertz has spent three decades in show business, but for me, she is famous for two particularly square roles: as one of the stars of early 1980s TV series “Square Pegs” (with Sarah Jessica Parker) and from the memorable “Seinfeld” episode, “The Stall,” as the girlfriend of Jerry’s (and phone sex operator on the sly) who couldn’t spare a square of toilet paper for Elaine. …

 

Mar 16

Dodgers having fun despite Thursday loss

Royals 8, Dodgers 5

  • Ivan De Jesus went 3 for 3 for the Dodgers, impressing Steve Dilbeck of the Times but leaving Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com no less skeptical about his future. Jackson also chronicles the latest example of Dee Gordon’s ridiculous speed.
  • Todd Coffey had his first hit, exhibition or regular season, since 2007, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Despite a two-walk, 27-pitch first inning, Chad Billingsley had an overall positive outing in the view of Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., with Don Mattingly agreeing.
  • Four of five batters against Mike MacDougal reached base, one on a fielder’s choice, and all four scored by the time the next reliever, John Grabow, was done.
  • In case you missed the highlights of Wednesday’s 9-1 victory over the Reds, Clayton Kershaw struck out six in four shutout innings, and A.J. Ellis and Adam Kennedy homered. Dodger relievers struck out six in five innings, allowing one unearned run.
  • Chris Withrow, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Josh Wall, Scott Van Slyke, Alfredo Silverio, Alex Castellanos, Shane Lindsay and Russ Mitchell were optioned or reassigned to minor league camp today.
  • In an extensively reported story, Gene Maddaus of L.A. Weekly cemented the kibosh — or enabled the kibosh — on purported Dodger ownership candidate Joshua Macciello. (Macciello issued a press release in his own words Thursday.)
  • Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs wonders if major-league teams should be more concerned with outbreaks of Valley Fever.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reviews the San Francisco Giants’ offseason. “Posey’s recovery from a grisly May leg injury will provide a boost to the Giants, while the additions of Cabrera and Pagan should make the offense less awful,” Dierkes writes. “Still, it’s likely Sabean will again be actively seeking run support for his top-notch pitching staff come the July trade deadline.
  • Looks like it’s coming down to Juan Pierre vs. Scott Podsednik for the final spot on the Phillies roster, writes Jonathan Nisula of Phillies Nation.
  • Photo of the week: Kansas City’s Everett Teaford and Tim Collins in Jonathan Broxton’s pants.

Mar 14

How big a gap between the Dodgers and the NL West favorites?

Dodgers at Reds, 7:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adam Kennedy, 1B
Jerry Sands, RF
Trent Oeltjen, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Wallach, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

I don’t think I’ve ever posted about Vegas odds as they relate to pennant races, but this set of numbers, e-mailed to me from Bovada, jumped out.

Odds to win the 2012 NL West
5/4 San Francisco Giants
2/1 Arizona Diamondbacks
11/2 Los Angeles Dodgers
7/1 Colorado Rockies
15/1 San Diego Padres

I wouldn’t make the Dodgers the favorites in their division, but I don’t think their chances of winning are so much worse than Arizona’s, and I think San Francisco should be even closer. Why the Giants would leap into preseason pole position, I’m not entirely clear.

* * *

Peter Guber’s a pretty familiar name around my office. During my first few years at Variety, the Hollywood producer (and Golden State Warriors minority owner) co-hosted a TV series with longtime Variety editor Peter Bart, and he also appeared as a keynoter at our Sports Entertainment Summit last July.

Guber has joined the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten ownership group bidding on the Dodgers, reports Bill Shaikin of the Times. According to Shaikin, the field has been narrowed down to this group and only three others: the ones led by Steven Cohen, Stan Kroenke and newly partnered Michael Heisley and Tony Ressler.

As hard as it is to believe, we’re nearing the zero hour.

* * *

Headlines that say it all, or at least a lot: “Gun battle interrupts Mexican League game, sends players diving for cover.” Frightening.

Mar 14

‘High Fives’ for new Dodger books

Join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness Tournament Challenge here.


You might remember Paul Haddad, the longtime Dodger fan whose childhood audio recordings of Dodger broadcasts provided source material for the ESPN documentary Fernando Nation. Haddad has now published a book based on those recordings: High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fernandomania — A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years, 1977-1981.

It’s a fun, sprightly read that I think any Dodger fan will enjoy. I was honored to be asked by Haddad to write the foreword, but you can find out much more about the book at Haddad’s website, Dodgerglory.com, including book excerpts and samples of some of Haddad’s recordings. Perhaps you might start by hearing Vin Scully call an inside-the-park home run by Davey Lopes in 1978, or Joe Ferguson’s memorable homer on the final Friday of the season to beat Houston in 1980. A treasure trove, I tells ya.

* * *

That’s not all from the bookshelf today. My past newspaper colleagues and longtime friends, Dodger team historian Mark Langill and publications director Jorge Martin, have put together a book, Dodgers: From Coast to Coast – The Official Visual History of the Dodgers, with 256 pages of first-person essays by past Dodgers, classic magazine articles and wonderful photos. Vin Scully wrote the foreword.

It will be released the day of the Dodgers’ home opener, April 10, and you can also order it online. Looks like another keeper.

Mar 13

Bandersnatch!

‘Twas brillig for our suddenly slithy toves the Dodgers, who had only made three errors all spring but got three errors from their shortstops alone today, accounting for two unearned runs in a 5-2 loss to Colorado.

Jerry Hairston Jr. did gyre and gimble in the wabe, making two of the errors while going 0 for 2. The poor day raised questions among the Jabberwock about whether Hairston could rise to the occasion should something decidedly unmimsy happen to Dee Gordon (who also made an error today). To which I offer these uffish thoughts:

1) One game is one game.
2) The plan to confine superior defensive shortstop Juan Uribe to third base isn’t all that likely to hold throughout the season.
3) Justin Sellers is likely to be the true backup shortstop at this point, whether he’s in the majors or the minors, so why so slithy?

Taking the vorpal blade of that last point, there’s surprise being expressed that Jerry Sands might not make the Opening Day roster and will instead be sent to rest by the Tumtum tree. Nonsense. Sands needed something of a perfect storm to come whiffling through the tulgey wood April 5: a solid spring at the plate combined with legitimate fears that Andre Ethier, James Loney or Juan Rivera wouldn’t be everyday players. But we knew all along that all three of those veterans were being handed those jobs to lose, and that Sands might easily be marginalized come the frabjous day.

* * *

  • Sandy Koufax could testify at the Bernie Madoff-related New York Mets trial, reports The Associated Press.
  • Larry Granillo explores a scary on-field 1969 incident involving Jesus Alou at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Matt Kemp and young fan.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Orel Hershiser and a pre-6-foot-8 Jordan Hershiser.
Mar 12

Dodgers’ offensive roll continues

The results of Spring Training games might not mean anything, but I’ll take good over bad in any form that it comes.  The Dodgers are 6-1-2 in March following today’s 9-1 victory over the Angels while doubling up their opponents in runs, averaging 6.44 per game while allowing 3.22.

Juan Rivera doubled and homered to drive in four runs, while Justin Sellers had a pinch-hit three-run homer in the sixth, leading the Dodgers’ attack. Center fielders Matt Kemp and Trent Oeltjen combined to reach base four times and score three runs.

Aaron Harang allowed a run on three hits in three innings and, in a landmark for Dodger starting pitchers, struck out two. Chris Withrow threw 2 2/3 shutout innings in relief, allowing four baserunners. Four other Dodger relievers threw scoreless ball.

Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver faced 12 batters, and half reached base.

Mar 12

We’re talking about what now?

Dodgers at Angels, 1:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr, 3B
Cory Sullvian, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Josh Fields, 1B
(Aaron Harang, P)

More than once already this morning, I’ve seen pieces making arguments that I didn’t think needed to be made.

First: No disrespect to Buster Olney, but I can’t imagine the Dodgers are going to hit Opening Day with a 13-man pitching staff, as he suggests is possible, especially with Chris Capuano in the bullpen because of the day off April 9.

David Schoenfeld of ESPN.com and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness were compelled to analyze the pros and cons of this — they’re correct in concluding that the 13-man staff would be a mistake, but this was one of those things that wasn’t really worth worrying about.

Barring anything out of the ordinary this spring, the Dodgers have six bullpen locks and an opening for a seventh reliever. After Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Todd Coffey and Mike MacDougal, the Dodgers are going to be deciding whether they think it’s worth hanging on to a non-roster invitee like Jamey Wright or keep Josh Lindblom from going to the minors. That’s it. Going with a nine-man bullpen and a four-man bench for the first four games of the season makes so little sense, I just don’t believe it’s a consideration. That 25th roster spot will go to Jerry Sands or an infielder.

* * *

This was the second of two topics today whose origin confused me. The first was Eric Seidman’s piece on Fangraphs, “Will A.J. Ellis develop any power?” I don’t mean to be critical at all — the piece is completely well-argued (spoiler alert: answer is probably not) — but I’m not understanding why the question is being asked.

There’s no reason to suspect that Ellis will suddenly become a slugger … but so what?  While it’d be nice if Ellis suddenly blasted balls out of the park, I think the Dodgers and their fans will all be quite happy if Ellis maintains his on-base skills over the long haul. How likely is it that he’ll do that? That’s a question worth exploring.

Seidman replied in the comments of his piece:

All good points, guys. Intention wasn’t to argue anything, really, just to take a historical look at a somewhat rare player. I think his OBP and defense make for a solid backup, but his slugging inability will hurt his effectiveness over 450+ PAs. Thought it was interesting that nobody has really had a similar OBP/SLG disconnect like his while also making it in the majors at a relatively older age.

* * *

Interesting tidbit from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Although the Dodgers are off to a sizzling start in the Cactus League with a 5-1-2 record — something that in reality means absolutely nothing — Mattingly is growing impatient with the unusual number of fundamental miscues.

“For me, we have gotten a little lazy lately,” he said. “We have missed some cutoffs and missed some signs. I think it’s just that part of the spring where we have to push ourselves to be a little better.”

* * *

The famous 1980 Pat Jordan piece for Inside Sports on Steve and Cyndi Garvey has been rerun in full by Alex Belth at Bronx Banter.

* * *

Jay Jaffe analyzes National League starting rotations at Baseball Prospectus.

Mar 11

Dodgers pitching to contact, winning

Join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness Tournament Challenge here.

Dodgers 5, Cubs 0

  • Following Ted Lilly’s three innings today, here is the combined line for Dodger starting pitchers in their past three day games: nine innings, six hits, two walks, zero runs, zero strikeouts.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr. and Matt Angle each had a hit and two RBI.
  • Trent Oeltjen had two hits and two runs.
  • The Dodgers’ embrace of the iPad and in particular an app from Bloomberg called “Sport Pitch Review” is chronicled in interesting detail by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Cory Sullivan is attempting a comeback of sorts after taking much of last season off to spend quality time with his daughter, writes Gurnick.
Mar 11

Fields emerges as leading Spring Training underdog

Cubs at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., DH
Mark Ellis, 2B
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Sands, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Trent Oeltjen, RF
Tim Federowicz, C
Justim Sellers, SS
Matt Angle, CF
(Ted Lilly, P)

Though I’m not wishing to take away anything away from Cory Sullivan, whose ninth-inning grand slam lifted the Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the White Sox late Saturday, I find myself thinking more this morning about Josh Fields.

No matter what he does in the spring, Sullivan is a 32-year-old fringe outfielder on a team with several stronger candidates. Never say never, but he remains a longshot to make a difference to the Dodgers and a much safer bet to become a Jason Romano-like footnote.

Fields, on the other hand, is still only 29 (younger than A.J. Ellis, for example), and he plays a position where the Dodgers are incredibly thin: third base. He also has power: 34 home runs in 713 major-league at-bats. That doesn’t mean he’s still not ultimately a Hector Gimenez in disguise, but there is a greater chance for Fields to mean something to the team.

The bar at third base for the Dodgers is so, so low: Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy. Fields is 7 for 11 with three extra-base hits so far in the spring, and if he keeps that up, you can see where he might play his way into the 25th spot on the roster and earn some starts at third base (and at first base against right-handed pitching, with Jerry Sands getting more seasoning in the minors).

Again, I’m not getting my hopes up that Fields is anything more than a 2012 version of Corey Smith, who went 7 for 12 last year in March and then disappeared. I’m also not convinced that his shaky glove (that includes 24 errors and negative Ultimate Zone Rating in 158 career games at third base) wouldn’t undermine his contributions at the plate. But I do know that the Dodgers need all the help they can get at the position, and that they would be much better off if Uribe were their top utility infielder instead of a primary starter at third base.

It can all all apart in a minute, but for now, Fields is one unexpected Spring Training sensation that I’m not going to reflexively dismiss, but rather will keep an eye on.

* * *

Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers a status update on the Dodger ownership race, a subject that I find myself with no desire to cover, despite its huge importance.

Mar 10

Eovaldi evolving

Dodgers at White Sox, 6:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Matt Kemp, DH
Juan Rivera, LF
Adam Kennedy, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Jerry Sands, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Ivan De Jesus Jr., 2B
(Chad Billingsley, P)

Dodgers 5, Mariners 5

Highlights:

  • Nathan Eovaldi duplicated Clayton Kershaw from the day before in throwing three shutout innings with no strikeouts.
  • Matt Chico and Josh Wall each pitched a shutout inning of relief with two strikeouts.
  • Josh Fields’ hot hitting continued: 2 for 4 with two RBI.
  • Matt Treanor homered in his first at-bat.
  • The Dodgers turned four double plays.

Lowlights:

  • Ronald Belisario allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk.
  • Alex Castellanos, who moved from left field to second base midway through the game, went 0 for 4 and also made an error that contributed to the unearned run.
  • Justin Sellers took a batted ball to the chin and had to leave the game.

Sidelights:

  • With one Mariner on and one out, the bottom of the fifth ended as J.P Hoonstra of the Daily News describes:

    … With (one out) and a runner on first base in the Mariners’ half of the fifth inning, Casper Wells lined a single to right field. Trent Oeltjen couldn’t come up with the catch but Wells mistakenly passed the runner, Michael Saunders, and was immediately called out. Oeltjen’s throw went to first baseman James Loney as Saunders took off for second base. The shortstop, Luis Cruz, didn’t realize that Wells was out and tagged second base with his foot thinking a force play was in effect. It wasn’t, but Saunders took a couple steps off the bag, Cruz tagged him out, and the inning was over.

  • Castellanos also completed a game-ending double play, catching a Tim Federowicz throw after a Wells strikeout and making the tag on Saunders.
  • Andre Ethier is day-to-day with back stiffness.
  • Don Mattingly to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com on the midseason firing of hitting coach Jeff Pentland:

    … “That coaching change wasn’t comfortable at all,” Mattingly said. “I love Pent, and I think he is really good at what he does. He has a ton of knowledge with the swing and how it works. It was tough, but somebody has to go if something is going badly, because you can’t get rid of the players. It happened to us in New York, whenever they would fire the manager or the pitching coach or whoever it might be. I always knew in that situation that we had failed as players. We let somebody down. We took the blame, but somebody had to go.” …

Mar 10

Paging Page

Join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness Tournament Challenge here.

Dodgers at Mariners, 12:05 p.m.
Justin Sellers, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Cory Sullivan, CF
Josh Fields, DH
Matt Treanor, C
Alex Castellanos, LF
(Nathan Eovaldi, P)

Former NFL defensive back Jarrad Page from UCLA earned a minor-league deal with the Dodgers following their open tryout. Bill Shaikin of the Times points to this 2005 Ben Bolch story about the two-sport athlete, now 27.

In other news, the Lakers have offered a contract to Matt Kemp. (Not really, but I’ve heard worse ideas …)

* * *

David Pinto of Baseball Musings points to a New York Times online piece that offers audio of the Mets’ first Spring Training game in their history. In part of the excerpt, Howard Cosell talks about and to Gil Hodges.

* * *

At Opinion of Kingman’s Performance, Evan Bladh remembers umpire Harry Wendelstadt, who passed away Friday.

Mar 09

Dodgers clobber Rangers

Dodgers 9, Rangers 0

Highlights:

  • Lots to choose from on a day the Dodgers had 16 hits while shutting out the opposition.
  • Matt Kemp singled and homered.
  • Alex Castellanos singled and homered.
  • Andre Ethier singled and tripled.
  • Griff Erickson singled and doubled.
  • A.J. Ellis walked and doubled.
  • Dee Gordon walked, singled and stole a base.
  • Justin Sellers walked and singled.
  • Juan Rivera homered for his first spring hit in 10 at-bats.
  • Dodger relievers Angel Guzman, Scott Rice, Fernando Nieve and Ryan Tucker combined for six shutout innings.
  • And oh yeah, Clayton Kershaw pitched three shutout innings against the American League champs, though he struck out none.
Mar 09

Jansen to have heart checked

Dodgers at Rangers, 12:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, DH
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Sands, 1B
Justin Sellers, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, LF
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

Kenley Jansen experienced shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat Thursday night, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, and is seeing a doctor today.

Jansen was on the disabled list in 2011 for an irregular heartbeat and began to take a blood-thinning medication. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more.

… “He had a little bit of flutters and shortness of breath like last year with the palpitations and his blood pressure was up,” said manager Don Mattingly. “He had trouble sleeping. Sue (Falsone, trainer) said it could be nothing, but she didn’t want to play around with it.”

Mattingly said he hadn’t heard of Jansen experiencing any problems since last year’s incident and added that Jansen is already on blood pressure medication and “not supposed to take any caffeine.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it since the issue last year,” he said. …

Update: Jansen has been cleared to resume workouts, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.