Last week, I wrote about how the 2020 Dodgers are talented, but October is scarier than ever. Now, let me balance it out with some good news about this particular postseason that could really play into the Dodgers’ favor.
Category: Managing (Page 1 of 3)
1) Good decisions can yield bad outcomes. Fans won’t care.
2) Bad decisions can yield good outcomes. Fans won’t care.
3) Many choices offer at best the lesser of two evils. Fans won’t care.
4) You might choose surprisingly off of private information. Fans won’t care.
5) Fans think their hindsight is true reality, dubious as that is. Fans won’t care.
6) You don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Fans won’t care.
7) Your successes may have more value than your flubs cost. Fans won’t care.
8) Sometimes, a team will beat you no matter what you do. Fans won’t care.
9) If your team falls short, you might deserve another chance. Fans won’t care.
10) You might, in fact, be a bad manager. Plenty of managers are. Some managers grow over time, some managers stagnate. Some never had enough to begin with. But ultimately, fans will judge you on the emotions you make them feel. Because fans care.
It’s the seventh inning of Game 1 of the National League Division Series … or maybe it’s the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series … or maybe it’s the 13th inning of Game 7 of the World Series.
The Dodgers are down a run … or maybe the score is tied … or maybe they are protecting a one-run lead.
But in any of the above cases, it’s critical for Los Angeles (the team and its city) not to allow anyone to score.
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.
If not for the double plays that his team grounded into during the seventh, eighth and ninth innings Saturday, Dodger pitcher Kenta Maeda would have been batting in the ninth inning of an absolute nailbiter in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
If not for the 4-3 lead the Dodgers had taken despite those double plays, Maeda — or a pinch-hitting Clayton Kershaw — might have been batting to keep the Dodgers alive.
If not for the Dodger bullpen’s work in holding that 4-3 lead, scheduled Game 4 starter Rich Hill would have taken the mound for Los Angeles to start the bottom of the 10th inning.
If not for Austin Barnes avoiding any injury that could have come in the final hour of the game, Max Muncy, who has never played catcher professionally, would have had to go behind the plate.
Any of these scenarios would have exposed Dodger manager Dave Roberts to toxic criticism. Instead, Roberts sashayed home to Los Angeles with a well-earned split of the first two NLCS games.
I’m here to tell you that even if the Dodgers had lost the game, Roberts made the right moves.
The team fell both times in the World Series to the Yankees. In 1978, the Dodgers lost their final four games in a row, and were wiped out by a combined 19-4 score in the final two.
The 1979 Dodgers were a disaster — in last place at the All-Star break before rallying to finish third in the division, but still with their worst record in more than a decade.
The 1980 Dodgers were a competitive team in a thrilling division race, but on the brink of completing an historic comeback, dissolved in a 7-1 defeat that makes Game 7 of the 2017 World Series look ultra-close.
So after four years at the helm, the 53-year-old Lasorda averaged 91 wins per season, with two division titles, while extending the Dodgers’ drought without winning a World Series to 15 years, the longest gap in Los Angeles history.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that if social media had existed back in October 1980, the cries for Lasorda’s head would have been deafening. I can still hear faint echoes from talk radio.
So — and this is a sincere question — should Lasorda have been fired before the 1981 season?
By Jon Weisman
Two critical factors in favor of Julio Urías starting today’s Game 4 of the National League Division Series fell away Monday.
No. 1 was that the Dodgers lost, making today’s game an elimination game. No. 2 was that the Dodger bullpen, already on its heels after Saturday’s postponement and Sunday’s 3 2/3 innings, was forced to throw 131 pitches Monday after Kenta Maeda’s fourth-inning exit.
Whatever you might speculate about Clayton Kershaw’s durability at this point, his typical outing is longer than a typical outing for the 20-year-old Urías. With that in mind, the Dodgers decided to put their best pitcher out there today.
One whom, it must be added, has actually thrived on three days’ rest, with a 1.89 ERA in 19 such innings over three starts.
“With Clayton, we had complete certainty from the training staff (and) doctors that health wasn’t a factor,” Dave Roberts said. “Obviously, it’s a game we need to win. One, Clayton gives us the best chance to win, and two, he gives us the best chance to go deeper into a game.”
Basically, the Dodgers need to play 18 innings of winning baseball over the next three days. The Dodgers will start attacking those innings with Kershaw, and then use the remaining 10 pitchers on their staff (except, one supposes, for Kenta Maeda) to cover the rest.
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By Jon Weisman
I guess my wife and I picked the wrong day to take the family to Disneyland.
Exactly 51 years and one day after Sandy Koufax threw the last perfect game by a Dodger pitcher, Rich Hill nearly did the same (in a 5-0 Dodger victory). And in the process, he became the first Dodger pitcher since Hiroki Kuroda in 2008 to throw seven perfect innings — and the first ever to do so without facing another batter.
The controversy arose from the latter fact. In the overnight chatter since Hill was removed, many have had a chance to weigh in, and so with the Dodgers’ next game already about to start, I’m just going to highlight a few points …
By Jon Weisman
Yasiel Puig isn’t in tonight’s Dodger starting lineup, which isn’t a surprise — least of all to Dave Roberts, who planned to give Puig a night off even before Tuesday’s mid-game benching.
Howie Kendrick is in left field, with Trayce Thompson moving to right. Puig was on the field this afternoon for early batting practice, but not in preparation to start.
“I let all the players know when they’re gonna play, when they’re not gonna play,” Roberts said. “I told Howie (Tuesday afternoon) he was going to be in there with Trayce and Joc. So, tonight is not punitive at all. It was already set.”
Roberts said he had an “extended conversation” with Puig after Tuesday’s game, and now they are moving forward.
“We talked about expectations and a vision and accountability,” Roberts said. “For me, you’ve got to be responsible for your actions.
“He understands, and he wants to be a better teammate. I’m not going to say a mistake like that’s not going to happen with him or any other player, but I think he wants to get better.”
By Jon Weisman
We’re not really the sum of all our parts. We’re more the multiplication of them.
The fractions of ourselves don’t neatly add up in tidy columns. They clash and they explode like calculus.
So just in the past several days, the answer to Yasiel Puig involves finding the product of this:
By Jon Weisman
Taking the mound tonight against the Dodgers is a pitcher with a 9.12 ERA, which might be enough to make you want to dial 9.11 if you’re an Angels fan.
But Matt Shoemaker is also a pitcher who had a 3.04 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings as recently as 2014. And even last month, he pitched back-to-back games — both on the road — in which he allowed two runs in 12 innings.
It’s almost as if there are two Shoes, and you don’t know which the Angels will put on tonight when they meet the Dodgers in the regular-season kickoff of the Freeway Series.
By Jon Weisman
If you’re wondering whether the Dodgers are content to be in first place in their division with a .500 record, the answer is no.
“We’re not playing great baseball,” Dave Roberts said this afternoon. “I think for the most part we’re catching the baseball, but for the pitching and hitting to sync up, we’re still waiting for that to happen.”
The debate about the Dodgers that’s happening right now around town and on social media is which of their two seemingly irreconcilable identities is true. Are they a first-place team, or are they a squad that loses at least as much as it wins?
New series starts today. Let's go! pic.twitter.com/mi9MndQb4V
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 29, 2016
By Jon Weisman
In the wake of their four-game losing streak, the Dodgers held a closed-door meeting at 3:30 p.m. in the clubhouse that Dave Roberts said essentially addressed the same issues he brought up after Thursday’s game.
“You just got to get back to the fundamentals and trying to play clean, crisp baseball and play every pitch,” Roberts said. “I think that there are signs of that. … Whether we’re winning games or not winning games, I still think there’s a process that needs to be in place, and you just don’t want things to get away from you. So right now, it’s kind of hit the reset button a little bit.”
Among other issues, Roberts has the sense that Dodger batters are pressing at the plate.
“You know, it’s funny — I think it’s just guys are trying too hard,” he said. “And you hear it all the time when guys aren’t swinging well, that guys want to do it so bad, it’s a little bit, ‘Try a little less hard.’ Because guys just start swinging the bat, and you start coming out of the strike zone.”
One thing not addressed in today’s meeting was the 80-game suspension of former Dodger infielder Dee Gordon that was announced late Thursday. Reaction to that news is amply covered at a number of sites, but Roberts echoed the feeling of many.
By Jon Weisman
When is a platoon not a platoon? According to Dave Roberts, when it isn’t quite a platoon.
Though the Dodgers have leaned heavily on lefty-righty matchups in constructing their offense this season, Roberts explained today some of the distinctions that he sees.
“Certain guys, their out pitch is a changeup,” Roberts said. “Certain lefties, it’s a breaking ball. So when typically, it’s a breaking ball is their best secondary, then it’s harder for the left-on-left — the visual. Guys that have a changeup as an out pitch, typically the left-handers can handle them more. There are other components to it as well.”
By Jon Weisman
It’s not that you can’t go home again — it’s just so strange to do it.