Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Other teams (Page 1 of 6)

The legacy of Babe and Roger in America

The last paper I wrote as an undergraduate student at Stanford was for a class called Sport in American Life, one of my favorites. It was taught by a terrific visiting professor, Elliot Gorn, and for me, there was no more perfect capper to my American Studies major than to be able to write an essay on baseball, in particular a comparison of the way fans and the media regarded Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.

It’s not a perfect essay, to be sure, but this lull in our baseball lives seems to me to be as good a time to revisit it as any. It has now been 31 years since I wrote it, or longer than it had been from the time Maris hit his 61st home run the time of the paper, which is amazing to me.

My favorite research discovery was that the same beat writer for the New York Times, John Drebinger, covered Ruth’s 60th homer in 1927 and Maris’ record-breaking blast in 1961. The contrast in style between the two stories by the same man might have partly been a reflection of the times, but it still spoke volumes to me. 

Also of note is the clear influence Bill James had already had on me by then. I had started buying his annual editions of his Baseball Abstract in 1981, when they were self-published and advertised in the classifieds of The Sporting News. By the time I was working on this paper, James had become much more widely read but was still very much a revolutionary. I quoted him liberally in this paper, and while my work didn’t approach his, the spirit of trying to distinguish between myth and reality was already strong. In a way, this might have been among my first, proto-Dodger Thoughts piece of writing.  

Anyway, here it is. (You might need to zoom in with your browser to read it more easily.)

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The Astros deserve harsher punishment, but beanballs are not the answer

“I would lean toward yes,” Stripling said. “In the right time and in the right place. Maybe I give up two runs the inning before and I got some anger going. Who knows? But yeah, it would certainly be on my mind.”

* * * 

No active Astro player has been punished for the sign-stealing scandal, and that’s wrong. Something should happen, right? Even the kinds of cheating that baseball holds in a warm place in its heart, like scuffing a baseball, get sanctioned when the details come out in the open. 

Understandably, into that vaccum, calls for frontier justice have increased, as you can see from the Ross Stripling quote above. If Stripling, one of the most cerebral players in the game, is thinking an eye for an eye, you can imagine what a large cross-section of ballplayers are pondering — not to mention aggrieved fans out for blood.

As much as the impulse is understandable, this can’t happen.

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Gleyber Torres and the myth of Dodger passivity

Gleyber Torres has never played for the Dodgers, but he has come to have a peculiar place in Dodger lore. 

People keep saying that the Cubs’ July 25, 2016 trade of Torres, then a 19-year-old mega-prospect, with three other players to the Yankees for super reliever Aroldis Chapman is an example of what the Dodgers need to start doing in pursuit of an elusive 21st-century World Series title.

Supposedly, Torres is the canary in the Dodgers’ coalmine of caution.

“Their organizational philosophy prevents them from making the kind of the deal the Chicago Cubs did in their championship season in 2016, ending a 108-year drought,” wrote Dylan Hernandez in the Times this weekend, though he’s far from the only one to make such an argument. 

Here’s what this theory ignores: 

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Mike Mussina, 1988

 

This piece below on Mike Mussina has previously run on Dodger Thoughts

* * *

As I heard reports that the career of New York Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, who has 215 victories and a 3.59 ERA, might be fast approaching the end — though things have been looking better lately — I went looking for a feature I wrote about the righthander in 1988, while he was a freshman at Stanford and I was a junior.

I was fortunate enough to cover the Cardinal’s College World Series championship in Omaha, Nebraska for The Stanford Daily that June — during a week which found Mussina and I both taking final exams (same time, different tests) in a small Holiday Inn or Marriott conference room. But the first time I sat down with the future Oriole and Yankee was in his dorm room two months earlier.

The following article ran in the Daily on April 14, 1988. I thought it would be fun to revisit it here, a meeting between a young ballplayer and a young (and somewhat boosterish) writer …

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After wielding attire iron at Dodgers, it’s Joe Simpson who should be embarrassed

I’m not nearly the first tonight to weigh in on the bizarre, absolutely out-of-nowhere manufactured controversy in which Braves announcer and one-time Dodger outfielder Joe Simpson ripped his original team for their non-uniform batting practice attire tonight, but I want to make a few particular points about it.

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Video: Rick Monday on playing at Wrigley Field

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Before Saturday’s game, Dodger broadcaster Rick Monday, a Chicago Cub before his trade to the Dodgers in 1976, talked about the nuances of playing ball in Wrigley Field.

— Jon Weisman

Vin Scully on the Dodgers-Giants rivalry

vin-1961By Jon Weisman

This morning, Vin Scully spoke on a conference call with the national media. Given the series beginning tonight at Dodger Stadium and the fact that he will call his final game October 2 in San Francisco, several questions circled around the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.

Here’s a sampling of what he had to say …

Sharing a memory of Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges:

With Russ, when I was back in New York, I can actually remember one night in his kitchen harmonizing with Russ and Ernie Harwell, one of the beautiful memories in my entire life.

On broadcasting Dodgers-Giants games in San Francisco, starting in 1958:

First of all, when we arrived at Seals Stadium, they did not really have any kind of a radio booth. We didn’t televise. So we actually were one row behind the regular fans, and once they realized that we were doing, for instance, a beer commercial live, why, they’d start hollering, just good-naturedly, but they’d start hollering the names of all the other brands of beer that they could possibly think of. So that taught us to record all the commercials rather than be heckled by the fans. And (also), in all honesty, I’d be doing the game at Seals Stadium, and a fellow would turn around and just say to me, “Do you have a match?” It was that informal and that close. So that was an experience. But it was new, it was exciting, and the fans were fun.

At Candlestick, the wind was a nightmare, but I also thought that the surroundings affected the personality of the audience. I could be completely wrong, but it was cold and raw, windy, and I think the people in the stands were unhappy and sometimes would take their unhappiness out. I mean, we actually had one or two players, if I remember correctly, go up into the stands over somebody making some terrible remark.

But once they moved to AT&T Park, it’s completely different. The fans are good-natured, they’re happy, they’re fair, they’re wonderful. And although I certainly know nothing about mass psychology and all that stuff, I think the weather at Candlestick kind of embittered the fan, and the weather at AT&T has made it a wonderful party atmosphere. No meanness at all.

On the essence of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry:

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#PitchtoGoldschmidt worked for Dodgers in 2016

By Jon Weisman

As if to remind us not to get too cocky, Paul Goldschmidt scored the winning run Sunday against the Dodgers, in the last of the 173 innings they played against Arizona this year.

Nevertheless, the agony of wondering why the Dodgers would ever pitch to Goldschmidt took a vacation in 2016.

Goldschmidt, whose 1.085 OPS against the Dodgers from 2012-15 was the highest of any National League West batter, had only a .265 on-base percentage and .368 slugging percentage (.633 OPS) against Los Angeles this year.

In 83 plate appearances, the Dodgers walked him six times and took their chances 77 others. In those 77, they got 61 outs, including a sacrifice fly.

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The battle for first place: Dodgers-Giants preview

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

So, did you hear the Giants are coming to town?

Though we’re more than a month removed from the All-Star Break and more than 75 percent through the 2016 regular season, tonight marks the start of the second half of Dodgers-Giants 2016: nine games, split over three series, across the next 30 days.

Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com, Phil Rogers of MLB.com and Sarah Langs and Mark Simon of ESPN.com have put together a pretty good collection of trends leading into this week’s series, to which I’ll add these items:

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What can Julio Urias expect in his first start?

https://twitter.com/Dodgers/status/735882899187060736

By Jon Weisman

Once Julio Urias takes his big-league ready stuff (detailed here by Ben Badler of Baseball America) to the mound Friday and throws his first pitch at Citi Field against the New York Mets, the immediate question will be — how many more pitches will he throw?

Urias’ season high in the minors this year is 82 pitches. That was spread across six innings, or 13.6 pitches per start — which is basically a Clayton Kershaw level of efficiency that you can only hope he might approach in his MLB debut. His Double-A high with Tulsa in 2015 was 89 pitches.

Someday, Urias will be allowed to break the restraints, but for now, you can’t imagine the 19-year-old hitting triple digits, and the Mets will no doubt be on a mission to make him build up that pitch count as early as possible.

To that end, I asked New York-based MLB.com columnist, Statcast expert and longtime Dodger blogger Mike Petriello what to expect from the Mets’ offense.

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Video: Angels pay tribute to Vin Scully

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In a quiet, semi-private but warm gathering before Thursday’s game, the Angels honored Vin Scully, who made his last regular-season trip to Anaheim as a broadcaster.

Former Dodgers including Mike Scioscia, Alfredo Griffin, Mickey Hatcher and Ron Roenicke were joined by Mike Trout and Jared Weaver in making a lovely presentation.

Fabian Ardaya of MLB.com has a story to complement the video above, and Jon SooHoo has a picture at the Dodgers Photog Blog.

— Jon Weisman

Dodgers look to get jump on Angels in Freeway Series

St.Louis Cardinals vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Angels at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Howie Kendrick, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Joc Pederson, CF
Trayce Thompson, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Kenta Maeda, P

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.

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After solid opening fortnight, Dodgers arrive in Atlanta

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Despite a MLB-high 10 players on the disabled list, the Dodgers still opened the season 8-5 — first in the National League West, third in the NL. They did it entirely within their division, with more than half the games against their likely top challenger, San Francisco (the Dodgers went 3-4). They lost four leads, and won 62 percent of their games anyway.

This week’s road trip takes the Dodgers to Atlanta, where hopes will be high for a sweep (however rare those are on the road against any team), and then to Colorado, which frequently can feel like a Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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Rags to Royals to riches

Congrats to Kansas City. With apologies for creating a false dichotomy, whose past 27 seasons (1989-2015) would you rather have, those of the Royals or those of the Dodgers?

— Jon Weisman

World Series Game 1 had something for everyone — even Dodger fans

By Jon Weisman

“I just hope for a memorable World Series, something we’ll remember for generations,” Mark Langill wrote Tuesday. Then that night, Game 1 between the Mets and the Royals delivered, offering so much that even Dodger fans still nursing their playoff wounds had to marvel.

Moreover, it wasn’t hard to find several Dodger connections to Kansas City’s marathon 14-inning, 5-4 victory over New York.

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