Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Profiles (Page 1 of 3)

How lefty Grant Dayton found the feel in 2016

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Grant Dayton is a 28-year-old rookie who had a 9.26 for Triple-A Oklahoma City last summer.

Since then, something wicked this way came.

Making his Major League debut July 22, Dayton has a 2.05 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings for Los Angeles, putting him on everyone’s shortlist for the postseason roster. It’s not exactly something one would have easily predicted 12 months ago.

“I don’t know what happened to me last year, to be honest,” Dayton said during the Dodgers’ last homestand. “I was having a great year, and then I got traded. And then I lost feel for all my pitches. It was definitely mental, but I have no idea why it happened.

“Looking back on it, I don’t know if I’d be here if it didn’t happen.”

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Culberson joins pantheon of Dodger heroes


Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

He stood at the plate as Charlie Culberson. Twenty-four seconds later, his helmet flung in the air, his feet barely touching the ground, he returned … as Charlie Culberson. 

Never before in Los Angeles Dodger history had a player stood in the batters’ box with no one on base, taken a swing — and won a division title. But that’s exactly what Culberson did today, sending the Dodgers to the playoffs with a 10th-inning, walkoff home run to beat Colorado.

“I’m floating right now,” Culberson said. “It’s awesome. I couldn’t have written it up any better.”

Culberson’s happy drive to left field was an intoxicating blend of Steve Finley, who delivered the 2004 National League West title with a grand slam, and Dick Nen.

Nen was the Dodger who, in his first Major League game on September 18, 1963, homered in the ninth inning to keep the Dodgers alive for a critical extra-inning victory in their World Series championship season.

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The 27-year-old Culberson is considerably more experienced — today’s was his 178th game in the big leagues — but still much closer on the fame-obscurity spectrum to Nen than Finley.

“It (speaks) to how he goes about what he does,” Andrew Friedman said. “Great role player. Knows his role, fits in really well with the clubhouse — how much he cares. There are so many different aspects that make him very fitting to be the one to hit the walkoff.”

This was hardly Culberson’s first big game for the Dodgers. It wasn’t even his first big 10th inning. On April 9, he saved Los Angeles in a game at San Francisco, making dazzling plays at both shortstop and left field, and going 2 for 5 with the game-winning double in a 3-2 victory.

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But it was the biggest, putting him in the ring of regular-season Dodger heroes that includes Nen, R.J. Reynolds, Finley and a select number of others.

“He was a non-roster invitee (to Spring Training), he was up and down all year long and he did whatever you asked,” Dave Roberts said. “I embraced him earlier, and he said outside of his baby, that’s the biggest moment of his life.”

Culberson finished the game 3 for 5, to raise his on-base percentage in 58 plate appearances with the Dodgers to .310 and his OPS to .696. For a defense-first player, that’ll do.

Still, he had gone 25 months since hitting a Major League home run. He had missed all but five games of the 2015 season recovering from a bulging disk and back surgery. He spent most of 2016 in Triple-A.

And now, he’s Charlie Culberson.

“The Dodgers gave me an opportunity to play,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just happy to be here and be part of this awesome team. … I’m just fortunate to put on a uniform and be able to play baseball.”

Vin His Own Words: An extended 2014 interview


Before the 2014 season, Vin Scully gave us an extended interview about his life and career that we presented over 21 pages in the commemorative 2014 Dodger Yearbook. Here, for the first time online, are those pages: Vin His Own Words. Click either image, and enjoy.

— Jon Weisman


Sandi Scully: The wind beneath Vin’s wings


If there’s no one whom we’re bigger fans of than Vin Scully, there’s no bigger fan of his than his wife, Sandi. For our Dodger Insider tribute to Vin Scully, Mark Langill provided us with this feature on the First Lady of the Vin Scully Press Box.

Click here to read the entire story.

— Jon Weisman

On this day 100 years ago, Jerry Doggett was born


doggett-1980s-headshotBy Jon Weisman

As we reach the waning moments of Vin Scully’s 67 seasons with the Dodgers, let’s pause for a moment to remember his broadcast partner for nearly half of those years, Jerry Doggett, born 100 years ago today on September 14, 1916.

Like Scully, Doggett wanted from childhood to be a broadcaster, as Larry Stewart wrote in this obituary for the Times, after the 80-year-old Doggett passed away in July 1997.

Doggett, born in Moberly, Mo., grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, listening to St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Cub broadcasts and dreaming of being a baseball announcer.

After graduating from Northwestern and spending three years in the Navy, Doggett got a job doing odds and ends at a Chicago radio station. He got his first full-time announcing job in 1938 at radio station KFRO in Longview, Texas.

After working in Longview for three years, Doggett went to WRR in Dallas, where he spent the next 15 years announcing Texas League games and calling the Game of the Week for the old Liberty Broadcasting System.


Doggett joined the Dodgers in 1956 — 60 years ago this September, as team historian Mark Langill pointed out to me, adding that Scully handed over the ninth inning of Sal Maglie’s September 25 no-hitter to the 40-year-old rookie as a kind of christening.

You can also hear Doggett here from April 16, 1957, on his first Opening Day with the Dodgers — and last in Brooklyn.

scully-doggett-1958For the Dodgers’ first 19 seasons in Los Angeles, Scully and Doggett were the only radio voices fans knew, each calling the game separately, each working with folksy, knowledgeable styles at once distinct and complementary.

In 1977, Ross Porter became a third individual voice, with the Dodgers continuing the solo booth past 1987, when Don Drysdale succeeded Doggett.

For a kid like me raised in that era, Doggett was very nearly as integral to the Dodger experience as anyone.

“Jerry deserves every nice thing that can be said about him,” Scully told Stewart. “He was one of my closest friends and the best partner anyone could ever have.

“He never complained about not getting more of the limelight, he never showed any ego or any of that baloney. Jerry Doggett was just a terrific guy, and I will miss him forever.”


Yasmani Grandal returns to his hard-hitting ways

Grandal power

By Jon Weisman

Sunday brought another homer for the catcher who leads Major League catchers in homers, Yasmani Grandal.

Grandal has actually surpassed Justin Turner in adjusted OPS (126 OPS+) and trails only Corey Seager on the Dodgers. His impressive year still seems to be operating under the radar, but we did make him the cover story in a recent Dodger Insider magazine.

“Whoever tells you that they say, ‘I’m going to hit a home run here,’ and they’re thinking about it and they hit it, not too many guys can do that,” Grandal said. “If you think about it, it’s probably not going to happen. My main point throughout the whole season is being able to hit the ball hard, and wherever it goes, it goes.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at

The Dish: Off the field with … Trayce Thompson

Trayce Dish

By Jon Weisman

Trayce Thompson might be far from returning to the playing field, but he isn’t far from our hearts. In the most recent Dodger Insider magazine, we asked Thompson about his off-the-field thoughts and interests for our regular profile, “The Dish.”

Click the image above to enlarge. 

Despite not having played since July 10, Thompson remains fifth on the Dodgers with 13 homers, seventh with 11 doubles and tied for second with five stolen bases.

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at

Challenge accepted: After 10 years in the Majors, Howie Kendrick reinvents himself

Kendrick open

By Jon Weisman

Howie Kendrick had one of his best weeks as a Dodger over the past seven days, going 10 for 21 with a walk, a home run and five doubles for a 1.357 OPS.

At this moment, Kendrick’s adjusted OPS for the 2016 season is 100, which is the equivalent of league average. But this has been anything but an ordinary season for Kendrick, who had to adjust to becoming the Dodgers’ primary left fielder after spending the previous 10 seasons almost entirely at second base.

In the cover story of the most recent Dodger Insider magazine, we talked to Kendrick as we detailed the transition.

“I learned a long time ago you have to put your ego and your pride on the backburner and just go out and play,” said Kendrick, who already has met or exceeded his 2015 totals in doubles, walks and stolen bases. “Because all that matters is, is your team going to win the game? What can you do to help your team win that day?”

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Beginning this year, the Dodgers merged their previously separate Playbill and Dodger Insider magazines into one publication (at least 80 pages per issue) with a new edition available each homestand plus one in October, 13 issues total. It is distributed at auto gates (one per vehicle) and via Fan Services for those who use alternate transportation. Dodger Insider magazine includes news, features, analysis, photos, games, stadium information and more. Fans who still wish to subscribe can do so at

As others gush about his future, A.J. Ellis stays in the present

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

You hear it all the time. It’s almost like his name isn’t his name anymore.

He’s not A.J. Ellis. Nope, not just.

He’s “A.J. Ellis, he can do anything he wants in the game after he retires.”

The entire baseball world is like a grandmother gushing about her son’s son, so proud and so eager to show him off: “You’ve got to come and see the A.J.”

For good reason. Smart, affable, funny: Ellis is a dream candidate for a post-playing position. Baseball has seen its share of player-managers, but Ellis walks onto the field before a game, dons a headset for an interview, and just like that, you’re wondering if there could ever be an announcer-manager.

The only thing is … Ellis isn’t there yet. Not nearly.

Even at age 35, his mind is still focused between the lines. He has never been one for looking too far beyond, and he’s not starting now.

“I try not to,” he said earlier this week, shortly after a workout in Dodger Stadium’s sudden summer heat. “If you’re too worried about the future, your anxiety will just destroy you as well. So I do my best really to just stay in the present, and try to get better every single day.”

In short, his ballplaying mortality will have to wait.

This isn’t a personality shift, a shield he has thrown up to hide from his birthdays. Ellis has been this way since before he turned pro — before he knew he’d even have the chance.

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Champ and Joc Pederson, living life

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Joc and Champ Pederson combined to produce a wonderful, multimedia piece for the Players Tribune on their relationship and their approach to life. It’s a must-read, so go check it out now …

— Jon Weisman

Rob Segedin: Infield candidate today, front-office candidate tomorrow

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Rob Segedin double-majored in finance and business management in college. That college happened to be Tulane, the alma mater of a certain Dodger president of baseball operations, also known as Segedin’s boss.

Segedin said he first learned about Andrew Friedman while in school because Chad Sutter and Jack Cressend, his coaches at Tulane — where he was the school’s 2008-09 student-athlete of the year, during the time Friedman was a Tampa Bay Rays executive — were previously teammates of Friedman on the Green Wave baseball team. While the 27-year-old infielder isn’t necessarily following in Friedman’s footsteps, you could say he’s walking in proximity.

“Yeah, right now I’m currently getting my MBA from Indiana online,” Segedin said, “so when I get done with baseball, I can stay in the game as long as possible, whether it’s in a coaching role or front-office role.”

Getting a graduate degree in business while pursuing a graduate degree in baseball can’t be the easiest thing in the world, but it has certainly set up Segedin for a fulfilling present and a bright future.

“All my electives for my MBA are in business analytics, because it’s gonna transition, whether it’s in baseball or whether it’s in the real world,” he said. “That’s the way the game is going, so if you want to be in those roles in the future, you’re going to have to have some type of background in that. It’s the new wave of baseball.”

Segedin isn’t ready to trade in his baseball jersey for the button-down shirt, however.

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Charlie hustles: Culberson goes distance in roster bid

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

You’re supposed to know better than to fall in love with players like these, but …

With one out separating the Dodgers from a 2-1 loss to the Angels on Thursday, Charlie Culberson hit a soft grounder to the left of first base. C.J. Cron ranged to his right as Javy Guerra ran from the pitcher’s mound to catch Cron’s throw and cover the bag. Somehow, Culberson outraced Guerra to first base, beating Guerra for an infield single.

For those few suspenseful seconds, you rooted for Culberson as he pushed with all his speed and will to get there, get there, get there … and when he actually got there, you smiled, even as you couldn’t quite believe it.

One batter later, the Dodgers lost the game. And despite the single raising his March OPS to .907, accompanying near flawless fielding at three infield positions, Culberson remained on the same precipice where he began the day — on the yes-or-no fringe of the Opening Day roster, at the whim of teammate health and the Dodger front office’s broader view of how to construct the team out of the gate.

So what did it all mean?

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Austin Barnes well-positioned for step forward

Los Angeles Dodgers Austin Barnes throws to second during workout


Dodgers at Giants, 12:05 p.m.
Carl Crawford, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Chase Utley, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Kiké Hernandez, SS
Micah Johnson, 2B
Cody Bellinger, 1B
(Zach Lee, P)

By Jon Weisman

Before the 2015 season, Austin Barnes had played 195 professional games at catcher, and nearly the same amount (166) at second base and third.

So it came as something of a surprise that the Dodgers had him dedicate last season exclusively to playing behind the plate, save for single appearances at second and third with the big-league club in September.

The year paid off in terms of Barnes’ development as a backstop, and now, the Dodgers have put the other positions back on the table — all good news for Barnes’ Major League aspirations.

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How Mike Bolsinger hopes to seize latest opportunity

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

The first four times this year that the Dodgers faced their opponents’ starting No. 3 hitter — Jose Abreu on Thursday, Prince Fielder today — they got four strikeouts, by four different pitchers.

The fourth came today from Mike Bolsinger, whose fate for the second spring in a row has become much more interesting, in the wake of injuries to more established starting pitchers.

Through his first 16 starts in 2015, Bolsinger had a 2.83 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 89 innings. He didn’t pitch in the Majors in August, after the Dodgers’ big trade deadline moves, and by the time he returned in September, things weren’t the same. In his final five starts, he lasted 20 1/3 innings and allowed 20 runs (16 earned).

Some say that the August disruption to his routine did him in, but Bolsinger does admit that by the time September came around, he was worn down.

“I think it was just wear on my body,” he said after throwing two shutout innings against Texas today. “If you look at what my curveball was at the beginning of the year to what my curveball was at the end of the year, it didn’t have that life in it and that tumble. I don’t think my arm had that life in it.

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At 41, Jamey Wright revels in his last chance

Los Angeles Dodgers Jamey Wright is introduced to the team

By Jon Weisman

Jamey Wright has a wife, a 12-year-old daughter and two boys — 7 and 9. Wright turned 41 in December, and he’s thrown more than 2,000 innings in the Major Leagues.

With family and Father Time beckoning, the time for Wright to hang up the cleats for good seems pretty obvious.

But it was that wife, and that daughter, and those two boys who told Wright he should try to extend his ballplaying dreams one year longer.

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