Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Thinking out loud (Page 3 of 7)

The Algebra of Yasiel Puig

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

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:

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A Dodger fan’s state of mind

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers at Padres, 1:40 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Howie Kendrick, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Trayce Thompson, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasiel Puig, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

It has been, if one weren’t to mince words, an ugly time.

The Dodgers have lost four straight, six of their past seven, 16 of their past 25.

Since April 25, when they were 12-7, the Dodgers have played .360 ball and have lost eight games in the standings to the National League West-leading Giants, who are 17-8 in that span.

On Saturday, the Dodgers lost when Chin-hui Tsao threw 12 of his final 14 pitches of the game out of the strike zone, forcing in the game-winning run.

“We’re finding different ways to lose games and I haven’t seen this one,” Dave Roberts said afterward. “It’s a tough one and to try to defend it, having a hard time.”

The only thing harder to watch than the final score of the games has been the frustration of the fans, because that’s really whom the games are for.

I’ve been blogging about the Dodgers a long time now, coming up on 14 years. This is when I usually step up and make my attempt at “it’s always darkest before the dawn” arguments. I’ve hesitated, not because I believe any less in those arguments, but because I believe less that the audience for those arguments is willing to hear them.

Nonetheless, there are certain fundamental things I feel worth saying, however succinctly. You either buy in, or you don’t …

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A meaningful tribute to Louis Coleman’s grandfather

Louis Coleman stands during introductions at the Dodgers' home opener April 12. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Louis Coleman stands during introductions at the Dodgers’ home opener April 12. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)


Harold Louis Coleman Sr.

By Jon Weisman

As you know, Louis Coleman’s grandfather, Harold Louis Coleman Sr., passed away last week. That’s about all we knew about the Dodger reliever’s need to go on bereavement leave.

But thanks to a column by Coleman’s uncle, Billy Watkins, in Jackson, Mississippi’s Clairon-Ledger, we now know much more.

Watkins’ piece is not only a reflection on his own uncle, but a reflection on our priorities, our choices and our lives.

… I asked Uncle Harold a few years ago something about my maternal grandfather, who I loved deeply. Uncle Harold was one of the few still alive who knew the answer and the only one I felt comfortable asking about it. Understand, it wasn’t concerning anything illegal or shameful. It was merely something I wanted to know about my grandfather.

“I’ll tell you,” Uncle Harold said to me. “But you have to drive to Schlater to hear it.”

It was his way of inviting me to come see him.

I never made that trip. So whatever he would have said to me was lowered with him into the black Delta earth late Saturday afternoon.

My ignorance, arrogance and apathy haunt me. …

Billy Watkins

Billy Watkins

Watkins also wrote this passage on Louis Coleman (that is, Harold Louis Coleman III):

… Hal and Kathy’s son, Louis, spoke at the funeral.

Louis is a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I read on the team website the night before: “Louis Coleman has been placed on the bereavement list following the death of his grandfather. Also, the Dodgers called up … ”

One line. I wish all Dodger fans could’ve heard Louis’ tribute. He didn’t dance around the fact that his “Pappy” was “always right” and, at times, not the easiest person to get along with. He called him “a man’s man.”

Louis Coleman pitching Monday against the Marlins, in his first game back after bereavement leave. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodger)

Louis Coleman pitching Monday against the Marlins, in his first game back after bereavement leave. (Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

“But he had a way of making things simple,” Louis said. “I used to throw at a tater sack hung across a barbed wire fence when I was growing up. That was my target.”

As a member of the Kansas City Royals in 2011, Louis earned his first save at Yankee Stadium in New York and his first win at Fenway Park in Boston.

“And to this day, if I can’t find my control, I can hear Pappy saying, ‘Just hit the tater sack.’ ”

A little more than 48 hours after delivering that talk, Louis was back with the Dodgers, back on the mound in a one-run game against the Miami Marlins in the seventh inning. Louis was perfect. Three up, three down. He struck out slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the third out. I came out of my recliner and pumped my fist. …

You can read the entire piece here. Thanks to Watkins’ longtime friend, Dodger senior vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith, for forwarding it to me.

Don Mattingly and returning to the scene of the climb


By Jon Weisman

It’s not that you can’t go home again — it’s just so strange to do it.

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‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ star Terry Crews on the Dodgers, sports, acting and life


By Jon Weisman

Terry Crews is as big as they come, but his heart is even bigger. And Dodger Stadium has played a not-so-small part in that.

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The call of the yard


By Jon Weisman

Speaking of retirements …

My youngest son hung up his baseball spikes last year, when he was 7. He lasted a year longer than his older brother, and took a bit more pleasure in it, but it’s all relative. Youngest Master Weisman was the classic player who loved when it was his turn to bat, but went on mental walkabout when he was out in the field, so that when the ball finally did come at him, it was usually 20 feet behind him before he realized it.

He likes being with other kids, but he’s got other ways of being with other kids. He was a good sport, but when you’re 7, now 8, life’s too short to stand around bored in the sun.

But as I expect Jamey Wright knows, there’s always the backyard. There’s always the place where you control the game, where you can bat as long as you like and if you never want to stand around waiting for a ball to come to you, you don’t have to.

Several times during this Spring Training month, while his old coach-pitch teammates have moved on with their lives, my youngest and I have gone out to our little yard, with a toy bat and two Fisher Price balls, well beneath his age level, that we probably purchased half his life ago. The bat weighs about an ounce — just enough heft so that it doesn’t break upon contact, but ideal for him to whip around effortlessly. The ball hits the bat with the sound of a folded newspaper whacking a fly.

The photo above makes our yard look deceptively large — this park, to paraphrase “Major League,” is not Yellowstone. Somehow, the dimensions are just right for what we’re up to. I pitch from just in front of the woodsy part, and he has to make solid contact to get it past me. That happens, I’m gonna say, three out of 10 times. (I really have no idea, but that suits the idyllic feel.) There’s a back fence shortly behind the tall trees, hidden. One time, when we said “one more good hit before we go in,” he cleared it. Now, that was a well-earned home run trot.

This weekend when we did it, he was in a sad mood before we began, and cheerful when we finished.

I have lots of aspirations for my kids. Possibly too many. Possibly not enough. But when it comes to sports, I just want them to enjoy it. We’re not looking to turn pro — we’re barely aiming for amateur. We go outside, never planned, never for very long, never really accomplishing anything. And each time we do, each time possibly being the last time, it means more to me than anything in a boxscore ever could.

A strong, stalwart gaze: Confidence and the Dodgers

Dave Roberts, moments before his first Spring Training game as Dodger manager (Ben Platt/

Dave Roberts, moments before his first Spring Training game as Dodger manager (Ben Platt/

By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw jogged to the mound, pounded his fist in his glove, grabbed the resin bag for a quick spin around his palm, scraped his left cleat in front of the rubber, and threw his first warmup pitch. Baseball was back.

The first day of Spring Training games goes hand in hand with optimism, lines up directly alongside confidence. So does Kershaw. The appearance of the great left-hander on a crisp baseball field is as reassuring and encouraging as the sun’s steady climb above the Arizona desert.

But the kind of confidence that christened Camelback Ranch today was not a blind, naive one. Not, after all, on a morning when we learned that starting pitcher Brett Anderson would be lost for half the baseball season, if not more.

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Minors are major deal for Dodgers’ World Series hopes

Jose De Leon (Rich Crimi/Tulsa Drillers)

Jose De Leon

By Jon Weisman

As the combined raves by, ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus made the Dodgers’ the consensus No. 1 farm system in baseball, revelry naturally abounded among the online Dodger fanbase. But just as inevitably came the backtalk.

“So what — they still haven’t won a World Series.”

I get that this is sort of the natural response to any piece of good news that isn’t the good news. And I also get that some would trade the current minor-league glory for Cole Hamels or a player to be named earlier.

But if you’re vexed that the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since “ALF” was primetime’s most watched show on Mondays, then you know what? It’s still time to be happy that the Dodger system is the tops.

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Baseball and us: It’s a private conversation

By Jon Weisman

It’s warm in Los Angeles. Spring Training warm. Some might even say it’s hot. Regular-season hot.

We’ve still got some El Nino-style rain ahead of us, believe it or not, and the official home opener at Dodger Stadium is nine weeks away. But it’s hard to ignore that you step outside today and it’s feeling like … baseball.

That’s good, right?

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From 2015 to 2016: Do you hear what I hear?

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Somewhere in the opaque, decaying memories of my brain, I can hear fans cheering at Dodger Stadium.

The year was 2015. The Dodgers were National League West champions, and they had taken the lead in the first inning of the deciding game of their first postseason series.

For all that had gone wrong, for all the preseason and midseason and even postseason plans chipped and broken, all this had gone right. Los Angeles was eight innings and eight games from winning a World Series.

Against all expectations, the Dodgers were peppering the superb Mets right-hander, Jacob deGrom. After Howie Kendrick lined out to start the bottom of the first inning, rookie shortstop Corey Seager hit the first of four consecutive singles, and Dodger Stadium was electric.

I don’t know how much longer that memory will last. Already, it’s mostly theoretical. I’m not actually hearing the cheering. I just know the cheering was there, and I’m projecting that sound inside my head.

* * *

Now in my brain, I hear bickering. Not muffled. Loud and clear.

It’s not surprising that we bicker. We’re a family, we Dodger fans. The bickering drives everybody crazy, but it doesn’t stop.

We all want the best. And yet, back and forth during the offseason … They don’t know anything. But they think they know everything! 

We’re not only second-guessing methods, we’re questioning intentions.

I’m done with you people. 

Doors slam.

You just don’t understand. 

Windows shatter.

Just listen to me!

Houses explode. Family is complicated, man.

* * *

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Let Vin Scully into your brain, and you’ll hear, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” You’ve heard him say it a dozen times, if not a hundred.

Here’s something else I’ve heard a dozen times this offseason, if not a hundred: “What is the Dodgers’ plan? Do they even have a plan?”

So, I see that, and I scratch my head, because the Dodgers have stated their plan, over and over and over again. Here’s one of a dozen times, if not a hundred.

“We’re tasked with doing everything we can to put ourselves in position to win a World Championship this year, while maintaining the position to sustain success over the long haul,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said early this month.

That’s a plan. No, no — that is a plan.

In greater specifics, the plan included steps to maintain and improve the pitching depth. Most notably, three things went awry. The bidding for Zack Greinke went beyond the parameters of the plan. Then, when problems cropped up before finalizing other potential acquisitions, they broke apart. (This happens every year, occasionally played out front and center in the news, often in private, never to be known.)

In short, the Dodgers made a plan, and Scully can tell you what happened next.

When things don’t go according to plan, one of two things happen. People get angry, or people regroup and move forward.

For the Dodgers, the plan remains in place, with new efforts to execute it (most recently in the signing of Scott Kazmir) because the alternative is to operate just the way you’d doubt the most  — without any foresight at all.

Now you can argue that the Dodgers should have done X or Y or Z. That the Dodgers haven’t done so doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan, or philosophy, or strategy. It doesn’t mean they have given up on 2016 or any year.

My plan is to raise my kids as people with decency and the opportunity to do whatever they possibly can with their lives. Will it be successful? I can only hope. It involves a dozen things going right, if not a hundred.

That’s true even though 29 other families raising children with decency and opportunity doesn’t prevent the same for mine.

* * *

In the end, people hear what they want to hear, and see what they want to see.

Focus on the second half of Joc Pederson’s season and the first half of Chris Hatcher’s, and despair. Do the opposite, and hope. Take in their entire seasons, and you have an open mind, knowing that baseball is predictable and unpredictable at once.

The open-minded make the quietest sound. Maybe they’re the bass players of the band, stagehands at the spectacular, librarians at the gates.

For some — for more each year since 1988 — being a Dodger fan is all or nothing. But all or nothing is a fraught way to live, especially when all or something is a true alternative. You don’t have to sacrifice your dreams to take pleasure in smaller victories. The goal remains the same.

I believe in the all or something.

* * *

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Somewhere in my brain, unleashed like a can hissing open, I hear the crackle of the cleats on Camelback grit, and picture the stream of ballplayers old and young ambling through the low February sun to their morning stretch in Arizona. I hear the pop — that astonishing, glorious pop — of ball into glove.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t miss baseball in the winter. The season is long and grueling and intense, and the break — a relatively short break, three months vs. nine — is welcome. I’m in no hurry to get back to baseball, because I know baseball is coming fast.

Then that crackle and pop arrives, and they are blessed sounds, sounds of serenity, sounds that, at least for a short while, tend to muffle all worries. It’s temporary. It fades into the grind that scrapes its way through spring all the way to fall.

Elation and deflation will do battle in 2016, as they do every year. So will the forces of belief and doom. Like the train rolling out in “The Music Man,” it will all begin again. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker bicker bicker, ya can talk, ya can talk.

Line drives will be snagged, dribblers will roll into glory. The odds will prevail, until they don’t, until they do again.

It’s a game, though we take it seriously. It’s a game we invest our days, our years, our lives in.

It is not a game for the thoughtless. It’s a game for the dedicated. It’s a game that fans, players, coaches and executives stake their lives to.

And why?

To hear those cheers. At least for a moment. Hopefully for an eternity. Loud and clear, and never-ending.

An offseason accounting

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Whenever it appeared the sky was falling on the Dodgers during the 11 years that I wrote Dodger Thoughts, it was sort of my niche to write posts explaining why the sky really might not be falling.

These posts, like my attempts to convince my youngest son that an earlier bedtime would actually make him less tired in the morning, were not entirely successful.

Some readers flat out disagreed with me. Others sniped that I was no better than an organization apologist. For the most part, though, people understood that I was an outsider, invested in the team, but coming from a place of independence and sincerity.

Usually, I had enough evidence on my side that it was no trouble making an argument that the glass at Dodger Stadium was more than half full. Plus, there was consistency to my point of view, which in many ways boiled down to “Can we at least play the games before jumping overboard?”

Since joining the Dodgers two years ago to blog here at Dodger Insider, it has definitely been a bigger challenge to write “keep calm” posts without seeming like a shill. For those who know me, my reputation buys me some credibility, but for those who don’t, it’s easy to be branded and dismissed as a spin artist. This might shock you, but it turns out my words don’t carry the same weight as Vin Scully’s.

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Vin Scully: The one

Vin in booth

By Jon Weisman

By the time I was 10 years old, I wanted to be Vin Scully.


That might sound like the easiest question in the world to answer. Who wouldn’t want to be Vin Scully?

First, let me be clear. I wouldn’t have phrased my ambition as “I want to be a sportscaster.” It was, “I want to be Vin Scully.”

Why him, more than any other human being in the world? And why then? Partly, it’s because I never envisioned myself as a pro athlete, but on some level, it still doesn’t make sense.

In my mind, there is no one more talented, no one more expert, in the English language than Scully, but I wouldn’t have identified such a specific skill as a child. I would have enjoyed his broadcasts for the most straightforward of reasons — I was a fan of the Dodgers, and for the most part, he told me their stories, and he was great.

Nothing he said before 1977 sticks with me. I know I heard his voice often enough, considering how much of a baseball fan my father is and how many games we consumed on the radio. But all my memories of baseball up to that time are of moments, not his words.

Today, as the parent of three kids who won’t sit still for five minutes of a sporting event on TV or radio without snacks calling their names, I even wonder, why baseball? Why sports? What, at the core of it all, draws one person in, triggering a lifelong obsession, while pushing another person away?

I keep circling back to thrill of being the one.

For some, it’s a vision of actually becoming the champion on the field, in a moment or for a season — none better than you. For others, who make peace that they will be spectators, it is the thrill of vicarious victory.

Either way, it is to experience the mastery of moments, small or large.  And some people — probably wiser than me — don’t see what matters in sports.

For me, as a child, I watched Steve Garvey and Lawrence McCutchen with wonder, read about Tom Sawyer and Abraham Lincoln with awe, encountered thousands of different personalities of fame and accomplishment, real and make-believe.

Somehow, never was anyone more the one than Vin Scully.

Maybe my inability to explain why his appeal was so powerful to me as a child actually speaks to the strength of that appeal. Literally before I can remember, he began to speak to me so deeply, and never stopped.

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

The accumulation of experience has taught me that Vin Scully can communicate anything, the ideal combination of Walter Cronkite, Robert Frost and Garrison Keillor. He operates in the seed of a moment and opens it like the most beautiful rose.

Is Scully better at his job than Babe Ruth was? You could argue the point — Scully certainly would — but when you throw in infinite extra points for durability, the debate ends.

The one.

As a kid, I soon decided that to be any other kind of sportscaster would be a disappointment, and so when I didn’t show any immediate aptitude for it, as a teenager practicing with a tape recorder in my bedroom, I abandoned the idea.

It’s funny: I started writing this piece days before I spoke with Joe Davis, whose lifelong ambition was formed at an age as young as mine, but without the peril of identifying so strongly with a single person. He didn’t fall into my trap.

Ultimately, I escaped as well. I moved in a different direction, sideswiping sportscasting (though I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed the chance to comment occasionally on the air in my various careers), carving out my own path, becoming my own self.

My best hope has been to become a one. As he has for so many of us, Vin Scully set that standard, by being so exemplary, so magnetic, so Vin. I’ll probably be chasing that as long as I live. Vin Scully is, and always will be, the one, and we’ll all be someone else.

The chase

Tommy and Fred Claire with World Series trophy 1988

By Jon Weisman

While I finished my last final exam in college and turned pro, the Dodgers were in Vero Beach, preparing to defend their 1988 World Series title, five short, happy months after winning.

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By Jon Weisman 

Normally on this day, I post my Dodger Thoughts rewind of the R.J. Reynolds “Squeeze” game. But I felt it was time to revisit something different.

I wrote the piece below almost 10 years ago. It’s related to this day, not to baseball. If you’re interested, read on.

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Meditations on hitting three home runs and winning

[mlbvideo id=”414477683″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

On hitting three home runs and winning

It is good. So very
Very good

A team for hitting
Home runs
Is like shaming
A Redwood
For being old
And strong

Isn’t allball
Manufacturing runs is fine
Until the factory runs down
And no factory is invulnerable

Be your strength
Be proud
For when you say
I say,
“How slow?”
When you say “Bunt!”
I say, “But we do not bunt well.”

Just as a team
That has no power
Cannot be told, “Just have more power!”

We are not perfect
But our
Are not weaknesses

— Jon Weisman

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