Dodger Thoughts

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

Page 158 of 362

‘Oh, to be 22 and a Dodger!’

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There are so many things I love about this excerpt from the Dodgers’ 1982 home video — the vintage Vin Scully narration, the glimpses of the post-1981 Dodgers (old for their time, but exquisitely young from this vantage point), and perhaps most of all, the fabulous ’80s music. But I was also struck by how much of the description of young Steve Sax seems to be taken word for word from what we’ve heard about Yasiel Puig over the past 11 1/2 months.

— Jon Weisman

Dee Gordon’s speed limit: 25 and rising

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERSBy Jon Weisman

25: The number of stolen bases Dee Gordon has.

25: The number of stolen bases the Dodgers have without Dee Gordon.

25: The average number of stolen bases for every MLB team in 2014, not counting Dee Gordon.

26: Dee Gordon’s age. Because Dee Gordon doesn’t believe in resting on 25.

Make your Dodger Stadium Memorial Day plans now

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By Jon Weisman

Memorial Day is only a week away, so don’t wait to make your plans to spent the evening at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers are on the road this week, but soon enough, they will open their next homestand with the Cincinnati Reds on May 26, and it occurred to me this game might be worth a special mention.

If you needed more incentive than the above-mentioned Andre Ethier BBQ apron giveaway (free to the first 40,000 ticketed fans) or the chance to see Hyun-Jin Ryu at home for the first time since April, then there’s this: Lined up to pitch in the 5:10 p.m. game for the Reds is arguably the No. 1 contender to try to steal the National League Cy Young Award from Clayton Kershaw, 28-year-old Cincinnati righty Johnny Cueto. In other words, if the Reds rotation holds, Memorial Day will provide a prime time to size up the opposition.

With a 1.25 ERA heading into his Tuesday start at Washington, Cueto will provide a great challenge for the Dodgers. Among other things, with runners on base, opposing hitters are 6 for 60 with six walks and one homer against Cueto this year. He leads the NL with a 0.71 WHIP and is striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings.

The Dodgers topped Cueto the last time they met, on July 3, 2012, when Luis Cruz hit a tiebreaking double in the bottom of the seventh inning and later stole home. Yeah, that’s right.

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Last year’s Memorial Day at Dodger Stadium brought one of the best games of the year, with the Dodgers rallying from a 6-1 deficit to top the Angels, 8-7. It was a great way to spend the holiday last year, and I’m looking forward to this year’s game.

Yasiel Puig named co-NL Player of the Week

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By Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig has been named co-National League Player of the Week, sharing the honor with A.J. Pollock of Arizona.

Puig slugged .870 as he went 8 for 23 with three doubles and three homers, not to mention four walks and being hit by a pitch, in the most recent seven days of play.

The 23-year-old previously won this award by himself after his first week in the majors, for the week ending June 9, when he went 13 for 28 with two doubles and four homers. He had 10 RBI each time.

“Right now, he brings an energy we were missing,” backup catcher Ramon Hernandez told MLB.com at the time.

Rosalita

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By Jon Weisman

I’m guilty of a lot of preemptive worry about my job. It’s something that I’m actively trying to fight. It’s not that it doesn’t have its purpose — if I didn’t worry at all about making sure everything got done, deadlines would come and absolutely smack me in the face.

But there’s another level to it, a level where I find I struggle to relax until everything is done — except that everything is never done. There’s always something.

Plus, there’s the humbling frustration that however much I plan, some things still might not turn out the way I hoped. I do believe Vin Scully has a favorite line about this.

In the scattered moments — and I did have one Sunday, coincidentally around the time the Dodgers were losing 5-3 to Arizona — where I exhale and accept that although there’s more to do tomorrow, I’ve done about as much as I can or need to today, life can feel pretty good. That good feeling can be transient, just as the anxious feeling can. But there’s no denying that when you’re stressed, the good feeling is a feeling worth having.

* * *

So the Dodgers are 23-22 in 2014. Average, mediocre, disappointing. More recently, they’ve lost three of their past four, or seven of their past 11, or 10 of their past 16, opening the pathway from disappointing to anxiety-inducing. Many Dodger fans are nervous, many are angry.  People want explanations. They want remedies. They want heads to roll.

One explanation is that this is simply not a consistently sharp fielding team. It never shaped up to be a consistently sharp fielding team during Spring Training, and it might never become one. It will win on the nights when the fielding is sharp (being inconsistent means you execute some of the time, not none of the time), or when the team hits and pitches well enough to overcome any fielding follies. Twenty-two times out of 25, this hasn’t happened.

That, to me, is by far the most logical explanation, and really, there’s not much more that needs to be said.

But inevitably — so inevitably that I’m always surprised when some act as if this were unique to a particular team like the 2014 Dodgers — when a team is average, mediocre or disappointing, fans and the media will comment that the team is playing with no energy or emotion. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard or read this in May.

It might or might not be true, but it’s fascinating (not in a good way) the cocksureness that people make this comment just from observing the action on the field, which is the only evidence most people get. Every once in a while, you’ll see a ballplayer dog it running to first on a routine grounder or backing up a potential bad throw. But really, on almost every single moment at a baseball game, there’s no way you can see that a player isn’t doing everything he is capable of.

Not succeeding is not the same as not trying. Moreover, sometimes you can succeed without your maximum effort. Don’t tell me you never have. Yet you’ll never see anyone say “they’re playing with no heart” after a win. There’s this assumption of a clean, moral universe in sports and in baseball and with the Dodgers. If you’re winning, you did everything you could. If you’re losing, it’s a character flaw.

Can anyone, by any significant measure, demonstrate that the Dodgers who won 7-0 on Friday played the game with more energy than the Dodgers who lost 18-7 on Saturday? Surely, you’re not going to be the one to question Clayton Kershaw’s mental and emotional commitment to the game. Was it that the Dodgers played with no heart when they fell behind 9-2, then turned on the heart when they came back to 9-7 with the tying run at the plate, then — for no reason other than to vex us — picked that particular moment to become Grinches and give up nine more runs?

Or was it just a bad night, perhaps one to learn from, but not one of any philosophical significance?

If Matt Kemp’s bases-loaded line-drive in the eighth inning on Sunday finds an opening, everyone would be celebrating the character of this team instead of questioning it. Next time, I suppose, Kemp will have to equip his bat with a literal moral compass.

What’s funny is in one breath you’ll see people comment about the importance of a team’s heart, and in the next, you’ll hear wonderment that an expensive player payroll hasn’t guaranteed success and happiness. As if anyone ever thought money guaranteed success and happiness. Money is a tool, a very good tool, but it’s not the only tool.

* * *

So, back to preemptive worry. That’s what this is about.

You figure that if the Dodgers win 100 out of 162 games during the 2014 regular season, they would be guaranteed a playoff spot, if not the best record in the National League. Everyone would be happy. But for most fans, those 100 wins can’t come soon enough. Why not just get them done now?

Well, while no one in their right mind would believe it possible for the Dodgers to win their first 100 games, there is this temptation to feel that when they’re not winning, I would say, at least 60 percent of the time, that something is deeply wrong.

One of my best friends in high school and college was, among other things, probably the smartest guy I ever met and definitely the most efficient student I ever knew. It wasn’t until we were roommates my senior year in college that I really understood how he did it. He would come back in the afternoon from his classes, go into his room and learn … everything. He was like Jim Carrey at the end of “The Truman Show,” actually reaching the end of a horizon previously assumed to be infinitely distant. He had both the ability and will to simply understand every single thing he needed to know, so that when it came time for a test or any other project, he could do absolutely everything he needed to do.

Then he would eat dinner and go out and get smashed.

This, essentially, is the baseball fan’s dream. Win everything, then party. Never lose. Meet adversity on purely procedural terms, like doing the dishes, rather than as a reality that will defeat you from time to time, sometimes unbearably often.

This, however, is not how it works for 99 percent of us, the Dodgers included, however much we might wish it otherwise. You’re never done churning. Sometimes, success comes late. In the best stories, it almost always does.

* * *

Let’s allow for the possibility — and again, I don’t really believe this is what’s happening — but let’s allow for the possibility that these current Dodgers really aren’t doing their best, that they’re consciously pacing or saving themselves, or that they’re unconsciously unable to produce at an elite level except in response to crisis. They are the fight-or-flight Dodgers.

They will ultimately be judged on results, but if they succeed, then maybe they will have had it right all along. Because I wouldn’t wish the destructive emotion of anxiety on anyone. And there’s a case to be made that the less mental energy the Dodgers expend in May, the more they’ll have in October.

Procrastinators are never role models, because of the deadline bogeyman. There’s always the sense of flirting with disaster, of asking for trouble and having nowhere to turn when it arrives. That doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, people who leave the hard work for the last minute do succeed (and keep in mind, mid-May is hardly the last minute, and a five-game deficit is hardly an enormous hole). We might resent the success of the procrastinator, even as we grudgingly have to respect it.

We can worry. Oh yes, we can worry. Or, we can understand that every season has its own ebb and flow, trust in the Dodgers to be the agents of their own change and convert our worry into hope.

Perhaps it’s my inability to apply this level of zen to my own work that makes me so believe in it it as a Dodger fan. Those who can’t do, talk about others doing. Each loss aggravates me, but all hail the next game.

I can’t really ask anyone to change what they feel. I can only tell you what I feel, which is that when the team I’m rooting for is losing, the best medicine isn’t to question their heart or wonder why they don’t play to their potential every day. It’s to sit back, put on “Rosalita” and look forward to tomorrow.

Yasiel Puig enters the race for the Triple Crown (and yes, other notes from Saturday)

LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

As the Dodgers try to get off the canvas from their 18-7 loss Saturday to Arizona, some notes:

  • Thanks to his 1.260 May OPS and record-setting eighth game in a row with an extra-base-hit and an RBI, Yasiel Puig has vaulted himself into contention for the National League Triple Crown. The 23-year-old is fifth in batting average, tied for fourth in home runs and second in RBI. Troy Tulowitzki, Charlie Blackmon, Paul Goldschmidt and Giancarlo Stanton are also similarly positioned.
  • Before this week, the Dodgers had allowed 13 runs in a game 16 times this century, but now they’ve done it twice in four days, for the first time since Philadelphia scored 15 against them on July 17, 2007 and the Mets followed with 13 two days later. The starting pitchers for those two games were Mark Hendrickson and Derek Lowe.

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Zack Greinke too calm for a mania, but fully deserving

LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Friday in Jon SooHoo can be found at the LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 5:10 p.m.
Kershaw CLXXXVI: Kershawlexander
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Considering how hard it is to steal a headline these days from Yasiel Puig, just the fact Zack Greinke can get one speaks pretty loudly.

Not that speaking loudly is in Greinke’s nature to begin with, but that’s another matter.

In the Dodgers’ 7-0 victory Friday over Arizona, Greinke was at his best – and doesn’t that sound redundant?  Greinke, as you must know by now, has the longest streak of starts without allowing more than two runs in at least a century.

In a season plus a month and a half with the Dodgers, Greinke has a 2.49 ERA and 143 ERA+ with 265 baserunners against 209 strikeouts in 247 innings. In fact, in the 40-year-old free agency era, Greinke is well on pace toward becoming the greatest pitcher signing in Dodger history.

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May 16 pregame: Gordon against the lefties

MIAMI MARLINS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

Dee Gordon is making his fifth start of the season against a left-handed pitcher tonight, the 11th lefty to start against the Dodgers this season. Overall against southpaws in 2014, Gordon is 6 for 35 with no walks, for a .171 on-base percentage, .229 slugging and .400 OPS, shy even of his career .484 OPS against lefties.

Gordon is in the MLB bottom 10 for offense against lefties this season. The second baseman is, for what it’s worth, 3 for 9 lifetime against Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley.

One of the oddest platoon differentials in 2014 for the Dodgers comes from Matt Kemp, who is OPSing .996 against righties but is only 8 for 41 with a walk and no homers (.483 OPS) so far against lefties. For his career, Kemp is OPSing .956 against portsiders.

* * *

Juan Uribe is making his first start since May 8. Essentially, this is the first game the 22-20 Dodgers have had their full complement of position players available to start since A.J. Ellis’ last game before he went on the disabled list, April 5.

Uribe had two singles and a walk in his last 18 plate appearances before his injury, lowering his OPS from  .876 to .801. He doubled as a pinch-hitter on Wednesday.

Don Sutton’s better-than-Fernando 1972 season

Sutton pitch '71

By Jon Weisman

Nine years before Fernando Valenzuela dazzled as a starting pitcher, a 27-year-old Don Sutton had a season to remember. But because Sutton was a seven-year veteran by then, I’m not sure anyone does.

Until Johnny Cueto bested him this year, Sutton was the only pitcher since the 1960s to finish his first nine starts of the season with an ERA below 1.50 and opponents’ batting average below .150, according to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Information.

Coming about two years before the Dodgers began to take hold of my consciousness, I wasn’t aware of Sutton’s phenomenal start to 1972. In fact, it goes even beyond the above and ventures into the Fernandomaniaesque.

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Off-day reading: Defensive shifts and the Dodgers

Defensive shifts from May 2014 magazine

On this travel day for the Dodgers, here’s some topical reading from the May 2014 issue of Dodger Insider magazine. Chris Gigley contributed this piece on the nuances of the Dodgers’ approach toward defensive shifts. Don Mattingly, Tim Wallach, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett were interviewed for the story. (Click the image to enlarge.)

— Jon Weisman

Dodger Stadium to host 5K run and Kids Fun Run on September 21

5KBy Jon Weisman

A new 5K Run and Kids Fun Run, hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, will debut September 21 at Dodger Stadium.

Registration for the event is open online at www.dodgers.com/5K. The 5K Run, open to all age groups, begins at 8:30 a.m., on a course that includes views of Dodger Stadium and downtown Los Angeles, a cool-down run around the Dodger Stadium warning track and appearances by Dodger Alumni League members. Awards will be given to top participants in male and female categories.

The Kids Fun Run, for kids 12 and under, will take place at 10:00 a.m. on the Dodger Stadium warning track.

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Drew Butera’s perfect inning

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By Jon Weisman

Dodger catcher Drew Butera looked pretty great coming in to pitch the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 13-3 loss to Miami on Wednesday, though he did not admit to being thrilled by his spontaneous success.

“It wasn’t fun, because we were down, we were losing, which is why I was in there,” Butera told MLB.com

Nevertheless, Butera brought some welcome heat on a 90-plus degree evening, capping his second career shutout inning by striking out Marcell Ozuna on three pitches, the last a 94-mph fastball.

And, Butera admits, there was some levity.

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A.J. Ellis activated, Miguel Olivo headed for Albuquerque

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Marlins at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Paul Maholm, P

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have officially activated A.J. Ellis from the disabled list and optioned Miguel Olivo to Albuquerque. Ellis is in tonight’s starting lineup for the Dodgers.

Ellis’ return comes five weeks and four days after he last played a Major League game. He went 2 for 5 with a homer, two RBI and a walk in two rehab games this week for the Isotopes.

Olivo has appeared in eight games for the Dodgers, going 5 for 23 with a .240 on-base percentage and .304 slugging percentage. After starting out 5 for 10 with a triple and a walk, Olivo was hitless in his past 13 plate appearances with nine strikeouts.

Inside the shutdown streak of Brandon League

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

By Jon Weisman

I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve thought I’m the naive one for not giving up on a player. But then came Juan Uribe. And now comes Brandon League.

A pitcher that a number of Dodger fans were rooting for to be released, who allowed 87 baserunners and a 5.30 ERA in 54 1/3 innings in 2013 and half of his inherited runners to score, has now thrown 16 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, stranded seven of eight inherited runners and been unscored upon in 12 of 14 appearances in 2014.

Here’s a game-by-game look at the 10 appearances that have encompassed his scoreless streak, followed by what passes as analysis from me (with help from Baseball-Reference.com).

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Video: How we met Puig’s mother

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The devilish underhanded fastball from Martiza Puig shows how her son Yasiel must have trained to become such a great hitter.

— Jon Weisman

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