Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Roger Maris

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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Dodgers hope everything’s jake against Arrieta

Chicago Cubs vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Cubs at Dodgers, 5:08 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Chase Utley, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Joc Pederson, CF
Kiké Hernandez, 3B
Alex Wood, P

By Jon Weisman

Jake Arrieta might be the top National League Cy Young Award contender outside of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. But if the Dodgers can top him tonight, they’ll have a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL West, which would be their biggest since July 12.

San Francisco, which lost to St. Louis today for the second consecutive time this weekend, arrives in Los Angeles on Monday for a highly anticipated three-game series.

Arrieta has a 2.22 ERA, putting him in second place in the NL between Greinke (1.61) and Kershaw (2.24). The 29-year-old righty is fourth in the NL in wins above replacement (4.9), behind Kershaw (6.6), Greinke (5.1) and the slumping Max Scherzer (4.9). In xFIP, Arrieta is in second place behind Kershaw.

Like Kershaw, Arrieta has heated up with the heat. He has a 1.17 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 92 innings since June 21, and in fact, enters tonight’s game as the frontrunner for NL Pitcher of the Month honors (33 1/3 innings, two earned runs, 0.54 ERA, 31 strikeouts).

The Dodgers counter with Alex Wood, who has allowed 27 hits with 14 walks in 29 innings as a Dodger. Wood allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in his last start.

A win tonight would also tie the Dodgers with the Cubs for the third-best record in the NL: 73-56.

* * *

Kiké Hernandez is getting his first official start for the Dodgers at third base tonight. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. beat me to the punch on this, so I’ll just crib from him: Hernandez is the first Dodger to start at second, short, third and all three outfield positions in the same year since Bobby Valentine in 1972.

Hernandez’s experience at third has been limited to 14 2/3 Major League innings and 25 minor-league games, but he has taken grounders there during the season and played there in winter ball, according to Don Mattingly.

Since July 24, Hernandez has a .397 batting average, .443 on-base percentage and .589 slugging percentage.

Hernandez will be batting behind Joc Pederson, whom as ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out, is on the verge of a unique month in baseball history. No player with at least 20 walks in any calendar month has had fewer than the seven hits by Roger Maris in August 1959, but with two games to go in August 2015, Pederson is at 21 walks and five hits.

Maris went 7 for 79 with 20 walks in August 1959, at age 24. That winter, he would be traded to the Yankees, for whom he would win American League Most Valuable Player awards in 1960 and 1961, hitting 100 home runs.

March 11 pregame: A Sandy Koufax-Roger Maris trade?

Oakland Athletics vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers vs. Royals, 1:05 p.m.
Chone Figgins, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Justin Turner, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Sydney …

  • The Dodger press notes helpfully point out that the team record for Spring Training ties is five, achieved in 2006.
  • Scheduled to follow Dan Haren on the mound today are Jose Dominguez, Javy Guerra, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and Jamey Wright.
  • Red Patterson was reassigned to minor-league camp today.
  • Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier will rest today, then be scheduled to play the next five days in a row before the team leaves for Australia, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Maury Wills, 27 when he became a Dodger regular, talked to Kevin Baxter of the Times about 25-year-old Dee Gordon.
  • Mark Saxon has a couple of pieces at ESPN Los Angeles looking ahead to Australia, including this interview with Australian former Dodger infielder Craig Shipley.
  • Sandy Koufax gets the Union Oil 1961 Family Booklet treatment (via Blue Heaven), with this tidbit: “Allegations persist that the Dodgers twice declined to swap Koufax to Kansas City for Roger Maris.” Maris was the American League MVP in 1960, remember, while Koufax was 8-13 with a 3.91 ERA.


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