Tagged: Dodgers

Kershaw. 7th Inning.

We all saw the monkey, and nobody wanted to address it. It had morphed into an elephant with a HUGE 7 on its side.
Kershaw walks Rizzo. on FOUR pitches. that are NOWHERE near the zone.
“this can’t be happening.”
“this IS happening.”
Rizzo takes first.
Zobrist bats. Frustrating, unorthodox stance. mouth wide open while hitting. really makes for an awkward plate appearance, but the dude can hit. and he’s a righty.
Grandal, spooked by Gonzalez charge from 1B, drops a catcher popup (super-difficult/underrated catch, ps).
“this really is going to happen again, isn’t it?”
Zobrist hits a hard foul ball.
“Dammit.”
Zobrist inexplicably takes a fastball through the heart of the plate for strike three.
HUGE sigh of relief.
Addison Russell. Stud. Struggling, but a stud nonetheless.
1-1 count crack off the bat, flyball to left.
Kiké, positioned perfectly in left, makes the catch. two outs.
 
“He’s gonna do it. Clayton’s gonna get the monkey off his back once and for all.”
But baseball is funny. It really is.
Who steps up – well, it’s Javier Baez. The man that had a superstar-in-the-making reputation for two years without producing. Until this postseason, when he’s become a superstar within a fortnight. And he has one of the two hits on the night off of Kershaw. He’s an immediate Cubs superstar, already entrenched in Cubs lore, especially after his astute play in the field earlier, where he intentionally allowed a pop flare fall in front of him, instead of catching it – the result was a double-play. very heady. 
 
So Baez, the most confident of all Cubs, is at the plate. The air hangs heavy with humidity and bladders are weighed down with beer. Wrigley Field is rollicking.
First pitch to Baez is a ball. The crowd, fervid with excitement, shakes the ancient ballpark.
Kershaw fires a 95-mph fastball letter-high and on the outside half of the plate. Baez takes a mighty rip and CRACKS a bomb deep to center. Every fan, at Wrigley and watching on FS1, takes to their feet. Kershaw huddles over, hands on his knees – this one is gone. The sound, the crowd reaction, Baez’ little hop-step after he hit it –
“We all knew this was going to happen. Damn 7th inning.”
And Joc Pederson, one foot on the warning track, settles under the heavy ball for the third out, excitedly points at Kershaw, who breathes the biggest damn sigh of relief and smiles his way into the dugout.

The monkey? The elephant? They’re gone. Kershaw is the only animal left in these playoffs.

My Vin Post

I’ve had nearly the entire calendar year to internalize the impact of Vin Scully’s retirement.

It’s different than when an athlete opts to end his playing career. Kobe Bryant & Derek Jeter received the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar treatment with tours, gifts, roasts, etc.; others, such as Barry Bonds or Allen Iverson, are forced to abandon their ride into the sunset. Magic Johnson, Barry Sanders & Bo Jackson are examples of retirements that were shocking in their suddenness. Each fantastic playing career carries specific moments over a generation – or if the athlete was particularly transcendent, generations plural – and defines a city, an era, a specific way of playing the game; something that entrenched the athlete in the milieu to the extent that their retirement itself was notable.

But for many Dodger fans and Los Angeles natives – and for me, specifically – the career of Vin Scully is inextricably intertwined with Life in L.A.

There was Vin when I was doing my homework in Mrs. Saunders class in first grade. There was She Is Gone. . .In a Year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened. There were the sombreros being thrown to the sky when old friend Pedro Guerrero made the last out (a GIDP) of Fernando’s no-hitter. There was Vin in Spring for Henry Rodriguez’ four-homerun game. Vin was there when I came home from my first JV game as a 14-year old sophomore. It was Vin, as my Dad would kick back on the floor with his Golden Retriever, Doc, the two of them laying with the screen door ajar, letting the dulcet tones of Vinny complement the perfect San Fernando Valley summer breeze.

Vinny introduced me to Mike Piazza. Hideo Nomo. Ramon and Pedro Martinez. Omar Daal. Ismael Valdes. Vinny was serenading me as Eric Gagné, the mediocre starting pitcher morphed into Eric “Game Over” Gagné, still the most dominating pitcher I’ve seen, asterisk or not. Vin was in love with the O-Dog. Vinny ushered in Mannywood. Yasiel Puig became The Wild Horse.

In recent years, Vin was not there for the playoffs; first because of organizational ineptitude in the 90’s and subsequent Fox era, but mostly because of the Business of Baseball, which precluded ‘local’ broadcasters from doing much of the TV postseason work. Also, Vin’s age (the voice is truly timeless; humans, even a Saint, are not) demanded that the rigors of a baseball travel schedule were simply too much and the road games were increasingly narrated by Rick Monday, Ross Porter, Steve Lyons. Or Charley Steiner. Eric Collins. Recently, L.A. legends Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra have seen more TV work as Vin only works home games and the occasional trip to San Francisco. And Joe Davis, The Man Who Has to Follow in Scully’s Shoes, does a great job – but he’ll forever live with the moniker he’s no Vin Scully. So there’s less Vin now than ever.

And that’s okay. I’ve become busier. We all have. My son, Felix, is nearly 3 years old. And besides, “baseball is too slow.” But maybe that’s a good thing? When I do get to hear Vin, which I did about 30 times this season, I’ve flashed back to those serene summer nights in Sepulveda. I’d get off of a three-way call on my parent’s landline, run out to do a cannonball in the pool, careen back in the house, grab some Cap’n Crunch and Get Back to This One. You could always Pull Up a Chair, but if you couldn’t, that was okay. Vinny was going to see you again tomorrow night.

I really began to appreciate Vin and think about the dreadful and imminent end of Scully’s magical run a few years ago. I wondered if I’d enjoy Dodger games, or the Dodgers, or honestly, baseball, as much when he was gone. I didn’t want to find out, but knew it would happen. And when Felix was born, I wanted him to be able to hear and recognize Vin’s warm voice and that musical cadence. We sit and listen to games – a few innings, in Felix’s case, and I’m always sure to emphasize Vin Scully. He’s not likely to remember these nascent memories, especially of some old broadcaster, but I’m glad that I did have these years to share, and pass down the tradition.

Vin Scully is the narrator of this City I Love. Vin Scully is not just the voice of Los Angeles, he is Los Angeles. He came west as the city was just finding it’s sea-legs, a post-Baby Boom bastion of suburbs and planned communities that required you to have a car. No, really – that was a novel concept in 1958, and it’s exactly why Vinny became Los Angeles. You were, and still are, in a car all the time, and Vinny was painting games nine months out of the year. Until he’s not. And then what? Life goes on. L.A. will be here, Vinny and my Dad will hopefully live well into retirement, and the Dodgers will continue drawing 3 million fans per year. Baseball will certainly move forward. So will I, so will Felix.

But it will be different, an impact unknown. There may be a void, there will definitely be a ripple in the fabric of my fanmanship. But I do know that Vin Scully’s retirement will be more poignant and powerful than any I’ve experienced in sports.

I sent a letter to Vin during the first Dodgers season after Felix was born. I didn’t expect nor receive a response, and was told that he actually receives more mail than anybody in the organization. Maybe he read it, likely he did not, but the copy is below and the sentiment still holds.

Because Vin Scully really enhanced my life. And proud Los Angeles native or not, I’ve never said that about any type of celebrity before. And I certainly haven’t said it about an athlete. I do have a sombrero, but I’m not going to throw it to the sky, Vin. I’m just hoping that I can enjoy and cherish your five remaining telecasts and maybe, just maybe, the Baseball Gods will reward you and the fans whom you’ve impacted with one more improbable October.

July 15, 2014

Mr. Scully –

I just want to reach out and thank you for your presence within the Dodgers organization and the City of Los Angeles. I am a second generation Los Angeles native, and recently had a son (Felix) that will be the third Lovett male to be serenaded by your voice from April to October of each year. 

You are truly the voice that defines summer and provides the soundtrack to our great city. I am proud to be able to pass on the tradition of ‘listening to Vin’ to my son. 

In short, your legacy and influence is immeasurable and I cherish each of your broadcasts, and I appreciate your commitment to pulling up a chair and ‘getting back to this one’ in beautiful Chavez Ravine.

Enclosed is a picture of the three of us – my father, Stu; my son, Felix & me.

With admiration and appreciation,

 

Evan Lovett

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The Dave Roberts Era

So if there was any question, Dave Roberts not only has put his imprint on this organization but is making it clear that this is an era where on-field management is a conduit for the front office yet still can have a major and positive impact (as opposed to being a puppet).

Removing Rich Hill yesterday during a perfect game, based on the fact that he was starting to have a little bit of “heat” on the blister finger (causing him to miss three of his last six scheduled starts), the move is objectively understandable. I would be extremely agitated if I was Rich Hill – or, frankly, any other Dodger – but the team won the ballgame and Roberts made the right move.

Roberts earnestly & honestly addressed his decision after the game (“I’m going to lose sleep” “I’ve never had a win feel like a loss”). He is clearly a team-oriented manager that understands what it’s like to be in those players’ cleats, and again, what he is done with such an undermanned, chronically injured, oddly constituted team this year has been nothing short of remarkable.

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Image: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

cool early-season baseball thoughts

18% of the season has elapsed, so a quick look around the league from YKI:
*Bryce. Now that master strategist Joe Maddon implemented baseball’s version of Hack-a-Shaq (10 walks, 1 HBP in last 12 plate appearances) – and it worked! four game sweep for the Cubs – does this legitimize Harper as the game’s scariest threat since Mr. Bonds?
*Bryce, at one point this weekend, went 37 consecutive pitches without swinging the bat, per Mike Ferrin on MLB XM this morning.
*the Cubs are 24-6?!?!?! WOW. And Heyward (.212), Soler (.181) and Russell (.242) still aren’t hitting.
*That wacky, wacky NL West. We’re seriously looking at an 85-game winner taking the division. Every time I think the Dodgers fritter away any momentum, the remaining teams in the division lose right along with them.
*White Sox, 22-10. Big surprise to everybody that underestimated the Frazier acquisition, or didn’t realize that Quintana – well, that creep can roll. And Sale is the AL Kershaw.
*The Yankees are a really tough story this year. Basically, the deal that they made the playoffs last year was a bad thing. Everybody thought they’d breakdown in ’15, forcing them to make wholesale changes and give their kids the shot to see if they’d be Bombers (Judge, Refsnyder, at the time Bird). But the seniors played & played well and they trotted out the same bunch for the ’16 season. Now they’re seeing the ramifications and it is a really bad – and old – team that we’re watching out there.
*Houston, 12-20, is going to be fine. They have too much talent and Jose Altuve is a winner.
*Kind of unbelievable how awesome David Ortiz really is, even at the tail end of his career. I’m pretty sure it’s not unfair to consider him a Reggie Jackson-type of character, historically.
*Everybody knew the Braves would be lousy (7-23), but the Twins were last year’s wunderteam and they’re only 1/2 game ahead (8-23). What gives there?
*The Angels are garbage. Dull pitching and two watchable players (Trout, Calhoun). I hope they don’t waste Trout’s career, because it definitely looks like that’s the direction they’re headed.
*Some wanksters on this ERA list, but we’re in a pitching-forward era. Latos, Colon, Tyler Chatwood, Tanner Roark all under 3.00 kinda funny to see, though.
RK Player Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG WHIP
1  Zimmermann, J DET 5 1 1.10 6 6 0 0 41.0 35 7 5 2 8 25 .224 1.05
2  Arrieta, J CHC 6 0 1.13 7 7 0 0 48.0 26 7 6 2 16 44 .159 0.88
3  Quintana, J CWS 5 1 1.38 7 7 0 0 45.2 36 8 7 1 9 42 .217 0.99
4  Wright, S BOS 3 3 1.52 6 6 0 0 41.1 25 10 7 2 16 38 .172 0.99
5  Lester, J CHC 3 1 1.58 6 6 0 0 40.0 33 7 7 4 9 38 .228 1.05
6  Maeda, K LAD 3 1 1.66 6 6 0 0 38.0 26 7 7 3 10 35 .191 0.95
7  Sale, C CWS 7 0 1.79 7 7 0 0 50.1 29 11 10 3 10 47 .165 0.77
8  Hammel, J CHC 4 0 1.85 6 6 0 0 34.0 25 7 7 1 14 28 .212 1.15
9  Salazar, D CLE 3 2 1.91 6 6 0 0 37.2 18 8 8 1 16 43 .142 0.90
10  Walker, T SEA 2 2 1.97 6 6 0 0 32.0 30 11 7 3 3 29 .242 1.03
11  Roark, T WSH 2 2 2.03 7 7 0 0 44.1 34 14 10 1 17 41 .210 1.15
12  Kershaw, C LAD 4 1 2.04 7 7 0 0 53.0 38 13 12 3 3 64 .199 0.77
13  Pomeranz, D SD 3 3 2.12 6 6 0 0 34.0 21 10 8 2 16 41 .176 1.09
14  Kennedy, I KC 4 2 2.13 6 6 0 0 38.0 28 9 9 3 13 35 .209 1.08
15  Chatwood, T COL 4 2 2.15 6 6 0 0 37.2 34 10 9 3 8 27 .239 1.12
16  Velasquez, V PHI 4 1 2.17 6 6 0 0 37.1 25 12 9 3 11 44 .188 0.96
17  Gonzalez, G WSH 2 1 2.19 6 6 0 0 37.0 29 11 9 2 10 28 .216 1.05
18  Hernandez, F SEA 2 2 2.21 6 6 0 0 36.2 28 15 9 3 18 29 .204 1.25
19  Tanaka, M NYY 1 0 2.29 6 6 0 0 39.1 29 11 10 2 7 35 .200 0.92
20  Richards, G LAA 1 3 2.34 6 6 0 0 34.2 31 16 9 2 15 34 .238 1.33
21  Strasburg, S WSH 5 0 2.36 6 6 0 0 42.0 33 11 11 1 9 47 .220 1.00
22  Estrada, M TOR 1 2 2.39 6 6 0 0 37.2 27 10 10 3 14 36 .196 1.09
22  Hill, R OAK 4 3 2.39 7 7 0 0 37.2 28 13 10 2 16 46 .206 1.17
24  Happ, J TOR 4 0 2.50 6 6 0 0 39.2 37 11 11 4 10 25 .253 1.18
25  Syndergaard, N NYM 2 2 2.58 6 6 0 0 38.1 33 11 11 1 8 49 .234 1.07
26  Martinez, C STL 4 2 2.61 6 6 0 0 38.0 26 11 11 4 11 30 .190 0.97
27  Latos, M CWS 5 0 2.62 6 6 0 0 34.1 31 10 10 4 10 19 .238 1.19
28  Hamels, C TEX 4 0 2.68 6 6 0 0 37.0 28 11 11 4 17 36 .217 1.22
29  Smyly, D TB 1 3 2.72 6 6 0 0 39.2 23 13 12 5 8 47 .167 0.78
30  Colon, B NYM 3 1 2.82 7 6 0 0 38.1 39 12 12 4 4 33 .271 1.12
30  Sanchez, A TOR 2 1 2.82 6 6 0 0 38.1 33 13 12 3 12 34 .228 1.17
32  Griffin, A TEX 3 0 2.94 6 6 0 0 33.2 24 12 11 2 14 28 .195 1.13
33  Porcello, R BOS 5 1 2.95 6 6 0 0 39.2 30 13 13 6 8 41 .207 0.96
*Baseball’s back. Glad to see this particular HR leader list. 90% legit guys, and some great names. When the stars are strong, the game is strong.
RK Player Team Pos G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
1  Arenado, N COL 3B 31 121 27 39 6 1 12 29 14 14 0 1 .322 .397 .686 1.083
1  Cano, R SEA 2B 31 128 20 39 6 0 12 33 9 17 0 0 .305 .355 .633 .988
3  Cespedes, Y NYM LF 26 97 19 29 4 1 11 30 11 24 0 0 .299 .376 .701 1.077
3  Story, T COL SS 30 125 23 34 5 3 11 24 13 46 2 2 .272 .338 .624 .962
5  Carter, C MIL 1B 30 107 20 30 10 0 10 22 12 33 0 0 .280 .344 .654 .998
5  Harper, B WSH RF 31 98 21 26 6 0 10 27 30 25 5 2 .265 .432 .633 1.064
5  Rizzo, A CHC 1B 30 111 26 30 8 1 10 28 22 18 2 1 .270 .413 .631 1.044
5  Stanton, G MIA RF 28 100 17 26 4 0 10 24 18 34 0 0 .260 .375 .600 .975
9  Altuve, J HOU 2B 32 123 30 40 14 0 9 19 16 16 13 1 .325 .415 .659 1.074
9  Donaldson, J TOR 3B 33 123 30 33 8 1 9 21 20 33 2 0 .268 .379 .569 .948
9  Machado, M BAL 3B 30 123 24 43 15 0 9 22 10 20 0 2 .350 .403 .691 1.094
9  Ortiz, D BOS DH 29 107 17 33 12 0 9 27 15 21 1 0 .308 .393 .673 1.066
9  Trumbo, M BAL RF 30 117 16 38 3 1 9 24 8 34 1 0 .325 .378 .598 .976
9  Walker, N NYM 2B 30 112 14 29 1 0 9 19 6 24 1 0 .259 .297 .509 .806
15  Davis, C BAL 1B 30 110 22 22 2 0 8 19 18 40 0 0 .200 .323 .436 .759
15  Frazier, T CWS 3B 32 124 17 24 4 0 8 21 13 26 2 1 .194 .273 .419 .693
15  Kemp, M SD RF 31 122 15 34 8 0 8 23 3 24 0 0 .279 .291 .541 .832
15  Semien, M OAK SS 32 100 13 21 1 0 8 15 13 27 1 0 .210 .298 .460 .758
19  Braun, R MIL LF 29 109 19 40 6 0 7 24 12 17 2 1 .367 .430 .615 1.044

Ethier, Donnie & The 2016 Dodgers

So regarding whether Andre Ethier was mad at the umpire, missed a bunt sign, or was just f-bombing an invisible entity, the Dodgers petered out of the playoffs following the in-game, public outburst. Apparently he’s been simmering since the beginning of his Dodger tenure Spring Training when he asked not to play Centerfield despite previous success in Center for the Dodgers. He’s very passive aggressive, and has notoriously bottled his feelings until a blowup at the manager or the front office, or simply in the press. He’s not quite a malcontent, but he’s on the border. 

Bottom line is, that was the most demonstrative I’ve seen him in the realm of the field, and to have that kind of blowout in an elimination game speaks to both Ethier’s (somewhat understandable) general unhappiness with his role as a Dodger, despite a great career (top 15 in HR, hames, hits career as a Dodger) in L.A., as well as the general frustration within the clubhouse regarding Mattingly’s lack of consistency and clear strategy.
I believe that Friedman is going to clean house as much as possible, building the team around Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig. I think the entire coaching staff is gone, Wallach finds a big league job somewhere, but 2016 begins with an out-of-house manager that changes the culture (Jason Giambi is a dream, but doubtful). It’s not like it was a horrible season. . .it was a stopgap season and they finished in line with (my) expectations, unfortunately.
It’s worth noting that I personally believed Puig needed to be jettisoned to end up more like Adrian Beltre than Raul Mondesi, but seeing a Puig-less lineup, even with Puig deservedly not starting, was painful. We’ve seen Puig’s talent and he needs to be supported & coddled to perform the way he can. It’s obviously not certain, but in my opinion, Puig is one of the top talents in baseball, so with him along with Kershaw and Seager, you have one of the best cores possible to compete with the Cubs & Mets for the next decade.
I also discussed something last night with my brother from another: those wacky ’25 cabs for 25 guys’ Red Sox winners were somewhat despicable, but the Dodgers seem more like ’25 iPhones for 25 guys.’ The difference is there was an emotion – passion? hatred? loathing? – amongst the Sox that made them hatable, but these Dodgers inspire. . . ambivalence.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter, but he’s very dull. Joc Pedersen should be the awe-inspiring, young talent, but he’s shown only regression since June – and definitely doesn’t play with emotion. Jimmy Rollins & Chase Utley are awesome – but they’re old. So Seager, a promising young rookie, is easily to be excited about but these playoffs (I’m calling them his Kobe ’97 performance) dampen the expectations. Puig is a potential cornerstone, but would it shock anybody if he ended up like Mondesi? Or worse? Kenley Jansen is a great closer, but who gets excited about closers? Alex Guerrero? Jose Peraza? Who cares? Justin Turner turned into a gem, and could be the type of player that the Giants would LOVE, and the Dodgers just might look to improve upon, furthering the disparate chemistry issues. Really tough team to root for, and  I’m a die-hard.
I will say this, though: watching Kershaw is amazing. As my dad said via text during his final (301 K) start of the regular season:
“remember that you’re watching a Hall of Fame pitcher every time you see Kershaw pitch”
Either way, Go Dodgers in 2016. Should be a completely new team.

2015 MLB Predictions

Let me start by saying I don’t think any team wins 95 games in all of MLB. Very competitive and not so much parity as a lack of dominance. The game doesn’t lend itself to one team – or a handful of teams – asserting themselves, so you’re going to have the upper tier, and everybody else is going to battle. A good brand of baseball, if you will.

AL East – good or bad, and this year trends more to the latter, this is a fun/competitive division. I am loathe to pick the Orioles because, cmon, but they might STILL be the best team here despite losing Markakis and Cruz. Sheesh. I love the Yankees but there are sooooooo many question marks. The Red Sox pitching is underwhelming though their offense is thunderous. The Blue Jays probably have the best team, the loss of Stroman hurts, but they’re incapable of playing any extended periods of good ball under Anthopolous (sp). 87 winsOrioles (uuggghh).
 
AL Central – Tigers are the easy pick, but probably wrong with both Sanchez and Verlander iffy. Also later Max. The Indians are all chic and fun and honestly a good team and I like Francona a ton, but no. The Twins are going to be the team next year, but not yet. The Royals, maligned as they are, are my pick – and I think they win it going away. 91 wins. I think that top to bottom, it’s a team. Kind of reminds me of the 80’s Dodgers. People thought Lasorda was a dunski but a helluva players’ manager and ended up being HoF. That’s Yost?
AL West – going to be some fun baseball played in this time zone, so post-Felix bedtime I may have to binge. The Astros and Rangers are out of the conversation, the A’s should be but they’re still the A’s so I’ll give them a soft letdown by saying ‘not this time,’ thus leaving the Angels (sigh) and the Mariners (yay but no). I love the M’s, they just feel too bandwagoned too soon. I’d be happy to be wrong on that one, but for now Angels win the division with an AL best 94 wins.
WC – Indians, Mariners. I don’t love the White Sox. I love Sale, Quintana is a creep that can roll, and Abreu is the real deal. They’ll be in the mix, but fall just short.
NL East – It’s so hard to not pick the Nationals here. So I won’t. They will win this division with an MLB-leading 95 wins, and somehow feel like a slight disappointment despite Bryce Harper’s 37 homeruns. The Mets would be a fun pick, the Marlins will be competitive, but the Braves and Phillies are the worst two teams in baseball.
NL Central – I’ve always hated the style of baseball that comes out of this division, and that means especially the Cardinals. And the Reds. And the Pirates. But seriously, emphatically, the Cardinals. And those jerks are going to win the division again with a tooth-and-nail 89 wins, as the Pirates and upstart Brewers combine to form a .500 ball trio in games played against each other. Some would say it’s a intra-division bloodbath, but most of those people won’t live in Chicago because the improved Cubs will win 81 games, but never really be a serious division contender.
NL West – Does this Kimbrel trade put the Padres over the top? I’m not as high on the Dodgers as I ‘should’ be, but that lineup is stout. We know the Dbacks and Rockies are out of it, but 1-8, the Dodgers have the best bats in the West. But what about the Padres pitching? Ross, Cashner, Kennedy, Shields, Despaigne, wowzers. Good stuff. But still, the Dodgers win it with a robust92 win season. Also, the Giants have a nice staff, will make an annoying run, will win 88 games, and steal the last WC slot.
WC – PadresGiants. I just don’t like the Pirates rotation, I don’t think the Brewers have quite enough, and the Marlins are a win and a Jose Fernandez full season away.
Indians win Wild Card, face the Angels.
Angels vs Indians – Angels
Royals vs. Orioles – Royals
Angels over Royals
Giants win the Wild Card, face the Nats.
Nats vs. Giants – Nationals
Dodgers vs, sigh, Cardinals – Dodgers
Winner of this series likely wins the WS. VERY difficult decision, personally and objectively. Had to sleep on this one. Finally, I was thinking about this during my morning “commute” to Sherman Oaks:. How can you beat the Nationals? Fister is the number four Gonzalez is their number five? My man Bryce who I’ve been hyping shamelessly this entire off-season? I really don’t see how a team beats them, unfortunately. Luckily baseball comes down to magic, mojo, and moments of greatness. You can’t rely on these things, but they occur. Keeping in mind I do not love this Dodgers team – I think this is more a reflection of the league itself, not in subpar fashion but the lack of a dominant team. The Rizzo Curse is real, and as much as I don’t want to be a Homer, Simpson, I have to pick the Dodgers.

Dodgers Winter Meetings 2014: This Is What I Think

I have no isolated insight, no secret sources, no magic metrics on the Dodgers flurry of activity under the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi/Josh Byrnes regime. What I do have is an objective fan’s outlook about both the Chavez Ravine management team and the club that will perform there this coming summer (and autumn).

I first want to address Matt Kemp, as he is the largest name involved in these transactions. For me, I’ve enjoyed his talent but have not consistently praised him as some (many) have. With effortless speed & power, we saw what Kemp could do – nearly a 40/40 season in ’11 when he finished second in MVP to Ryan Braun (Granada Hills HS). We saw the precociousness after the ferociousness, literally moping upon his move to left field. He was disinterested at times, downtrodden at others, and along with Andre Ethier, formed a really needy core.

Especially for really good players. Both of these guys needed to play, but they also needed to be loved. Ethier was nearly despised by some fans, though that chapter will be closed come January or February, when Friedman engineers that deal. In fact, I think both Ethier and Crawford are going to be moved prior to the first pitch of 2015, with management taking a wrecking ball to The Team That Ned Built. But I digress. . .We know Kemp is an undeniable talent, and in fact – I think he will play well in San Diego. The relaxed environ, the spacious field for him to gallop in Center and Right, the Man status; this will all play well to his soul, and he’ll perform. Plus, .280/25/90 on the Padres is performing, so good for him.

And good for the Dodgers. I don’t think the overhaul is so much due to lack of capable ballplayers on Colletti’s roster; I think the entire club ethos needed to change.

Letting Hanley walk, and I LOVED Hanley, was a must. He was the most exciting hitter I’d seen at Dodger Stadium since another Ramirez (99 on his jersey), and has a laserbeam line drive ability (I’m talking absolute screamers, check out his 2013 homer in San Diego, coincidentally) that I’d only seen previously with Gary Sheffield. But he had to go. He needs to have the option to DH, and the Dodgers needed to look for a real shortstop. That bat is irreplaceable, but he commanded too many years; 120 games played would soon be his highwater mark, and the Dodgers don’t need that albatross.

One deal that went nearly unnoticed is the acquisition of Joel Peralta. A professional; unspectacular and easily overlooked, Peralta is more a signal than anything – the bullpen is not a place to invest outside the organization. You can make prudent acquisitions, guys that will calm the ship, eat innings & understand their roles, but as evidenced by the Royals, Giants and Cardinals, you need to build your bullpen from within. Develop guys as starters in the minor leagues and let them hit their preordained innings mark through a variety of roles. But honing in on the pen – especially during formative years – is the most productive way to build pitchers and a safety net.

The Cardinals, in my mind, pioneered this with Adam Wainwright (he was their closer during the ’06 pennant run), converted Rosenthal to perma-pen status, but have brought up the youngsters this way. It’s smart, and it needs to be stated – the bullpen is for guys that aren’t good enough to be starters; they are inherently worse than the guy they’re replacing. Or at least that’s how it was, and why so many bullpens implode. But if you use it as a platform for your best arms, you’re making the bullpen a strength. It makes a ton of sense, and that, along with LaRussa’s inning specialization, will make the biggest impact on the makeup of ballclubs in the last half century.

In short, the Dodgers simply had too many old, crappy arms on the books (Wilson, League, Perez), which weren’t allowing the maligned Scott Elbert, the injured Chris Withrow, and the overlooked Paco Rodriguez to slide into natural roles that could have enhanced the team. I think that Peralta and Friedman acquisition Juan Nicasio will provide a stopgap for the pen while they’ll look to build in 2016 and beyond from the inside, which was luckily left fruitful by Logan White.

And speaking of stopgaps – Jimmy Rollins. What a dude. At least in the 00’s. He still seems like a good guy, a leader type, but is older than the guy the Dodgers let walk. Now, we’re talking a different iteration of player, as Rollins game is/was predicated on quickness & speed with a burst of pop instead of all brawn with a flash of speed. Rollins has been slightly above average for the past four years, yet is remarkably consistent. In today’s game, you don’t need your shortstop to light up the scoreboard, and Rollins’ .260, 14 hr, 55 RB, 29 steals will suffice until Corey Seager snatches the position.Seager, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson. That’s the future right there and Friedman, et al, understand that. The ability to make so many maneuvers (10 trades in 25 days at one point) and upgrade without dealing the three kids is a major coup for this team. I really think the underlying statement that was made is the following:

we have a huge budget and aren’t afraid to use it, but we realize that the future is built on the backs of SABR-minded individuals that also understand that baseball is, and always will be, based on the eyeball test. 

Which brings me to Dee Gordon. Talk about a likable ballplayer; always smiling, always improving, a genuine good person on and off the field. Dodger fans loved his improvement this year, after teetering on the precipice of being a 4A player. “He was an All-Star,” they’d say. Shoot, I said it too. He was exciting. Sixty four stolen bases this year! But the dude couldn’t hit, and I worry that he’d end up being a .262 guy with no pop, and – well, there’s a reason Pat Listach didn’t have a long career. I wish him well in Miami, but most of all I thank him for turning into Andrew Heaney (who’s going to be damn good, ps, and really made me crack up on Twitter), who was flipped for Howie Kendrick.I’ve always likened Howie Kendrick to Kirby Puckett, my favorite player growing up. Free swinging, joyous dudes that came out of junior colleges to light up the big leagues with their smiles & their sticks. Kendrick, of course, isn’t the hitter Puckett was but he can swing it. Especially for a second baseman – and in my mind, the jump offensively from Gordon to Kendrick offsets the perceived drop from Ramirez to Rollins on the other side of the second base bag. Kendrick has a decent glove, and with only one year left on his contract leaves the Dodgers with options heading into 2016, the first real year of the new regime.

Lastly, the Dodgers aren’t done. I don’t know if that means David Price, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, James Shields or all of the above (just kidding, I think?). I do think that Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are untouchable, and Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen & AJ Ellis aren’t going anywhere.

Anything else is up for discussion.

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photo via fansided/lasportshub