Everybody Gets a Trophy!

  • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:21 AM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


The Dodgers today announced the Andre Ethier was named a finalist for the 2012 Hank Aaron Award, given to the outstanding hitter in each league. Matt Kemp won the award in 2011.

At first glance, the news is a shocker. Ethier, with his .284 average (and even more pitiful .222 vs. lefties) paltry 20 homers is a finalist for this coveted award? It's not until you read down a few paragraphs that you learn every team gets to submit a finalist. Even the Astros. So Jose Altuve, come on down. You are the least worst player on the Astros!

Ethier was no Jose Altuve, although the 22-year-old second baseman did compile a slightly higher average (.290). But to realize Ethier was the best hitter on the 2012 Dodgers is to understand why the team failed to make the playoffs. When Matt Kemp got hurt, the Dodgers fielded a middle-of-the-lineup that often featured hitters nomore imposing than Ethier, Jerry Hairston and Bobby Abreu. In that regard, Ethier was the least worst Dodger of the first half of 2012.

I suspect the competition for best Dodger hitter of 2013 will be a little more interesting with full seasons from Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez. It’s too bad the 2012 team didn’t get them in time for them to make more of a difference.


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Gonzo Over Gonzo, But Not Over Beckett Or Crawford

  • Sunday, August 26, 2012 11:27 AM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


Let me get this part out of the way first: I love the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, a San Diego native who will energize the Latino fan base in Los Angeles. His three-run homer in his first at-bat yesterday is the first of many dividends he will provide. And his defense may be superior to the offensively disappointing James Loney, who went to Boston in this deal.

Let’s just hope somebody can figure out a better nickname for him than A-Gon. Because it has the word “gone” in it, using the first-initial, first syllable of last name nickname structure isn’t quite as lame as it is for A-Rod (M-Teja anyone? S-Vict? A-Eth? A-Puj? M-Hol?

But I hate the other parts of this puzzle. Josh Beckett seems like a malcontent whose best days are behind him. I loved the Hanley Ramirez deal, even though he seemed like a malcontent, too. But Hanley is only 28. Beckett is 32. Big difference there.

Carl Crawford has an albatross of a contract for a player who has never played up to his potential. His ability to steal bases appealed to people who don't understand OPS, but even those days were three years ago. He has stolen just 23 bases in the past two years, and hit just nine triples. His return from Tommy John surgery (for an outfielder!) is another nine months away. As he has gotten older (he just turned 31), he has become injury prone. Nick Punto? The Dodgers already have a third baseman who can’t hit his weight?

I also don't like giving up Allen Webster and Robby de La Rosa, two of the Dodgers top pitching prospects. De La Rosa may not become Pedro Martinez, as some have suggested, but I do believe he would have been the #3 starter in the Dodgers’ rotation in 2013. Not bad when your No. 1 is Clayton Kershaw and your No. 2 is a guy who won six straight starts before hitting the DL.

More than the players involved in the trade, however, I don’t like the economics. Taking on an additional $250+ million in salary for one All-Star and three spare parts is lunacy. It turns the Dodgers into the west coast version of the Yankees, a team that spends its way to success rather than building from within.

I tired of the Yankee way just as I was leaving New York. Bringing in hired guns like A-Rod and Clemens and Teixeira undoubtedly created a team that made the postseason almost every year. But they became a team that was hard to root for, because they were expected to win every game. When they lost, it was almost a personal affront to the fans.

The high payroll also turned Yankee Stadium into a cathedral for the rich. Economists say high player salaries don’t translate into high ticket prices. But I’m wary. The joy of Dodger Stadium is that it’s affordable and timeless in its beauty. Turning it into New Yankee Stadium would make it less appealing to me.

Experts also say the expected TV deal will make a quarter of a billion dollars look like chump change. Again, I’m suspicious. If the Dodgers have this kind of money to waste, they didn’t need to keep Juan Uribe and his piddling $8 million contract on the bench. I worry that a year from now, when Beckett and Crawford are both sucking, management will be just as reluctant to eat those contracts. The only problem is Crawford is signed through 2017. It’s as though, having finally shed the onerous contracts of Juan Pierre and Manny Ramirez (they’re still paying Andruw Jones, if you can believe it!) they decided to take on an even bigger financial headache.

If Crawford stands in the way of the Dodgers playing a better option, be it Yasiel Puig or whoever, this trade will continue to plague them for years down the road.


Not Exactly Cooperstown

  • Friday, August 17, 2012 2:58 PM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


After 2.5 years in production, Jon Leonoudakis's documentary, "Not Exactly Cooperstown," will premiere at the Pasadena Central Library on Sunday August 19 at 2 p.m.

This isn't your father's baseball documentary. It's an unorthodox look at America's most orthodox game. There's something for everyone: Americana, folklore, sex, religion, scandal, fandom, poetry, sport and art. You can visit the film's website at notexactlycooperstown.com. as well as its Facebook page.

The screening is going to feature a special $2 trivia quiz (if you get the question right, you get a crisp $2 bill) and attendees are encouraged to arrive in full baseball regalia for the chance of a special prize. Admission is free and open to the public. The film was made for non-profit/educational purposes and will eventually be donated to schools and universities around the US.

If you miss it in August, it will also be playing in South Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco in the fall before it goes on tour to the midwest and east coast.


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That's The Melky Way

  • Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:47 PM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


Melky Cabrera's 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs raises an interesting question: Could he still win the NL batting title?

Cabrera's suspension ends his season today, as the Gians only have 45 games left in their regular season. Theoretically, he could return to the team if they make the playoffs, but would have to sit out the first five games.

He’s currently second in the NL, with a no-longer-surprising .346 average, or 62 points above his career average. Andrew McCutcheon, the likely NL MVP, is leading the league at .359, but averages tend to come down at the end of the long season. It's possible that McCutcheon fades down the stretch, leaving Cabrera with the best average in the league.

To qualify for a batting title, a player must have 3.1 plate appearances per game. Assuming the Giants play all 162, that's 502 appearances. Cabrera has 501, or 1 short of the minimum. To qualify for the batting title, his average would need to be recalculated. But one additional plate appearance wouldn’t lower his average; it would be .3456, or statistically, still .346.

Will baseball allow this to happen? It would be a terrible black eye. But attaching asterisks to records compiled by suspended players opens a whole can of worms. Baseball had better pray McCutcheon or Joey Votto (currently third) continue to hit. Or find ways to help them.


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Man Down

  • Thursday, August 9, 2012 8:51 AM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


Juan Uribe has apparently spent some of the $21 million the Dodgers lavished upon him two winters ago to purchase the naked pictures of Ned Colletti previously held by Mark Sweeney and Garret Anderson. How else to explain Uribe’s continued presence on the 2012 Dodgers?

One had to assume the rotund infielder’s days were numbered at the All-Star break, when his batting average fell below the Mendoza line. Or two weeks later, when the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez to play the two positions for which Uribe is marginally qualified.

Or yesterday, when the Dodgers needed to clear space to bring back the slightly less disappointing infielder Adam Kennedy. Yet somehow, Uribe managed to upend the grim reaper’s chess board, as Jerry Sands was sent back to Albuquerque just four days after being recalled.

What the hell was that all about? You bring a guy up for four days? Did somebody need frequent flyer miles?

So Uribe continues to provide veteran leadership in the locker room, while playing just five innings since Ramirez’s arrival. In essence, the Dodgers are playing a man short because they’re unwilling to eat the approximately $10 million Uribe is still owed through the end of 2013.

If they really didn’t mind going with a 24-man roster, couldn’t the Dodgers at least let Matt Treanor go to London to watch his wife win an Olympic gold medal?


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No Love For AJ Ellis?

  • Monday, June 18, 2012 10:57 AM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


Sports Illustrated recently asked 306 big leaguers to rank the 15 toughest catchers to steal on. It's hard to argue with their perception that Yadier Molina is the best in the business. But the fact that AJ Ellis is nowhere on the list shows that opposing baserunners just haven’t been paying attention. Ellis ranks fifth in baseball at throwing out would-be stealers, behind Arizona’s Miguel Montero (with a whopping 50 percent success rate), Cincinnati's Ryan Hanigan, San Francisco's Hector Sanchez (Buster who?) and Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz.

Joe Mauer, who placed 5th on the SI list, has thrown out just 15 percent of baserunners this year. Mike Napoli, supposedly inept at this task, has a better success rate. Yadier's older brother Jose Molina, ranked 8th, has thrown out just 3 of the 19 men who've tried to steal on him.

I don't know whether this is one of those stats that has more to do with pitchers than catchers. Certainly Ellis has been hurt by catching Ted Lilly, whose inability to hold runners on has allowed seven of nine baserunners to advance, and Kenley Jansen, who has never registered a caught-stealing in his short career (he's 0-for-2 in 2012).

What I do know is that this ranking, like the Gold Glove awards, seems to be based not on facts, but on reputation, much of which is established at the plate, rather than behind it. The funny thing is, Ellis has done just as much to acquit himself with the bat as with the glove. Then again, maybe this disrespect is what has made him so successful. Players think they can run on him, so they try it. But 39 percent of the time, they're wrong.


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Just Don't 'I Do' It

  • Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:46 AM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


At the past two Dodger games I've been to (Friday and Monday nights), some would-be Romeo has had the bright idea of proposing to his girlfriend at the Stadium. On Monday night, the entire ordeal took place before the first pitch, as a serviceman in full Class As took the occasion of some on-field honor he was receiving to propose to his girlfriend on the infield grass. Friday's guy was even more sneaky clever, waiting until the Kiss Cam found him and his intended in the stands before bending down on one knee and popping the question.

In both cases, the Diamond Vision flashed the proposal. And in each case, the woman in question was clearly caught by surprise. Or some might say horror.

There's hardly a bigger baseball fan than my wife. She watches as many games as I do, loves to visit new parks whenever we visit another major league city, and keeps score when I get up to buy more beer. But she would have left me long ago if I had proposed to her at a baseball stadium.

Guys: Pleas don't do this to your woman. Getting engaged in a baseball stadium may be your dream, but it isn’t hers. No woman other than Dottie Hinson (her real name was Kamenshek ) wants to be proposed to at the ballpark. She's spent her entire life waiting for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Field. What part of hot dogs and peanuts and 30,000 strangers seems at all like a romantic candlelit dinner for two?

In both instances, the woman in question was a good sport, and graciously accepted the thoughtless groom's offer. After all, what’s she supposed to do? Say no and risk embarrassing the guy with every camera in sight trained on him? Of course not. Most women have more sense than that.


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The Dodgers Knock Down Fences ...

  • Tuesday, April 24, 2012 4:48 PM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


... and walls and windows and doors, as they came out to volunteer with my local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. And not ex-Dodgers like Ken Landreaux and Lou Johnson, or part-time players like Justin Sellers or Tony Gwynn Jr. I'm talking All-Star Dodgers, recognizable by people who don’t even follow baseball. I'm talking 2011 Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw and his wife, and 2011 shoulda-been MVP Matt Kemp. Kemp and I spent some time taking sledgehammers to walls (the walls lost) as we tore down a garage to make room for another house for a poor hard-working family.

The all-stars were there for more than a photo op, hanging around and helping us get work done long after a cynic would have said they could have gotten back on the bus. Kershaw in particular, lingered for a while (he isn't scheduled to pitch tonight). Kemp wielded the sledgehammer with ease, but didn’t labor so long that anyone needs to worry about him wrecking his swing. Somebody asked him that question, in fact. His answer: “Don’t worry, I work out."

Josh Lindblom, who also came out the last time the Dodgers helped out at Habitat, was there today as well, and brought his wife Aurielle with him. Jill Painter, the LA Daily News columnist, told me the two of them volunteer all the time, even when the cameras aren't there. That makes him my new favorite Dodger. Sorry, Jerry Hairston. :-)

Maury Wills helped me remove a window, and my outstanding crew of Bank of America volunteers helped us tear the roof off the garage.

Photos by Jon Soohoo


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Early Look At Dodgers: And 'The Rest' is History

  • Thursday, April 19, 2012 4:14 PM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


Before Gilligan's Island became popular, the opening theme song neglected to mention "the Professor and Mary Ann," relegating them to the catchall "and the rest," following "the movie star."

The theme song for the Dodgers 2012 offense might have to be written the same way. The headliners are impressive: Matt Kemp (the league’s most valuable player in 2011, even if the Baseball Writers didn’t see fit to give him the award because of the team he played for), and Andre Ethier, an All-Star and gold glover whose 2011 season was curtailed by injury.

After that, however, the Professor and Mary Ann might be better options, even at their advanced ages of 87 and 74 respectively. Kemp and Ethier have combined to hit 11 homers, drive in 18 runs apiece, and OPS a ridiculous 1.432 and 1.044 respectively. Those gaudy numbers have earned Kemp Player of the Week honors for the first two weeks of the season.

The offense tails off after the middle of the order, however. More like swan dives. "The Rest" collectively have just one home run (AJ Ellis) and 23 RBIS. Not counting pitchers, the other Dodger position players are bating .223, slugging .355, and OPSing .668.

Or, pretty much what I expected when this season started: Kemp would carry the offense, just like he did last year, and the Dodgers would be better than .500 if Ethier returned to form, and worse if he didn’t. The fact that they are 10-3 can be attributed to some lousy April opponents, and to Ethier and Kemp hitting the cover off the ball.

Projected over a full season, each man would have 224 RBIs. Kemp would have 87 homers, Ethier 50. Kemp's batting average of .451 would shatter this single season record of .439 set by Hugh Duffy of the Boston Beaneaters in 1894. Ethier would hit 62 doubles, more than any man since Paul Waner in 1932.

In other words, it can't go on like this forever. The heart of the Dodger order isn't going to stop beating, but it can’t keep hyperventilating like this for a full season. When Kemp and Ethier come back to earth, so will the Dodgers. Unless one of The Rest work their way into the credits.


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Dodger Blogger Softball Tournament

  • Sunday, February 12, 2012 2:35 PM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


I'm still glowing (or maybe it's just the sun and windburn) from the day we spent Saturday at Big League Dreams for the first Dodger blogger softball tournament. The day was a hit from start to finish; even the weather co-operated by raining only just enough for a massive rainbow that filled the sky. Only a pot of gold and a leprechaun at the other end could have improved this day.

Our morning started early, with an 8 a.m. faceoff against Sons of Steve Garvey in Dodger Stadium. We followed up a 17-3 win with tighter 13-9 victory over Fansmanship.com, a team that had traveled all the way from San Luis Obispo for the event, and had the misfortune of drawing the eventual tournament champion and runner up in its first two games. We made it a perfect 3-0 with a win over Dodger Bobbleheads, a team we would defeat a second time in the playoffs to reach the final. There, we ran into the buzzsaw known as the LFP, the blog that sponsored the tournament and came from behind with a 13-run fourth inning to win the whole thing.

The wins and losses, however, were almost beside the point. The replica fields at Big League Dreams turn a normal softball game into something out of the ordinary. You know you're not actually at Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park or Tiger Stadium, but you can convince yourself that it's the real thing. And as we celebrated the day afterward in the parking lot, you’d be hard pressed to say you weren't looking up at the real pavilion in Dodger Stadium.

Frank Irving led off four of the five games by reaching base safely, and played a stellar shortstop.

Bobby Bakhtiari made just two outs all day, one a sac fly, and made several superb catches in the outfield—not to mention the contributions of his “stick.”

Alan Cruz delivered the biggest hit of the day: a grand slam over the Fenway wall.

Myles Reed set the tone for the day by going middle in his very first at-bat (LOL).

Tony Carpowich is due for a bunch of Tuesday night bloops, as one hard hit ball after another found its way off his bat into a glove, the box, or the stands.

Ron Passaro delivered a big homer in Game 3 to propel us into the playoffs.

Marty Butterick played lockdown second base and was constantly on base.

JP Ahn got big hits with each of the 10 bats he brought. He even went oppo on more than one occasion.

Ylana de la Rosa was a mighty mite, smacking singles over heads and between fielders. Our women were the difference-makers in every game.

Jeff Outcalt was our one-man pitching rotation, throwing more innings in a day than Clayton Kershaw does in a month, and peppering the third base line with hit after hit.

Kellie Urdang stopped laughing only long enough to drive in key runs that gave us the lead.

Johnny Flores woke up in time to arrive by the second game, and his bat woke up by Game 3.

And I mostly stood around while opposing pitchers feared to throw me anything over the plate. It's amazing how you can develop a batter’s eye when the reward for walking is runners on first and second.

We met fellow Dodger fans from across the blogosphere, and it was a treat to put faces to names we've been reading for years. The aches and pains -- and hangover -- are starting to fade already, but I’ll hold onto the memories for a long while.


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Dodgers Visit Habitat for Humanity

  • Wednesday, February 8, 2012 5:34 PM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


Two of my favorite interests collided Wednesday as the Dodgers Community Caravan came to Lynwood to help refurbish a home with Habitat for Humanity. As a regular volunteer with Habitat, I was on hand to lend instruction to the players.

Jerry Hairston Jr. was eager to use power tools, so I handed him the circular saw and let him cut through the stucco so we could install a new window. He's planning to build his own home in Arizona, and just might do some of the work himself now that he knows how to install windows.

James Loney, Javy Guerra and Josh Lindblom got into the swing of things, by taking a few whacks at some stubborn concrete with a sledgehammer. I wouldn't say they were in mid-season form, but it's only February.

Former Dodger Ken Landreaux diligently attacked a stubborn 800-pound tree stump, refusing to leave until we got it out of the ground. Maury Wills, Fernando Valenzuela, Derrel Thomas, Bobby Castillo and Sweet Lou Johnson helped paint the eaves under the roof.

Needless to say, the kids from St. Paul High School, not to mention the family that's receiving the house, were thrilled. In baseball, as in life, there's no place like home.

Jerry Hairston Jr. photo by Jon Soohoo


Spring Training Broadcast Schedule, Yeah!

  • Tuesday, February 7, 2012 10:30 AM
  • Written By: Dodgers Diaries


The Dodgers will broadcast 18 cactus league games on TV this March, and why not. It’s not like Prime Ticket has a lot of programming in the middle of the day. For the price of a few cameras and announcers who are also looking to get into midseason form (you don’t think Charley Steiner can be that breathless without practice, do you?) they’ll have a live broadcast for the diehard (like me) and shiftless (also guilty).

Here’s a list of the games on TV and/or radio. All games are at 1:05 unless otherwise noted.

Tue., Mar. 6 v. SF Prime ticket AM 570

Thu., Mar. 8 v. OAK Prime ticket

Fri., Mar. 9 @ TEX AM 570

Sun., Mar. 11 v. CHC 12:05 Prime ticket AM 570

Mon., Mar. 12 @ LAA AM 570

Tue., Mar. 13 v. COL Prime ticket

Thu., Mar. 15 v. KC Prime ticket

Fri., Mar. 16 v. TEX Prime ticket

v. SF 7:05 Prime ticket KTNQ

Sun., Mar. 18 v. LAA KCAL KTNQ

Tue., Mar. 20 v.MIL Prime ticket

Weds., Mar. 21 v. SD Prime ticket

Sat., Mar. 24 v. SD KCAL KTNQ

Sun., Mar. 25 @ MIL KTNQ

Mon., Mar. 26 v. CHW Prime ticket

Thu., Mar. 29 v. CHW Prime ticket

@ MIL Prime ticket

Sat., Mar. 31 @ ARI KTNQ

Sun., Apr. 1 v. ARI Prime ticket AM 570/KTNQ


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