I wrote the column below three years ago on Sept 17, 2017 right after Bruce Maxwell took a knee before a baseball game. Sadly, three years later it is still relevant and since I can’t seem to write about baseball right now, I’m going to leave this at the top of my queue.
You can’t equivocate on this issue, our country has tried to sweep it under the carpet ever since the Black Panthers stopped having a voice, but instead of black Americans getting hanged they have simply been shot at an alarming percentage compared to their Caucasian brothers.
I was disappointed last year when Colin Kaepernick took a knee but did so by himself. Where was the Pee Wee Reese moment where his Caucasian teammate would kneel next to him? A year later the movement has spread as President Trump galvanized the players by making a typically anti-constitutional comment. It must drive him crazy that he is not a monarch and that our country has a whole series of checks and balances that he still trying to figure out ways to dodge.
Just as he dodged the draft, he has never served anything but himself, so when the blowhard tweeted that people should be fired for protesting, just proves once again, that President Trump has no idea what this country is supposed to be about.
His henchman Mike Huckaby had this to say:
The former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said on Fox News, “I wish that some of these players who get on one knee would get on both knees and thank God they live in the United States.”
Seeming to ignore the entire history of the African American world. The world in which they were kidnapped from their country to work as slaves in our country. The country which continued to hang them for a myriad of reasons, most of which were simply because they were black.
Most of my life I’ve felt the people who died in the Civil War is the price this country paid for slavery
Roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty. Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million souls.
and that should have closed the book on the Caucasian guilt of what they did to the people of color but the book never closes. Whatever lessons we should have learned we did not as we progressively moved through each segment of the color chart of the human experience, Native American, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, South American. You name a color the United States has smeared that color rather than embrace it. First, we brought you here to do the worst jobs we had and then hated you for doing them. Almost a psychopathic display of non-Christian attitudes.
The ongoing protest is now about the percentage of people of color who are being murdered by the police force of the United States but it could just as easily be about all of the inequity of our system. I’ll even admit that for most of my life I assumed every shooting was for just cause, but seventeen years ago the Los Angeles Police Department shot a black American at a Halloween Party and the reason behind it did not hold water. Ever since that incident, I have had an open eye to the victim of a police shooting.
I won’t pretend to understand the pressures a police person goes through to do their job, but I do know that if you are going to take the job as a police person you can’t simply kill the people you have been hired to protect every time you feel you are in danger. It is obvious that major training needs to happen, and that some of the police people involved in shooting unarmed people of color need to be held more accountable for their crime than simply losing their jobs.
Should an athlete who has made it thank God they live in the United States? He should thank his athletic skills because without those skills he would have had a 10% chance of being incarcerated in this great country of ours.
I can understand a Caucasian person taking a knee and thanking God if they happen to believe in God for being born in the United States, I don’t believe that holds true for people of color, and until it does, taking a knee during the National Anthem is a very pacifistic way of protesting the gross inequities of this nation between people of color and us white folk.
Last year after Colin Kaepernick took his knee I was at a Clipper game, I really wanted to take a knee but didn’t. I lost a little bit of respect for myself that night.
The 2000 Census counted 14,128 people living in Cullman, Alabama, a city in the northern part of the state, halfway between Huntsville and Birmingham. Forty-eight of those residents were black. Baseball took Bruce Maxwell an hour down the road to Cullman that year for a tournament. He was just shy of 10 years old, mature enough to understand that almost nobody there looked like him, innocent enough to believe it didn’t matter. His father was African-American. His mother was white. He couldn’t control who he was.
“We won the tournament,” Maxwell said, “and a man stood up in the stands. And he threatened to hang me and my dad.”
Pedro Moura just wrote an excellent memorial to Jose Lima who died ten years ago. Pedro dug deep into the Lima mystique and has quite a few nuggets. My favorite might be:
“Sweet home Dominicana,” Lima would often sing to the tune of a Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, “where you can lie about your age!”
I wrote this ten years ago when Dodger postseason star Jose Lima died unexpectedly at the age of 37. I’ve brought it over here for today.
The news of Jose Lima dying at the age of 37 today should have shocked all of us. I expect to write about Dodgers dying but not guys who are 14 years my junior. He only pitched for us for one year but man oh man, what a year it was.
Until Jose Lima joined the Dodgers I considered him a showboating fool, who was all about public relations. In 2004 with the change in ownership I delved into buying season tickets, and ended up right next to the Dodger bullpen staring down into that strange world of hierarchies.
I wasn’t happy that Lima had made the team in the spring of 2004, he was to me someone who should be pitching for a losing program not the Dodger program. I also have never been a fan of fake showmanship, and at the beginning Lima seemed all about fake showmanship. Later as I settled in to my season tickets Lima would prove me wrong in every which way.
First off, in 2004 the man could pitch, in fact as I wait for Ely to fall to earth, I should take note of what Lima accomplished with less.
Second, the man loved this game and the fans. No Dodger before or since Jose Lima, interacted on a daily basis with such enthusiasm. His love of the game was contagious and since he loved the fans, they loved him back. Lima Time was not just some bullshit term, Jose Lima earned it by using every trick in the book to fool the hitters, and genuine enthusiasm to make the fans feel like someone actually cared about them.
When Jose was first used in the bullpen he would be the first guy to show up, and shower the stands from the field box to the reserve with free baseballs. Later when he became a fixture in the rotation he still would come down to the bullpen area to chat with the fans. He’s the only starter who has ever done that on a consistent basis.
He sang the national anthem and to be honest I have no idea if he was any good or not, because most of Dodger Stadium was ogling his gorgeous wife.
However without something to cap off the season, he would simply have been remembered as just another interesting Dodgers, but in October he did something completely unexpected. He pitched the game of his career, and he did it in style. It was the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed at Dodgers Stadium. From the time Jose Lima was warming up until the last out, Chavez Ravine was buzzing. I’ve been to a game like that before but the buzz stops when the pitching fails, this time the pitching did not fail.
It wouldn’t have been the same if someone like Orel or Fernando had pitched the gem. The greatest part of the game was the complete surprise that someone like Jose Lima could pitch the greatest Dodger playoff game in the last 16 years.
Jose Lima shut out the prodigious St Louis lineup for the first playoff victory for the Dodgers since 1988. He shut down Albert Pujols. He shut down the critics.
He won our hearts forever.
You’d think that someone like myself who loves LAD history more than most would be enjoying all these historic games being broadcast, or all the great blogs trying to find an angle to write about from the best player that wore a Dodger number to the best Dodger player for each position but truth be told I have thought very little about baseball over the past two months. It wasn’t just that Covid-19 had put a halt to the 2020 MLB season, I can’t seem to get past the upcoming election and how if things stay the same, this country will continue down a path I don’t want to be part of. I won’t say it consumes me, but it has changed my perspective.
Last night I noticed that game four of the 1978 NLCS was going to be on so I recorded it for late night viewing and when I settled into watch this particular game something changed, all my memories of this sport I love came flowing back. I imagine a good part of it, was this specific team. The 1973 – 1981 Dodgers were my hey day, as I watched the core grow from kids and turn into a team that could have legitimately won four World Championships instead of just one. It wasn’t just the infield of Garvey/Lopes/Russell/Cey but also Reggie Smith/Rick Monday/Dusty Baker/Lee Lacy/Joe Ferguson/Manny Mota/Steve Yeager/Burt Hooten/Tommy John/Don Sutton/Terry Forster. This was a fun and loaded team to root for.
In 1978 the Dodgers were facing a formidable Phillies team that had won the East three years in a row. The Dodgers had dispatched the Phillies in 1977 and had won the first two games of the 1978 NLCS , but after losing game three, they needed to win game four so they wouldn’t have to play a game five. The Phillies boasted HOF Mike Schmidt in his prime, the Bull Greg Luzinski, the best CF in baseball in Garry Maddox, relief expert Tug McGraw, and of course HOF Steve Carlton.
The Dodgers were no slouches, having perhaps one of the best Dodger teams to not win the World Series. They did not have any HOF position players but you could have almost fielded a complete Hall of the Very Good with a lineup of Garvey/Cey/Lopes/Reggie Smith/Dusty Baker/Rick Monday. Missing from that list is Bill Russell because Bill Russell just wasn’t that good. He could however, do one thing very well, hit singles, and in 1978 Bill had 140 of them. None of his singles were more important to Dodger history than the one he would hit in the 10th inning to send the Dodgers to the 1978 World Series.
About this game:
The Announcers were an extremely young Al Michaels, a living Don Drysdale, and a still playing Johnny Bench. I had forgotten how good a baseball play by play person, Al Michaels was. He did an excellent job in this game, and I can’t remember wincing at anything he said. He even got in a nice playful jab regarding the Sutton/Garvey hubbub that had happened earlier in the season.
The Managers were Tommy Lasorda and old friend Danny Ozark who used to coach the Dodgers. Still alive at the time was Walter Alston as they showed him in an upstairs box with what looked like four ladies who had just had their hair done in the their best Queen Elizabeth mode.
The starting pitchers were Doug Rau and Randy Lerch, not exactly the best for either team but will suited for this particular matchup. Neither was over powering, relying on finesse to get outs.
The game starts off strange enough, with HOF Mike Schmidt leading off, which made me wonder how many times did Mike Schmidt lead off? Not very many. In 1978 he lead off seven times, in his whole career he lead off eight times, so outside of 1978, you could say he never led off, but here he was leading off in the most important game of the season. Maybe Ozark knew something because Schmidt led of with double down the line. Bowa walked, and Garry Maddox blooped a single in front of Smith. Schmidt did not attempt to score and you could see he was annoyed with himself when the ball bounced away from Smith. He should have tried to score because with the bases loaded, no outs, and Luzinki/Cardenal/Martin coming up, the Philllies failed to score anyone. That inning would haunt the Phillies the rest of winter.
Jose Cardenal was batting fifth and playing 1st base for the Phillies. I have no memory of this. I remember Cardenal as a good but never great outfielder who was playing LF the day that Rick Monday ran in from CF and saved the flag from being burnt. I remember this because I was at the game, and I’ll always remember that after Monday scooped up the flag, Cardenal stayed with the guy who tried to burn the flag until security showed up. Cardenal played 1778 games in the outfield and only 58 game at 1st base, but in 1978 he played 50 of those 58 games for the Phillies. He also had a big Afro, and I loved all Afro wearing baseball players. Just something about trying to keep that hat on a big ass Afro that made me smile.
Speaking of Rick Monday. Rick didn’t start game four, Bill North did. Rick was only playing against RHP and Lerch was left-handed. When Monday came on to pinch-hit they posted his season totals and they were ok, but nothing to get excited about. Al mentioned that Rick had won the April Player of the Month which left me wondering if he had such a torrid April, and he had such pedestrian overall numbers, he must have had a really tough season after April but that isn’t quite right. Rick also had a great May, and ended April/May with an OPS of 1.096. From June 1st – August 31st he really struggled. Over that three month span, Rick only had 7 extra-base hits in 153 plate appearances.
In the bottom of the 2nd Garvey leads off and they put up stat saying that his five NLCS home runs are a record. Put a pin in that. Cey hits a double, and Dusty Baker drives him home with blooper just over Schmidts head. Cey can score because there were two outs and it wasn’t hit hard enough for anyone to throw him out. Dodger lead 1 – 0.
When Randy Lerch comes up they mention several times about his two home runs against the Pirates the previous Saturday. Those two he hit on Sept 30th, 1978 were half his career total. Lerch did drive Billy North to the wall in his last at-bat of the 1978 season in the 4th with Ted Sizemore on 3rd base. Sizemore had hit a generous triple when Reggie Smith tried to catch a sinking line drive and it skipped past him.
Al Michaels mentions that Doug Rau hasn’t give up a run yet, but every out has been a fly ball. Big D says that is OK as long as those fly balls stay away from the blue walls. A few seconds later Greg Luzinki parks a two-run blast beyond the blue walls and Johnny Bench asks Big D what was that you were saying.
Phillies now lead 2 – 1 but Ron Cey crushes a high fastball into the middle of the left field pavilion. Baker follows with his 2nd hit but Russell hits into a DP.
With the score 2 – 2, Rich Rhoden replaces Doug Rau and gives up a pinch hit home run to Bake McBride in his 2nd inning of work in the 7th. It would be the only bad pitch Rhoden would throw while getting twelve outs pitching the 6th-9th innings.
Down 3 – 2 in the bottom of the 7th, that pin I was talking about comes due. Steve Garvey launches his fourth home run of the NLCS into the exact same spot as Ron Cey and ties the game at 3. Johnny Bench cackles that Garvey just broke Garvey’s records and as he doffs his cap before heading into the dugout announces that Steve Garvey is one prime time player. Bench was right, more times than not, Steve Garvey would get the big hit. The one time he didn’t, it was because Graig Nettles was turning his rockets into outs. Garvey would win the 1978 NLCS MVP award, and he earned it, hitting four home runs in four games, six extra-base hits out of seven, and a staggering 1.611 OPS for the series. Garvey would finish second in the MVP voting but I bet you’d never guess who finished 3rd. Not without watching this game you wouldn’t.
Every time Larry Bowa would come up, one of the announcers would mention that he was in the running for the MVP. I thought they were just being silly but damn if he didn’t finish 3rd and before you say what a joke that a guy who had an OPS+ of 92 could be in the MVP conversation, let me just say, that Larry Bowa put up a bWAR of 5.8. Yup, which would have been the 5th highest bWAR in the NL in 1978 just a tick behind Jack Clark, so not so crazy. Which also made me wonder, how many players have been so defensively dominating that they could put a 5 plus bWAR while having an OPS+ below 95? Mostly SS except for two CF, hey put a pin that.
Player OPS+ WAR/pos Year OPS Pos Andrelton Simmons 90 5.8 2013 .692 *6/H Larry Bowa 92 5.8 1978 .689 *6 Craig Counsell 89 5.5 2005 .726 *4/H6 Michael Bourn 89 5.5 2010 .686 *8/H Gene Alley 91 5.2 1968 .628 *64/H Maury Wills 93 5.2 1965 .660 *6/H Ozzie Smith 84 5.1 1982 .653 *6/H Ozzie Smith 71 5.1 1980 .589 *6 Garry Maddox 95 5.0 1979 .729 *8/HProvided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
In the bottom of the 7th, Davey Lopes singles and the best basestealer of his generation is on 1st base. They show a quick graphic, Lopes is 45 for 49 in stolen bases and of the four catchers to catch him, one is Johnny Bench doing the color analyst, and the other is Bob Boone the catcher for the Phillies. The Philllies throw back to back pitchouts but the wily Lopes does not run on either pitchout but does run on the next pitch and steals 2nd easily and continues to 3rd when the ball goes into CF. Lopes wouldn’t score but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that between 1978 and 1979 Davey Lopes would steal 89 bases and be caught only nine times. No one was ever as good as Davey Lopes at stealing a large number of bases successfully. At the age of 40, Lopes would steal 47 bases for the Cubs and be caught only 4 times. At the age of 40.
With the score tied 3 – 3, Terry Forster pitches the 10th and Tug McGraw goes for his 2nd inning in the bottom of the 10th. Tug gets Smith to lead off the 10th. Reggie Smith was voted by the booster club as the Dodgers MVP in 1978 but he had a dismal NLCS. Reggie went three for sixteen with no walks and two of the three hits were singles. He also didn’t look good in RF. Normally an excellent RF, he bobbled a single in the 1st that should have scored Mike Schmidt, and gave Ted Sizemore a gift triple that didn’t hurt the Dodgers. Garvey made the 2nd out but Ron Cey was up and Tug McGraw walked the underappreciated Penguin bringing up Dusty Baker. Did I mention the CF for the Phillies was one of the greatest defensive players of his generation? Garry Maddox would win seven gold gloves in a row from 1976 – 1982 and was one of the most beautiful center fielders I’d ever seen play. His long legs would run down everything but on this day he simply dropped a Dusty Baker fly ball that hit him just below the hip. He just dropped it. He wasn’t done, Bill Russell hit a single up the middle and Maddox charged knowing Cey was the runner but he couldn’t come up with it cleanly and Cey scored without a play. The Dodgers were going to the 1978 World Series because the best CF in the game, dropped a fairly routine fly ball.
Six years ago Ned Colletti made his best move as the Dodger General Manager and it barely moved the media needle at the time when he signed Justin Turner to a minor league deal. Over at TrueBlueLA, we hailed the minor league signing because we thought Justin Turner was the perfect bench player for the 2014 team, no one though expected Justin Turner to become the greatest Dodger 3rd baseman of all-time.
It was on this date six years ago that the Dodgers made one of the greatest low-risk free-agent signings in recent memory. On Feb. 5, 2014, the club agreed to a minor league contract with third baseman Justin Turner, who has gone from afterthought to household name since he first donned a Dodgers uniform.
Justin Turner will never catch Ron Cey in bWAR because he’s still over 3,000 plate appearances shy of the Penguin, but for peak 3rd base performance you have to go with Justin Turner. Adrian Beltre may end up the only HOF of the Dodger 3rd baseman but he was but a kid when he left the team for greener pastures.
Player WAR/pos OPS+ PA BA OBP SLG OPS Justin Turner 27.0 139 2901 .302 .381 .506 .887 Ron Cey 47.7 125 6108 .264 .359 .445 .804 Todd Zeile 2.5 116 842 .265 .352 .454 .806 Bill Madlock 2.0 112 618 .285 .346 .406 .752 Adrian Beltre 23.4 108 3818 .274 .332 .463 .794 Casey Blake 9.2 108 1608 .260 .338 .431 .768
The Free Agent contract that Justin signed with the Dodgers on Dec 23rd, 2016 may also turn out to be one of the best free-agent contracts the Dodgers have ever done in the 21st century. With one year to go Justin Turner has been remarkably consistent. From 2014 – 2016 Justin Turner had an OPS+ of 135, from 2017 – 2019 his OPS+ was 136.
How does Justin Turner rank as a Dodger in the 21st century?
Player WAR/pos OPS+ PA From To BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Justin Turner 27.0 139 2901 2014 2019 .302 .381 .506 .887 *5/H46D3 Matt Kemp 22.8 127 5002 2006 2018 .292 .348 .494 .842 *897/HD Andre Ethier 21.2 122 5425 2006 2017 .285 .359 .463 .822 *97H8/D3 Shawn Green 21.0 130 3462 2000 2004 .280 .366 .510 .876 *93/DH8 Adrian Beltre 19.3 112 2990 2000 2004 .278 .331 .476 .808 *5/H6 Yasiel Puig 18.7 127 2765 2013 2018 .279 .353 .478 .831 *9/8H7D Russell Martin 16.5 100 2962 2006 2019 .268 .362 .391 .753 *2/H5D1 Rafael Furcal 15.7 100 2803 2006 2011 .283 .351 .406 .757 *6/H Adrian Gonzalez 13.3 119 2986 2012 2017 .280 .339 .454 .793 *3/HD James Loney 8.7 105 3378 2006 2012 .284 .341 .423 .764 *3/H9D
Would it shock you to find out that Justin Turner has the highest OPS+ of any Dodger in the 21st century with at least 2500 plate appearances?
Would it shock you to find out that Justin Turner has the highest bWAR of any Dodger in the 21st century with at least 2500 plate appearances?
And it isn’t even close.
Joc Pederson could do one thing really really well, get extra-base hits against right-handed pitchers, and he’ll take that skill with him to Anaheim where for the 2nd straight year he’ll be playing next to an MVP Center-fielder.
All of the charts below came from Fangraphs, and are based on playing the outfield with at least 2,000 Plate Appearances.
With Young Joc gone, we can look at his historical impact on the LAD. Using 2,000 PA as the cutoff he will end up with some interesting numbers. Joc checks in 10th in home runs with 123, the exact same number as Frank Howard. His wRC+ would rank 14th at 120. His slug% would rank 9th at .474. His fWAR, however, puts him 16th. Joc could rack up good metrics because he pounded right-hand pitching and thus was always put in the best possible chance to succeed. Contrast this with Andre who also struggled against left-hand pitchers but still faced them on a regular basis. For example, Andre garnered 1374 PA against LHP while Joc only had 375 plate appearances.
Fun fact. Frank Howard hit 123 home runs as a Dodger and was traded when he was 27. He would go onto hit 246 home runs after being traded.
Sometimes when you do the research for a story you come across something that blows your mind. The defensive metrics for LAD outfielders blew mine. I knew Willie Davis had been an above-average outfielder, I saw it with my own eyes, but the metrics still blew my mind. The LAD have had only four outfielders able to manage a positive defensive ranking but the difference between 1st and 2nd place is astonishing. It also shows that the Dodgers haven’t had a long term quality defensive CF since Willie Davis and he was traded back in 1974.
Check this out:
Hopefully, Cody Bellinger plays CF for the next five or more years and can at least make a run as the 2nd best LAD defensive CF of all time. Not a hard bar to pass.
Whelp, it only took a week but the Dodgers finally finalized the deal for Mookie so I’ve updated the original post from a different deal.
Six weeks ago I asked the Dodgers to pivot to Mookie after losing out on Cole and Rendon, and that is just what they did when the much-anticipated trade was finally announced tonight. Many pundits tried to figure out what the price for Mookie would be, and the only thing they could agree on was that the price for Mookie would be pricey as in David Price and they were right.
The original deal was:
Boston gets Alex Verdugo
Dodgers get Mookie Betts and David Price plus cash to offset the Price contract.
Twins get Kenta Maeda
Boston gets the Twins prospect Brusdar Graterol the 83rd ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline
To make room for Mookie Betts the Dodgers traded Joc Pederson to the Angeles for 22-year-old infielder Luis Rengifo. That is all that was announced at the time but we just learned this trade is not complete and more pieces will be moved. It is possible that young prospect Andy Pages who had a phenomenal rookie league season is involved. Per MLBTradeRumors:
The final deal might even be better for the Dodgers even though they had to ante up prospects to make it happen.
Boston gets Alex Verdugo, solid prospect Jeter Downs, doubtful prospect Connor Wong
Twins get Kenta Maeda, low level catching prospect Jaír Camargo, and $10 Million in cash considerations.
Dodgers get Mookie Betts, David Price, $48 Million in cash considerations from Boston, and Brusdar Graterol, Luke Raley, 67th pick in the 2020 First Year Player Draft from the Twins. Graterol quickly became the Dodgers 4th ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline.
If that wasn’t great enough news, it got even better when the Dodgers / Angels announced that their trade was off so Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, and highly regarded Andy Pages were all still in the Dodger system.
Here is a little taste of what Graterol brings to the mound. This could end up being big for the Dodgers. The Red Sox may have nixed the deal because of medicals or because he might be more suited for the bullpen but given the wealth of starters the Dodgers have, if Graterol becomes a big arm bullpen piece, I’m happy with that.
Brusdar Graterol’s 🔥 stuff. pic.twitter.com/Z1ZZdW9CNU
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 9, 2020
Thus the Dodgers lose a prized young outfielder in Alex Verdugo, who would have been under team control for years and had become a fan favorite. He should fit right in on the Red Sox and become their starting right fielder for the next few years provided he can stay healthy. I’ve long speculated that with Kenta’s contract he was a valuable trade piece and might be worth more in a trade than what he actually brings to the Dodgers. He’s always been good, but never good enough to make a postseason rotation.
If the price seems low for acquiring one of the top ten players in the game, it is only because Mookie is a one-year rental. He has already turned down a 10/300 extension from Boston so if the Dodgers hope to keep him, they will need to be ready to offer him the largest contract in Dodger history. None of that matters right now, what matters is that the Dodgers now boast the 2018 AL MVP in RF, and the 2019 NL MVP in CF while adding David Price to the rotation. AJ Pollock survived the winter and looks to enter 2020 sharing the job with Joc as the Dodger starting left fielder. The Dodgers still have Matt Beaty, Chris Taylor, and Enrique Hernandez as backup outfielders, though Taylor or Hernandez might get some burn at 2nd if Lux has trouble against left-hand pitching.
The rotation looks loaded. I mean loaded. They have Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. They just added David Price. Alex Wood and Jeff Nelson are both trying to come back but if they don’t, Urias, May, and Gonsolin are all ready to step in. I also haven’t mentioned Ross Stripling.
You have all seen the projected lineup:
Betts, Muncy, Turner, Bellinger, Seager, Pollock, Lux, Smith
The last time the Dodgers traded for my favorite non-Dodger was in 1974 when they traded Claude Osteen for Jimmy Wynn. All Jimmy Wynn did was have an MVP type season and lead the Dodgers to the 1974 World Series. I expect nothing less from Mookie Betts.
I was thinking about friendship when NY Life of all companies offered up their Super Bowl Ad about the four loves. This was evidently made famous by CS Lewis and his Four Loves but I knew none of that while watching the game. I also knew nothing about the four loves the ad covered but I was struck by the first one. Philia, love between friends. For two reasons, my name happens to be Phil and the only reason I was watching this Super Bowl was to root for the Kansas City Chiefs because of my close friendship with a lifelong Kanas City Chief fan.
Earlier in the day, I had seen a twitter poll where a simple question was asked.
A few of my good friends have a chance to see their team win a Super Bowl today. So my question to y’all is, do you y’all root for your friends teams to win championships or do y’all want them to wallow in misery with you.
— Obsessed Dodgers Fan (@Dodgers_Blues) February 2, 2020
Over 500 people voted, and overwhelmingly (57%) choose the latter option. I’m not sure those 57% understand what friendship is. The poll kind of blew my mind.
I lack many things in my life. I’m not the smartest person, I don’t have any outstanding talent, I still lose my temper much to often, and I’ve let sports overrule many life choices, but I am good at one thing.
I don’t offer my friendship easily, but when I look back upon my life, I’ll always be proud that I had three best friends who could always count on me, and I could always count on them.
Two of them are in this wedding shot. The 3rd was actually the Man of Honor for my wife. On my left shoulder is Jerry Sullivan, on my right shoulder is Byron Caldwell. Jerry died about ten years ago this month and even though it has been ten years, I still think about him just about every day. Especially in this era of Trump where the ex_Vietnam vet would have had some choice words for our cowardly commander in chief. Strangely enough, both of them are from Kansas but they had been living in Los Angeles for years when we met in the mid-1980s.
Bryon has had a tough century. He lost his 4-year-old son to Leukemia fifteen years ago this month. He was lucky enough to reverse his vasectomy and father two more children but losing his oldest son in such a painful way has left a mark on him that time will never remove. Not even a Kansas City Chief championship can erase that kind of pain, but it will bring him joy, and we can all use that.
His wife called as the game winded down. She was crying tears of joy, not for herself but because her husband finally had his Chiefs championship. I could hear the kids in the background screaming their own joy. Hard to describe my own joy that not only did he have the Championship but that he was able to share the joy with his children.
This wasn’t world peace, but it was something. It was really something and I’m glad I had a friend whose day was brightened considerably by a game. He’ll call me next October and congratulate me on the Dodgers finally their winning championship because you know, that is what friends do. Real friends anyway.
I’m bringing it here because with the current state of SBNation, they might start wiping out old posts so over time I’m going to be bringing over anything I wrote that I’d like to archive.
Much has been written about the people who devote their lives to helping those fighting cancer. For much of my life, I was told about these fearless people who did what they could to make life more bearable for those undergoing treatment, and the families involved.
Until recently I took it for granted that these caregivers either had to have hearts of stone, and were immune to the tragedy they witnessed on a daily basis, or they had found a way to cope with it. Evidently, I was wrong, very wrong.
The nurses, doctors, blood transfusion personal are all human. Amazingly so. When William Christopher Caldwell was being treated at Cedars Sinai, they were all business, but since they dealt with children they had to cajole, bride, and do whatever they could to get the patient to take the medicines or accept the procedures. It was with admiration, fascination, and pity that I watched these people work.
My perception of them changed dramatically the day William died on Feb 20th, 2005. Fully expecting them to just go about business, as usual, I saw weepy faces everywhere I went. I was due to give platelets the day after William passed. When I went into the office and told them they could open up my donations for anyone because William had passed they spontaneously broke into tears for a child they had never met. Children died all the time, how could they be emotionally attached and still do their jobs? I went back to the pediatric ward to thank some of the nurses for the care they had given William and found one particular nurse crying so hard her shoulder shuddered. I had to ask, how could she do this job if it caused her so much pain. She wiped away her tears, composed herself, pointed to one of the children walking with his IV unit, smiling and talking, and simply said, “how could she not”
The Houston Astro cheating scandal probably cheated Dodger fans and their players of the 2017 World Championship which would be a big deal for any team but especially for the Dodger fans and organization. The fans haven’t celebrated a World Championship since 1988. Clayton Kershaw deserves better, his legacy deserves better. I get it. I understand the frustration. I’ve been here for the whole 32 years. Every game, every postseason heartbreak.
I had been hesitate to say anything when the news broke because I wasn’t sure the Dodgers hadn’t also been cheating. In the beginning, there was little Dodger comment and that felt weird for me until we learned that MLB had specifically asked the Dodgers not to comment on the scandal.
I will admit to being confused by my lack of caring about it. I talked with Dodger Twitter and they were quite upset and some couldn’t understand why I wasn’t. As I said before I simply felt it was premature to be angry when we might find out the Dodgers had tried to cheat as well. The Dodgers try to win on the margins, pushing all rules to the limits so it seemed they might have tried to push these rules to the limits.
As time has passed, many prominent Dodgers, ones who I trust have spoken out, and have made it clear they were not cheating. I expected to start a slow burn but there was simply no ignition.
Houston issued horrible apologies, basically saying they didn’t know they were cheating. Very annoying, but still no ignition.
When Dodgers President Andrew Friedman recently spoke about how dismayed he was that Houston never even apologized, it once again proved how small the Houston Astro organization was but still no ignition.
At this point, I don’t think I’ll ever have the emotional reaction that you’d expect from this situation. It isn’t like I don’t have a volatile temper. Or maybe I should say, it isn’t like I didn’t have a volatile temper. I used to get upset over the silliest things.
Houston players and fans have to live with the fact they needed to cheat to win a Championship. Dodger fans have to live with the fact they will never be recompensed for their emotional loss of 2017. Will I boo Houston players who were part of the scandal? you bet. But that is about all I can emotionally conjure up for this. I don’t need this to eat me up inside, not with everything else happening around us.
This is but a game we love, and it simply isn’t that important when our world is decaying faster than dead fish in the sun.
In a year, we may not have the world we took for granted. Our Democracy and way of life will be voted on in ten months, and there is no guarantee that we will even have fair voting, or that the votes will matter if the wannabe Dictator doesn’t want to leave. In a normal admin, if he loses the vote, he leaves, but nothing about the admin has been normal and since prison for him and his family is in the future if he leaves the presidency I can’t see him letting go without trying to turn our country against each other. We have already seen how far his enablers will go and that is where almost all of my thoughts are on right now.
I’m still going to be the Dodger fan, the Clipper fan, but with my eye on November, I know, it is just killing time until I find out which direction our republic tilts.
We can change the future, but we can’t change the past, and if this weekend taught us anything, it should be to live in the present and not dwell on the past.
For many in Los Angeles the feelings for Kobe Bryant held no complications, he was for them, the King of Los Angeles, the man who brought them numerous Laker titles and unleashed the Black Mamba mentality on the NBA. For some of us though, we were all about the eight and very little about the 24, we will always have mixed feelings toward the greatest Laker to ever wear the Purple and Gold.
Whatever feeling you had toward Kobe Bryant the news of his death via the helicopter crash yesterday was still a gut punch. The news took me back to the day I found out that Roberto Clemente had died in a plane crash way back in 1972. Kobe was 41, Clemente was 38 and was possibly the most recognized figure in baseball because of his one year removed MVP World Series explosion in 1971. Until yesterday, the death of Clemente was what I would think of when a sports figure died suddenly.
Upon learning the news from my wife just a few minutes after the crash, I pondered the irony that the Helicopter that cut his commute to Staples for all those years had now cut short his life. I also thought of the recent meme I had seen with him and his daughter at a Laker game. How at peace he looked while with his daughter. A few minutes later we all found out that his daughter Gianna had also perished with him. The gut-punch took on a completely different feeling. Twitter didn’t help, photo after photo was posted of Kobe and Gianna. We had watched her grow from an adorable baby to the basketball prodigy of the family.
It was too much.
As a season ticket fan since the day that Magic had retired, the Lakers had been fun to watch but there hadn’t been one season where they were real competitors for the championship. That all changed on draft day in 1996 when the Lakers against long odds were able to secure a draft day deal for the 17-year-old Kobe Bryant. Moving the salary of Divac for Kobe allowed Jerry West to sign Shaq a few days later and the rest is Laker history.
For me, as a fan, it was just the beginning. I fell quickly in love with the kid but like many fans, it was crazy to watch Kobe firing up airballs in the postseason that year while Nick Van Excel looked on. We all know championships didn’t flow to the Lakers just because they had Shaq. It took a few years before Kobe was able to uphold his side of the bargain and the Forum never got a Shaq/Kobe Championship before Shaq/Kobe took their game to Staples. Kobe would win a handful of World Championships at Staples but the first is always the sweetest and that was ever so true in 2000.
Since 2000 I’ve always had an easy answer to the question “what was the best moment in sports you ever saw”. The Lakers and Portland were tied at 3 games apiece in the NBA Western Finals in 2000. Back then as a Season Ticket holder, you had first priority to buy postseason tickets besides your own seats so I had brought two in the 300 section. The boonies if you well. I sold my good seats and took my niece to the game who had just come back from military service. This article describes this game and this moment is the moment I’ll never forget.
Kobe drives the lane as Shaq drifts towards the basket while signaling for a lob. The alley oop goes up. O’Neal stuffs it down one-handed, then races upcourt, mouth agape, two index fingers out in salute of everyone in his sight line.
The Lakers had been down by 16 heading into the 4th quarter. That play capped an incredible comeback and even from the boonies, you could see the emotion from Shaq after the ally oop dunk. Our section had been standing the whole game but was going absolutely nuts during the comeback. We no longer had seats, our whole section was just one big leaping/hugging/dancing party of 100’s. The Lakers weren’t champions when we left Staples but I’ve never left a sporting event feeling higher than I did that day. I figuratively floated the rest of the day.
That was the highlight of my Kobe fandoms. Incorrectly or not, I blamed Kobe for Shaq leaving, and the player who I had once idolized as a basketball player, was no longer the guy for me. As I became more and more of a Clipper fan, I became less and less of a Kobe fan. When Kobe wore eight it was fun to watch him grow into one of the Lakers greats, for some reason for me as he switched to 24 and became arguably the greatest Laker of all-time I simply wasn’t able to enjoy his style of game.
It has been easy to notice that among all the platitudes being heaved Kobe’s way almost everyone has ignored the Kobe Elephant in the room. The Rape allegations. That sealed the deal for my wife and she hasn’t been to a Laker game since 2003. That may not sound like a big deal but she went to 20 games a year from 1990 – 2003. It was a big deal that she felt Kobe was guilty enough that she stopped supporting the Lakers as long as he was on the team. This was the start of our journey from lifelong avid Laker fans to avid Clipper fans. I never hated on the Lakers, I simply didn’t root for them anymore when they played the Clippers. It was a strange journey and Kobe was the centerpiece for the change.
It was a testament to Kobe’s ownership of Los Angeles that he survived the rape allegations. There were a few like us, who stopped rooting for him, but for the most part, his reputation stayed intact and flourished as more World Championships came his way once Pau Gasol joined the team. You could easily say that by the time Kobe retired he was considered the greatest Laker ever and that is quite a statement when you have Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Shaq to contend with for that honor. In retirement from all accounts, Kobe seemed at peace with being a father and making his family the centerpiece of his retirement.
Depending on how you define crying, I didn’t cry yesterday at the news, but my eyes were full of tears all day and night. So was my wife’s. This complexity of emotion is disturbing to me and I’ve never quite come to grips with how we deal with our heroes who are made of clay. I’m still not over Bill Cosby being a serial rapist while all the while making me laugh for 50 years. You can’t say Kobe got away with rape because of who he was, not when normal people get away with rape every day. The struggle continues to this day to make men accountable after they hear “No”. This was never more clear when you look at our Supreme Court and see not one but two men who decide our highest laws who didn’t take “no” for an answer.
In a few days, Los Angeles will hold one of the largest funerals in my lifetime. It will be for a man who owned this city, but while we celebrate everything he did for this city, it wouldn’t hurt to also continue or maybe even open up the dialogue about why that transgression didn’t alter his ascension into being the King of Los Angeles.
It is a sad irony that the Helicopter he used to cut his commute so he could expand his quality family time is the reason why his family time was eventually cut short forever.
The story behind why Kobe flew in a private helicopters in LA 💔 pic.twitter.com/0jeB9qCpHd
— Tequila Taze (@TazerBlack) January 27, 2020
I never thought I’d live to see this on Basketball-Reference. Kobe didn’t survive Jerry West or Elgin Baylor. Both in the eighties. Inconceivable.
(Black Mamba, KB24, Vino, Showboat, Little Flying Warrior)
Position: Small Forward and Shooting Guard ▪ Shoots: Right
6-6, 212lb (198cm, 96kg)
Died: January 26, 2020 (Aged 41-156d)