A conversation rooted in the past

Near the conclusion of the Clipper / Laker game last night this conversation was going on all over Staples Center.

Son/Daugther – how come the Lakers lose every time we go to a game?

Father decked out in Purple/Gold – it just seems like it but we have won a couple of games. Remember that game a couple of weeks ago when we beat the Rockets. That was a huge win.

Son/Daughter – you told me after that game that we had turned the corner

Father – yeah well, I thought we had

Son/Daughter – you say that a lot

Father – what?

Son/Daughter – that we have turned the corner

Father – we will, this franchise always turns the corner, look at all those banners. Someday one of these players is going to have his own banner.

Son/Daughter – who? is it going to be Ingrahm?

Father – probably not, sitting out in a must-win game, not a good sign that he’s banner material

Son/Daughter – is it Lonzo?

Father – probably not, he does seem to be hurt a lot for such a young player, and he can’t shoot.

Son/Daughter – Kuzma?

Father – OK, fine, none of these guys will have a banner, but we will sign players this summer who will make it fun to watch the Lakers again. I’m sure Durant or Leonard or Cousins or Uncle Drew would love to play with LeBron here in Los Angeles.

Son/Daughter – I hope so, I’m tired of rooting for a team that sucks.

Son/Daughter – How come we aren’t Clipper fans, why am I supposed to dislike them?

Father – Clippers!!!! You can’t be serious, they haven’t won anything, all these banners, they are Laker banners, why would you want to root for a team that has never won anything?

Son/Daughter – they beat us all the time. You have been taking me to Clipper/Laker games since I was five, and now I’m ten and we have lost every single time.

Son/Daughter – when Uncle Jose and Aunt Noemi took us to a Clipper game they won and they have this cool mascot called Clipper Chuck and they threw T-Shirts to the fans all the time

Father – we will never be Clipper fans. The only reason Uncle Jose and Aunt Noemi are Clipper fans is that they can’t afford Laker games. We pay a lot of money for our Laker tickets.

Son/Daughter – I’m only ten, but are you saying the Clippers are cheap and they win, while the Lakers are expensive and they lose?

Father – just look at the banners and eat your popcorn

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Did this happen?

It is Feb 7th, the Clippers have just unloaded their best player and their starting shooting guard. It appears they are waving the white flag.

Jerry West – Hey Magic, this is Jerry, we just acquired a sharpshooting center/forward that I think would fit in perfect for your team.

Magic – Mike Muscala? Yeah, I like him, let me check with Rob and LeBron

Magic – They like him, what would you want? I see you have been grabbing some draft picks.

Jerry – Well, Larry and I looked over your roster and we don’t see how you can keep Zubac next year if your planning on clearing space for all those free agents who will want to play with him

Magic – Zubac!!! Hell, he’s only 21, we can’t trade him to you guys. That would give you a real center and we are trying to catch you. What are we 2.5 games back of you?

Jerry – Oh come on. With all the trades we made we’d be starting three players who are 21 or under. We will play hard but you and I both know that a team that young isn’t going to play well enough to hold off a team with LeBron James. Muscala would give you the shooter you need for spacing and you still have three centers on your team.

Magic – Fans would fry us but let me check with Rob and LeBron.

Five Minutes pass

Magic – OK, we are in.

Narrator – No they aren’t

Spreading the wealth around

For a brief moment, Dodger fans got their hopes up that the Dodgers were going to hook the last big fish in the baseball pond but just like game five of the 2017 World Series they were unable to land the big fish but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Byrce Harper is a Phillie and that is probably a good thing for baseball. Unlike the NBA where the best players in the league try to team up together to win World Championships because they can’t do it on their own, the best players in baseball usually head for the most money, not the best chance to win a World Championship. This keeps the talent spread around.

Manny Machado went to San Diego where he hopes the Padres top farm system can grow with him into making the team a powerhouse but there is no certainty that Fernando Tatis Junior and Luis Urias will become great players just because they are great prospects.  The Padres are on the right track and adding Machado will certainly help them become relevant, but being relevant isn’t the same thing as being in the running for a World Championship.

Bryce Harper chooses Philly because they offered the most money via the longest contract. Based on the contracts that were offered, I would have chosen the Dodgers not because I’m a Dodger fan but because I thought it was a great offer.

Harper turned down the Dodgers offer and instead picked the very safe and boring 13 years/330. Not sure such a number could ever be called boring but Harper did have a chance to be the highest paid player on a per year basis even if was for only four years.  He might compete for a World Championship but it is very iffy. He won’t have Scherzer and Strasburg pitching for him. He won’t have Anthony Rendon and Turner helping him in the lineup. He’ll have Aaron Nola and staff. He’ll have a good young hitter in Rhys Hoskins, an old hitter in McCutchen, plus the newly acquired Jean Segura and Realmuto. The Phillies will have a nice team, but they will be battling everyone in the East except for the Marlins. It is very possible with the emergence of Acuna in Atlanta, and Soto and Robles in Washington that he won’t even be the best outfielder in the East.

One final note on Harper. Right after he signed with the Phillies, the noted web site FiveThirtyEight published this article called Bryce Harper may already be past his prime. Many words have been written about Harper but this did strike me as something to look at.

FiveThirtyEight examined all players in MLB history who have had one season of 8 or more WAR — but only one — before turning 26, and then we studied the trajectory of those players’ careers. There are 32 such players in MLB history, including three other than Harper who are still active: Aaron Judge, Matt Chapman (who hasn’t played his age 26 season) and Evan Longoria. Of the 28 players who are no longer active, 17 never produced another 8-plus WAR season after their age 25 season.

 

Looking at the top ten free agent signings based on the average annual value we can see this trend of spreading the wealth around.

Patrick Corbin left the Diamondbacks for the Nationals

Josh Donaldson left the Blue Jays for the Braves

Grandal left the Dodgers for the Brewers

Eovaldi stayed with the Red Sox

JA Happ stayed with the Yankees

McCutchen left the Giants for the Phillies  – the only player in the top ten to team up with another player in the top ten, but this is a player on the downside of his career.

Brantley left the Indians for Houston

Charlie Morton left Houston for the Rays

Nolan Arenado signed an extension earlier in the week and will stay a Rockie until he breaks down. This reminds me of the Tulo extension when Tulo was clearly one of the best players in baseball.  The Rockies were relevant in 2018 but history has shown that pitchers just don’t maintain any sense of productivity in Colorado. Nolan might have some high points and a possible MVP or two in his future but it will still probably be a rocky ride for the length of his contract if he hopes to be playing in the fall classic.

I consider all this good news. It could have been problematic if Harper/Machado had decided to team up together in Phillie or San Diego but they went their separate ways.  Baseball would have worried if Harper had signed on in Los Angeles to team up with Buehler/Urias/Kershaw/Seager/Bellinger/Turner.

As far as the Dodgers go, we are back to five outfielders vying for three spots whenever Dave Roberts makes out the lineup. It might have been six but Andrew Toles is out of the equation due to personal issues.  The good news is that whoever Roberts chooses to play those three outfield spots will be a player with the ability to impact the game in a positive fashion. It would have been nice to pencil in Harper, but it is still nice to have Bellinger, Pederson, Pollock, Verdugo, and Hernandez or Taylor to fill those three spots.

Brad Miller and Chris Taylor are together again

Seattle Mariners Spring Training

Some players just can’t get away from each other, Brad Miller and Chris Taylor might be an example of this. The Dodgers just inked Brad Miller to a minor league contract and he’ll make a nice insurance policy if anyone of the Dodger infielders such as Max Muncy / Corey Seager / Chris Taylor / Enrique Hernandez gets hurt.

Both players were drafted as shortstops by Seattle, Brad Miller was drafted in 2011 in the second round and Chris Taylor was drafted in the fifth round in 2012.  In 2013 they both played for the Jackson Generals, and one year later they were in Seattle both vying for the job of future shortstop for the Mariners.  Chris Taylor started forty games at SS for the Mariners in 2014, and Brad Miller started 105 games. In 2015 Taylor only started twenty-five at SS, while Brad Miller started eighty-three games.  At the end of the year, it seemed clear that that the Mariners preferred Brad Miller as their shortstop but that was not a correct assumption. On Nov 5th, 2016 the Mariners traded Brad Miller to the Tampa Bay Rays. This seemed to clear the way for Chris Taylor to be the starting shortstop but he lost the job in spring training to the even younger Ketel Marte and was traded away for peanuts to the Dodgers. That trade is now considered one of the steals of the second decade of the 21st century in major league baseball.

In three years as a Dodger, Chris Taylor has distinguished himself as one of the great utility players in Dodger history, filling in at SS, 2nd, RF, CF, and LF.  Brad Miller went to Tampa Bay and slugged thirty home runs, with nineteen coming as a shortstop. Brad got 601 plate appearances in 2016 but that was his high water mark. In 2017 those plate appearances fell to 400 and he didn’t start one game at shortstop. Most of his starts in 2017 came at 2nd base. Moving further down the defensive spectrum in 2018 he started at 1st base for the majority of his starts. He still found some games at 2nd and a precious few at shortstop.

Like most left-handed hitters, Brad Miller can’t hit left-hand pitching with a career OPS split of .755 against RHP and .619 against LHP.  The state of baseball is that an infielder who is only two years removed from slugging thirty home runs and putting up a solid OPS+ of 113, while still being under thirty years old could only manage a minor league deal in the spring of 2019.

Only time will tell if Brad Miller and Chris Taylor are on a major league roster once again but the two players who were once the heir apparent of the Seattle Mariner Shortstop gig can both be happy they are on the Dodgers instead of that merry go round going on in Seattle.

 

 

 

2019 MLB Awards?

MLB just put out what they considered the player from each that was most likely to win a 2019 Award. You know, the Cy Young Award, the MVP, and the Rookie of the Year.

I’m sure for the last eight years they have picked a pitcher off of the Dodgers to win the Cy Young Award, but 2019 broke a trend. It was a pitcher but it wasn’t Clayton Kershaw.

Dodgers: Walker Buehler, NL Cy Young Award

Remember when I said Bryant was projected by Steamer to be one of the two most valuable players in the NL? Corey Seager was the other guy (both of them were projected at 5.6 WAR). But because Seager missed virtually the entirety of 2018 with Tommy John and left hip surgery, and because of Clayton Kershaw’s struggles to stay healthy the last few seasons, I’m going off the grid with Buehler, who was so good in the regular season (finishing third in the Rookie of the Year Award vote) and tough as nails in the World Series.

Hard to argue with this choice. Even though Walker is making the minimum and Kershaw is pulling down $31 Million, I don’t think too many fans still think of Clayton as the ace of the roster. Not after what we saw in Sept/Oct from both pitchers.  I’m not sure Walker can hold off the likes of Scherzer or DeGrom but if I was in Vegas I’d put some money on it.

How about the other awards. Alex Verdugo seems like a very solid ROY choice but his competition is the multi-talented Victor Robles who could replace Byrce Harper without the team missing a beat. Down south the Padres have three players who could win the ROY award in Francisco Mejia,  Luis Urias, and Fernando Tatis Junior.  Tatis being a factor will probably depend on how much soon he crashes the majors and joins Manny Machado on the left side of the infield. Other than Verdugo I don’t see any Dodger rookies making a case unless Barnes/Martin crash N burn and Will Smith or Keibert Ruiz have to take the reigns.  Caleb Ferguson and Dennis Santana are still rookies but it is unlikely they would have roles to make a ROY type of impact.

The Dodgers have several players who have the talent to win the NL MVP Award. You have to start off with Corey Seager and all the projection systems point to him having an MVP type season but that seems very optimistic considering that he’s coming off multiple surgeries and at this point, we have no idea if Seager is a full-season player.  Justin Turner always flirts with an MVP type season but is usually a degree below what is needed for that award.  I think if I had to bet on a Dodger I’d bet on Cody Bellinger. The rookie season was more than anyone expected, the sophomore season was only a disappointment because of the huge expectations he created coming off his historic Rookie season.  Year three could be the year he puts it all together.  A dark horse might be A.J. Pollock. He did, after all, have that one MVP type month last April before getting hurt and missing May/June and hitting like a lightweight Puig the rest of the year.  Hey, I didn’t mention Max Muncy the guy who had the second highest wOBA (162) in the NL last year, trailing only the 2018 MVP Yelich. Yeah, I didn’t mention him.

With Machado signing with Padres the Dodgers get a villain to replace Bumgarner

To do a rivalry right you need two things. The teams need to be competitive and they each need a villain for the fan base to hate on.  For Dodger fans, that villain has been Madison Bumgarner who sports three World Series Rings and had the kind of October that Dodger fans can only dream that Clayton Kershaw could have had.  While Kershaw has clearly been the best Dodger during the same time period, it is hard to paint Clayton as a villain so I think if we polled Giant fans, Yasiel Puig might have been their villain even if he wasn’t the best player on the team.

As the Giants fade into a battle for last place hating on Madison Bumgarner won’t mean much because who cares. The Giants will eventually emerge from their slumber but the next few years should be similar to the 2005 – 2008 period when they restocked for their World Series titles.

Enter in Manny Machado the Three Hundred Million Dollar Man, a man that most of baseball already despises, who played for the Dodgers and already failed spectacularly in the 2018 World Series.  The Padres already had one of the brightest futures in baseball, and bringing on board one of the best players in baseball just accelerated that future to the present.  Those Dodger fans who already booed him for his mercurial style toward playing baseball will continue to boo him, but probably with an intense booing not heard since Barry Bonds was playing around as the best player in baseball history. Along with those folks will be the defenders of Manny Machado who will boo him for being a pain in the Dodger side as he is bound to do during his Padre run.

I welcome all this. It is a better baseball world when you have rivalry’s and the Padres haven’t’ stepped up to the plate since 2006. It will also put more pressure on the Dodger front office to not be complacent.

Manny may have chased the money but I’ll still give him a hat tip for picking a franchise that could really use a superstar like him.

On the flip side can any current Dodger play their part of villain? Puig was clearly that guy, other team bases hated him, and I won’t be surprised if the most ardent Puig supporter suddenly realizes that his antics aren’t as much fun if he’s not doing them as a Dodger. I looked over the roster and the only person I can think of is Walker Buehler. He kind of has that cocky attitude that every villain needs and the skills to back it up. Verdugo seems like someone who could be annoying but he has to be great, and I’m not sure Verdugo can be great.

Maybe Bellinger?

Of course, if Joe Kelly were to break a Machado rib, that would probably go a long way toward making him a villain.

A legend takes the last long walk off the mound

Don Newcombe

One of the best parts of covering the Dodgers was seeing Mr. Newcombe in the stands three hours before game time.  At the time I knew Don worked for the Dodgers but I didn’t know about his habit of being in the stands 2 – 3 hours before every game in the box seats just off the tunnel entrance that takes you toward the dugout.  My first thought upon seeing Don Newcombe in person was that he stood taller than any man of his age should have stood. Ramrod back could have used a picture of Don Newcombe in the definition.   Matt Kemp would always stop by and give his respects. Later I heard that Kenley Jansen became very close to him. I wanted to talk to him more than I wanted to talk to any current Dodgers but I could never muster the courage to bother him with my insignificant questions. This man had seen everything, been through everything. Oh to pick his mind at our leisure, what a treasure trove that would have been.

When I first read about Don Newcombe as a young child I thought I was reading about a Hall of Famer. His list of early career achievements was as good as it gets. Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award (when it was only one for both leagues), and MVP. Back than wins were indicative of your pitching prowess so his 47 – 12 record over the 1955/1956 seasons stood out.  When I perused his baseball encyclopedia page (the baseball reference of my time) I wondered what happened, how did he go from winning 27 games and the MVP at age 30 to having only one more winning season over the next four seasons? How did it end so quickly for him? Only later did I learn about the addictions that helped derail his career. And much much later via Jon Weisman did I find out about how the Dodgers slagged his arm.

Jon Weisman told me that he wanted to write a book about Don Newcombe but that because of certain reasons we won’t go into detail here he was unable to do that book. Instead Jon wrote Brother in Arms about all the great Dodger hurlers and of course, Don Newcombe got one of the biggest chapters. It is in this chapter that you might be stunned at how much Don Newcombe was used. Jon was gracious enough to put that entire chapter online today.

I would recommend everyone to check out that chapter or better yet, buy the book. There is no need for me to go into the details of Don Newcombe because I can’t add anything to what Jon already wrote regarding his accomplishments and what he meant to the Dodger community.

With Don dying, the Dodgers still have two legends from the 1955 Championship team in Tommy Lasorda and Sandy Koufax.  Carl Erskine and Roger Craig are the only other two members of the 1955 Championship team still alive.

I’m not a faith-based person, but I can certainly imagine a world where Don Newcombe comes striding off the mound to meet Roy Campanella and shake his hand once again while the 1955 Team gives him a rousing round of applause for everything he did during his second act.

Player▲ Place of Death Year Age Tm G
Carl Erskine\erskica01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 28 BRO 42
Tom Lasorda\lasorto01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 27 BRO 4
Roger Craig\craigro01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 25 BRO 21
Sandy Koufax\koufasa01 AAA – Still Alive 1955 19 BRO 12
Don Newcombe\newcodo01 AAA-Just Passed 1955 29 BRO 57
Dixie Howell\howeldi02 Binghamton NY 1955 35 BRO 16
Bob Borkowski\borkobo01 Dayton OH 1955 29 BRO 9
Don Zimmer\zimmedo01 Dunedin FL 1955 24 BRO 88
Duke Snider\snidedu01 Escondido CA 1955 28 BRO 148
Johnny Podres\podrejo01 Glens Falls NY 1955 22 BRO 32
Jim Gilliam\gilliji01 Inglewood CA 1955 26 BRO 147
Chuck Templeton\templch01 Irving TX 1955 23 BRO 4
Don Bessent\bessedo01 Jacksonville FL 1955 24 BRO 24
Ed Roebuck\roebued01 Lakewood CA 1955 23 BRO 47
Pee Wee Reese\reesepe01 Louisville KY 1955 36 BRO 145
Sandy Amoros\amorosa01 Miami FL 1955 25 BRO 119
Rube Walker\walkeru01 Morganton NC 1955 29 BRO 48
Russ Meyer\meyerru01 Oglesby IL 1955 31 BRO 18
Frank Kellert\kellefr02 Oklahoma City OK 1955 30 BRO 39
Jim Hughes\hugheji02 Palos Heights IL 1955 32 BRO 24
Don Hoak\hoakdo01 Pittsburgh PA 1955 27 BRO 94
Joe Black\blackjo02 Scottsdale AZ 1955 31 BRO 6
Bert Hamric\hamribe01 Springboro OH 1955 27 BRO 2
Jackie Robinson\robinja02 Stamford CT 1955 36 BRO 105
Carl Furillo\furilca01 Stony Creek Mills PA 1955 33 BRO 140
Billy Loes\loesbi01 Tucson AZ 1955 25 BRO 22
Clem Labine\labincl01 Vero Beach FL 1955 28 BRO 60
Karl Spooner\spoonka01 Vero Beach FL 1955 24 BRO 29
Gil Hodges\hodgegi01 West Palm Beach FL 1955 31 BRO 150
Walt Moryn\morynwa01 Winfield IL 1955 29 BRO 11
Roy Campanella\camparo01 Woodland Hills CA 1955 33 BRO 123
George Shuba\shubage01 Youngstown OH 1955 30 BRO 44

Valentine Day Redraft

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This was originally written over ten years ago on TrueBlueLa but since we are headed for our 29th wedding anniversary I thought I’d drop it in here and try to fix the numerous grammatical mistakes from the original.

SonsOfSteveGarvey did a  post about the new Dodger advertising campaign and the image reminded me of when I fell in love, and yes, it was at Dodger Stadium.

Twenty-odd years ago I was flailing in life having failed in my first marriage, as I headed into my late 20’s I had everything going for me but someone to love.   All that changed in 1986 when a cute, perky, 5-foot Mexican-American dynamo took a temp job at my company. A fellow worker had fallen for her but wasn’t sure about her age and asked me to check her out for him. It was a huge mistake on his part. It was easy to engage her in conversation since I had no interest at that point but was merely acting as the point man. I never found out her age but I knew that she was too old for Rueben but perfect for me. Our first get together was a group sojourn to Hollywood Park on Kentucky Derby day. We bet on Ferdinand and then watched Bill Shoemaker and Ferdinand put on the greatest stretch run of any horse I’d ever seen. While celebrating our victory I tossed my dynamo into the air but neglected to catch her correctly and her back landed hard against the chair rail. Instead of reading me the riot act in front of our friends, she simply whispered into my ear that her back was hurt and that we needed to leave. The back was hurt enough that it required physical therapy and still bothers her to this day. For whatever reason, she continued to see me for the next year and a half. As 1987 rolled into 1988 neither of us were sure if the relationship had a future but we kept at it.

A baseball game could be the perfect place for a date if you have the right person. You can’t talk during a movie, you can only small talk while your eating dinner and clubs are death for conversation. But a ballgame is made for conversation. The key is that you have to be with someone who you enjoy conversing with, and who enjoys the game of baseball, otherwise it will be a long 3 hours. Luckily for us, we found Dodger Stadium to be our perfect date. We watched the Dodgers grow as a team around Orel and Gibby and found ourselves visiting Dodger Stadium more and more. As Gibby put on a performance for the ages, we both become transfixed with how he played the game. While we had both been watching Dodger baseball since 1969, neither of us had ever watched a player quite like Kirk Gibson. I was more intrigued with the capable ferociousness that he played with, while she was mesmerized with his animal magnetism.

We were unlikely partners, as she was an artist who had been performing in the public eye since she was 6. While growing up in San Antonio she had performed the Flamenco on River Walk in front of raucous crowds. When she moved back home to Hollywood she strived to become an actress after graduating from Hollywood High. She was currently working two jobs to pay her mortgage after her 1st marriage had ended. Her night job was a waitress at Callenders near the Tar Pits and all the waiter/waitresses were hopeful that someday, Hollywood would shine its light on them. Much to her and her co-workers surprise the one who did hit it big several years later was not someone any of them would have bet on. I was a cultural zero who could tell you anything about the Dodgers, Lakers, or Rams but little else. We needed this time at the Dodger games to bridge the gap between us. We also needed the Dodgers to be good because I’m not sure how it would have ended if they hadn’t won most of the time we went. Back then winning was much too important to me and it was helpful that we went home in a euphoric winning mood instead of a somber losing mood.

As many have noted before, every game seemed to be decided by Gibby doing something tangible to the victory. Sometimes something great happens at a game and many people will claim to have been there or just from reading about it, they start to believe they had been there. The greatest game of 1988 besides what Orel was doing was when Gibby scored from 2nd base on a wild pitch to win the game. We were there and I have no doubt that when other people claim to have been there, they are telling the truth because only if you were there would you remember the incredible feeling of that game. If you had not been there it was just another game that the Dodgers won in the 9th inning. But if you were at the game, it was the kind of game that stayed with you forever.

The playoffs started and we got to enjoy the greatest playoff series ever in Los Angeles. The Mets were heavily favored and rightly so. They still had the core of the 1986 World Championship team. She was a huge Mets fan and had even been in NY during the ticker tape parade in 1986. It was a tough choice for her but Gibson was the tiebreaker and we settled in to watch this series in solidarity, rooting for the Dodgers. Mike Scioscia’s home run to send the 4th game into extra innings so that Gibby could win it in the 12th is the game that stands out. But if you take a look at the results there were key moments throughout the series. Somehow we won and now we were going to face the mighty A’s. I’ll be honest, heading into the postseason I had little faith that we could beat the Mets. By the time we had vanquished them, Orel had to be spent and Gibby was a physical wreck. I was positive the A’s would crush us. I was only hoping not to be embarrassed but I think most Dodger fans would admit that just getting to the World Series that year was already more then we could have hoped for. When the 1st game started I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch the end. I had bought tickets months ago for Kenny G at Universal as a present for her not expecting to be competing with a Dodger World Series game. So when Canseco hit the grand slam I sighed and expected the onslaught to continue. Then Leary came in and shut them down. We left for the show and as we’re driving, Holton comes in and shuts them down plus we get one back when reliable Mike Scioscia comes through again. Pen then comes in and shuts them down. Everyone knows how it ended and everyone knows what they were doing when Gibby hit the home run. We were headed up the Universal hill when Gibby came up and that at-bat lasted so long we were doing what we could to stall before we had to enter the underground parking. No one wanted to enter the underground parking. It was bedlam, and then when he hit the home run the cars went crazy with horns. Hundreds of men taking their dates to see Kenny G were going crazy. Luckily for me, my girl was also going crazy. I’ll always be glad I heard the shot on the radio, it was a great call. Even after that game I still felt the A’s would win 4 straight unless Orel could get us one more. After every game we won I fully expected the A’s to win the next 4. I wasn’t comfortable with our World Series chances until Orel was pitching game 5. Only then did I feel comfortable that as improbable as it seemed, the 1988 Dodgers were going to become World Champions.

1988 was the summer we cemented our relationship and I fully believe that the Dodger team was a big reason why. We had many problems that summer but we were always able to talk through them during a game and by the end of the year we both knew what we had in the other and from that, we decided that it was enough to become life long partners. We got married in 1990 and this April will be our 18th anniversary. I’m a lucky man to be married to a woman who understands how important baseball is to me. Even now, 18 years later she understands that even if baseball is a child’s game it is dreadfully important to me.

We got our 1st season tickets in 2004 after Fox sold the team and we went to opening day as early as you could go. Hand in hand we sauntered around Dodger Stadium soaking up the atmosphere of opening day and the new beginnings it foretells.  I can still remember the look she gave me and I could tell from the shine in her eyes how happy she was for me. None of it would have mattered if it hadn’t been her hand that I was holding at the time.

Fall in love at Dodger Stadium? you betcha.

Clippers complete insane Grammy road trip

The Clippers and Lakers have both been making the annual Grammy road trips ever since the Grammy Awards decided to make Staples Center their home, but never has there been a Grammy road trip like the Clippers just completed.

The Clippers only went 3 – 3 on this trip but given the context of those six games, that was a massive success story.

Game One was against the Pistons in Detroit. The Clippers were down by 25 points and won the game making it the largest comeback in team history.  The game started at 05:00 Saturday Night which was a big deal because they had to fly to Toronto, get through customs, and get ready to play the Raptors at 03:00 the next day.

Game Two was against the Raptors and they predictably lost because they were playing one of the best teams in basketball and had exhausted themselves the night before by coming back from being down 25 points.

Game Three was against the Charlotte Hornets. Three games in four nights and the Clippers found themselves down by over 21 points once again. Once again they came back and won the game on a shot by Tobias Harris. This was the first time in the brief history of Tobias Harris he had made a game-winning shot for the Clippers. I was looking forward to many such games.

The trade deadline was 36 hours away. Sometime that night the Clippers traded away Tobias Harris. Yup, within hours they had traded away the guy who had just made the game-winning shot against the Hornets. The announced traded was crazy, as the Clippers sent Tobias Harris, Boban, and Mike Scott to the 76rs for a bevy of talent. The Clippers received the 76rs number one pick (26th overall) Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala (remember that name), Wilson Chandler, two first round picks, and two-second picks.  It was a stunning trade and seemed to be signaling a white flag for the 2019 postseason even though they were in 8th place in front of the Kings/Lakers.  Much of the analysis after the trade felt that Tobias would be a perfect fit for the 76rs but that the Clippers had achieved two goals. They cleared cap space for a max player this summer. They received multiple goodies that could either help re-build their future or be flipped for another max player.

As a Clipper fan, I was bummed to see two of my favorite Clippers get traded but was very excited about what they were trying to achieve. I believed in the West/Frank front office and felt if they thought they could get Leonard / Durant here, why should I doubt them?

I had one final favor to ask of West/Frank. Please move Avery Bradley.

Nothing happened on Wednesday and I woke up Thursday wondering if something was going to happen.

It did. In a mind-blowing deal, the Clippers traded Avery Bradley to the Grizzlies for two expiring contracts Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green. Why mind-blowing? A casual fan probably thought Avery Bradley was a good player, and he might be, but not for the Clippers. The advanced metrics had shown he was the worst starter on the team and one of the worst starters in all of basketball. Doc Rivers kept starting him, the starting unit kept getting in big holes, like the two they dug out of in Detroit and Charlotte. The Clippers also had a glut of guards but no forwards after the Harris trade so this trade got rid of one of the guards and brought in a big forward and a small forward.

That was cool enough, I thought West/Frank was done. I even visited TBLA which I rarely do anymore and was happy to have a very good basketball conversation with about five different members. As the trade deadline loomed I got a bizarre tweet.

 

I felt the tweet had to be in error. How could the Clippers be picking up the young center from the Lakers for a bit piece they had got acquired in the Tobias Harris deal? But it wasn’t. This was a real deal. The Clippers had acquired a 21-year-old Center for a backup center.  Not just a 7-foot body, but a player with skills. Skills the Clippers badly needed for the center spot.

To finish off the roster, the Clippers waived their previous starting center Marcin Gortat and the Euro guard who never played Milos. They also waived Beasley.

The oldest player on the team was now just thirty-two-years old. They had four players twenty-one or younger and a bevy of draft picks. They also weren’t punting the postseason. They may have traded their best player in Harris but they also removed their two worst starters and replaced them with much better options.

The problem was they had a game to play that night in Indiana with very few players since none of the players acquired in the deals would be available on such short notice. Indiana had just crushed the LeBron led Lakers to the worst loss in LeBron’s history.  The Clippers gave them a brief fight but fell 116 – 92 and were now 2- 2 on the road trip and had fallen behind by over twenty points in every one of the four games. Hold that thought.

Game Five was against the Boston Celtics and it didn’t seem they would stand a chance. The new players had arrived but how cohesive could the team possibly be with four new players?  We should also mention that the Celtics had just blown a 16 point 4th quarter lead to the Lakers at their own place so the Celtics should be in a bad mood. They were, they built a twenty-eight point lead against the Clippers. Twenty-Eight points. The most the Clippers had ever come behind from was twenty-five points and that was just a week ago against the Pistons. Didn’t matter. The Clippers not only erased the twenty-eight point lead they won by eleven points. Against the Celtics. The new center combination of Zubac/Harrell poured in thirty-three points, fifteen rebounds, and four blocked shots. Landy Shamet hit four three-pointers in the 4th quarter and looked every bit the JJ Redick comparison.  Eight Clippers scored in double figures.

In a five-game span, the Clippers had won three games that they had trailed by over 21 points. No team had ever done that.

Ever!

Game six was a formality. Once again they fell behind, this time by twenty-three points and once again they came back but not enough. They only got to within four points before the long laborious road trip sucked all the life from their legs and succumbed to the Twolves.

Might have been the most successful 3 – 3 road trip ever done.

Wilson Chandler will be joining the team soon. There is no white flag so if the Kings and Lakers are going to pass the Clippers they are going to have to earn it.

Ken Gurnick takes a stab at Dodger Opening Day Roster

Cathers and pitchers report tomorrow so MLB had all their beat writers post who they thought would make the opening day rosters for each team. Ken Gurnick is the LAD beat writer for MLB and he gave it his best shot.

CATCHERS INFIELDERS OUTFIELDERS UTILITY PLAYERS
Austin Barnes Max Muncy Cody Bellinger Enrique Hernandez
Russell Martin Corey Seager A.J. Pollock
Chris Taylor Joc Pederson
Justin Turner Alex Verdugo
David Freese
STARTING PITCHERS RELIEF PITCHERS
Clayton Kershaw Kenley Jansen
Walker Buehler Joe Kelly
Rich Hill Pedro Baez
Hyun-Jin Ryu Ross Stripling
Kenta Maeda Scott Alexander
Tony Cingrani
Julio Urias
Caleb Ferguson

Injuries will surely change this educated guess but I do have some questions about some of the spots.

It does appear that Ken feels that Chris Taylor will be the starting second baseman even though Hernandez got more play at 2nd in the 2018 postseason. If you peruse through the box scores of the 2018 postseason you can see that Roberts wouldn’t commit to anyone giving starts to Hernandez, Muncy, Taylor, and Dozier. Dozier is gone but the other three still remain.  I’ll defer to the beat writer who should have some inside information on who the Dodgers are leaning toward but it would not surprise me in the least if Hernandez wins the 2nd base gig and Taylor is the super utility guy. When a left-hander is pitching I think we can safely say that all of Hernandez/Taylor/Freeze will be in the lineup but will Muncy/Bellinger/ Verdugo?

I guess the two notable players missing are Josh Fields and Dylan Floro. Ken has Caleb Ferguson and Julio Urias making the opening day roster but I would expect both of them to be pitching for OKC in their rotation and one of those spots going to Josh Fields.

Urias has to start and if he’s not starting in the Dodger rotation because the top five are all healthy I have to think it is a given he’s in AAA getting stretched out. Remember this is a guy who has barely pitched in two years and needs some innings. According to the Eric Stephen payroll spreadsheet, Urias still has one minor league option left.

Unless the Dodgers are completely committed to Caleb Ferguson as a relief artist I think he follows Urias to the OKC rotation. He still has three minor league options and can easily be optioned without any concerns.

The roster concern is if you don’t have either Urias or Ferguson you lost two left-handed relief pitchers because the pitchers who would replace them are probably right-handed. Unless Josh Fields isn’t healthy or completely shits the bed this spring he has to be one of the two. The only other left-hander on the 40 man roster is 25-year-old Adam McCreary who has one major league game under his belt. There is no help from the NRI list either as only one pitcher is left-handed (Josh Smoker).

I would agree that Urias and Ferguson, and probably even Dennis Santana are better than most of the pitchers on the projected 25 man roster, but teams don’t usually start the season with their best pitchers when they have minor league options that can be used to use them in situations that might be better for the team in the long run.

Anyway, that will be one of the interesting stories this spring for a team that is mainly without questions.

  1. who will start at 2nd base or will it simply be like last Oct where everyone takes their turn?
  2.  WIll Urias and/or Ferguson make the opening day roster instead of doing regular rotation turns for OKC?