July 27, 2005
Don't you just love baseball?
Here's a stat that just jumped out at me as being very, very cool. And also makes you appreciate the statistical history of the game:
July 26, 2005, Oakland vs Cleveland: "Dan Johnson was the DH and batted ninth, and so did Indians DH Jason Dubois -- the first time in major league history both teams' designated hitters were in the last spot in the batting order"
July 21, 2005
The Best Day
It was appropriate that the Dodgers would thump the Phillies 10-2 on July 20th. They thumped the Phils 35 years ago on the same day ... the best day I ever had as a baseball fan.
Back in those days, straight A students could earn tickets to three Dodger games a season. If you pulled down really good grades and were a big Dodger fan, it was the perfect deal for you.
It sure was for me. I remember scanning the list of games, looking for dates that would work for my Dad's schedule. He sold insurance and had an office on Wilshire Boulevard near Crenshaw. We lived in Monrovia. I was only 15 ... no driver's license yet ... so I needed day games that my Dad could make.
I spotted one for Monday, July 20th against the Phillies. It was a late afternoon game ... not many of those ... which meant if I caught a bus in Monrovia to downtown LA, my Dad could meet me there and take me to the game.
It would also be a good payback for my Dad. He was a big sports fan, and every December, he'd take me to some special game for my birthday ... UCLA basketball with Lew Alcindor, a Rams game against Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, a special trip to San Diego to see the Chargers. This time, I earned the tickets by getting A's (tops in my Dad's book) ... I figured out a way to get him out of work early ... and I lined up my own ride to LA. Perfect!
I hopped the RTD bus early in the afternoon, and met him near Philippe's where we had a couple of French-dipped beef sandwiches for lunch. I remember him warning me about the hot mustard, and me, like all I-know-what-I'm-doing 15-year-olds, slapping too much on my sandwich. He just smiled and I never let on how I'd set my mouth on fire.
After lunch, we headed up to Dodger Stadium. My free tickets put us high above first base in the reserved section. It was sunny and not too hot. The Dodgers had a good team in 1970, but Cincinnati's Big Red Machine had built a huge lead early. By July 20th, there wasn?t much to play for except a good record and a raise next season. This day was a chance to see Dodger righthander Bill Singer, who'd missed two months with hepatitis, go after his fourth straight win.
Singer struck out the first batter he faced, but hit the second, then put him on second when he threw away a pickoff try. My Dad and I, and everyone else in the stands, could see a bad inning brewing. But Singer got the next batter on a fly ball, then struck out cleanup hitter Deron Johnson to end the inning.
When Johnson went down, my Dad slapped me on the back a chortled "No-hitter! No-hitter!" and laughed and laughed. He was good for silly jokes all the time, and we both laughed ... although I did think it would be cool if it turned out to be true.
Singer breezed through the next few innings. I don't remember many specifics, just out after out. I do remember Dodger first baseman Wes Parker, who was having the best year of his career, picking up a double in the 5th inning. That's when two guys carried a hand-painted banner through the bleachers that read like those paper slips you find in a new pair of pants - "Second Base Inspected By No. 28."
The Dodgers scored two runs in the 5th, and now led 5-0. Singer was cutting through the Phillies like a pair of scissors. He'd hit a batter in the 1st and made an error in the 7th, but he hadn't walked anyone ... and even more importantly, my Dad's joking prediction still held. Singer hadn't given up a hit.
I remember my Dad and I teasing a "phamily of Phillie phans" sitting behind us. They'd been traveling across the country, watching the Phils play in different cities. Today, they were watching them get mowed down by Singer.
By the time the 9th arrived, it was almost six o'clock, and the late afternoon shadows had stretched across the mound. The outfield was still in bright sunshine, and Singer was still in command.
My memory of the 9th isn't clear. I've checked a box score, so I know the first out of the 9th came on a grounder and the second was a line drive to center.
But I remember the last out, and what it DOESN'T say in the box score. The Phillies' Byron Browne was the batter, and the crowd was standing and yelling on every pitch. Browne hit a sky-high pop-up. Jeff Torborg, who'd caught Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 and would later catch a Nolan Ryan no-hitter in 1973, drifted over toward the Phillies' dugout to catch it. He was looking straight up as he moved, and never glanced at his feet. There was a bat in the on-deck circle, and Torborg was stepping closer and closer to it as he tracked the pop-up. Just when it looked he'd slip on that bat, Torborg - his eyes to the sky - stepped around it, and caught the ball to end the no-hitter.
The crowd was pretty small that day ... only around 13,000 ... but the few fans who were there let out a tremendous cheer that thundered through my ears. I still remember how amazed I was that so few people could make so much noise. I remember my Dad had a big grin on his face, and he clapped and clapped and laughed and clapped some more.
About two months later, my Dad had surgery for colon cancer. He was back in for more surgery about a month later, and began a round of fairly primitive chemotherapy that worked for a little while, then stopped working.
My Dad and I went to only one Dodger game during the 1971 season. No bus for me this time. I was driving now, in fact the only driver in the family, and I drove my Dad to the ballpark. I don't remember anything about that game, except the long, slow walk with him from the parking lot to the stands. About a month after the World Series, my Dad died.
That memory is blurry. The better one, my best one, is from the year before, with my Dad chortling about a "No-hitter! No-hitter!" ... and the two of us watching it come true.
July 20, 2005
In the eighth inning of Tuesday's game, Rick Monday and Al Downing were commenting on how Ryan Howard of the Phillies needed to work on his approach at the plate. Monday observed how Howard was flying open too soon. Downing noted that Howard was bobbing up and down too much and seemed intent on trying to hit every pitch out of the ballpark. Both announcers agreed that these were habits that Howard could get away with in the minors but not in the bigs, and clearly Brad Penny had exploited them earlier in the game as he had retired the young Philadelphia prospect on strikes on three occasions.
Unfortunately, Monday and Downing did not get word down to Yhency Brazoban before Howard's plate appearance in the 10th inning. Then again, Brazoban himself is but about a calendar year removed from the minors. He didn't expect to be the closer for almost the entire season, but that's his role on this ballclub, even if it is a prime-time role that he's far from ready for.
It would be merciful if the Dodgers could find somebody else to run out there to close a game. Brazoban's confidence has to be shaken, and while he might be the closer-in-waiting should Eric Gagne A) never return from injury, or B) come back for just that one year before taking the money and running, perhaps the best strategy is to look at the glass as half full, be optimistic about Gagne's return for next season, and let Brazoban remain in the key setup role.
With the Dodgers lacking a big offense, Brazoban still would see his fair share of pressure situations in the 7th or 8th innings. He just doesn't deserve the pressure of closing at this juncture of his career.
Now I'd like to ask resident Braves fan Kevin to answer a question for me? How are the Braves doing it? The injuries that they have suffered this season should be as devastating as those that have plagued the Dodgers, and yet they are right in the the thick of the race to win the NL East and are currently in the lead in the NL wild card race. Are the players the Braves had to call up from the minors that much better than the replacements the Dodgers have been relying on? Is it Andruw Jones? Is it something Bobby Cox is doing, or something Jim Tracy is not doing? Is it that Odalis Perez and Derek Lowe are pitching like they're competing for the biggest free agent bust award?
July 18, 2005
Hats off to Raffy
Rafael Palmeiro joined a very select group this past weekend when he hit an RBI double for his 3,000 major league hit. In doing so he stands in elite company with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only men in the history of the game with 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns. There have been thousands of men who have played major league baseball and the list of names NOT in that group is pretty impressive; Cal Ripken Jr., George Brett, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Ken Griffey Jr. just to name a few. Yet despite his solid Hall of Fame credentials, there isn't a more unassuming man in baseball then Rafael Palmeiro, Viagra commercials notwithstanding. Upon collecting his 3,000th hit, Palmeiro dutifully answered questions in a post-game press conference, reiterated his desire to get the Orioles to the post-season then took a phone call from President Bush. Palmeiro has expressed his desire to play for three more seasons and chase 600 homeruns. If he averages 125 hits a year, he would more than likely pass Paul Molitor for 7th place all time. All of that and yet he wasn't granted a special invitation to the All Star Game in Detroit, emphasizing once again how Commissioner Selig stumbles when wonderful opportunities present themselves. 600 homes and 7th place all-time...take a moment to think about that.
July 12, 2005
A "Real World" Series
As Nick pointed out, the Olympics have booted baseball from medal competition. Now, the only real complainant is Tommy Lasorda. But, in the greater scheme of things, that may be more of a hindrance than a help.
Still, international baseball competition should be alive and well. Look at the Little League World Series. Look at the thriving leagues in Japan and Latin America. And the budding major league stars from Korea and Taiwan...
So, as much Bud Selig is the Major League commissioner that everybody loves to hate, the World Baseball Classic is a very good idea.
July 11, 2005
The Inter-National Pastime
Although some have nit-picked about the selections, Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby exhibition in Detroit is clear evidence of baseball’s growth and popularity across the globe. Maybe the International Olympic Committee (which dropped baseball as an Olympic sport last week) doesn’t see it that way, but it’s true.
Baseball, more than the other major US sports, draws its talent from an international talent pool. It’s been happening for almost 50 years, and is so commonplace that it’s routine.
Just look at three local teams. The 40-man rosters for the Dodgers, Angels and Padres include players from the US, Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia.
Last week, the Dodgers were in Denver to play the Colorado Rockies. Late in the game, Chin-Feng Chen pinch-hit for Hee Seop Choi. It happened on the Fourth of July … and that’s pretty good evidence that the National Pastime is really an international game.
July 7, 2005
I am late in marking the anniversary of one of the more remarkable pitching duels in baseball history. I came across mention of this in the July 2005 edition of the Baseball Digest. On July 2, 1963, Juan Marichal and the San Francisco Giants defeated Warren Spahn and the Milwaukee Braves 1-0 in a 16-inning contest at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
Marichal pitched the full 16 innings, allowing 8 hits and 4 walks with 10 strikeouts. Spahn went 15 and a third, surrendering 9 hits and only 1 base on balls. The ninth hit that he gave up was a game-winning home run to Willie Mays.
July 6, 2005
The Art of the Unproductive Out
Adam Dunn sure attracts a lot of attention. He's 6'6", 275 pounds, runs more like an NFL tight end than other ballplayers his size, not that there are many his size. He's just not the kind of player on which I'd mortgage the future. Maybe you saw the story about his first sacrifice fly in almost 2 years. That gives him a whopping 8 sacrifice flies in over 2,450 plate appearances in his career.
I believe it was Tim Kurkjian on Baseball Tonight who said something to the effect that Dunn's inability to hit a sacrifice fly, coupled with his ability to hit home runs and his huge strikeout totals, was an indication of a hitter who was not very good at situational hitting. I agree with that assessment. His career batting average with runners in scoring position is .208. And 57 of his 140 career home runs have come in the cozy launching pad that is the Great America Ballpark.
The season is not over, but Adam Dunn would not make this team that much better from here on out.
Dodgers' Season? Dunn, Not Done
With JD Drew out with a broken wrist … Milton Bradley still aching from a hand injury … Jose Valentin recuperating from a bad knee … bad hamstrings keeping Ricky Ledee out and Cesar Izturis in pain … Wilson Alvarez struggling with an aching shoulder … and Eric Gagne (elbow) and Paul Bako (knee) on the “wait ‘til next year” list … you have to ask if this Dodger season is worth salvaging. Should GM Paul De Podesta pursue a trade? Should the fans hang onto to even a sliver of pennant hope?
There are good reasons to try to save the season … and to believe it will be saved. It’s not like the San Diego Padres (hammered by injuries themselves) or the Arizona Diamondbacks (a good but not great team) are too far ahead to be caught. As badly as the Dodgers have played, they’re still only 5 ½ games behind the Padres with half a season to go.
Odalis Perez is finally back. Izturis, Ledee and Valentin and maybe Alvarez will be healthy by August. JD Drew doesn’t need surgery to fix his broken wrist, and Milton Bradley is making some progress in rehabbing his hand injury. Add a good player (like Adam Dunn, the slumping slugger from Cincinnati), plus six weeks of strong baseball, and the Dodgers’ job of winning the West will be done.
And speaking of “done” … : Adam Dunn is getting a lot of attention as a possible trade target for the Dodgers. Dunn’s batting average is only .246, and he strikes out more often than any other player in the National League. But even with a weak average and a lot of K’s, he still ranks near the top in on-base percentage and slugging. Last season, he blasted 46 HR’s.
So why would the Reds trade him? Because all of Dunn’s slugging can’t improve Cincinnati’s awful pitching. The Reds have the worst ERA in the National League. They give up more hits than any team in baseball. They give up more home runs than any team in baseball.
Adam Dunn could be had for a couple of young pitchers … and the Dodgers can meet that price.
July 5, 2005
Not to keep harping on Paul DePodesta, and his report card, but J.D. Drew's injury may be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Some may argue that an injury is an unfair way to judge a trade or free agent signing. But in this case, the major concern about Drew was, in fact, his history of injuries -- and the medical belief that he may in fact be genetically-disposed to fractures and bone tears of just this sort.
So, in reality, DePodesta knew the concern going in -- and was just crossing his fingers it wouldn't happen.
But, guess what, there's a reason that J.D.'s nickname is D.L. And it's more likely that it's because of the Disabled List than keeping anything on the down low.
Even if he doesn't go under the knife, the Dodgers will at least be without a frontline center fielder for at least two months. And July and August -- yeah, they're pretty important months.
Shame on The Gambler
If you watched SportsCenter on ESPN this past week you saw endless replays of the Texas Rangers Kenny Rogers altercation with a couple of TV cameraman. Always a surly character, Rogers had placed himself "off-limits" to reporters this season and, to my knowledge, had not granted any interviews to the media, despite putting together a stellar first half; 9 wins, 4 losses and a 2.45 ERA. After reviewing the incident, Commissioner Selig issued Rogers a 20 game suspension and levied a fine of an undisclosed amount (rumor placed it at $50,000). Not surprisingly, Rogers appealed the suspension, pitched this past Sunday and will also take part in the upcoming All Star game in Detroit.
Which leads me to ask this question: What kind of message does this send to the kids that watch, and play, the game of baseball? Act like a spoiled brat, lash out at someone for no apparent reason and we'll still let you play in the game. This is not right and the Commissioner of Baseball should do something about it.
July 4, 2005
Things To Do In Denver When You're Near Dead
For the Dodgers, salvaging the season will come down to winning away from home. Thirteen of the next seventeen games they play will be on the road, and winning on the road has not come easily for anyone in the National League this season. The St. Louis Cardinals are the only team with a winning road record. Two teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals, have broken even as the visiting team, and the Nationals just reached .500 after sweeping the Cubs in Chicago this weekend. So the Dodgers will be traveling uphill for 13 of the next 17. Now minus J.D. Drew, it could be like doing a mountain stage of the Tour de France with a refrigerator strapped to their backs.
July 1, 2005
The Best REAL Seats in the House
Ethan's observations on the upper deck seats is right on the money.
I used to sit in the outfield bleachers back in the days before sunscreen and a prohibition on beer sales. (I remember the Giant/Dodger game where a penant was set on fire and a fistfight ensued.) But now I sit in the general admission seats behind home plate. Great POV of the field. And the people who sit there are NOT the snobby sorts who inhabit the expensive seats closer to the field. These are REAL Angelenos.
The seats are incredibly cheap. Just six bucks! If only there was simple public transit available...
I'll write a bit on my conversation with Jamie McCourt in my next blog entry.