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Put up or shut up time for 2014 Dodgers

September 28, 2014 5 comments

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Long-form instead of twitter approach…

The Dodgers win the West and fans are understandably giddy. A weird season wraps up with the D’Backs, one of the predicted top teams, a doormat. The Giants, another predicted top team, were hot and cold, like the Dodgers. The only difference was for most of the season the Dodgers had more starting pitching – three aces, and at times four. A season without TV coverage and greed in abundance, it’s nice the Dodgers didn’t choke and won the West, but with a record payroll as they had, it should be expected. Now the real work begins. Bring on the Cardinals – I assume, I haven’t paid too close attention to it.

The Cardinals are not what they were, though they are just a few wins behind the Dodgers. I would assume the Dodgers, with home field, will beat the Cardinals but nothing would surprise me. While fans wave their Azul and dance to stadium walk up songs and swoon over bubbles and Matt Kemp flexing his biceps, the Dodgers have a lot of faults and could easily stumble. This makes me a hater – I say it’s honesty.

The Dodgers will go as far as their starting pitching takes them, and both Kershaw and Greinke have ERAs over 4 in the post season, albeit in somewhat small sample sizes. I got beat up last winter and most of this season for saying sexually potent baby maker Kershaw has not yet proven he’s a big game pitcher. Mowing down the lowly Rockies is different than choking in a must-win Game 6 last Oct. Now is a chance for Kershaw to step up and change all that. I believe fully he’s as dominating as any pitcher in modern day baseball, but facts are facts and in the one game he had to win, he disintegrated. The Cardinals, a team that mocked and wounded the Dodgers, shoving them out of the post season while the boys in blue preferred to win standing still contests and giggle in the dugout, are now ripe for a comeuppance. Are Kershaw and the Dodgers up for the task?

Keys to the Dodgers doing well in the post season include: starting pitching not getting nervous, Ryu making a comeback, the bullpen not imploding, the offense to be more of the 10+ run variety we saw in Sept than the one that struggles for 4 scattered hits, and playing solid defense. Those under 29 or so don’t understand why defense matters, but it does – in every sport, especially in the post season. Puig overthrows or Hanley booting balls could be the difference between winning and losing. What has irked me more than anything is the Dodgers have all the pieces to be an excellent team, but due to egos and salary, opt to be pretty good, or less than that.

A lot of the outcome this Oct weighs on what collection of bodies Stan Kasten and Donnie Baseball put on the field. I imagine there will be no surprises, so superior defense that comes with Joc Pederson will not be on the post season roster, and crummy bullpen arms like Wilson and Perez will be. It is what it is, so it would be unusual to change things up now, I suppose. Let the best team win – and if it’s the Cardinals, or Nationals, or Pirates, it is to be expected. My luck, this team, of all teams the past 30+ years, will be the one that wins the World Series for the Dodgers. If so, I guess I will need to rethink where I am in life and what it means to be a baseball fan in 2014. i.e. I will need to embrace the twitter-like ways of fans and players, the slow, calculated walk up to bad music, bubbles, modeling gigs, continued PED usage and no games on TV for home fans. If the Dodgers lose, and worse, are embarrassed again, maybe Kasten and company will rethink everything from the manager who seems to enable this bunch of party animals, to said party machines who play the games (emphasis on “play”).

It’s always sad when another baseball season winds down. Sure, the whole thing is played for Oct, but to me spring training through mid-season is the most fun. I think it’s because so much baseball is left. Also, games are not turned over to Fox blowhards who over analyze every pitch and sap all the fun out of things. That may not matter this season, since Guggenheim and Time Warner got into bed, pulled the curtains, and extorted fans to change TV providers if they wanted to watch the games. Some caved, others, like me, did not. The reward (no doubt paid for by the Dodgers) of the final 6 games on TV, with endless commercials of why we should switch to TWC and even the lowest of blows, having Vin pimp for them, did not impress me. If anything, it made me ill. TWC is the devil. If you are in their area and have no choice, you got to watch the games and I guess that makes you a winner. I pity though your first call to their customer service department. I can’t imagine much changing by the time next spring training rolls around, so I hope the bean counters at Guggenheim realize that while they have succeeded in getting butts back in the seats at the Ravine, they are damaging the brand of the Dodgers and are losing more fans than they are gaining. Most in LA don’t care about the NFL returning, and I would say most won’t care if the Dodgers don’t televise games. You can only fit 50k+ into the stadium – and it’s a big city. Most don’t go to games due to the prices and lingering sting of parking lot and in-stands beat downs. If the plan is to appeal to the 50k and screw the remaining millions, it’s not a bright plan, but god bless you.

Of course it all depends on Oct but I for one hope that Donnie is fired by the time the actual Dodgers team shows up in 2016. Donnie, cut from the Joe Torre mold, likes to keep everyone happy. With this team, he’s become the classic enabler. Kirk Gibson is not a good manager, but his presence, even as a coach, might be welcome to stop some of the fun and games that happens on a nightly basis. Donnie, an old school player himself, can’t like it. He’s gone to the press multiple times, planting the seeds of why he doesn’t approve of certain players’ antics – mostly his expensive outfielders. If the Dodgers get rolled this Oct, I hope Donnie is fired, along with most of his coaches. They are a disappointing lot. Mac hasn’t helped anyone improve save for perhaps Uribe, and the team is consistently inconsistent in terms of offense. Davey Lopes was a fiery player and coach but now seems listless and I usually forget he’s even the same guy who once ran the bases like a mad man with a giant fro. Wallach seems like Donnie. Bundy is a boob. Only Honeycutt, who I am not crazy over, has a case for retaining his job. Anyway, I’m hopeful that by 2016, with the kids and new pieces in place, and many of the current cast gone, Donnie’s softness and questionable managerial skills is gone. I’d hate for the next bunch to be guided by someone as complacent, allowing them to take on the fun and games approach the current Dodgers exhibit. I know it’s out of style, but would a little urgency to what’s going on on the field really be so bad? Damned you twitter and Instagram.

Good luck to Dee, A-Gone, Uribe, CC, Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and a few others as the real games start this Friday. The microscope is on you.

P.S.

Oh, and while I completely appreciate Derek Jeter’s career, impressive fuck list and pomp and circumstance of his send off, I do question the lack of appreciation for Paul Konerko. Konerko could have had those 400+ home runs and 1400+ RBI for the Dodgers had overmatched interim GM Tommy Lasorda not been a moron and dealt the kid for a closer a bad team didn’t need – not at that price anyway. Caution to idiot fans who already have labeled Joc a bust and hated Dee and made fun of him ad nauseum in recent years. Konerko was a 22 year old kid who struggled for the Dodgers in his brief audition. He did the same in Cincinnati. Sometimes prospects at that level – as Joc and Dee both were – are worthy of patience. You never know who the next Paul Konerko will be. My advice? Tweet less, Instagram less, and study up on baseball if you want to call yourself a Dodgers fan. Konerko was a beast, and I put him up there with the much more talked about Jeter. He’s a Hall of Famer in my book.

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Yay, 6 games on TV! Who give a shit?!

September 23, 2014 5 comments

MLB: SEP 07 Diamondbacks at Dodgers

Random thoughts, in lieu of Twitter psychosis…

TWC putting the final 6 games on KDOC doesn’t impress me. They hold the city hostage all season and I’m supposed to think they’re good guys for “letting us” watch the final week on TV? Every other commercial is for them, and they even had Vin selling his soul by saying how wonderful they are before the game. I love Vin more than anything in life, but Vin also said McCourt was a gentleman – he can be gotten to. Keep your games, TWC, I will never switch.

The Kemp love by everyone from lookalike 18-24 brunette fans and closeted gay men to Buster Olney is funny. What a great half he’s had – could be a great story, could be something else. Suspicious how he’s gone from a pace of 13 homers and 45 RBI to chasing A-Gone for the team lead in production. I want to believe everyone in the bigs is legit – I say thoroughly test every player for anything in their system that shouldn’t be and let us know the games we watch are legit. It will never happen though – too much money. The NBA is dirty, the NFL is really dirty and MLB has long been dirty. Perhaps the NHL isn’t – and lo and behold, the Kings just around the corner. And on TV too!

While on Kemp… all the smug idiots who keep referring to fans rightfully concerned with Kemp’s 2+ year snooze as “haters” need to get a life. This is the same player who had his agent daily demanding a trade mid-season. If fans didn’t have a right to criticize a guy whose own team and manager thought he was phoning it in, and who himself wanted out, who can we criticize?

While A-Gone is the heart of the team’s offense, I admire the jobs done by Dee and Uribe. Dee reinvented himself and has become the best leadoff man around and a solid defender to boot, and Uribe has gone from a reliable .255 hitter to a .310 hitter who plays Gold Glove defense. Amazing! That infield, once Hanley finally moves on (thank goodness for his hot September, now he’ll have suitors!), will be something to behold.

Bubble machines and selfies aside, teams don’t win without solid defense in the post-season. Dodgers better become more consistently good than consistently bad or mediocre if they want to go far.

Which team will show up in the post-season? The Dodgers who have hit the ball well this month and have scored runs in clumps, or the one who has been scored on in clumps with shaky starting pitching (beyond Opie Kershaw) and an abysmal bullpen?

Stan Kasten is an enigma. He’s had every opportunity to make changes this year and has resisted. It’s as if he has to pay out of pocket for plane fare when kids get called up. Paco making him look stupid for not using him more this year, as has Yimi Garcia. That pen is a mess, and if the post-season roster includes Wilson and Chris Perez, buckle up, it’s going to be a rocky ride.

Enjoy the final 6 games and hopefully a Western Division title. For those older than 22, winning the West isn’t good enough. You can tweet your love all you want, but $235M means you SHOULD expect to win the division and winning it isn’t a major accomplishment. It saddens me not only that fans don’t know much about baseball and judge teams by their asses and dance skills, but also how satisfied they are with nothing.

Oh for baseball pundits who actually spoke openly about the elephants in the middle of the proverbial room. How strange, unnatural accomplishments by sexy stars in SoCal and back East are not mentioned for fear of lost access to baseball locker rooms and pre-game buffets. As always, oh to shoot Vin up with truth serum, or be a close family member sitting around with him at the holidays, to hear what he really thinks of the modern stars, McCourt, bubble machines and the like. Alas, to dream.

Go Dodgers. You aren’t a good team, but you have familiar uniforms so I need to root for you.

Last night was a playoff game and the Dodgers didn’t get the memo

September 13, 2014 2 comments

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Long-form, no tweet edition of Dodger Therapy…

Last night was a playoff game. When I look at the National League landscape, I still think the Giants are the team to beat. They are peaking at the right time and have a good mix of selfless players who are mostly fundamentally sound (outside of Busty Posey’s cowardly defense). The advantage the Dodgers had was they have 3 aces vs. the Giants 1. Now, with Ryu getting hurt (the state of that still up in the air as of this writing), that may come down to 2 aces. That gives the Dodgers a 1 ace advantage essentially but the Giants an advantage in most other areas. I could see the Dodgers doing what they have been – eeking out wins in unimpressive fashion and winning the West, but I can also see them miss the playoffs entirely. As I said, last night was a playoff game. The Dodgers and Don Mattingly didn’t get the memo.

Many fans gravitate toward bench players. It happens every year. Last year everyone was in love with Punto and even Schumaker. I argued they were just guys. Schumaker actually had an interesting pedigree with the Cardinals and in my opinion, flopped in blue. This year’s bench hero has been Turner, and it’s not right to criticize a guy they picked up off the waiver wire and has hit over .300. Turner is a good bat off the bench, but when starting, you quickly understand why he is a bench player. Don playing Turner last night over Dee, who is the spark of the Dodgers tepid offense, not only was foolish for that reason, but opting for lesser defense up the middle. Continuing to play Puig in key spots in the lineup also doesn’t help. The talented Cuban could pop out of his several month tailspin, I suppose, but reality suggests it isn’t happening anytime soon.

I am a lifelong Dodgers fan but disturbed after many years of abuse. I have said it all before. The end of the O’Malley era wasn’t as great as some would like to remember it. The Fox era with The Sheriff’s mad spending and Hitler-esque mustache left me cold. The McCourt situation made us all ill. Things are on the upward climb I believe if only because Stan Kasten, who hasn’t done much to improve the current team, at least had the foresight not to panic and deal the top kids in July. Staying the course, adding International signs, etc., tells me he is not to be carefully judged yet. I nitpick because as an Internet pundit and armchair GM, I have that right. My thought is the big picture of infusing the organization with young bodies and foreign talent is ideal, letting a $235M “win-now” type of club wither without tweaking around the margins is both stupid and irresponsible. And then there is the fact I, along with many other fans, feel completely disconnected from this expensive, not so touchy feely group due to not being able to watch a crucial September series in San Francisco on television. Guggenheim feels they have done no wrong, but I would argue they’ve perpetuated the abuse, just in a more loving way (“Come on, baby, it won’t happen again”).

Baseball due to the come down of the PED era, and the continued usage of select players that it would appear are on the don’t ask, don’t tell list, along with wild cards and parity in general, have made for a weird time in baseball. The most dominant team most of the year was the Oakland As and now they are a laughingstock due to uber genius Billy Beane’s overreaction to what Anaheim’s GM was up to. As I look around now, I have to think (unless something changes the last several weeks of the season), the most likely champion for 2014 will come from the American League. I like the Halos, Orioles, Royals and even Mariners. I am not sure how a seemingly unremarkable Matt Williams has turned things around in DC to where the Nationals may be the best chance for the NL to win. I can’t sign off yet on Williams as a great manager, so that leaves the Giants. They are doing so much right, and have been there before, it would seem possible they could do it again. As much as I dislike them, Bochy and company are smart and grind, whereas the Dodgers brain trust isn’t so smart and the players do not grind.

I’m hoping for leadership and clutch performances from Dee, Uribe, A-Gone and good pitching to make the difference. I just think if they go down an ace, and given the up and down state of the bullpen, the comic defense (3 errors on one play the other night was the highlight of the season), and the surprisingly bad hitting by so many millionaires. That Kasten and Donnie keep trotting out the same bunch, with very little thought of adjustment, is pretty amazing. Stubbornness is the rule of law in LA. And if the Dodgers lose the West lead and either have to resort to a wildcard situation or heaven forbid, miss the Oct dance altogether, it would be apropos. This placeholder team could easily have been reconstructed just a bit and made better. I would still have understood this was not THE team but I could have embraced it more. It seems as if Guggenheim and Kasten are rubbing it in our faces. The complete disregard for trying anything different has confounded me.

Anyway, let’s hope for the best. Going into the weekend Giants series I thought the Dodgers could win one game – probably the Kershaw game on Sunday. Ryu, even before getting hurt, would seem the sacrificial lamb vs. Bumgarner. Greinke has been good but in my opinion has not been the guy he was early in the season. The Giants are hungry, the Giants are hot, the Giants are passionate about embarrassing the Dodgers. I just don’t see how a lackluster, unmotivated Dodgers team could rise to the occasion. Last night, they clearly did not. We shall see what happens next.

You won’t have Dodger Therapy to kick around anymore…

September 11, 2014 4 comments

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Long form, here I come!

I have decided that the world isn’t ready for my honesty. That is to say the Dodger fans that proliferate the Internet and stands, rooting for players to dance in the clubhouse and on the field, cheer for bubble machines and bobble heads, take selfies at games rather than pay attention to the action in front of them, etc., do not appreciate what I have to say. The ones that get it, get me, and do appreciate frank honesty and hopefully a dose of common sense, are the minority. Nowadays intelligent conversation – baseball, politics, or other – is a lost art. Clueless ranting, everyone marching to the beat of the same drummer, affirmation, etc. is all that matters today. You can thank the Internet for this.

Anyway, it seems pointless to upset people who go to Twitter and other places to have likeminded people line up in agreement with them and try to change the way they consider things. It’s taxing for me and angering to others. I don’t mind getting slammed – I actually look at it as a badge of honor. If I can make some moron upset, I’ve done good. That said, it’s not a positive experience saying pretty obvious things and being questioned as to why I think that way every other tweet – or perhaps every single tweet.

For old-timers like myself, there used to be a time when baseball message boards were a way to meet fellow baseball and Dodgers fans and analyze and discuss viewpoints about the game, the structure of the team, individual players and more. That became the land of trolls, however, and Moneyball egotists who naturally assumed they knew more than everyone else because well, it was in the book! took over. Those back and forth flame wars grew wearisome and then Twitter emerged. Imagine, a place where you had to get your idea across in 140 characters – brilliant! But… it’s awfully hard to make well thought out points in such few words, not to mention context – a new follower doesn’t get sarcasm or have frame of reference for past points.

All season long – even before – last season, all winter – I mentioned what I see as obvious deficiencies with the Dodgers. Those of you who have read my posts here and on Twitter understand, whether you agree or not. In a nutshell, this is a stopgap team meant to ingratiate the new owners to long-suffering Dodgers fans. More, it’s a star-studded assembly of known names and faces, not so much a team. The idea was to spend, oh sure, to buy time for the farm, but also to ensure fans came back to the park and spent their hard earned dollars. Well, by that measurement, Stan Kasten did well. Fans come for every giveaway and cream their jeans over the latest bobble head – who wouldn’t want Magic Johnson playing basketball as a Dodgers bobble head? Or Babe Ruth as a Brooklyn coach? (cue eye rolling)

Whether you agree or not, the Dodgers are a ragtag collection of highly paid mercenaries that don’t fit well together, due to their individual skills not complementing one another’s, or their egos not all fitting into Dodger Stadium at the same time. The only thing that works is the three highly paid starting pitchers who have made the record better than it should be, and a few misc. parts – Dee Gordon, A-Gone, Kenley at times, Uribe, etc. Mostly this mess isn’t that great and yet the fans all cheer wildly and hiss anyone not in love with this placeholder group. Anyway, good luck in October with a troubling, inconsistent offense and horrendous defense as well as fundamentals. Remember Game Six in St. Louis? Yes, that meltdown. Well, you may see it again.

Mine is not to upset, my purpose with Dodger Therapy was a place for fellow abused fans to commiserate and talk shop. I think the idea is right, but the forum is wrong. Too many idiots are on Twitter, at best not smart baseball fans. That’s ok, the idiots are the majority in all walks of American life now, so I just had to realize I was the square peg that didn’t fit. I wish all of you much happiness, with selfies, photos of some pseudo celebrity making a face with your not so witty “I’m like all…” and in your mind you’re laughing, but trust me, we’re not. Enjoy the Dodgers as they are, win or lose. Get giddy and jump up and down on the furniture over Puig and Hanley dancing to the bubble machine, or Kemp flexing his tatted up arms as he collects another $20M plus. We are all fans of the Dodgers, we just have different ideas of what that means and how baseball should be played.

I will probably use my blog from time to time to comment on things comment-worthy, but I am going to par down the Twitter chatter. Just not worth muting and blocking people I find to be as dumb as anyone on a reality show. And likewise, I wouldn’t want to have to make morons like that think, because that’s not what the Internet and their cellphones are for. As I end here, imagine your favorite (or least favorite) Viennese doctor looking constipated and me commenting… “I’m like all…”

Have a great rest of your summer, fall and winter.