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Wasted Movement

April 18, 2017 2 comments

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Happy post Easter hangover to you. I thought I’d write a short article since the whole 140 character thing doesn’t really work all the time. In general I seem to get a lot of followers who follow anything with the word “Dodger” in the name (“Tax Dodger”? Reserved for the Commander in Chief, I guess). Once I tweet a few cynical (honest) comments, they quickly unfollow. Such is life.

Anyway, I thought I’d comment on the topic everyone is talking about – Rich Hill’s 2nd DL stint in as many starts. How is this a surprise to anyone? Andrew Friedman, trying to save face, is making the rounds, saying he’s not worried. No, front offices love when their expensive new toys end up chronically injured. Who are you trying to fool, Andy? Sure, you might feel you have “depth” (I call ’em semi warm bodies), but it couldn’t have been in the plans to have your #2 behind Clayton Kershaw saying it would take a “medical miracle” to get him on the mound again. And now talk of his going to the pen to save the boo boo finger? Really, you signed a 37 year old pitcher to a $48M deal with the intention of him being just another bullpen guy, next to your AAAA retreads? Sorry, not buying that.

I know the beat writers and local radio guys won’t question the genius of the front office as they don’t dare lose access to the clubhouse – and the free meals. I on the other hand have nothing to lose. I write what is very apparent – hardly genius at all. It just so happens in today’s world, if you exhibit a decent amount of common sense, you look intelligent. Who woulda thunk?

As I have tweeted many times, all you have to do is go to this blog and comb through the old articles and see my take on everything Dodgers. All the injuries discussed in advance, all the bad deals commented on as they were made, the mediocre or worse players the Moneyball minded acquire, debunked early on. Again, it’s not being super smart, it’s using basic intelligence. And yes, just having seen a lot of baseball in my life. It’s the same thing Saber guys (I don’t think women are stupid enough to be Saber) dislike traditional minded scouting and managing for. It’s too simple. You watch, you gauge it on lots and lots of similar circumstances (100+ years of MLB, pretty much) and you can therefore make semi logical assumptions. One might call it “data”, but I hear that term has been trademarked.

Here we are 13 games into the 2017 season and the Dodgers are in third place, 1 game over .500. The fans, as always, are up and down like the temperature. If they beat the Padres, whose entire payroll is less than what Kershaw makes alone, they talk shit and boast, gearing up for the World Series appearance. If they lose to a better Western foe, they panic.

The season is long and I will go on a limb and say the type of front office work the Friedman/Zaidi and assorted Dream Team collection of overpaid executives are doing could work as well in 2017 as it did in 2016. I think I figured it out, though, like a bad detective show, my answer was right in front of me the whole time.

While I think the West should certainly be better than it was last year (Giants will wake up, Rox seem improved and only getting better, Arizona perhaps better under their new Moneyball-type front office), I can see the Dodgers making the playoffs. Before you get too excited, I can also see them missing the playoffs. Somewhere between winning the West, getting the wild card and losing out in the playoff round robin, is where they will be. I am not one to predict outcomes of divisions so much as a lot of things happen.

I will say that unless changes are made (and why would they be?), it’s unlikely the Dodgers, as constructed now, will advance to the World Series, should they get anywhere near. My reason is I look at tonight’s tragic lineup and I just don’t see where $230M was spent. Any given night the lineup, starter and/or bullpen participants might be aged journeymen or AAAA castoffs. Friedman calls it “depth” – Paul DePodesta didn’t even call it that, but maybe he should have. His roster was the same littering of nobodies and never weres.

With Hill having recurring blister problems, it makes me wonder why Friedman would take a chance on him again. Last July, Friedman waited till the 11th hour before the trade deadline to move three prospects for Hill and Josh Reddick, who apparently Friedman didn’t realize hadn’t done anything since May. Ok, I’ll make excuses and say Friedman thought he could wait everyone out and find lightning in a bottle – after all, Moneyball centerfold Billy Beane snatched Hill up during the off-season after seeing him throw a few good games in unimportant late season starts for Boston. If Hill was good enough for Beane…

Hill, of course, came over hurt, spent a long time on the DL and then made some useful starts in September and October for the Dodgers. But facts are facts and Hill was an aging player, not long out of independent league ball (like Scott Kazmir, who Friedman admitted was a poor signing just a year before as he shopped him this winter, with no takers). But with the free-agent and trade markets thin (the time to shop was the winter before when names like Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, J.A. Happ, etc. were available), Friedman doubled down on Hill. After all, he just dealt three prospects to get him, so to walk away empty handed, and still have a gaping hole in the rotation, seemed unacceptable, even to him. So as is his custom, an identical $48M deal went to Hill – like it had to Brandon McCarthy and then Kazmir. I guess that’s the cap where a Moneyballer feels comfortable “wasting” on starting pitching.

I would say $48M is an ok figure, if you got something out of it. So far, the amount is cursed for Friedman and his little troll Zaidi – all three of the guys acquired have trouble staying healthy. In case you wondered, 3 x 48M = $144M, which is a lot of money and should mean something more capable for your rotation than what Friedman’s guys have shown – at least so far (this being written on April 17, 2017, for historical purposes).

My biggest problem with Friedman and his building of a roster isn’t necessarily the players he selects – ok, it’s a large part about that – but what the ultimate toll it takes on the team in general. As I’ve said before, a rotation is not just the quality of your 5 starters (not 16 starters, as Friedman would have you believe), though that should be top of mind, but it’s the innings. I understand the game is changing and either change with it or die but I can’t believe it’s optimal to have 16 guys tossing 3-5 innings commonly, as opposed to 5-6 guys capable of going 6-8 more frequently.

I know it’s ancient history, but I vividly remember Dodger teams with an ace, 2 or 3 very good pitchers and then 1-2 either called “innings eaters” or perhaps 1 of those and a kid, hoping to stick in the rotation. It wasn’t long ago that Friedman so hated this that he chased Dan Haren out of town, paying his salary to go to Miami. Really, how is Haren at any point much different than Hill, McCarthy or Kazmir? I guess you could argue, he was healthier.

Innings are important because it’s something you can hang your hat on. You can assume your starting pitcher is not only capable of going deeper into games, but taking the ball every 5th day without drama. You don’t need to call a collection of junk, and terrible contracts, “depth”. Your depth is your minor league system, as it always has been and is for every team in the major leagues. If you have 4-5 credible starters who are likely to stay healthy, you can make a phone call should someone get hurt. That “data” is based on 100+ years of the game’s history. Trite, boring, but honest and true.

I think like DePodesta, the Moneyball way Friedman and Zaidi play is merely about looking more clever and smarter than your average baseball guy – folks like myself included. Naive? Giggle inducing ideas such as going with known commodities, staying away from continually injured players – absurd! It’s far more fun to tinker like a very bored fantasy baseball general manager and make things happen. Oh, in the end it could work but all the “wasted movement” isn’t beneficial to anyone. When your new $48M contract is already looking vomit-inducing and you are talking about putting this #2 starter into your bullpen, it’s not good. Not on this Earth, not on any world.

Like I said, it’s possible the Dodgers can win the West – who knows if the Giants, Rox and Diamondbacks might stumble? Plus, the Dodgers have spent a lot more than anyone else, not only in the West, or the National League, or MLB, but in professional sports. That “depth” allows you at least a chance to win, even if your front office is run by overzealous micro-managers with too much time on their hands.

On the other hand, this Moneyball style always proves to address the regular season. Remember, before these guys arrived, the Dodgers were doing well in that respect. More often than not the Dodgers are near the top of the division, even when mere mortals are calling the shots. Moneyball is usually employed when a team does not have the financial wherewithal to compete any other way. It’s odd when it’s employed with deep pockets and a monster payroll.

The team tinkers and scratches to get to the post-season, celebrates this accomplishment but doesn’t win. Don’t feel too bad for Friedman, no Moneyball team ever wins. Or hasn’t yet. It’s because, in the paraphrased words of Billy Beane, the post-season is too unpredictable, the “data” doesn’t work there. Luck is involved, he says. No, I don’t think that’s quite true.

While maybe “data” can predict X number of runs an ever-changing lineup should produce, and how many runs an ever-changing rotation should allow, it doesn’t account for quality. Quantity, oh sure, plenty of that. Proudly Friedman sycophants will point to how quantity is as important as quality. This is said to praise the “depth” – which is actually just less talented players than what otherwise could be assembled. More means more, to them. But in the post-season, Billy Beane might say it’s harder to predict and luck, whereas I would say it’s quality. Here the quantity means less, and that’s why Freidman’s subpar independent league and career minor league players have problems.

It’s not genius to discover independent league and career minor leaguers – why, they’re right there in independent leagues and minor leagues all across the country. It’s not genius to pluck them from obscurity and then sign them to contracts of their dreams. It’s curious, weird even and clogs your roster full of guys that more than likely are not going to hold up and win in October.

It’s early – just the middle of April – but we are seeing the “depth” put to use as the players were never capable in the first place. While anyone can get hurt at any time and certainly bad breaks happen, it is not dumb luck when it happens to players who have a track record (data!) of this happening to them. Only Friedman and his people didn’t understand Hill would be hurt. As his players fall like dominoes, Friedman and his followers say, “Who could have known?” Well, we all knew and continue to scratch our heads in astonishment.

I think the appeal here is painting themselves into a corner and trying to get out. Houdini did it to show his superiority and fantasy baseball managers do it when they are bored out of their minds. Make dumb moves, drop better players, constantly swap our anyone with a pulse and hope it works. If it does, you can puff out your chest and claim superiority. Again, it’s “wasted movement” and unnecessary.

It’s an outdated way of thinking, sure, but would it be so terrible to have a rotation with at least 3-4 very solid guys you had a pretty safe expectation for making it through the season unscathed? Would it be ludicrous to assume your bullpen could be 3-4 men deep? Even 2 deep? Would it be insane to think if you had a payroll larger than anyone else’s your roster would likely have more great players than other teams?

All out of touch, old school ways of thinking, I realize. What do I know? I’m just a guy who has watched a lot of baseball for a lot of years. I sometimes write baseball articles, all archived here, with dates, and I seem to somehow do a remarkable job calling a lot of the “unforeseen events” that befall Friedman and his think tank, before they happen. I don’t call it “data” – just common sense and reasonable intelligence. Enjoy the ride and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Have the Pepto-Bismol and Prilosec at your side; nothing is easy in a Friedman universe.

Wasted movement.

Sorry True Believers, The Dodgers Have A LOT of Work to Do

October 16, 2015 4 comments

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Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.

The 2015 Dodgers season fooled a lot of people – either casual fans, Moneyball lovers or the just delusional. The season went exactly as it had to, given the mismanagement of new genius Andrew Friedman. In case you hadn’t noticed, Friedman’s team of consultants fielded a less competitive team than stocky Ewok lookalike Ned Colletti did. Some have deluded themselves into thinking this year was better… newsflash: it was not.

The Dodgers have A LOT of work to do to get this 30-year drought off their back. As I noted in previous articles, I see them going backward, not forward. There isn’t a single area of the team that doesn’t need fixing. The front office through the field coaches to the lineup and pitching. The fans too could use some self-improvement – read the article I posted last night about the decline of twitter and social media as a whole due to mean-spirited mob mentality.

Very few good things happened this year and for anyone who bought a ticket, paid too much for parking, overpriced beer, food and gear, I sympathize with you. Your hearts are in the right place, but you were all duped. The Guggenheim ownership group has done very little right since coming in, while somehow making in-stadium fans feel things are markedly better than they used to be. Perhaps in terms of massive brain trauma they are, but the team itself, the brand, has almost never been lower in all the years I’ve followed the Dodgers. Let us begin…

The Good:

I would say the good is very little. The only things I can see Friedman and his suits did well were obvious things I noted as must-haves in 2014. They focused on defense (even this tarnished with the poor trade of Juan Uribe to Atlanta) and got rid of clubhouse distractions Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. They missed one however in believing Yasiel Puig could be transformed without his enablers around – he couldn’t. Puig regressed across the board and for those who used to criticize me for saying Puig would be lucky to have a career like Raul Mondesi’s (assuming his ceiling was far above Mondy’s), you were wrong. Puig was a trouble spot, loafer and unhelpful (while necessary) part of the team all season long.

So defense for a team built around pitching is good, even though outside of two great starters, I would argue they didn’t build around pitching. And as noted, the chemistry fix was smart, but they didn’t complete the job. So all in all the good is at best a B-.

Philosophy:

The Dodgers fault from the get-go was allowing Friedman total control of every aspect of the team. He doesn’t seem to be Theo Epstein smart, and even Theo has enough humility to hire good people around him (Joe Maddon, etc.). Friedman, like most egotistical executives in all walks of life, clearly dictated how the Dodgers would play baseball in 2015. I can’t point blame at Don Mattingly or his coaches nearly as much as I can at Friedman. The buck stops with him.

Starting with devaluing Dee Gordon and causing a void of speed and leadoff presence atop the lineup to blowing out players and paying their salaries to play elsewhere (sometimes within the division), to trying to prove his superior intelligence by cherry picking disastrous players either with injury histories or no histories (like Paul DePodesta, Friedman loves AAAA nobodies that prove time and again to be nobodies for a reason), 2015’s shortcomings should rest squarely in the hands of the architect. Friedman WANTED this team the way it was constructed and way it played, so I’m giving him full credit.

Anyone who knows baseball understands pitching wins. The Dodgers pitching – save for the two aces – was always going to be a question mark. Brett Anderson was better than expected in terms of health, but that was always a risky pick up given his physical track record. Brandon McCarthy has always been marginal and also a physical nightmare. The slew of arms Friedman had coming and going on a near daily basis were a who’s who of baseball trivia, none of them making an impact.

A team without a full rotation and very thin bullpen has no place in October, so another first round ouster is no surprise to me. And now one of the aces is leaving, or could be signed at a greater price, for more years, and entering his middle 30s with a lot of mileage on his golden arm, so how the 2016 Dodgers pitching staff will look is anyone’s guess. I will say it has to be better thought out and deeper. There’s something to be said for adding known commodities with a history of health. Not knowing who will pitch a given day, who can come out of the pen, etc. is not a way a front running team should operate. Friedman’s lack of understanding, or brash egotism, sunk the 2015 Dodgers from the start.

But the troubles go deeper than the pitching. The offense, except when clicking in spurts against very bad NL West competition, was a strangely crafted bunch with a failing philosophy of swinging for the fences – the more pull hitting, the better. For the majority of 2015 you saw very little going with the pitch, hitting strategically with runners on base, etc. Friedman, like other Moneyballers before him, wanted a lot of homeruns and to his credit, and Big Mac’s excitement to preach this principle, it worked. The Dodgers hit a lot of homeruns with at face value a not very homerun-friendly lineup. Needless to say it didn’t impress me because swinging for the fences isn’t a great hitting philosophy for an entire team.

The offense worked, except when it didn’t. It didn’t, for example, against good teams, in any month, let alone October. If you look at the 2015 Dodgers record vs. each team, they fattened up against patsies in the West – San Diego, Colorado and Arizona, and had a losing record vs. most good teams – for example, EVERY team that played in this year’s post-season. For good measure, the hated Giants even beat the crap out of the Dodgers.

If you can’t beat good teams, you shouldn’t consider yourself a serious threat to win the World Series. Fans believe with their heart, and are drunk half the game anyway, so to truly feel the Dodgers were a good team this year was ignoring the truth. I’m sure Friedman, a man who relishes data, had to be concerned with the fact his team only could beat bad teams. I think that became apparent with desperate lineup switches in September and October and suddenly leaning heavily on Corey Seager, who wasn’t even deemed promotion-worthy till late in the year.

Friedman needs to stop being Al Davis and hire the right people on the field to make the moves. His baseball philosophy isn’t based in reality. Perhaps he subscribes to Billy Beane’s idea that it’s his job to get the team to October based on statistical probability of what players reasonably should do over the course of the year – once there, it’s impossible to predict. That works fine in Oakland, perhaps, but with a $300M payroll and ability to absorb any amount of contracts or luxury tax penalty? Does. Not. Compute.

Other Things:

While Friedman should be held most responsible for this year’s team, I am not giving a pass to Donnie and his staff. I think, as I said earlier, top to bottom there are problems with the team – from deficiencies to bloat, poor philosophy and unfounded ego.

Donnie is not the great thinker you’d want to manage a top ball club. Luckily for the Dodgers, this isn’t a top ball club. Donnie got the job by being a good soldier under Joe Torre and was a good hitting coach. He apparently is in demand for some reason in Miami, so likely Friedman will toss him out as his scapegoat and Donnie will bask in the Florida sun. That’s okay with me because while a great former player and a decent guy, he’s not a terrific X’s and O’s kind of guy.

I’m not sure who should manage the Dodgers next and it really doesn’t matter what you or I think anyway. Friedman will do what Friedman does and do what he wants. Personally, I’d love to see Friedman sent packing and Dan Evans brought back to construct the team, and Alex Cora hired to manage. The team needs an influx of smarts and not the kind data loving pundits fantasize about either, but actual baseball IQ.

So Donnie will go, the fans will be happy, and neglect the fact that the house is rotten from the inside out. Moving Donnie out will NOT make the Dodgers suddenly a great team, maybe not even a really good team. Donnie and his coaches – all could go in my opinion, especially useless Mac – are all tired and had difficulty getting the most out of the botched collection of players Friedman handed them. I really can’t blame them. When Justin Turner, a former waiver wire bench player, is your big threat, you have trouble. When Kike Hernandez is the best thing you got in a trade for NL batting champ and stolen base leader Dee Gordon, you have trouble. When you’re leaning on journeymen outfielders in a pennant race, guys who weren’t even in the big leagues until they arrived in LA, you have trouble. THIS is a $300M team? Friedman spends as much and as inefficiently as George W. Bush.

Turn over the entire coaching staff and perhaps with Friedman letting HIS staff (he inherited the current group) handle the on-field action, things will improve. It couldn’t get much worse.

The Dodgers won the West in a down year for the Giants and with three other dogs in the race. Beating up on bad teams and losing to anyone with a pulse isn’t “winning” – not with a payroll and expectations the Dodgers had going into this season.

Let’s face it; it’s been over three decades since the Dodgers were a dominating team so humility should be practiced by everyone. When I read tweets from Dodgers fans talking shit to the Giants fans, I chuckle. The Giants have won 3 titles recently, so winning the West – with triple the payroll of the enemies from up north, should not be setting you off into a victory lap.

To get back – if even possible – to the Dodgers way, the Dodgers – Guggenheim – need to get smarter. Hiring “smart guys” (walking around referring to yourselves as smart makes me wonder how smart you are anyway) isn’t enough. The smart guys may ultimately “get it” and create a winning formula, but let’s face it, Friedman’s whirlwind of suspect trades and bad signings were his attempt to “get it” for 2015. The end result, as noted, is less satisfying than Ned Colletti teams under evil Frank McCourt, which at least made it to the NLCS.

I think A LOT of work needs to be done. It’s frightening to think how poorly the team played, how bad the hitting philosophy is, the station to station base running, lack of team speed, strikeouts, 3/5 of a bad rotation, soon to perhaps be 4/5, a terrible bullpen, and now no Nancy Bea Hefley and soon, no Vin Scully. Not to mention no TV for the majority of people living in Los Angeles.

While thugs beating the crap out of fans aren’t happening as much, the dark embarrassment of the Dodgers is still alive and well. I would love to say, sign Zack Greinke, that will fix everything, or hire this guy, sign this FA, etc. The truth is there are many, many issues here and it starts with the ownership group, the front office and as they say, the shit rolls downhill. Simply blaming Don Mattingly would be oversimplifying the problem. Mattingly didn’t deal Dee Gordon, didn’t sign Brandon McCarthy, admire Yasmani Grandal for his pitch framing or Kike Hernandez for his tight fitting pants. The team played as well as they could given what they are. Losing a 5 game series to the Mets when you have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke going 4 of the 5 is pretty god awful. All that was missing was Scott Van Slyke trying to out freeze Joe Kelly in a human statue standoff.

The Dodgers need to get A LOT better. It’s up to Guggenheim to figure out how to do that. Calling Dan Evans. Dan Evans to the Dodgers front office please.

Dodgers State of the Union – 8/20/2015 Edition

August 20, 2015 Leave a comment

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Fans are still saying the bullpen will be fine and the Dodgers are doing great. I guess 15 or so games over .500 is pretty good, but it’s an interesting team that has that record and is in complete disarray at the same time. The curiosity makes you wonder what might be if management actually fielded better relief pitchers and addressed other needs. Well, the recent Dodgers have not been short on talent, just misguided by too many cooks in the kitchen – and cooks that couldn’t get their own show on the Food Network.

With this current collection of players, or maybe the ones they had before the winter shopping and suspect trades occurred, I daydream what a “real baseball guy” could have done. I see Dave Dombrowski going to reinvent the dismal Red Sox and think, “My, Dombrowski in charge of the Dodgers would have been nice.” I would prefer Dan Evans, or even accept Ned Colletti back – anyone not Friedman and Friends, essentially.

Facts are facts – the Dodgers relief pitching, which has been shaky at best for two years, is the worst in baseball since July 1st – pretty much across the board. Even Clayton Kershaw can’t help if he doesn’t go 9 – the pen can blow any game. This won’t play in October, but as it is now its no shoo in the Dodgers will be playing in October anyway.

The Giants, as they tend to be, are within striking distance with head to head games against the Dodgers still to be played (adding Marlon Byrd today, a nice pickup). If the Dodgers don’t win the West, they likely will not get a wild card berth unless the Cubs, who are surging, should collapse. The pathway to the post-season is winning the West – for both LA and SF.

With a porous bullpen, questionable 3-5 starting rotation, and anemic offense, Friedman decided the best thing to do was trade for aged UCLA alum Chase Utley. Utley, as always, is a fragile mess but has hit since coming off the DL. Can he, teamed with geriatric former teammate Jimmy Rollins provide the AARP boost that championship caliber middle infielders are known for? Perhaps his leadership and offensive upside will be an improvement but one has to wonder what the front office is thinking. Is Utley the key to turning around the .500 play the Dodgers have put forward for the past 3 months? Can he pitch? Will he increase the slow foot speed the team suffers from?

This week Farhan Zaidi said the team’s bad base running and slow team speed is troubling. Have to wonder if he had anything to do with trading Dee Gordon away if he feels this way. Dee is hitting .337 with 40 steals and Utley .217.

Abruptly the Dodgers “fired” Lorenzo Bundy (well, moved him out of his job – no one gets fired by the Dodgers; paychecks keep flowing) for no specified reason and brought in former MLB manager Ron Roenicke to coach 3rd and presumably be on hand for the inevitable termination of Donnie Baseball. I guess if Donnie is canned at season’s end he could reinvent himself as the hitting coach (something he’s better suited for anyway) or do odd jobs at Friedman’s mansion to pay off the debt. Anyway, with Zaidi’s comment and Bundy’s ouster, makes you wonder if there’s a split on base running philosophy between Friedman and Zaidi.

Some developments this season that are concerning…

  • Moving Dee Gordon due to the Moneyball philosophy base stealing isn’t important, even though it created a void atop the lineup. Again, whether you value base stealing or not, there’s something to be said for speed in your lineup, disruption of pitchers’ focus and defense, as well as a consistent presence at the top of your order. The Dodgers haven’t had that, meantime Dee is having a second straight great season, proving he is not a fluke at second base.
  • Moving team leader and defensive wizard Juan Uribe – along with solid relief pitcher Chris Withrow (hurt this year) for Alberto Callaspo, who was released yesterday. Uribe has been a shot in the arm for the Mets and could see October play in the Big Apple, while third base – and leadership/morale – have been issues for the Dodgers.
  • The Joc/Kike/Utley thing. So apparently the Utley trade was to get a stop gap second baseman into the fold while Kendrick mends from his hamstring issue, and it would free up Kike Hernandez to play CF and allow for Joc Pederson to either go back to AAA to figure out his swing (sure won’t happen here under Big Mac) or rot away on the bench. I don’t love the deal but its possible Utley can hit for a short time, before ultimately sitting behind Kendrick. And Kike should do more on the offensive side than Joc. I just wonder why Friedman acquired the Braves best prospect – Jose Peraza, who happens to play second – and decide to keep him at AAA and get Utley instead. Wouldn’t a top prospect with speed be an answer to several problems? Is Peraza only a Dodger because he allows a blue chip for winter dealing? After all, if Friedman didn’t love Dee, why would he love Peraza, who seems to be Dee light? I also wonder why Peraza doesn’t get a chance but other contenders call up and play their top kids. To me it would be more interesting to have kept the pitching prospect and Darnell Sweeney (nice power and speed guy) and play Peraza than turn the Dodgers double play combo into extras from the movie “Cocoon.”
  • Puig. Beloved by fans when he hits a homer, is he really the guy the Dodgers want to build around? Now he’s a trade-low candidate. One has to wonder what they might have gotten for Puig this off-season. Perhaps a less volatile outfielder, or an important pitcher? The former glut of Dodgers outfielders now has me wondering, “Just who should be in the Dodgers outfield in 2016?” Personally I might go with Andre Ethier and Joc (if he is able to figure out what’s gone terribly wrong with his hitting) and find a new outfielder, and move Puig and Crawford out. Should be interesting, since I don’t think you can say the outfield right now is a strength.
  • What is Friedman’s philosophy on pitching? Is he “too Tampa?” It seems evident he has the feeling pitching doesn’t matter and anyone can do the job. The neglect of the pen and odd approach to the rotation are the biggest flaws of the 2015 Dodgers. With Zack Greinke certain to test the market for a large extension, what happens next? You’ll have Kershaw plus…? And a pen that is in dire need of a facelift. One has to ask a) if it will be done and b) if Friedman even understands good teams have strong pitching staffs. So far both are debatable.
  • Vin Scully not sure if he’s going to come back. Personally, I feel very bad for Vin. He’s been treated poorly for quite some time – since McCourt owned the team and bounced his checks. Now a botched TV deal where fans can barely hear or see him. I think Vin should hang them up and enjoy his family. It would be interesting to see what he thinks of how the Dodgers have been run/misrun, but of course he’s too much a gentleman to ever vent. I love Vin but honestly, the “fans” nowadays don’t deserve him, nor do they care about him. They claim to love Vin but stand for everything Vin would be against. Loving executives over proven baseball traditions would not be something Vin would endorse. I think the nouveau fans would also appreciate a younger voice, perhaps someone with gauges, sleeves and a vape device. Vin, you’re the best, and always have been. It’s sad that the Dodgers have run aground and you’ve waited patiently for the blue ship to right itself. Go spend time with the grandchildren, we can suffer without you.

That’s pretty much it. Since I got lambasted for my last honest opinion, I’m sure the malcontents will heckle this article as well. That’s ok. While we claim we’re all Dodgers fans, clearly there is a divide between those who truly understand the rich tradition dating back to Brooklyn, and the young and uninformed riff raff who rose to prominence via social media bullying and fantasy baseball brainwashing.

The reality is that the Dodgers have not gotten better under the “geniuses” – Stan Kasten or Friedman. The team is not built for post-season success and unless a miracle happens, 2015 should be a repeat of the past 2 seasons. Whenever you have Kershaw and Greinke you have the “slugger’s chance” for a knockout, but as I said last time, I look around and I see problems in most every possible area of the team and don’t see any reason to believe Friedman and Friends know how to fix it. I’ll happily admit I was wrong if things should change the last handful of weeks of the season, and I hope the “haters” can do the same if they do not. As I’ve said many times, I’ve called these things well in advance, so I’m not in the least bit surprised how things have unfolded. As a lifelong fan of the Dodgers, it’s been very frustrating and quite sad.

When it Comes to Pete, MLB’s “Integrity of the Game” Argument is Bullshit

March 19, 2015 1 comment

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Once again the Pete Rose Hall of Fame topic has raised its dirty face. I drive along, tuned into MLB Network Radio, and listen to the hosts – usually company men, shills for the organization – and callers, rant about how Pete knew what he was doing, committed the Cardinal Sin of baseball and therefore should not ever be allowed into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Sometimes I feel compelled to call in, but think better of it. What’s the use? Argue with a host that already has pat answers, refer to calls from raving mental patients? There’s better ways to spend one’s time; so I flip the station to something else and continue on my merry way.

The reason, however, I think Pete deserves to be in the Hall is pretty basic. The argument for anyone saying he shouldn’t be in is that he bet on baseball, so the integrity of the games – the most sacred of sacreds – is on the line. After all, if the outcome might be affected – such as the Black Sox scandal of yore – who gives a crap about baseball?

I would facetiously argue that “reality TV” is drawing pretty well, as does professional wrestling, and perhaps other fixed sports such as boxing, the NBA and NFL (no proof on the latter, but it’s always fishy the way things go down, especially when the games matter). This is my light, cynical reasoning, but the biggest reason I would argue on Pete’s behalf is what integrity of the game?

Pete’s gambling occurred as a manager, so his playing days might be considered separate altogether. Apparently they’re not, so lumped together, Pete is seen as a gambler who while there’s no proof he affected games at all, may have had some hand in outcomes. Anyone who understands Pete knows he is such a competitor it’s completely unreasonable to assume he threw games. That leaves potentially damaging pitchers’ arms to ensure winning them. Well, there’s no proof of that, and in a country that maintains proof to convict, it’s a bit sketchy at best.

The only thing that matters to me though is that assuming Pete affected games’ outcomes, or not, and just placed bets on his team to win, is that more of an affront to the integrity of the game than Bud Selig either incompetently allowing big leaguers to rewrite the (just as sacred) big league record book by not knowing their “too good to be true” numbers were chemically enhanced, or perhaps more obvious – happy it was going on?

Either way the “integrity” aspect was and continues to be shot to hell to me. Baseball – from Bud on to broadcasters, managers, players and fans, were and are involved in deception. The numbers were heavily padded for an entire era, and continue to be padded. PED cheats still pop up, many are allowed to cash in on the next large contract, and younger stars are passed off as the next Mantle, Mays and Aaron. Until they’re caught – if they’re caught.

Players bulking up to the size of NFL linebackers and being judged not on baseball skills but “tools” – earning contracts through football-style combines where they pull or push cars, lift weights, drag cement blocks, etc., as opposed to traditional baseball skills.

Bud is gone, but it’s yet to be determined how different the new commish, Rob Manfred, is. After all, MLB wants viewers, wants asses in the seats and knows it must compete with the NBA and NFL for those who require superhuman achievements and action – action – and more action! The modern fan is deficient of mental skills required to appreciate what makes baseball the best game, and what put it atop all other sports and called the National Pastime. The time of a game was never in question as fans understood the nuances of the “game”, not necessarily the “sport.”

Today we are supposed to buy massive bodybuilder type players gaining weight over the few month off-season and when an older player improves in his advanced years, hitting everything in sight in a red hot post-season run, we’re supposed to assume it’s legit. We know in the very recent past the players were all doped up and cheating, but now – well, it’s different. It is, it really is!

Then some busts happen or someone is outed and we’re told it’s an isolated incident, not to worry. The commish will handle it. Whatever – it’s an insult to fans’ intelligence and speaks volumes to me that there is very little “integrity” left in the game. If the 100+ year record book is peppered with trickery, why do we draw a line in the sand where baseball’s all-time hit king can’t cross?

All I know is Pete played the game like all of us would want any player on our town’s team to play the game. When Steve Sax came up from AA ball to play second for the Dodgers, it was like watching our own blue Pete Rose. He ran to first base when he walked, he hustled non-stop – it was fun, it was energy. Pete played that way every game of a very long career. He amassed, legitimately, more hits than anyone who ever played the game. If sportswriters mull over whether Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, Palmiero, Big Mac, Piazza, Sosa, etc. – even nice guy Andy Pettitte – deserve to be in the Hall – eventually – then Pete should get that level of respect. More. Pete didn’t do anything unethical as a player – unless you count overly enthusiastically bowling over a catcher in the All-Star game.

Yet I see many baseball writers in my Twitter feed saying they voted for PED-era users or suspects and feel they should be in. I will say Bud and MLB created a very messy problem for the writers to figure out. In reality, if Pete is not allowed to be in the Hall, none of the PED users should either. And I would argue perhaps even if Pete is allowed in, the PED users shouldn’t (plenty of old-timers they could allow in first – Gil Hodges, for one). What the dopers did was affect outcomes of games and took away a large part of the mystique of baseball’s record book. No other sport considers its record book as gospel as much as baseball – a game built on its past and its statistics. Pete gambled, but he didn’t do it as a player, and there’s no proof his gambling affected games. We KNOW all those extra home runs, RBI and pitching accomplishments did.

I don’t get the dislike of Pete. I see him in interviews and he seems very genuine in his lifelong love of baseball and regrets what he did. Some punishments cannot be lifted – this I get – but it seems once Bud touted “Chicks Love the Long Ball” as MLB’s post-strike mantra and advertising campaign, all bets were off the table. There has been no “integrity” so to speak in over 20 years. No one can look at Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Papi, Yasiel Puig, etc., etc. and know for sure that what they’re doing, that seems so incredible, is in fact all-natural. That is the legacy of Bud and why the game’s morals are damaged.

I don’t see the talking heads on MLB Network Radio or the TV side, MLB Network, or during games, on the radio, in columns, etc., saying this. Baseball writers, ex-jocks and pundits don’t want to be the one caught calling out the game or the commish. They don’t want to be blackballed – like that reporter in San Francisco was when he went after Melky Cabrera – and they certainly don’t want to lose access to the locker room, or free food. So they talk up the incredible achievements happening on the field and never do their duty as reporters and ask – “Do we know for sure that this is real?”

I am suspicious immediately when anything looks too good to be true. The old adage is that if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. We certainly learned Bud’s heralded home run chase of Roger Maris by pumped up buddies Big Mac and Sammy Sosa was. The aging Roger Clemens pitching as good as he did when he was a young man, etc., etc. Baseball has a past steeped in dirty behavior – racists, drunks, abusers, drug addicts, etc. In that way, unfortunately, it is like any walk of American life. The Hall is full of bad eggs, but as MLB Network Radio hosts says, what Pete did goes beyond being a bad boy – he made us call into question the scores themselves. Ok, if that’s true (again, no proof that it is), how are Bonds fantastic accomplishments at age 40, Clemens, and all those hits, homers and RBI by the rest of them any less? You’re going to tell me that in those record-breaking stats, no achievement directly affected the outcome of a game? There was no walk-off homer, no 15 K pitching win, no 4-5 RBI night that helped a team win? Please… it’s offensive to anyone with a brain in their head.

Baseball and the writers not having the balls to bring any of this up are sickening. Listening to them continue to paint Pete as something akin to a Nazi because he bet on games as a manager is pathetic. I don’t know how the old or new commish sleep at night, nor the guys who know more than they’ll ever tell. Managers, former and current players, announcers, beat reporters, etc.

There is no baseball Hall of Fame without the all-time hit leader in it. And if you’re going to ban him from having a plaque next to violent racists and other offenders, fine, just don’t ever cast a vote – or even put on the ballot – a whole generation of players we know either did performance enhancing drugs, or whose numbers suggest they likely did. They do not belong as they hurt the “integrity” of the game. As a fan, I find this inexcusable – but more than just blame the players, who wanted accolades and tens of millions of dollars – I point the finger at those who allowed, and even promoted, their offenses.

In the end, Pete deserves to be a Hall of Famer – with a comment or two on his plaque how after he retired, he admitted to gambling on baseball when he managed. I am not sure it will ever happen, or most certainly not sure it will happen in his life – which is just sad. On a bright note, Pete won on the field and continues to win in life. Kiana Kim? Once more – please – the man is a genius. And certainly the textbook description of how a person is supposed to play the game of baseball.

Fix this Fucker, Friedman

October 30, 2014 Leave a comment

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This is not about the World Series that the Giants just won, because I watched and/or listened to very little. This is about the nightmare that was 2014’s baseball season. Bud Selig’s last hurrah fittingly sucked, although I admit fully the two teams that just played 7 games were determined, fundamentally sound ball clubs. I think there were three errors in 7 games by both teams combined. That’s an average night for the Dodgers. I am just happy that this season is finally over and I dub it the darkest year yet in Dodgers history.

We’ve (I’ve) bemoaned ad nauseum about the past season so I will paint in broad strokes instead. With young Friedman the latest genius in charge, and the ouster of Logan White, the stage has been set for renewal. I am going to try to play the optimist, a role I rarely covet, and say I am of the belief anything Friedman does will be an improvement. That’s how bad I think things have gotten for the Dodgers.

Poor fundamentals, lack of focus, bad defense, no relief pitching, question marks in the rotation at times, a lack of trust for the farmhands, and now, another San Francisco Giants World Series. No longer can snarky Dodgers fans say it was a fluke, or luck. The Giants have proven that while they don’t have the most talented roster, they have the most focused and determined one. I have long said less is more. More millionaires and more big names does not mean more victories and more success. I have argued that the opposite is the case.

It seems in the pseudo post steroids era (cheating still happens, don’t get me wrong, but it’s selective and even allowed by MLB. Hopefully Bud’s leaving will change that and the game can become credible again), big money, celebrity laden rosters do not guarantee titles. Of course we knew this, as less star-studded Yankees teams did better than those with more box office clout. I am of the belief that Friedman knows this, coming from a respected small market team, and will trim the proverbial fat. Let Hanley Ramirez walk – to Houston, to New York, wherever. Let go of a few highly paid outfielders (three would be fine with me). Make sure your big game pitcher actually can win in big games – how is it that San Francisco’s third option just a few years ago is more money than Clayton Kershaw?

Add youthful legs and defense. Add grinders and lunch pail guys. And certainly add a manager who knows how to play chess, not checkers. I know its P.C. to say the Dodgers can’t sign Joe Maddon, but why the hell not? Do you honestly think Donnie can handle any roster? Even if the pieces were given him?

Substance over style, dirty uniforms over selfies and bubble dances. If you want bullshit like that, toil away on Instagram or follow the Kardashian/Jenners latest embarrassment. Baseball teams need to be balanced – just like in fantasy baseball. I mention this since everyone is a Sabermetrics genius nowadays and if you favor the math, you probably also love fantasy. In fantasy, balance is what wins your league – not loading up on home run hitters. You need average, wins, steals, runs scored, saves, ERA, the whole thing. The two teams you may or may not have watched play 7 games are balanced – the Royals even more than the Giants. The Giants won because of a hot pitcher (1988, anyone?) and a brighter manager. Experience and determination helped.

The Dodgers should not be afraid to break it up and get ballsy. Big trades, a reshuffling of the deck, anything it takes. They won the West, but they didn’t have a great season. And who the fuck cares? The games weren’t televised in almost 3/4 of the city anyway.

Letting Logan White go, or forcing him to is disturbing but I’m ok with it. I loved Logan White and his eye for talent is undeniable. That said, there’s an argument to be made that his finds oftentimes were incomplete players, or merely diamonds in the rough. Not a lot of them were tough baseball players, immune to the “pressure” of pitching in a fish bowl where music and movie stars might show up to any game. Something has happened to LA baseball players since the recent glory days of the 70s. Sure, Jay Johnstone and Steve Yeager banged Penthouse Pets, but they were ballplayers. Technology – Twitter, Instagram, etc., and the blending of fame and connection to ordinary people has made LA ballplayers soft. Ron Cey and Reggie Smith would not have been dancing to bubbles, and Joe Ferguson would not have been shaking his ass to pregame (!) musical acts.

Perhaps White leaving could be a good thing. Friedman, it would seem, understands the current mix isn’t great. I suspect Joc Pederson and young relievers will get their chance. Maybe expensive players sent elsewhere with cash for more prospects, and/or serviceable MLB players similar to what the Giants put out… i.e. not the best, but capable of rising to the occasion. Enough of a track record of production and history of not dancing to win.

Let it roll, Friedman. Do whatever you want. The Giants winning again is a painful, nay, sickening familiarity that needs to be addressed. The sinking began when O’Malley lost interest when his attempt to get a football team was rebuffed. 1988 was a fluke. Fox and Kevin Malone fucked things up. McCourt raided the coffers. DePodesta gave us embarrassment. Guggenheim and face of the organization Magic Johnson was supposed to be different. Some fans have been duped and ran back into the stadium. To me, there has been subtle changes but arguably more dismal results. No TV? What the fuck?!

The Giants and their (rightfully) cocky fans again hoisting that trophy is akin to rubbing moist piles of dog shit in Vin Scully’s face. Not winning with bad defense, a bad pen, and selfish, egotistical players is horrible. Seeing the Giants and their fans count their rings with this mini dynasty? May as well have ISIS behead us.

I am mad as hell and disgusted with the procession that has gone on since after the 1981 title – the end of the 70s era teams. There have been some nice moments since, even 1988’s title, but again, an anomaly. This shit has gone on long enough and just when you think it’s ended, another layer of pain appears. Seriously – how many World Series titles must we see the Giants win? The Dodgers have to stop talking, stop hiring expensive executives, stop being P.C. as it appears to “respecting Donnie” and massaging millionaire players’ egos and do something about it. I have outlined all of the things the Dodgers need to do to win in countless articles just like this. Kasten was supposed to be the guy, just like DePodesta was. Now it’s Friedman. Next it will be a pile of sperm. Younger and sexier doesn’t mean knowledgeable and capable. Put together a good Dodgers ball club asap. Start tomorrow. I want that hot stove fired up now. Throw lazy and overpaid pretty boys out into the street. Get guys who can field and play without being distracted by LA’s latest flavor. Enough is god damned enough. The Giants winning again should make everyone in the Dodgers organization vomit in unison. Get busy and fix this fucker, Friedman.

Ned Louis Colletti, Jr. – the Perfect Patsy

October 11, 2014 3 comments

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A brief, longer than tweet-length Dodgers commentary…

The natives are restless. They want blood. LA baseball fans, ripe from another quick exit in Oct (read my words and you’ll know this was what should have been expected); want to see someone pay for this latest Dodgers playoff debacle. In my last entry, I labeled three primary goats: Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly and Stan Kasten. So, to no great surprise, just as the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq following Egyptian and Saudi Arabian terrorists attacking on 9/11, the focus is on somebody different. Ned Colletti, he of Oscar appearances without product in his hair, cool retro mustache and more legit testosterone than pretty boys Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, is the publicized scapegoat whose job hangs by a thread.

I am not here to defend and beg for Ned’s GM life, though I have gone to bat for him many times over the years when ill-informed dipshits attacked him. I did so because they were either wrong or devoid of facts. The Dodgers, as I’ve said time and time again, alienating many Twitter nitwits and short-tempered “fans” whose idea of devotion is hand jobs for the players, are a poorly constructed baseball team. They are in fact the anti-Kansas City Royals. The Royals have balance, which is what wins in the post-season. The Dodgers have none of that. The Royals could have been assembled by former Dodgers GM Dan Evans, a guy who understood both Moneyball statistics (even before Billy Beane heard of them) and flesh and blood factors, such as human chemistry, heart, etc. But leave it to Bud Selig to allow a fake rich guy like Frank McCourt to be handed the Dodgers. He then hired “his Theo” – ultra geek and doofus Paul DePodesta – and Evans was sent packing. And now it’s Ned’s turn.

Ned is no Dan Evans. He doesn’t have Evans understanding and smarts. What Ned has (and why he earned my respect years ago) is baseball knowledge. DePodesta relied on Excel spreadsheets and his massive ego, tearing down Dan Evans’ team just because he could. He destroyed a Dodgers team that had just had a 21-7 July record, selling off parts for scraps. His Dodgers roster was a collection of AAAA characters that were overmatched and easily manhandled. Sure, a few good players were mixed in, notably Jayson Werth, who at the time was always hurt and wouldn’t blossom (as usually is the case in LA) until he left town. By and large the roster was – in delicate terms, an embarrassing piece of shit. DePodesta had to be fired to keep the then-hungry villagers from focusing on McCourt, who was busy using the Dodgers as a personal ATM machine and vehicle for real estate transactions. The difference between DePodesta’s ouster and Dan Evans’ and Ned’s is DePo deserved it – Evans not at all, Ned not very much.

I don’t want to go into an exhausting defense of Ned and his mustache. All I will say is you can point to the “bad deals” and I could point to the good – and more, explain the rationale of the bad deals. I also can defend – and have – Fred Claire dealing Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields. I cannot defend Tommy for trading Paul Konerko.

Ned, in my opinion, quickly righted the shit show that was DePodesta’s team, turned the Dodgers into a fairly smart and well-functioning baseball team, and eventually a back-to-back NLCS team. Ned’s teams have won more than they’ve lost and one could argue (I do) that Ned’s two NLCS teams were certainly World Series type clubs, had the owner not been busy looting the pharaoh’s tomb and actually given Ned a bit more support (money) to get the last piece or two needed. This was the case under Dan Evans as well. Evans’ Dodgers were genius teams that played amazing defense, had speed, pitched, pitched in relief and didn’t lose games due to mistakes (again, the anti-2014 Dodgers). Evans though was a victim of Fox, who had tired of baseball and had seen village moron Kevin Malone squander their money on poor player acquisitions. By the time Evans took over, he was working with Confederate money and when a key pieces was needed down the stretch, he had to dumpster dive for old guys like Robin Ventura, Greg Maddux and Jeromy Burnitz. The old guys were game, but their best days had passed. Evans’ Dodgers, with those slick fielding and baseball smart guys like Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora, Dave Roberts, etc., were left at the altar.

My feeling on Ned’s eventual departure is – why? Ned, since Stan Kasten came aboard, is a glorified caddy. It would appear (at least to me) his chief function is finishing up the details after Kasten makes a decision. Ned may have come to the table with some ideas, but as “architect” of those Braves teams, and chief guy in charge of player personnel with the Dodgers, Kasten wasn’t allowing anyone to make deals without his fingerprints all over them. Ned served some purpose to Kasten – perhaps as human shield he could later execute in ISIS fashion, or just an assistant who could finish up the contracts and busy work Kasten didn’t want to.

If you’re a Ned hater – and there are many – ask yourself…

– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, the team’s payroll was always in check?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, Ned’s teams seemed to have more balance – defense, pitching, bullpen, especially?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, very frequently Ned would pull off sometimes stunning trades in July and even after?
– Why is it that before Kasten arrived, Ned always seemed to be busy? Even when he was coy about it (i.e. lots of rumors)?

So if you consider some of these things, either one of two conclusions could be drawn…

– With a massive influx of cash under Guggenheim, “GM” Ned went hog wild spending – a la Kevin Malone – and bought a bunch of crap – a la Kevin Malone.

or…

– Ned just reaffirmed what suspicious fans long thought – that he’s an idiot and time finally caught up to him.

You know my theory. I think Kasten came in, had a plan – bought time by literally buying bloated contracts teams wanted to unload – and let his superstar big money team go as far as they could (first series ouster this year, as it turned out). With this plan, Kasten bought some International talent, refused to deal any kids, and looks at 2013-2015 as placeholder teams that will put butts in the seats, but the “real” Dodgers team will show itself more likely in 2016 (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, etc.).

I’m actually a fan of this plan but always thought if you were going to sink $235M into the current team, why not spend a little more to address the glaring needs – most importantly, the bullpen? The problem with a $235M team, whether it’s a placeholder or not, fans and the baseball world expect something from that investment. So, go all out – go up to $255M and add the relievers needed to win a World Series or two – and then, with all the kids falling into place, bloated fat cats sent packing, etc. – really have a dynasty situation that could linger into 2020. I guess my point is – if your only purpose for acquiring a lot of faded/fading superstars is to sell tickets, eventually you may have to answer for not winning more.

The average Dodgers (and baseball in general) fan isn’t exactly a Rhodes Scholar. They buy their tickets, wear expensive jerseys and hats, buy expensive beer and wilted hot dogs, pay too much for parking, etc., etc. When average people – and even some with more money than average – see a lot of big names dancing and taking selfies on and off the field, they assume this is THE team. They feel this is the team they have to live and die with, and therefore the team that should win. They don’t get it’s a placeholder, and that there really wasn’t THAT big of an intention for the current group to win. Ownership believed, but not that much.

So when Cinderella turns into a pumpkin, I saw it coming and wasn’t upset. I predicted it! I was agreed with by some, vilified by others, but the majority of fans of “the Azul” or “Doyers” just aren’t either smart enough to get it, or haven’t invested enough time to really study it. There was NO WAY the Dodgers were going to advance in Oct without a bullpen and with poor defense. It was a point of contention all season long, so much so I stopped sharing my thoughts via tweets. Just not worth the drama. How can you argue rationally with people who either want to fuck the players or think bubble parties are cool?

So it is what it is, and the Dodgers lost (no surprise). Someone has to be fired. Everyone wants Donnie fired, and again, refer to my last column for thoughts on old sawdust head. The easiest guy to can though is Ned, since most don’t like him anyway, and he wasn’t just handed a big extension.

Side note…

Does anyone beside me think it’s funny that Donnie only gets aggressive when it comes to himself? He lets the inmates run the blue asylum and shows no emotion when the Cardinals (last year) are throwing at Puig’s head and breaking Hanley’s ribs, but if his contract is under fire – press conference!!!!

After the Dodgers humiliating defeat this time against the Cardinals, rather that discuss intelligently his thoughts on Kershaw’s collapse, the bullpen he was too afraid to use, Puig’s continued stupid play, Kershaw over Haren in Game 4, etc., Donnie speaks up on his job and even Ned’s. Donnie is an interesting cat. A guy who got the job due to being a good soldier under Joe Torre, not due to managerial experience, expertise of any kind, or having ties to Dodgers tradition. The fact he was extended, and likely will be the manager in 2015, is kind of interesting considering you could poke around and find a lot more “deserving” candidates, yet cockroach Donnie keeps living to see another day. He hasn’t mastered knowing when to change pitchers, how to use a bullpen, get creative with his lineup, etc., but he sure has proven excellent press conference skills. Donnie is a survivor!

So fire Ned, if you must. I don’t see how that will affect anything since Kasten is still running the show. You essentially make a middle-management guy the patsy and keep everything else the same. Names are being bandied about, but in honesty, super smart Dan Evans is still available and like the wise Dodger Oracle (@TheDodgerOracle) said in a recent post, why not just bring him back? It will never happen of course, but it would make the most sense. The Royals are a thing of beauty and I hope they don’t choke on the bigger stage in Baltimore, whose fans are almost equally as hungry for Oct superiority as those in KC, but if it’s balance, defense, pitching, relief pitching, chemistry, fundamentals and high baseball IQ you want, nobody does it better than Dan Evans. My two cents.

Enjoy the ALCS (if you’re watching the NLCS, you shouldn’t call yourself a Dodgers fan). If you squint, you can make believe the Royals are the Dodgers and the black and orange clad Orioles are the Giants – baseball in Oct continues! I just think that if you truly believe Ned is to blame for the 2014 situation, you’re misguided and probably not a very bright Dodgers fan. If that’s the case, and my blog here offended, please unfollow. There’s a Kardashian or other vapid moron you can have more enjoyment reading. Ned’s a pretty good GM; he proved it with fairly competitive Dodgers teams. He’s no Dan Evans, but then neither is Stan Kasten.

Oct Baseball has Begun and Now it’s All up to Greinke

October 4, 2014 1 comment

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Playoff edition long form therapy session…

Well, Oct baseball is in the air and already there have been some remarkable games. The Dodgers, of course, have huge issues after Game One’s surprise collapse of Kershaw. I have said – and gotten a lot of heat for it – that while Kershaw owns the regular season, the last feather in his very young cap is showing he can carry that domination over to the post-season. Now whether it’s the Cardinals (I think it is) or just being psyched out from last year’s Game Six flop (also a factor, but coupled with the Cardinals, an even larger one, no doubt), something has made Kershaw an average post-season starter.

Of course his career – albeit with a lot of innings logged already – is just starting, and there’s plenty of time to find his way, it is troubling that a guy who is compared routinely to Koufax and other greats is so shaky when it counts most. What went wrong? Well, the Cardinals just know how to get into the shaggy haired head of his, and they’re also a smart and somewhat dirty team. The good news is the Dodgers showed fight last night (they didn’t last year) when Puig got beaned. And they also scraped and fought back to make it interesting in the last few innings (something they hadn’t done all season). Don’t panic yet, but Greinke is also sporting a post-season ERA over 4, so which Dodgers team comes out today in Game Two? The pussies from last year, the ones who understandably could be demoralized from last night’s drubbing or the team that showed fight vs. Molina? Just a spark of life they showed gives me faith.

I think the Dodgers and underwhelming manager Donnie Baseball have an interesting pickle here. Would you rush Kershaw back on 3 days’ rest, knowing Kershaw has been decimated twice in a row by the Cardinals? Or would you feel safer with another option? That’s a big question, as well as why Donnie and Honeycutt didn’t get out to Kershaw earlier when he was melting down on National television. Donnie said his face looked ok and he said (when he did eventually go out there) that Kershaw claimed he was ok. Note to Donnie and Honeycutt – any sort of competitor is going to say he’s ok – go by what you’re watching. Kershaw’s bombardment and collapse was pretty obvious, so where the Dodgers are in trouble this Oct is having a poor manager at the helm. Of course one could point to Ned Yost, perhaps dumber than Donnie, as someone who lucks by, but I’d say that’s mostly because his team is just so scrappy and fundamentally sound. I don’t think Donnie has that luxury – though he does have “superstar potential.”

Looking around at the other games, I am really impressed with the aforementioned Royals. Hey, squint and you can watch a team in blue and white playing baseball the right away, and think it’s your Dodgers. Defense, speed, pitching, relief pitching, clutch hitting, chemistry, power when needed… is this a Dan Evans designed club? Anyway, I am rooting for the Royals, hope they sweep Anaheim, and give the deserving fans in KC something they haven’t enjoyed in quite a long time. This is the type of team I wish Stan Kasten built. No superstars, no egos, just gamers and baseball players. Take note, baldy Kasten.

I am also impressed with the Orioles, who I’ve long rooted for as another old time team with good fans. Their beating of the Tigers is fun to watch, although somewhat bittersweet knowing how many of their guys have had PED suspicions or busts. Nonetheless, like KC, they play hard and are beating up a powerful Detroit team that thought stars could make up for lack of bullpen. Oct is won with defense and pitching and to skimp on the pen, both in Detroit and LA, is a huge risk. I would prefer a lineup of flame throwing relief pitchers like KC has to mega stars who strike a pose before walking up to home plate to hit. I’m a purist, and if you disagree with my assessment, you’re part of the problem.

I actually hoped the Giants would beat the Nats, which pisses off some of my friends who can’t stand the Giants. Unbiasedly I say the Giants aren’t as good as some of the teams playing now, but they have a track record of winning and Bochy gets a lot out of them when it matters most. The Pittsburgh win isn’t too surprising given the Bucs countered Bumgarner with Volquez (wtf?) but beating the pundits’ darling, Strasburg, was impressive. The reason I want the Giants to win is so the Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Cardinals) don’t have to deal with them. While I am not a fan of Matt Williams and hate Harper, on paper the Nats seem the best team in playoff action. Their 5 starters are crazy good and anyone thinking, well, the Dodgers have Kershaw, Greinke and maybe a healthy Ryu, needs to look at the Nats starters and especially their success since Sept.

Anyway, this is a fun time of year. You can flip from one game to another and tune in to teams you perhaps never watched all year. You can see each pitch matter, each out be meaningful, and you can get swept away in breathtaking baseball. I will leave it that I warned of Kershaw come Oct, and am skeptical he can go back out there on short rest and somehow dominate after getting torched for a bushel full of runs the last two tries against the Cards. I will say the fight and scraping back the blue did was impressive. Where was this fight last year when the Cardinals made a mockery of the Dodgers? I would urge the players to keep up that aggressive approach because the Cardinals will not stop pitching inside. The sign stealing, perhaps, is a problem the coaching staff will have to address, but the dirty shots are something that cannot be tolerated. Pitching inside to power hitters is smart. Sometimes a pitch gets away, and that happens. The Dodgers – not known for being mentally tough – need to take a page from the St. Louis book. Pitch inside to Holliday and Molina. Don’t let the hitters get comfortable in the box. If they balk, fight with them. This is a five game series, each out and each game is huge. The Dodgers have to come out tonight and make the statement they were trying to make last night, before the wheels came off the bus. Make Vin proud, win Game Two.