Spring training. There was a time in my life where I diligently kept score of these games. Or better, taught my brothers to keep score when they were home schooled and I was not. It was also the time of box scores in the newspaper every day.
Now, most years, I follow the preseason quite casually. I read the occasional news story from time to time and try to keep up with roster cuts. For whatever reason, this year I’ve been more excited than usual for the start of spring. I think it’s knowing that we’re “this” close to a legitimate World Series championship.
So, Day One.
There was a time in Dodger history that a really bad spring meant a decent start to the season. And I really don’t want to go crazy over what went wrong yesterday as the Dodgers lost the opener 4-1 against the Diamondbacks, so just a few things.
Clayton Kershaw. This is likely (I hope) the only time in 2014 that Kershaw’s ERA will be 13.50. And I can point to one reason: balls hit in the air. When Kershaw is on top of his game, everything is on the ground. Yesterday that just wasn’t the case. Even his outs were fly balls. Historically, fly balls equal a Kershaw who is tired or having a bad day. For yesterday, I’ll just go with rusty.
Seth Rosin. I think a lot was said about him after the game yesterday. Five strikeouts in two innings is nothing to sneeze at. It will be interesting to see how he performs for the rest of the spring, and if that performance will be enough to make the Opening Day roster. I think a shakeup in the bullpen is necessary this year, though.
Yasiel Puig. Puig’s 2-for-3 was the best performance by a Dodger hitter yesterday, but I was most happy with (based on Vin Scully’s radio call) Puig’s more accurate throws from the outfield.
I came across this video (2011 Top Plays) this morning, and I had to share because I’ve hit that baseball withdrawal portion of the offseason. You know, the time where I check the ticket options for next season two or three times a day, see if there are any potential road trips for games and contemplate spring training.
Despite the season the Dodgers had, both on and off the field, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the season.
After all, even though I take it pretty seriously, it is only a game. And it’s one of the few places that I don’t get too wrapped up in the business end of it. It’s a diversion, a hobby, not politics.
So, on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the 2011 season.
I’m especially thankful to have witnessed almost all of Clayton Kershaw’s home games in his Cy Young Season. I think I sat there with knees jiggling for each of the last three home games he pitched as my brothers and I would track his changing ERA inning by inning. At some point, we went out there fully expecting perfect games. It never happened, but we did sit through those two back-to-back 11-strikeout games.
In no particular order, I’m also thankful for:
a very entertaining postseason
strong pitching throughout the National League (I felt like there were blockbuster matchups every time I turned around)
Matt Kemp’s almost-40/40 season
summer nights at Dodger Stadium
sharing the season with my little brothers
Dee Gordon’s major league debut
and most recently, McCourt’s decision to finally sell the team.
Before I get into this, I have to say that I have nothing but genuine respect for Joe Torre and his accomplishments as a manager–both with the Dodgers and the umm..Yankees. (Okay, there was that one playoff game in 2009, on October 15th, vs. the Phillies that I declared to anyone who would listen that Torre obviously hated Kershaw.) But other than that, I really had no complaints.
Oh, well there was also the fact that Kershaw should have had the Opening Day start last year. At least, I thought he should have and what’s the point of being a baseball fan if you can’t argue with every decision that the manager makes.
- He deserves it. A 2.91 ERA last year and 212 Ks.
- Confidence booster. In education-speak, scaffolding. I do it all the time–tell young people that they can do something they don’t really know they can or think they can, but I know they have the potential to do. Of course, this can end with tragic results if the person assessing potential has no idea what they’re doing. But for the most part, young people rise to the occasion.
This leads me to believe two things about Mattingly:
- He’s logical. He actually looked at the numbers.
- He knows the psychology of teaching/coaching young people. And on a team of 20-somethings, that might not be a bad thing.
If you haven’t seen it or heard it by now, the Detroit Tigers’ Armando Galarraga took a perfect game all the way to the last out of today’s game versus the Cleveland Indians.
For the second time in five days, I flipped to ESPN to watch the ninth inning. After a first out that required some theatrics by the centerfielder, the smile on Galarraga’s face showed something that was very different from Roy Halladay. It was pure glee. There was such excitement and relief on his face, and all of this prior to the end of the game. I couldn’t help but want this, oh so very badly, for the pitcher.
All the way to the last out.
And on a call bungled badly by umpire Jim Joyce, the perfect game became a one-hit shutout. After the game, Joyce admitted that he was wrong. His interview was about as painful for me to watch as the hug catcher Alex Avila gave Galarraga at the end of the game.
For someone like Joyce to know that he bungled a call of that magnitude is heartbreaking in its own right.
But I will admit that I cried. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like for Galarraga in the morning. Now, he’ll know that he pitched a perfect game, something only 20 other pitchers have ever done. He’ll carry that with him for the rest of his life. But baseball is all about legacy. It’s memories and stories passed down from generation to generation.
It’s so sad that the story being passed down is not one of the improbable perfect game thrown by the kid who was just called up from Triple-A. No, it will be the legacy of Jim Joyce and his badly bungled call.
As far as baseball heartbreaks go, this has got to be one of the worst.
So, I did it.
I went to last Wednesday night’s Dodger game with a Padres fan. While they were playing the Padres.
A fan who stood up and clapped throughout the entire night as Padres beat the Dodgers 10-5.
About the third inning, I shook my head in disbelief at the situation. Then, I smiled. Not because I’ve grown as a person—which, this really proves that I have. But because I have some amazing friends. Regardless of their baseball affiliation.
Personally, I’m thrilled to see that both Jeff Weaver and George Sherrill have made the team! I’m also happy that Torre went with 12 pitchers.
Pitchers (12): Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Charlie
Haeger, Clayton Kershaw (L), Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Monasterios, Ramon
Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Vicente Padilla, George Sherrill (L), Ramon
Troncoso, Jeff Weaver
Catchers (2): Brad Ausmus, Russell Martin
Infielders (6): Ronnie Belliard, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, Blake DeWitt, Rafael Furcal, James Loney
Outfielders (5): Garret Anderson, Andre Ethier, Reed Johnson, Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez
I know it’s the Red Sox, but you can’t beat that 5 a.m. picture. It’s just like Christmas day for baseball fans. And no better way to kick it off than with the Red Sox vs. Yankees and CC Sabathia up against Josh Beckett.
I have been dancing around (quite literally) in eager anticipation of the start of the 2010 MLB season. In some ways, the Dodger offseason was somewhat derailed by the pending divorce of the McCourts so transactions have been limited.
The truth is that I love the core of the Dodgers team. We finally have a consistent group of guys that I can look forward to seeing every game (even Manny).
And, as much as I would have liked a Roy Halladay-caliber starting pitcher, I have a lot of confidence in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. In fact, as I watch Kershaw mix pitches up during the spring, I have some chills. Within the next couple of years, I think we have the possibility of seeing an epic season or at least a Cy Young-caliber season. I am also very excited to see Charlie Haeger. I loved Tom Candiotti, and I love the idea of having another knuckleballer.
In terms of the starting lineup, I am particularly excited to see Blake DeWitt as the opening day 2nd baseman. I loved Orlando Hudson, but I also love the number of young players we now have as starters that came up through the Dodger organization. I don’t think there will be anything less than an All-Star caliber season from Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez. Nothing terribly overwhelming about the rest of the lineup, but it’s solid, which is nice.
In terms of the rest of the league:
- I’m excited to see Roy Halladay–right up until October–after reading Tom Verducci’s story about him in SI this week. Leave it to Verducci to make me like him, even though I really wish he was a Dodger and doubly wish that he was not pitching for the team that comes very close to the Yankees in my hiearchy of baseball hatred.
- Even though, they are in our division, I’m excited to see what the Rockies do this year. This mostly comes from my love of Jim Tracy. I’m happy he found a place to succeed, and I really like Huston Street.
- I’m interested to see how the Brewers do this season solely because they have a lineup filled with players that I loved watching in the 90s: Trevor Hoffman (yes loved, in that I hate him kind of way), Randy Wolf, Craig Counsell, and Jim Edmonds.
- The 1-2 starters for the STL Cardinals still make me cringe. I’d like to say that I want them to fail, but really I love great pitching—until October. Chris Carpenter & Adam Wainright, yet again. It will be interesting to see how Brad Penny does in the 3-spot there.
- Jason Heyward. Everyone’s already anointing him the ROY. True or not, it will be fun to see him, and if it is true, hopefully, he’ll have enough firepower to give the Phillies a run for their money. But then, I look at the Braves rotation and realize it will probably be Philly atop the NL East yet again.
- The Phillies. Everything about them makes me queasy. Yes, they are that good. Again.
- The Mariners should be fun this year. I loved Milton Bradley when he was a Dodger, but I have to laugh because he’s a ticking time bomb, and it should be interesting to see how he does in Seattle. Along with Casey Kotchman and Chone Figgins. I don’ t know, though. Jr. Griffrey might have a positive influence on the whole lot of them, and they do have a good 1-2 combo in Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee.
- I’m interested to see the Detroit Tigers sans my favorite Granderson. They still have a solid lineup and a pretty good number 1 in Jason Verlander.
- In there where-are-they-now category: I can’t help but root for Orlando Hudson with the Twins, Juan Pierre with the White Sox, and Adrian Beltre with the Red Sox.
- The Red Sox pitching looks like a lot of fun this year: Beckett, John Lackey, and Dice-K.
- And for the only Yankee I will ever talk about: Mariano Rivera. I’m excited to see if he can improve on his 0.90 WHIP, 44 saves, and 1.76 ERA at the age of 40.
I guess it’s true. Baseball is most fun when you’re pacing in April for it to start and when you’re pacing in October waiting for it to end. Not that I won’t fully enjoy May through August and the sun-soaked days at Dodger Stadium.
I know some people hold their breaths when Weaver goes to the mound, but I fully support him.
I have to.
When I was at spring training, I managed to have my picture taken with him. And, well, you see, I think I’m a curse. It seems that any player I have ever met instantly has some sort of bad luck. Career-wise, game-wise.
Most often they are traded.
I stay away from buying t-shirts and jerseys with my favorite players names on them solely because I know what that means. They will be traded.
I have a history.
So, I kind of felt bad when Weaver posed for the picture and by the end of spring training he did not have a spot in the rotation.
So, I cheer for him. I’m happy every time he gets a start because, in my mind, it means that maybe, just maybe, the curse has worn off.
It has, after all, been five months. Plenty of time….