2014 Spring Training – Day 1

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.

 

Thankful for…baseball.

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

2 Points for Mattingly

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.
All of this being said, I was completely thrilled to read that Mattingly named Kershaw the Opening Day starter on the first day of camp this year for two very simple reasons:
  1. He deserves it. A 2.91 ERA last year and 212 Ks. 
  2. 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:
  1. He’s logical. He actually looked at the numbers. 
  2. He knows the psychology of teaching/coaching young people. And on a team of 20-somethings, that might not be a bad thing.
26 days….

Galarraga

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.

Confessions of a Dodger Fan

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.

Opening Day Roster

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