April 17, 2014

Highlights of the Final Homestand

It’s hard to believe the final homestand of the season is here, and while it’s depressing that the Dodgers are completely out of the race, there are several entertaining sub-plots for these last three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On Friday night, Torre will hand the managerial reins over to Brad Ausmus, perhaps in a nod to a future career. Ausmus also gets to choose his coaching staff from the players on the team, so that should be entertaining.  As Ken Gurnick’s article indicates, Ausmus has the demeanor and intelect to be a ptentially great manager.  I’m actually really looking forward to tonight’s game.

In addition, if you follow the Dodgers official Twitter feed, @DodgertownUSA, you can win autographed baseballs throughout the final homestand (also known as Fan Appreciation Weekend).  There will also be fireworks on the field following the game.

On Saturday night, the Dodgers will honor Rubby De La Rosa and Gerry Sands as their 2010 Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year.  I’ll have more on these guys in a subsequent post.

Torre has also said that catcher Russell Martin will likely manage this game, and that he’s excited about the opportunity.  This is also a bit of a change for Torre, as he usually picks older veterans for the honor, but I think it says something about how fond Joe is of Russ.

Finally, on Sunday, it’s the last game for the retiring Joe Torre and Brad Ausmus, so it’s a great opportunity to say goodbye.  The club has a special pre-game celebration of Ausmus’ career planned, which spans an incredible 1,938 games, placing him seventh on the all-time list.

Sunday is also Fan Appreciation Day.  If you haven’t been before, it’s really a lot of fun.  Per the Dodgers’ press release, there will be more than 15,000 giveaways for fans:

Prizes include a 2011 Hyundai Sonata, 2011 Dodgers season tickets, a 40-inch Sharp TV, an MSI computer, Jet Blue flight vouchers, a 55-inch Vizio TV, tickets to the NASCAR Nationwide Series courtesy of Auto Club Speedway, 200 Universal Studios passes, a one-night stay at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino’s hotel that comes with two tickets to a Sublime concert and dinner for two at the Pines Restaurant and more. A full list of Fan Appreciation Day prizes is below.  

See you at Chavez Ravine!

Dodgers Host Third Annual Blogger Night; Embrace New Media

Alex, Ron Cey, Chris

The Dodgers get it. I’m not sure that there is another organization in professional sports that gets it the way that VP of Communications Josh Rawtich and the Dodgers get it. 

What the Dodgers “get” is how to engage with bloggers and members of non-mainstream media outlets to expand their outreach into conversations that are happening across the internet. 

Josh and his staff reaffirmed this position when they hosted the third annual blogger night at Dodger Stadium on Monday, July 5th in a luxury suite behind home plate. As with past events, there was a steady stream of Dodger dignitaries that stopped by to engage with the bloggers in attendance, including Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.  Colletti stayed for an hour after commenting that his visit last year ‘felt rushed’ and that he was impressed by the level of questions and discussion at past blogger engagements. 

Ned Colletti

Colletti wasn’t the only front office visitor that the 14 blogs who were in attendance had a chance to meet: Assistant GM Kim Ng, Dodgers legends “Sweet Lou” Johnson and Ron Cey and Dodgers President Dennis Mannion all dropped in for a considerable piece of time to listen and respond. 

Dodgers President Dennis Mannion

The list of blogs represented was also impressive, including many of our favorites, such as Dodger Thoughts, True Blue LA, Sons of Steve Garvey, LA Dodger Talk, and Vin Scully is My Homeboy, just to name a few. These guys were engaged and made the most of their time with Colletti and the others, while also taking time to stay on top of the game that was going on (something Chris and I weren’t able to do nearly as effectively). 

Chris and Sweet Lou

Following are a few thoughts and nuggets of information that were of interest to us: 

Pitching and the Trade Deadline 

Both Colletti and Ng were clear that pitching is their top priority as the trade deadline nears. They didn’t seem to be particularly focused on starting pitching or relievers, but it was obvious that both character and consistency were at the top of their list of traits they were looking for. Ng and Colletti split duties here, and either one might be involved depending on who has an established relationship with the key individuals (player, front office, agent, etc.). 

Digital Media is Growing for the Dodgers 

Chris and I had a great exchange with Josh Lukin who is the Director of Digital Marketing for the Dodgers. Josh started ramping up the digital marketing efforts for the club a few years ago while working on more traditional marketing efforts, but now dedicates most of his time on social media. It’s clear that Lukin is very interested in pushing the envelope in the digital space and leveraging Twitter and Facebook in particular to drive promotional efforts, deliver news and generally get folks more engaged with the Dodgers online. We talked about his recent promotion where he rewarded members of the four new Dodger email clubs with the opportunity to purchase standalone game tickets to the Yankees series before also sending a Twitter broadcast with a similar offer to the team’s followers. Lukin said the ROI on Twitter, Facebook, and SEA engagements have been very strong and that we could expect the Dodgers to do more in this space. 

Continued Blogger Support For Home Games 

The Dodgers are continuing to support a select set of Dodger Blogs with shared credential access to home games – something that MLB and other teams have been very slow to follow-up with on their own. Public Relations Supervisor Amy Summers told me that blogs now cover roughly 30-40% of the home games at Dodger Stadium and that weekend coverage is at almost 100%. She indicated that the Dodgers organization was very pleased with how the program has worked thus far and we discussed the “storytelling” aspect of blogs as compared to traditional journalism. 

Blogger Camaraderie 

Most of us who have been blogging about the Dodgers have met one another a few times over the past three years. What’s most impressive is the sense of mutual respect that runs through the group. Each blog really is unique and has its own slant or type of storytelling, which differentiates it from the others and removes any sense of competition. When we all get together at outings such as this, we share stories, trade insights and generally enjoy one another’s company. It’s a refreshing change from how blogs from other teams or sports interact with one another and something that just seems to have developed amicably. 

Overall, it was a great night in Chavez Ravine. I even saw team photographer Jon SooHoo in the parking lot getting set for a fireworks shot while perched at the top of a ladder (his image is shown below). I’m looking forward to next year’s event and the continued dialogue with both the team and my fellow bloggers in the second half of the season. 

Fireworks at Dodger Stadium - Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers

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Road Trip! Dodger Fans Represent at Chase Field

So Alex and I had a chance to catch the Dodgers – Diamondbacks game last night at Chase Field in Phoenix (my first road game of the season), and let me tell you, that place is no Chavez Ravine. 

The ballpark is definitely beautiful with tons of exposed girders, great sight lines and tons of unique seating options.  It reminds me a lot of Safeco Field in Seattle.  This was my third game at Chase Field, but the first game where the roof was open – let me tell you, this makes all the difference.  When the roof is closed, the place seems a bit cavernous and it loses a lot of its charm.  When open, the early-evening breeze flows across the diamond and it’s a really pleasant experience.

But here’s the thing: the fans are pretty weak.  When you go to a Dodgers game at Chavez Ravine, you’re guaranteed about 35,000+ fans, with many of them truly passionate about the club.  In Phoenix last night, the 20,000 or so fans seemed a bit more apathetic about their team, which could be due to their miserable start to the season.  They also didn’t have the hard core knowledge that you get back in LA, but they did thoroughly enjoy booing Manny Ramirez whenever he came up to bat.  And I know the stereotype that Dodger fans arrive late and leave early from games, but the D-back fans have taken this to another level.  I wish I’d shot the exodus that happened during the seventh inning!

Fortunately for us, there were a ton of Dodger fans at the game, and they were more than eager to debate the season to date, and where both clubs needed to go with their struggling pitching staffs.  Most of the LA fans were transplants now living in the dessert, but a few made the trip to support the team (like me).  And all were sporting serious amounts of Dodger Blue.

Oh, and the other hot topic at the game?  The upcoming Lakers – Suns series in the Western Conference Finals.  It was hilarious to hear the Phoenix sports radio stations trying to rationalize how and why the Suns were going to beat the Lakers, despite their lack of big men needed to defeat Gasol, Bynum and Lamar.  Fun fact that I picked up from a Phoenix sports radio station: Steve Nash has played in more playoff games than any other player in NBA history without ever reaching the NBA Finals.  While the Suns are the sentimental pick in Arizona, I just don’t see how the Lakers can lose to Phoenix with home court advantage.  Now Orlando’s a different story, but that’s a topic for another time.

Dodgers Bench Comes Through in Victory

So who says the Dodgers have no bench?  The veterans who normally sit on the pine came through for Joe Torre and helped LA avoid the sweep by the Pirates today.  Ronnie Belliard was the hero, going three for five with four RBI, including a double, a triple and a home run…a nice birthday present for Belliard, who turned 35 yesterday.  Not to be out done, Garret Anderson was one for three with two RBI and Reed Johnson was three for four in place of Manny Ramirez.  Overall, the Dodgers bench players of Johnson, Belliard, Anderson, Carroll and Ausmus hit .428 today (nine for 21).  Pretty amazing stuff.

The Dodgers also managed to hit in the clutch today, going seven for 12 with runners in scoring position (RISP).  Bench players (Belliard, Carroll and Anderson) were four for four with RISP.  Great stuff, and a great spark for the Dodgers as they head down to Miami to take on the Florida Marlins tomorrow night.

As for the pitching, Chad Billingsley looked a little shaky despite recording seven strikeouts in five and 1/3 innings and needed some great defense to extricate himself out of a few jams.  The guy is so intense, it makes you wonder if he’s overthinking each situation.  It’s also worth noting that Bills hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning since July 5, 2009.  He probably could have gotten there today, but Torre did the right thing by pulling the pitcher for Weaver.  Better to keep his confidence high and get him out of there with a win, especially after what happened during the first two games of the series.

The bullpen of Weaver, Troncoso, Monasterios and Broxton locked it down, giving up just three hits and one earned run over three and 2/3 innings.  Great to see Ramon Troncoso back in action after the birth of his daughter, pitching a perfect seventh inning, using only 10 pitches, with six of them being strikes.

One last note: Andre Ethier rolled his ankle in last night’s game while getting back to first on a pick-off throw.  Dylan Hernandez noted that Ethier had x-rays later that night, which were negative.  His status is uncertain for Friday’s game against the Marlins, but I’d expect Torre to hold him out given how well GA played today.

Oh, and I loved this photo by Jon SooHoo of James Loney diving back to first base, so had to include it for everyone to see.  So cool. 

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010

Opening Day Tickets for Dodgers Now Available!

BREAKING NEWS: A big tip of the hat to Roberto over at Vin Scully is my Homeboy for this one, but you now CAN purchase Opening Day tickets without buying a mini plan or season tickets, despite what the Dodgers are currently advertising.  This does not apply for the Yankee series (yet), but it’s very cool that tickets are now available for Opening Day on Tuesday, April 13th against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 1:10 p.m.  A few different sections were available when I checked, so there are seating options.

Why this is happening hasn’t been revealed, but one could guess that it’s due to those mini plans not selling as the Dodgers had hoped.  Regardless, it’s the gain of Dodgers fans in the LA area, so act fast before they disappear!