August 23, 2014

An Epic Night at Dodger Stadium

Last night at Dodger Stadium was simply epic.  I don’t want to make too big a deal about it as it’s only late-April, but it just felt like a special night, didn’t it?  A top flight pitching matchup in Kershaw and Strasburg, a pre-game ceremony honoring Drysdale and Wills, and the major league debut of phenom-in-the-making, Bryce Harper.  All that led to a pumped up crowd of 54,000+ fans in the stands and ready to welcome Harper to Southern California with a chorus of boos.

But it was the last few innings that provided the real electricity (and overshadowed impressive efforts by Strasberg and Kershaw and a solid debut by Harper), with a clutch double by Juan Uribe, aggressive base running by Jerry Hairston, Jr. and an epic home run to deep center field by Matt Kemp to lead off the bottom on the 10th.

Sure, this team has some question marks that will need to be addressed during the season, but to have the opportunity to win a championship you not only need to play great baseball, but you need to have those breaks and special moments along the way that give you that feeling that maybe, just maybe, this is the year.

By the way, did you see this quote from Matt Kemp (captured by Eric Stephen of True Blue LA)?  Per my earlier posts, I really believe that for the Dodgers to ultimately be successful at the highest levels, the fans need to return to Dodger Stadium on a consistent basis and support this team.  Looks like Matt agrees:

“It’s always good to see the crowd. That’s the Dodger Stadium I remember, two or three years ago. Every Friday and Saturday we were filling out the whole stands with 56,000 screaming fans,” Kemp said. “It helps a lot when you have those guys on your side. We have some great fans and if we could get them to come out to more games it would be way easier to win games.”

Now, enjoy these photos of Matt Kemp’s walk-off homer as we watch Chris Capuano and the Dodgers try and complete the sweep of the Nationals.

Kemp Ties Club Home Run Record for April in Dodgers Loss

First the good news: Matt Kemp continued his amazing April with his 10th home run in the first month of the season, typing Gary Sheffield’s club record from April 2000.

Sure, Kemp has made a few questionable decisions this season (he had a couple of base running and fielding issues last night), but the guy has been lights out at the plate and generally in the field, driving in 23 RBI with a .449 AVG, a .513 OBP and a .942 slugging percentage.  That prediction of 50 home runs doesn’t seem so far fetched right about now (no comment on the 50 SB prediction), but regardless, Kemp is clearly playing like the best player in baseball and he’s a joy for Dodger fans to watch night in and night out.

And from Jon Weisman I learned that Ted Lilly has taken over the major-league ERA lead at 0.90…not bad for the old man!

Now for the bad news: Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the team blew a 2-1 lead in the 9th against the Braves when Javy Guerra gave up what seemed like an endless stream of hits (it was five) after getting smashed in the jaw with a line drive.  You’ve got to wonder about Mattingly’s decision to leave Guerra in the game after the jaw shot, but to be fair the guy did look good to go on TV.  Can’t say I would have acted differently than Mattingly.

Anyway, this all led to a 4-2 loss, dropping the Dodgers to 13-6 on the season…but hey, they still lead the NL West, right?

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

It Truly is a November to Remember for Dodger Fans

Who would have thought when November first began that Dodger fans would have so much to be thankful for?  It all began on November 2nd, when Frank McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers.  On Nove,ber 17, Clayton Kershaw won the National League Cy Young Award.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Matt Kemp signed an eight year, $160 milion deal on November 18. Really, can it get much better than that that?  Absolutely.  Tomorrow the National league MVP Award will be given out, and if Dodger fans had their way, it would go to Matt Kemp.

That would be 20 days of baseball euphoria in Los Angeles.  I honestly am having a hard time finding something to compare it to.  Here we have a down-on-it’s-luck franchise, getting the ultimate gift when a despised owner agrees to sell the city’s beloved franchise, followed quickly by it’s young phenom pitcher receiving the highest award possible, followed by their charismatic and unbelievably talented young outfielder signing a lucrative extension and proclaiming his desire to be a Dodger for life.  It kind of makes you think Matt Kemp is due the MVP doesn’t it?

I so want Matt Kemp to be the MVP.  I want it for him because he had one of best all-around seasons for any baseball player in decades.  I want it for him because he played hard everyday on an average team.  I want it for him because he played the game the way it’s meant to be played: with hard work, class and a fantastic attitude.  But mostly, I want it for Dodger fans…for their support, passion and believe in this club.

But whether or not Matt wins the MVP, I’m thankful.  Thankful that the Dodger organization has turned a corner and that hope is once again on the horizon.  A new owner will soon be in place and we’ll have the opportunity to see Kershaw, Kemp and the others for years to come.

As a baseball fan, you really can’t ask for much more than that.

KeMVP, baby.

Photo credit: Jon SooHoo / 2011 LA Dodgers

Dodger Fans, Come Back to Celebrate Matt Kemp

No doubt about it, this is a tough year to be a Dodger fan. I won’t bore you with the reasons, as after all, we’re all acutely aware of them.

Many of us, including myself, have been watching from the sidelines this season for various reasons. For me, after several years of blogging about the Dodgers, I’ve been more hands off this season. A move to Seattle and a new job have left me with less time to blog, but I’ve been watching and listening. It’s good to be back. :)

With just five games to go in the 2011 season, there’s a huge reason for all Dodger fans on the sidelines, to jump back in. No matter what your reasons for staying away, consider coming back. The reason?  Matt Kemp.

As Dodger fans know, “Beast Mode” is in full effect with the quest for a 40/40 season remaining alive and an even rarer shot at a Triple Crown also within reach. Check out Kemp’s current numbers:

37 HR. Three away from 40, and currently tied as the league leader with one Albert Pujols.

119 RBI. Six more than Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder.

.326 AVG. That’s .003 behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun.

Dodger fans, it’s time. At this moment I’m not concerned about your reasons for staying away. Turn on your your radio or television, fire up that iPad, or better yet, get to San Diego or Arizona and root Matt Kemp on. Not only is he playing great baseball, he’s having fun again. Always with a smile on his face, Matt’s even been using Twitter to stay connected with the fans at a level he never has before.

Do you realize how rare a Triple Crown is? The last major leaguer to accomplish such a rare feat was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. To find the last National Leaguer to win the award, you have to go back another thirty years to Joe Medwick in 1937.

What’s even more incredible is that most players never even get within striking distance of the Triple Crown. From Jason Stark:

So how often has any player had this realistic a shot at a Triple Crown this late in any of those 44 seasons since the Yaz Triple Crown? We asked the Elias Sports Bureau to take a look. You know what they concluded?

Never. That’s what.

According to Elias, not ONCE in all these seasons since 1967 has any player been:

• Leading the league in batting average or been within five
points.

• Leading the league in homers or been within one.

• Leading the league in RBIs or been within one.

And that’s not just in the final week of the season. That’s in the final 15 days of any of those seasons.

So in nearly half a century of waiting around for another Triple Crown winner, we’ve never had a bid like this to follow in the final days of any season. Again, that’s never. Ever. So if you weren’t taking this
drama seriously before, here’s our advice:

It’s time to start. Right … now.

Dodger blogger Jonathan Garza from Dodgers Nation brings up another great point when looking at Kemp’s charge at the Triple Crown. If Kemp were to accomplish the feat, he would do is in a 161 game season, due to a rainout in Washington, DC against the Nationals on September 7.

The question Garza asks is, if the game mattered to the Triple Crown race or Kemp’s quest for 40 HRs, would Major League Baseball schedule a make-up game for the two clubs? The potential positive PR for MLB would be tremendous and could be a shot in the arm for a Dodger franchise desperately in need of a little good news heading into another long offseason.

In the meantime, it’s time to get off your seats, Dodger fans and root The Real Matt Kemp on. At the core, we all bleed Dodger Blue, and we may never see such an impressive individual all-around season for such a good guy ever again. It’s time to celebrate a fantastic season and show Matt Kemp the love.

KEMvP.

Photo Credit: Chris Volk, dodgerfan.net

Mattingly Takes Bold Strokes in his Dodgers Debut

What Don Mattingly lacks in experience, he makes up for in boldness.  And if his first few days at the helm at Spring Training is any indication, we’re in for an interesting next month.

First off, Mattingly named Clayton Kershaw his Opening Day starter on the first day of camp.  Last year, Joe Torre delayed making this decsision to the very end of camp before making the surprise move by giving the honor to Vicente Padilla.

For the record, I love this move.  It shows moxie and a desire by Mattingly to make this team his own.  It’s time for Kershaw to take the title of staff ace and run with it, and Mattingly showing immediate confidence in his young phenom is awesome to see.

Next, Mattingly named Matt Kemp his cleanup hitter for the majority of the upcoming season.  Woah.  I like the confidence Donny Baseball has in Kemp (and he needs all the confidence Dodger fans and coaches can muster in this critical rebound year), but Kemp strikes out. A LOT.  While others are also sure to be sceptical, we need to remember that there aren’t a whole lot of other options on the club.  If Kemp can curb the Ks, he could provide the insurance behind Andre Ethier to allow the club’s #3 hitter to really shine, much like he did when Manny Ramirez was hitting behind him.

What’s next?  Only time will tell, but Mattingly seems like a man who’s going to have his players walk the walk and put all that potential on the line (the first full workout for the team takes place on Tuesday).  Maybe Chris Gwynn starting in center field?  I wouldn’t put it past Mattingly if the kid gets off to a hot start this spring.  Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting!

Photo Credit: © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2011