November 23, 2014

Dodgers Celebrate “The Infield” on Tuesday Night

Now this is a bobblehead I can get behind!  Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey.  When I was growing up as a young Dodger fan, these were the first players I really started to get to know.  When Lopes was traded, I was shocked – it never occured to me that the Dodgers would break up this group.

Anyway, as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration, the Dodgers are honoring all four guys on Tuesday night with their own bobblehead, so get out there early.  The current edition of the Playbill also has a cool story on the guys, so pick that up as well.  But one of my favorite articles about the guys was written by Bill Shaikin back in 2008, and it details how the unlikely group first came together, including the surprising addition of a defensively untested Steve Garvey at first base.  Incredibly, the Dodgers went to the World Series four times and the group had 21 All-Star appearances in that nine year run from 1973 to 1981.

From Shaikin’s story:

In 1981, the infield got one last chance. The Dodgers survived three elimination games against the Houston Astros in the division series, then two elimination games against Montreal in the National League Championship Series.

The Yankees awaited. The Dodgers lost the first two games of the World Series, then won the next four. In the last three games of the Series — the last three games the infield played together — Lopes led off, followed by Russell, Garvey and Cey.

Nothing like going out as World Series champs, right?

And for you bobblehead maniacs (and I know you’re out there) this is the first Dodger Stadium bobblehead for Lopes and Russell and the second for Garvey and Cey.

Now go pick up this bobblehead on what’s sure to be a special night at Dodger Stadium.  And get there early as all four guys are throwing out the first pitch.



Davey Lopes on Baseball and the Dodgers

Just caught Davey Lopes’ interview on the “Mason & Ireland” show on ESPN Radio, and I can already tell I’m really going to like this guy.  He says what he believes and seems to be as no-nonsense as they come.  Here are a few quick notes & quotes from the interview that I found interesting:

– Lopes felt that the Dodgers were a great fit for him after negotiations fell apart with the Phillies: “I’ve always wanted to come back to the Dodgers.”

– When host John Ireland described Lopes’ 2000-02 Milwaukee Brewers as a “good young team,” Lopes responded with “neither one is correct.”

– Interestingly, he said that he felt that the Dodgers could have just as easily gone to the World Series in 2008 and 2009, as he felt the talent levels of the Dodgers and the Phillies were very similar in those years.

– Davey talked a lot about the value of stealing bases, and that without it, “it made the game so much more boring.”  He went on to blame the reduced role of the stolen base on the influence of the “Ivy Leaguers” in baseball in recent years.

– “I only know one way to play the game, and that’s with good, aggressive baserunning,” said Lopes. “You have to go out there with that kind of mentality.”

– Lopes philosophy is for players to fully commit to winning by sacrificing and putting pressure on opposing defenses.  “You have to play the game a certain way.  You got to have a certain attitude.  You’ve got to have a certain mentality to win a championship.”

Lopes, Wallach Highlight 2011 Coaching Staff

The Dodgers officially announced their 2011 coaching staff and, as expected, all of the rumored names were there.  The big one was the return of Dodger legend Davey Lopes as first base coach, but this roster is packed full of major league experience – something that will be of great value to rookie manager Don Mattingly.

The rest of the 2011 staff includes bench coach Trey Hillman (the former manager of the Royals), hitting coach Jeff Pentland, third-base coach Tim Wallach (the Dodgers former Triple-A manager), pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, bullpen coach Ken Howell, hitting instructors Dave Hansen and Manny Mota and bullpen catchers Rob Flippo and Mike Borzello.

“I’m extremely excited about this coaching staff, which has a great combination of experience and youth that will create a positive environment for our team,” said Mattingly in a statement released by the Dodgers. “We’ve been able to reach back and bring in a number of coaches with Dodger roots and that’s one of the things that was very important to us. Not just the quality of the people and the experience they bring with them, but the history of this organization – where it came from and where we want to go.”

Dylan Hernandez has a nice story in today’s paper on the relationship between former Dodger playersDavey Lopes and Dave Stewart.  Apparently Lopes took Kemp’s agent (former Dodger pitcher Dave Stewart) under his wing when Stewart was a young player and the two are best friends today.  Stewart sees Lopes as someone who can do the same for Kemp, while elevating his overall performance with a special emphasis on base-running.  And given Kemp’s rocky relationship with some members of the 2010 coaching staff, the hiring of Lopes could be a critical piece to the puzzle with a needed shift in philosophy.

From Dylan Hernandez:

While Lopes talked about the importance of the Dodgers’ regaining the aura they used to have — “We had the expectation to win every single year,” he said — he said he understands the culture of the game is different than when he was a player.

Lopes said that back in his day, players had to adapt to the coaches.

“Now, it’s reverse,” he said. “You have to adapt to today’s player. You have to be able to communicate.”

Lopes said players benefit from having someone they can speak to on a regular basis. For him, that someone was manager Tom Lasorda.

“You need a guy to build you up,” Lopes said. “That helps elevate a player.”

At the very least, I’m excited to see Davey back in Dodger Blue, along with Dave Hansen and Tim Wallach!

Larry Bowa and Davey Lopes Go Home

Like you guys, I’m psyched for this series against the Fightin’ Phils!  A deeper analysis of the NLCS will be coming in the next day or so, but needless to say, it’s going to be damn tough – especially when you take into account the numerous match-up problems (something that the Cubs couldn’t offer up).  In the meantime, I wanted to highlight three guys that are probably more psyched than all of us for this series: Larry Bowa, Davey Lopes (1972-81) and Milt Thompson (1996) – all coaches for the opposition.  Josh Rawitch offers up the following facts on Bowa’s career over at Inside the Dodgers, plus a few additional tidbits on other ties between the two clubs:

– Remember Charlie Manuel as a Dodger?  He was a reserve outfielder with the club for parts of the ’74 and ’75 seasons

– Fan favorite OF Jayson Werth and reliever Rudy Seanez both played for Big Blue recently (2004-06 and 1994-95, 2007, respectively)

– Dodgers Chief Operating Officer Dennis Mannion worked for the Phillies from 1982-97

– Third base coach Larry Bowa not only was a HOF legend as a player, bur managed the club from 2001-04

Now our regular readers know that we love to see what the opposition thinks about the Dodgers, so following is a link to The Phillies Zone, a blog by The Philadelphia Daily News’  Todd Zolecki.  I’m recommending that we all keep an eye on it throughout the series, as Todd offers up a ton of great info and links.

Finally, we’re working on getting a Philly blogger to post on periodically throughout the series with his or her thoughts.  While we all bleed Dodger Blue over here, we thought it would be interesting to get a view of the game from the opposing press box (we’ll let you know if we get a reciprocal offer).

Series analysis coming later tonight…

Tommy’s Back in the Saddle, Baby!

So I’m not sure if Spring Training games count in the record books, but with Tommy returning to the dugout to take the reins of the stateside Dodgers for eight games while Joe takes a small traveling team to China next month, it technically makes 80 year-old Tommy the second oldest manager ever in the majors to Connie Mack.

Personally, I can’t wait to see how Ethier, Kemp, LaRoche, Loney and Martin react the first time the fire in Lasorda’s belly kicks in and he charges the umpires arguing a call.  Hopefully he won’t have any flashbacks to his first group of kids (Lopes, Garvey, Cey and Russell) who stayed together as starters for a record eight seasons.

You just know Tommy’s going to be treating these eight games like it’s an extended version of the World Series.  He’s going to be busting out all of his great motivational speeches, and getting the team to play harder than they ever would under normal Spring Training circumstances.  I can’t wait.