September 18, 2014

The Bizzaro World of Andruw Jones

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OK – a point of clarification before I get started here. I grew up in the 1970s. I loved cartoons. My absolute favorite cartoon was the Superfriends. Every Saturday morning, I got to see all of my favorite superheroes battle it out against their arch-nemeses and learn a valuable lesson about sharing, not speaking to strangers, or some other kid-friendly advice (cue the music from “The More You Know” PSAs on NBC here).

Superman’s arch nemesis on the show was Bizzaro, a convoluted version of Superman for whom everything was reversed. He originally appeared in a Superman comic in 1958, but for our pursposes he surfaced on TV in the mid to late 1970s. “Good” meant “bad”, up was down, etc. You get the idea. I could never wrap my mind around Bizarro – I only know I didn’t like him very much and was waiting for Batman and Robin’s PSA to tell me not to accept a ride from strangers whenever Bizarro graced my TV.

Fast-forward to Andruw Jones’ recent appearance in Atlanta. The prodigal son returns to Atlanta and receives…a standing ovation. Huh? OK, this happens sometimes, but this guy up and left for a fat paycheck. Jones even described the situation while in Atlanta as follows:

It’s just different. You wish you could keep with the team you came up with. Everybody wants to be with one team for his whole career. But this is a business, and it happened. And sometimes you have to move on and start something new

Wow – an ovation. That’s southern hospitality for ya.

Now, let’s return to Jones’ recent predicament in L.A.. He’s a good 30 pounds heavier than when he was in Atlanta, his hitting productivity is in the toilet (he was hitting a whopping .157 as of last weekend) and had steadily moved from 4th in the lineup all the way down to 7th. Jones was even getting booed in Dodger Stadium. You heard me right, booed. I know we have some die-hard fans that make the pilgramage to Chavez ravine, but we have a lot of “arrive by the 3rd, leave by the 7th” bandwagoners as well. What gives?

My guess – this isn’t a Bizarro superhero clash at all. Atlanta fans aren’t showing any southern hospitality either. They’re cheering the Dodgers for taking Jones off their hands and saddling themselves with a fat paycheck to boot. Only time will tell who gets the last laugh (and playoff spot) out of this one.

Then again, he did get one hit and one run in both Friday and Saturday night’s games. Maybe the applause is working…

Dodgers Ask Fans to Crown L.A.’s All-Time Relief Pitcher

So the Dodgers have been working to get their “all-time” team together as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. They’ve got their short list of relief pitchers up for voting as follows (courtesy of the Dodgers Press Release):

* Jim Brewer, who appeared in an L.A. Dodger record 474 games out of the bullpen, pitched in Los Angeles from 1964-75. Brewer also pitched in three different World Series (1965, ’66, ’74) and was named to the NL All-Star Team in 1973. In a Dodger uniform, Brewer was 61-51 with an ERA of 2.62 and 126 saves. Hailing from Broken Arrow, OK, the left-handed screwball specialist recorded six straight seasons with double-digit saves (1968-74).

* Eric Gagné was the most dominating relief pitcher in baseball over three seasons, saving 52, 55 and 45 games in 158 chances (96.2 %) from 2002-04. Gagné won the 2003 National League Cy Young Award with an amazing 1.20 ERA while going a perfect 55-for-55 in save opportunities. Most impressively, his consecutive saves streak of 84 games, which lasted from Aug. 14, 2002 until July 3, 2004, set a Major League record that may not ever be broken. Gagné also spawned a ninth-inning Dodger Stadium phenomenon, as the Dodger faithful couldn’t wait until the first few guitar licks from “Welcome to the Jungle” were played so they could stand up and scream while the Canadian closer charged in from the bullpen to electronic signs that proclaimed “Game Over.” Gagné’s 161 saves as a Dodger are first in franchise history.

* Mike Marshall only pitched in Los Angeles for two-and-a-half seasons, but left an indelible mark on the franchise by winning the 1974 Cy Young Award and leading the Dodgers to the NL pennant that season. Marshall appeared in a Major League record-106 games that season, going 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA and 21 saves. In the postseason, Marshall went on to allow just one run in 12.0 innings (seven games). The Michigan native was an All-Star for the Dodgers in 1974 and ’75, finishing 129 games over those two years.


* Ron Perranoski
was a vital part of four World Series teams in Los Angeles, first as a hard-nosed reliever and then as a pitching coach. Perranoski was the glue for an exceptional Dodger pitching staff in the early and mid 60′s, helping the Dodgers to World Series championships in 1963 and ’65. In 1963, Perranoski finished fourth in the NL MVP voting after going 16-3 with a 1.67 ERA and 21 saves over a league-leading 69 appearances. After coming out of the bullpen in Los Angeles from 1961-67, Perranoski returned to Dodger Stadium, first as a player in 1972 and then as Tommy Lasorda’s pitching coach from 1981-94. In the 14 seasons he was the pitching coach, Perranoski’s teams were first or second in the league in ERA nine times. Overall, the left-hander was 54-41 with a 2.56 ERA and 101 saves for the Dodgers in eight seasons.

* Jeff Shaw has the distinction of being the first player Tommy Lasorda traded for while acting as the General Manager in 1998. Shaw appeared in two All-Star games for Los Angeles (1998, 2001) and saved 129 games in a Dodger uniform from 1998-2001, which ranks him second on the all-time Dodger list, behind Gagné. In his four years as the closer at Dodger Stadium, Shaw finished in the top-10 in saves each season.

* Todd Worrell burst onto the National League scene in 1986 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award for the Cardinals, so he was already a well-known name by the time he made his way to Los Angeles in 1993. After overcoming injury in ’93 and ’94, Worrell then saved 32, 44, and 35 games over the next three seasons and was the closer on the Dodgers’ 1995 and ’96 playoff teams. His 127 saves set an All-Time Dodger record in 1997, that has since been broken by Shaw and Gagné. The California native and Biola graduate’s best season came in 1996, when he went 4-6 with a 3.03 ERA and a league-leading 44 saves in 72 games. Worrell also finished tied for fifth in the Cy Young voting that season.

vote now at http://www.dodgers.com/anniversary.

Kuroda and Duke Offer Interesting Matchup for Dodgers and Pirates

Hiroki Kuroda
OK, so I for one am itching to see Kuroda and Duke face off tonight for a few reasons:

1. Their stats are nearly identical – Both have pitched about 12 innings, both have a 2.13 ERA, both have given up three earned runs so far this season. Kuroda’s 1-1 record is partly based on some unearned runs, so I’ll let that difference slide for now.

2. Current Dodger players have struggled against Duke in the past - Jeff Kent is 1-11, Rafael Furcal is 2-10, Andruw Jones is 1-8, and poor Juan Pierre is 3-17 (glad to see he is nowhere in tonight’s lineup).

3. The Matt Kemp factor - OK, so he’s FINALLY in the lineup and not being brought up off the bench…very pleasing (especially given Pierre’s stats against Duke). Batting third should give him a chance to stretch his legs a bit here – but his historical performance against Duke has been spotty as well (although not nearly as bad as those already mentioned)

4. Kuroda isn’t facing the D-backs this time – The “all of nothing” approach to batting that the D-backs are using definitely hurt the Dodgers (and Kuroda). Pittsburgh, however, has only registered two games where they scored over four runs (the Florida game was the only impressive victory) and aren’t putting up impressive numbers from the batters box consistently. Kuroda has a decent shot to preserve any early lead that the Dodgers can muster here (remember Russel Martin and Kuroda vs. the Padres). Did I mention that Martin is hitting better against Duke than just about any Dodger player?

:)

Dodgers Historic Trip to China May Not Be So Memorable

Dodgers and Padres
I’ve been in Paris all week, well insulated from Spring Training and the plight of the Dodgers and their upcoming two game series against the Padres in China. I happened to log-in from the Paris airport just now and get caught up on things while I await my flight back to the states and ran across T.J. Simers take on the Dodgers trip to China.

While the premise that sending a hodgepodge of Dodger players to face off against “the Pads” seemed like a story that was created because there wasn’t any other interesting news on the Dodger front, it did get me thinking: What are the Chinese (or the rest of the world) going to get from this display?

If you take a look at who we’re sending, it certainly doesn’t smack of something for the history books: Eric Hull, Mike Koplove, Hong-Chih Kuo, Greg Miller, Justin Orenduff, Chan Ho Park, Matt Riley, Brian Shackelford, Eric Stults, Ramon Troncoso and Tanyon Sturtze. Hell, half of these guys are non-roster spring training invites! I doubt that the people in attendance at this game realize that many of these guys will never see the permanent roster at the end of March – smacks of self-promotion and media spin to me.

What are we really saying to the world with this trip? “Sorry, can’t spare our top talent for this little venture as we’ve got some gelling to do in Vero Beach before the season starts” comes to mind. I remember attending the first interleague game at the Ballpark in Arlington between the Giants and the Rangers. Lots of fanfare, all of the marquis players doing battle, and a tribute to Jackie Robinson. What could be better?

Evidently, not much. Besides a big paycheck that MLB is no doubt receiving for this little bit of East-West diplomacy, I don’t see what other benefit there is. The Chinese will see a random assortment of players on an unfamiliar field in an exhibition game that will likely look nothing like a real game (except for the rules and the uniforms). Ah yes, now I remember – we want to keep recruiting Chinese players for the league!

Bud Selig evedently disagrees. “It’s quite an experience, to say the least,” Selig said. “I’m thrilled with it. So this is great. This is history in the making. Someday I’ll look back on all this and say, ‘It was great to go for the first time.’ ” . I think he really meant so say ‘this will be a great help in recruiting our sixth Chinese national to MLB so we can continue to pilfer from their talent pool and strengthen our position in an era of declining interest and large salaries for American players.’

Outsourcing may be taking on a whole new meaning…

Who’s on Third (For the Dodgers)?

One key question that needs to be answered during spring training is who the Dodgers will entrust with the third base position at the beginning of the season.

Much speculation has been floating out there about who Torre’s choice might be. Will he go with Garciaparra, whose 11 years of MLB experience (plus a stint last year at third for the Dodgers) certainly makes him a contender or will he lean towards rookie Andy LaRoche?

The answer was very noncomittal when the boss was pressed. “Nomar’s experience will certainly play into this thing,” said Torre. “There are going to be tough decisions here, and when you have a lot of young players, they can’t all play. In a way, it’s a good problem to have. In another way, you’re dealing with people’s lives, so it becomes a little more of a sensitive issue. Only so many people can make the club, and only so many people can play at one time.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s (LaRoche’s) job to lose. Nomar, with his experience, we’ll have to see how he best helps our club and go from there.”

Garciaparra’s strong bat may actually hurt him in the race for a starting position at third, as Torre may decide that Nomar’s pinch hitting abilities would be a better strategic play for the team. During the last two seasons, Garciaparra batted .370 with runners in scoring position. Then again, the Dodgers were able to land former SF Giant Mark Sweeney for one-year deal and he led the majors with 24 pinch hits last season.

One possibility – a “job share” of sorts whereby LaRoche starts most games and Garciaparra comes in as a pinch-hitter when the opportunity presents itself (but typically earlier than most pinch hitting situations late in the game due to Garciaparra’s ability to cover third effectively). Executing this strategy frequently enough would enable Nomar to stay fresh at either first or third while giving the Dodgers some additional flexibility to leverage opportunities where the bases are loaded and a power hitter could significantly impact the game. Until the lineups are firmed up, however, it’s difficult to see how this would play out as optimal situations to utilize Nomar may mean someone other than LaRoche being asked to ride the pine and some shuffling of the positions…