Monday, November 23, 2020

32 Years of Waiting & 14 Years of SoSG

1988: birth year of Clayton Kershaw and Ghosts of a Championship Past.

When the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988, I was but a boy with hopes and dreams. 32 years later, that boy is older and heavier, his hopes and dreams having become wishes and adjusted expectations.

32 years is enough time to get an education and a job and realize how different they are from experience and a career. It's enough time to start a family, who will learn to tolerate your irrational Dodgers fandom.

Is it the Cubs' 108 years? Of course not. Is it still a fucking long time? Yes it is.

It's also enough time to figure out winning the World Series takes talent, discipline...and some je ne sais quoi.

Talent: The Dodgers were always rich enough to afford it (and sometimes stupid enough to give it away).

Discipline: Levels of hard work and common sense seemed to vary with the revolving door of managers that followed Tommy Lasorda's 20-year tenure, as well as the whims of whoever was keeping the GM chair warm (Kevin Malone? DePo?).

Intangibles: We never seemed to possess the inevitability of the Yankees, the devil magic of the Cardinals and Giants, the scrappiness (later entitlement) of the Red Sox. We endured 31 years of postseason drought and disappointment, never even getting within a victory of reaching the World Series. The Astros' cheating scandal of 2017 and the Red Sox cheating in 2018 were just the cherries on top of the cowpie.

So what changed? It was as slow as turning a battleship, but here's the summary:

    1. Fuck off, Fox.
    2. Go to hell, Frank & Jamie.
    3. Hello, Guggenbros and Andrew Friedman (assist: Ned Colletti).

The result? A steady stream of talent (not just the occasional Manny Ramirez-esque splurge) resulting in 8 straight division titles. An organizational philosophy of discipline. Remember how frustrating the swing-for-the-fences approach was just a few years ago? Then this year, cavernous Globe Life Field became our "home" park and talk started about how the Dodgers' homer-happy approach could fall flat there.

Instead the Dodgers made adjustments and nailed the balance of situational hitting and bashing dingers. Discipline! Lots of credit to hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc for that.

And the intangibles! Finally luck was a lady, the cookie didn't crumble, the ball bounced our way:

NLDS Game 1. 5th inning: Padres 1, Dodgers 0. Dodger-killer Jake Cronenworth makes a throwing error, allowing us to tie the score. We score 4 runs the next inning.

NLDS Game 2. 7th inning: Dodgers 4, Padres 3. Cody's catch! It sets the stage for a one-run squeaker of a victory (thanks Kenley):

I thought we were toast after going down 3-1 to the Barves in the NLCS. Indeed we were losing in the 6th inning of Game 7, but there was a crucial momentum shift two innings earlier:

NLCS Game 7. 4th inning: Barves 3, Dodgers 2. The inexplicable Barves double brain-fart:

What if Swanson pulls a Pierzynski and touches home after JT's tag? Maybe a replay situation. What if Riley doesn't double back like ZZ Top in Back to the Future III? Maybe he's safe at third. More maybes than in an Arrested Development marathon!

NLCS Games 5-7. One word: Mooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooookie.

And the coup de grâce:

World Series Game 5. 4th inning: Dodgers 3, Rays 2. Manuel Margot decides he's the man:

Silly rabbit, Kershaw's the man.

(And for anyone questioning the legitmacy of a COVID-shortened season: The two best teams met after a regular season that was mentally and emotionally more taxing than a 162-game season, plus every playoff team had to play an extra round. Take your asterisks back to 2017 where they belong.)

32 years is a generation! Thanks to the Guggenbros for investing the scratch, to Friedman for his roster wizardry and to Doc for keeping the egos in check. Best of all, their sustainable approach means we should be competitive for the forseeable future.

And when we win the World Series again, I still won't be done celebrating this one.

The nadir of the Dodgers' 31 years of postseason futility came in the 2006 NLDS against the Mets. Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew were thrown out at home on the same play — by an all-former-Dodgers relay of Shawn Green to José Valentín to Paul "Fuck the Dodgers" Lo Duca. Naturally the Dodgers went on to lose that game by 1 run and get swept out of the series.

The collective outrage from group e-mails within our circle of Dodger fans must have been overheating our Intel Celeron microprocessors because days later, we decided to take our talents to Blogger. The Dodgers' streak of futility was at a mere 18 years — what babies we were! — when Sax made our first post.

It was three years B.T. (Before Twitter) and we were getting started during the golden age of sports blogging. It was thrilling to see the blog gain readership and recognition by the Dodgers organization itself (shoutout to Josh Rawitch!).

A glance at the sidebar shows our "attendance" at over 3.5 million views, which still blows my mind. A big hug to my friends and fellow Sons — the rest of the O.G. 6 — AC, EK, Lasorda, Pedro & Sax — and the "newcomers" — Delino, Dusty, Gnomes & Stubbs (and honorary DoSG Karina!).

But 14 years of blogging? Also a long time. At times it's felt like a crying baby that needs to be fed (damn GTs!). And the 31 years of falling short didn't help.

Now that we've arrived at the promised land...I don't know? In this fucked-up year, Vin Scully's truism holds even more true: "If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans."

Go Blue!

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Rob Manfred Doesn't Punish Cheaters, So There Was No Way He Was Going To Punish Justin Turner

We Sons of Steve Garvey have had lengthy WhatsApp chats about Justin Turner's post-Game 6 emergence onto the field following the Dodgers' World Series victory. And in a nutshell, though all of us love the guy and respect his leadership and understand his frame of mind and decision-making in the moment,...we all also think it was a pretty selfish move to endanger others' health and safety just so he could take his picture with "a piece of metal".

Oh, sure, it's been established that Turner believes that the World Series is more than a piece of metal.. And he's worked tirelessly for this achievement. And he's earned all of it, including the right to be part of the team picture celebrating victory and whole experience.

Which is why it would have been so much more meaningful and better if Turner had stayed in isolation, and had not come out of the not-quite-secure room in which he had been isolated after the eighth inning of the game. This would been the noble, albeit heartbreaking, move to make.

But Turner came out of the dugout, and despite the positive COVID-19 test result, opted to take maskless pictures with the team (in which he easily could have been photoshopped in post-production). Not a good luck for this team leader. Initially, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was not happy.

Two weeks later, MLB completed its "investigation." And, consistent with his weak-ass disciplinarian reputation, Manfred is satisfied about Turner's apology, and won't punish Turner further.

MLB is damn lucky that no one was hurt or infected by Turner's brainfart. But more striking is that Manfred, who won't exact any punishment upon a team who cheated their way to an illicit and illegitimate "championship," once again doesn't have the balls to mete out punishment. All hat, no cattle.

Not that I wanted Turner to be punished. I was conflicted on this one, too, but mostly because I've seen Turner contribute over these past five seasons like a professional and a community leader. But I'm sure that if you weren't keeping track of the Dodgers during the last five years, and the World Series was your only glimpse of him, you might be pretty angry at his selfishness. Heck, I love the guy, and I still think it was the wrong move.

But irrespective, it's clear you can get away with murder and Manfred ain't gonna do shit. So now that this is firmly established, go trade in your masks for trash cans!

Meanwhile, Turner at least had the sense to apologize (which Bill Shaikin of the LAT noted that Manfred neglected to do, in his own statement). I was surprised that Turner didn't apologize earlier--I can only assume he stayed quiet due to MLB muzzling over potential liability issues--but it was not surprising that in his public statement, Turner expressed authentic contrition:

I will not make excuses for my conduct, but I will describe my state of mind. Winning the World Series was my lifelong dream and the culmination of everything I worked for in my career. After waiting in the isolation room while my teammates celebrated on the field, I asked whether I was permitted to return to the field with my wife in order to take a photograph. I assumed by that point that few people were left on the field. I was under the impression that team officials did not object to my returning to the field for a picture with my wife. However, what was intended to be a photo capturing the two of us turned into several greetings and photos where I briefly and unwisely removed my mask. In hindsight, I should have waited until the field was clear of others to take that photo with my wife. I sincerely apologize to everyone on the field for failing to appreciate the risks of returning to the field. I have spoken with almost every teammate, coach, and staff member, and my intentions were never to make anyone uncomfortable or put anyone at further risk.

All right, so we can all move on now. Turner stepped up after a bad move. Manfred again showed any hammer he might wield is a limp noodle. Let's get to the offseason.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Hey Mookie, How's Your Off-Season Going?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Kirk Gibson Narrates: The Dodgers Are Finally Champions Again

World Series Game 7 Thread HAHA JUST KIDDING WE'RE WORLD SERIES CHAMPS BABY!

Mookie: Robert Gauthier/LA Times; Kershaw: I don't know

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

THE DODGERS ARE 2020 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS

World Series Game 6 Thread: Oct 27 vs Rays, 5p

Can we get this man a goddamn championship ring already?

Gonsolin vs Snell.

OK OK OK OK OK OK while it's true that existence is pain, sometimes there's a frisson of hope on the other side of that pain. After being repeatedly punched in the mouth in Game 4, Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers squared their jaws and grinded out a victory in Game 5 and suddenly the Dodgers are 27 outs away from their first World Series championship in 32 years.

Anyone else worried about CT3 and Will Smith? They've been uncharacteristically unreliable lately. On the flip side, Catman Gonsolin will be fully rested, Corey, Max and JT have been great and Mookie's due for his signature World Series moment. Props also to Joc, although he likely won't start today's game.

On the bullpen side: Say no to Kenley and Baez. Say yes to anyone else.

The Boys in Blue have two games to win one. GO BLUE!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Post-World Series Game 5 Thread: Bent, But Not Broken

The baseball gods have frowned upon the Dodgers for a long time. Kershaw knows it.

DODGERS 4, RAYS 2

This one, just like last night's Game 4 debacle, could have gone either way.

There were plenty of situations in this game where the momentum narratives could have crystallized. The Dodgers, after an inexplicable failure in Game 4, could come out flat. Clayton Kershaw would buckle in his second series start. Doc Roberts would make more foolish pitching change decisions. Dustin May isn't up to the big stage. Chris Taylor can't repair the hole in his glove's webbing (actually, this narrative unfortunately continued in Game 5, as he failed to catch an Austin Barnes throw to second, allowing an extra base). If Kenley Jansen can't close, no one else can, either.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, all (but one) of those narratives were rendered obsolete. But it wasn't easy, it was a gutty tightrope performance in which the final run scored in the top of the fifth (Max Muncy's moon shot), and it was edge-of-your-seat baseball from there on. Before moving on, here's Muncy's home run, another Muncy home run for the ages:

Just like this Muncy World Series home run highlight:

Or this Muncy home run highlight:

Okay I gotta calm down here. Kershaw was great--not as good as some of his other 2020 playoff starts, but 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB and 6 Ks was good enough for the Dodgers and also good enough to take first place in all-time postseason strikeouts, an impressive feat. Kershaw's 2.93 ERA over 30.2 IP in the 2020 postseason amassed 37 Ks--a heck of an improvement over the 4.42 ERA prior to this WS that harbors all the biases of leaving him in too long and making Kershaw do spot starts on short rest. Kershaw has the most postseason innings pitched of anyone who has not won a World Series. And in the 2020 World Series, Kershaw certainly did his part.

As did Dave Roberts, whose hook on Kershaw after two quick one-pitch outs in the sixth led many Dodger fans to go nuts. But it was the right decision, not only to go to Dustin May and restore the poor kid's confidence (May turned in a great performance, starting with a 101-mph strikeout of Tampa Bay cleanup hitter Manuel Margot, and continuing on into a scoreless seventh inning).

I was struggling with the decision to pull Kershaw then, but knew it was the right one, even at the time, with all the emotion flowing. I couldn't bear to see Kershaw make one bad pitch and lose a chance at the win. The sixth inning is widely known as Kershaw's postseason bugaboo; he has a 3.53 ERA in the first five innings, but a 7.09 ERA after that. Kershaw struggled through the third and fourth innings, until Margot made an ill-fated decision to try and steal home, and Kershaw threw to Barnes, who nabbed his ass at the plate for the third out..

Us Sons thought that Margot's brash move pissed Kershaw off, so much so that he came back in the fifth for a clean 1-2-3 inning (2 Ks), and then the two-pitch, two-out start to the sixth inning. But watching Kershaw earlier, he was really on fumes before the Margot CS. It was going to be a matter of time before the adrenaline wore off and he was just a bit more mortal again.

The Dodgers bullpen led by May, a fine clutch performance by Victor Gonzalez, and a strong ninth by Blake I'm-Not-Jansen Treinen, secured the victory for the Dodgers, as the Rays didn't score again after the third and didn't really have a threat after Margot's inning-ending CS. But the two-run lead was so precarious, you felt the pressure whenever the Rays got one on. Not to mention, the Rays bullpen did quick work on our offense and held us scoreless after Glasnow's departure: Will Smith and Chris Taylor again disappointed, this time with 0-for-4 performances each; Justin Turner had more defensive gems in Game 5, but also went 0-for-4 from the plate.

So the Dodgers take the 3-2 series lead by getting back to business, yet it still feels out of reach. Tony Gonsolin has had a poor World Series outing on top of a bad NLCS Game 7 experience. Sure, he could turn it around after Roberts' sit-down discussion with him and May (which apparently happened before Game 5). Or, strange things like Game 4 can happen, and we choke our way into a Game 7.

We haven't fared well in bullpen games. And we still aren't getting to Tampa Bay's bullpen, either. So let's see.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

World Series Game 5 Thread: Oct 25 @ Rays, 5p

Kershaw vs Glasnow.

Existence is pain.

Dave Roberts Made All The Wrong Moves In WS Game 4

The World Series Game 5 Thread is already up so I won't upset that. I just have to post this vitriol before first pitch tonight, which will obviously be another Kershaw postseason meltdown disaster--but more on that later.

World Series Game 4 was entirely winnable if Dave Roberts hadn't made all those boneheaded pitching decisions.

Julio Urias should not have come out in the fifth inning, one out short of qualifying for the win. He had 9 Ks through 14 outs, including two Ks following the Huter Renfroe HR that made it 3-2 LA. We would go on to score in the top of the sixth and extend it to a 4-2 lead, but it didn't matter becuase now we're left to our bullpen decisions.

Blake Treinen was a bad choice to relieve Urias. Treinen gets the third out in the fifth, but then comes back in the sixth to shit the bed, allowing two on with none out. After getting Austin Meadows to strikeout, Roberts inexplicably goes to the unreliable Pedro Baez, who singlehandedly breathes life into the Rays with a meatball that Brandon Lowe deposits for a go-ahead three run HR.

Again, the Dodgers bats try to dig Roberts out of his hole, wth Joc Pederson's two-out, two-RBI single that would have been a longer rally had Cody Bellinger not run us out of the inning by getting tagged at third.

Baez now should be yanked out of there with a harpoon. But Roberts inexplicably leaves Baez in for another inning--only so he can give up ANOTHER home run to Kevin Kiermaier, tying the game.

We take the lead in the eighth inning again 7-6 on a Corey Seager single to left, scoring Chris Taylor. Roberts goes to Adam Kolarek who walks Ji-Man Chio and gets two outs, and then Roberts goes to Brusdar Graterol, who escapes the inning two batters later. Graterol is in, he's dealing 100mph fireballs.

And Roberts caps it all, by bringing in Kenley Jansen to blow the game for us, plain and simple. Not that Jansen's troubles throughout this postseason alone should have made him a radioactive isotope for this situation, not to be touched with a ten-foot pole. When he gave up the walkoff Brett Phillips single to center, it was all over. We handed this 8-7 win to the Rays on a fucking platter, a platter filled with the corpulent excesses and failures of Baez and Jansen.

And Roberts filled that platter, himself.

On top of all this, Jansen didn't even back up the play after the hit to center. It may not have mattered in the final assessment. But I'm so done with this guy. All postseason, it's been about him him him. He does not talk about wanting to support the team. He wants to talk about his own confidence in himself, his own abilities. And by not even doing his secondary job of backing up the play, let alone failing at his primary job of closing the door on the Rays--it showed me what a selfish bastard Kenley Jansen really is. His postgame remarks, in which he underlined how he broke Kiermaier's bat (which was still a single), and Phillips' hit was a fluke--NO, KENLEY. YOU LOST THE GODDAMN GAME, AND LET DOWN YOUR ENTIRE TEAM.

I'm done with Kenley.

I know I posted a valentine to Roberts after the NLCS, but this one pissed me off so much. Roberts' postgame remarks second-guessing his decisions were all about feeling and gut decisions. All of these gut decisions were wrong. And they have cost us dearly.

The other Sons were talking about how this was the multiple-batters-thrown-out-at-home stupidity in our playoff series loss to the Mets. Damn skippy. Now, the Rays have all the momentum. We've given it to them. Kershaw's impending failure tonight, coupled with the redemption of Tyler Glasnow after a poor Game 1 start, will be the next nail in the 2020 Dodgers' coffin. We don't have a starter for Game 6. We're doomed.

You don't recover from gut punches like this. Clearly, Kenley Jansen isn't even trying to recover. And neither will we.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

World Series Game 4 Thread: Oct 24 @ Rays, 5p

Barnes, Injury Attorney

Urias vs. Yarbrough.

Last night, backup catcher Austin Barnes made the most of this 2020 moment. After being left off the 2019 postseason roster altogether, the light-hitting Barnes not only coaxed Walker Buehler into a dominant starting pitching performance, he also notched a crazy World Series bunt-plus-home-run statistic that had only been matched by Hector Lopez in 1961.

And last night gave a number of signs that the Dodgers' 2020 roster is up for pulling through in a true team effort. Justin Turner, whose defensive prowess in the 2020 postseason has kept us alive, but his bat has been uncommonly quiet (at .232 BA vs. a .307 regular season mark), led off the fireworks with a two-out first-inning home run. Max Muncy, who struggled all year to a subpar .192 batting average, had the two-run, two-out RBI single in the third that spelled the beginning of the end for Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton. And then there's Barnes, a .198 batter on the season, erupting for a .350 BA and .861 OPS this postseason.

Chris Taylor and Will Smith both went 0-for-4 last night (Smith with a team-leading 4 LOB), but when the team is collectively 2-for-4 with RISP and collecting gut-punching two-out RBI hits, you can feel the offensive pressure even with those off nights.

It's a stark contrast to the Rays, who walked into these first three games with a bunch of sub-.200 hitters on the team, but have not yet opened up (short of Brandon Lowe's two-HR performance in Game 2). Lowe is still batting .154; Ji-Man Choi .143; and only one starter (Manuel Margot) is north of .300 this World Series.

But all of this is small sample size, and a 2-1 lead's advantage can disappear quickly with a loss today. Julio Urias is 4-0 this postseason (in four appearances, only one of which was a start), and is coming off an impressive and efficient three-inning performance to close NLCS Game 7. But this game could be the biggest start in his postseason career (Urias has started two postseason games to date, losing vs. the Cubs in the 2016 NLCS Game 4, and winning vs. Atlanta in this year's NCLS Game 3).

Ryan Yarbrough had 2/3 of an inning in Game 1, rescuing starter Tyler Glasnow in the fifth but yielding two RBI-hits across four batters (Bellinger pop out; Taylor RBI single; Hernandez RBI single; Barnes fly out). He probably won't last long in Tampa Bay's bullpen game tonight. But if the Rays can scratch and claw their way to victory and even the series, I sure as heck will be worried again.

Actually, I'm pretty worried now.

Walker Buehler, Postseason Stud

As if I could get any more hyped for last night's World Series Game 3 start by Walker Buehler, the LAT's Jack Harris had an excellent piece yesterday which focused on how failure (both in college at Vanderbilt, and professionally with the Dodgers), and how it made him a calmer and more zen pitcher:

Yet, as this postseason has progressed, with Buehler improving every start, the 26-year-old has referred back to those painful memories: the grand slam he gave up in Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS in Atlanta; his stumbles during three straight NCAA tournament runs at Vanderbilt; the highs and lows of skins games that felt far more important than routine practice drills.

Each low point was a prerequisite to his career’s current heights, dark days that better equipped him for a bright future.

“I failed in those moments,” Buehler said. “I can handle that failure. I’ve been through it and I’ve been good after it. That failure doesn’t really scare me anymore. Obviously, you don’t want to fail. But there’s a different feeling when you’re not scared of that failure.”

Buehler wasn't scared of failure last night, nor was he scared of starting in a pivotal game which the Dodgers needed to win both to restore momentum and get their confidence back after a close 6-4 loss on Wednesday. With Charlie Morton and his impressive, cheating-enhanced postseason resume on the opponent's hill. Buehler not only out-dueled and out-lasted the salty Morton. Buehler also notched 10Ks in only six innings, he became the first World Series pitcher to have 10 strikeouts in six innings or fewer.

Eight of those ten strikeouts were swinging, so though Austin Barnes' framing skills might have helped a little, most of it was just flummoxing Tampa Bay, plain and simple, swing and miss. And watching Buehler carve up the Rays in the opening frames (with two Ks per inning through the first three innings), it certinly did a lot to calm the nerves of the Dodgers (who by then had taken a 4-0 lead off a Justin Turner home run, a two-RBI Max Muncy single, and a Barnes suicide squeeze). Not to mention my nerves, but that's another story.

Look at some of the nastiness unveiled in Buehler's arsenal yesterday:

And through this, it's helpful to remember back to the early 2010s, when Clayton Kershaw was paired with Tiny Head Zack Greinke, and everyone thought that one-two punch would take us to World Series championships. It never even got us to the World Series. And here we are, with Walker Buehler's emergence, and Kershaw finally has another stallion in the stable who can effectively help shoulder the postseason load.

Dodgers take a 2-1 lead on the back of their other postseason stud, Walker Buehler.

Friday, October 23, 2020

World Series Game 3 Thread: Oct 23 @ Rays, 5p

Aha, there's the corrrect logo.

Buehler vs. Morton.

When it comes to the Dodgers, my emotions run higher and lower than a normal mortal's calibration. I was simply euphoric after Game 1's victory. But after Game 2's loss, I was despondent--a sulking which has lasted for 36 hours given the off-day for "travel" to the opposite clubhouse in Globe Life Field.

I know this isn't rational or logical. But I can't help it. And everything I have read just spikes the emotions further, in the direction of how I'm feeling.

The LAT's Bill Plaschke says Dodgers fans should be worried.. (I'm worried.) The LAT's resident grump, Dylan Hernandez, assures that we've got this. (I'm still worried.)

And so it comes down to this pivotal Game 3, a must-win start for Walker Buehler, beset with blisters and 2-1 lifetime in the postseason (including no decisions in two four-inning 2020 postseason starts), against Charlie Morton, who is on the verge of an eighth-consecutive winning postseason decision..

The Dodgers wasted opportunities all over the place in Game 2, in which we were 0-for-6 with RISP and let Blake Snell carve us up like a deli counter employee over the first four innings. Snell was at a pace of two Ks per inning before Chris Taylor broke through with a two-run HR in the bottom of the fifth.

The Dodgers worked 7 walks in Game 1's win. We had only 4 walks in Game 2's loss. And as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick pointed out about the Dodgers' walk rate (we trail only the 1997 Marlins for the postseason record), when we're not patient, we're not as successful.

And from a pitching perspective, I think we've established from NLCS Game 7 and World Series Game 2 that Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are not up to it this postseason. One can blame Dave Roberts for throwing these young arms in such critical situations. But the results speak for themselves: neither one is up to the pressure of this national stage, not yet. Which shatters the illusion of "bullpen games" with the reality of an early white flag, demonstrated no more clearly than Alex Wood taking over in the seventh with the Dodgers down 6-3.

So I'm worried. Like Wildstorm's Midnighter, I have taken the extra day off to play out thousands of scenarios in my mind, and there are too many potential game outcomes in which the Dodgers come up short.

I know, the Dodgers have been in much worse situations this postseason, like when we were down 0-2 in the NLCS and yet at which point I was more positive. Now, the series is tied, and I'm a mess.

I know this is profoundly negative. Like I said, I'm on the swing of a pendulum that is much wider than a normal person's. My stomach lining is probably in shreds.

Who knows what Dodgers team will emerge from the visitors' dugout this game. All I know is, I'm freaking out with worry. We need a win tonight.

LET'S GO, DODGERS!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

World Series Game 2 Thread: Oct 21 vs Rays, 5p

Footsies are now Cody's celebration of choice.

Peek-a-Mook!


A little good-luck charm for Catman.

Tony "Catman" Gonsolin vs Blake Snell.

So far, so good.

Game 1 was vintage 2020 Dodgers, if a team can be "vintage" while "still playing." Starting pitching kept the Boys in Blue in the game and it took a while for the bats to arrive but when they did, hoo boy.

Today is a different beast, however, as Walker Buehler is lined up for a Game 3 start, which means it's time for a bullpen game! Gonsolin is the starter, with May and Urías reportedly available to sub in. Keep in mind all three pitchers worked three days ago so Doc will have to mix and match to scratch out those 27 outs.

But it won't matter if the bats don't show up again. I happen to believe Snell is touchable based on my extensive research of watching his last start.

GO BLUE!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Post-WS Game 1 Thread: Clayton Kershaw, Postseason Stud

graphics courtesy ESPN screenshots

DODGERS 8, RAYS 3

Just as I had tried to dispel the erroneous, hackneyed narrative forming on Dave Roberts late last night, tonight's piece is about Clayton Kershaw, Postseason Stud.

No longer should anyone hear the untrue narrative that Kershaw can't get it done in October. Kershaw has been lights-out this postseason, spinning a 13 K masterpiece over the Brewers in the Wild Card "Series", followed by a quality start against San Diego in Game 2. And sure, the NLCS Game 4 (5 IP, 4 ER, 1 BB and 4 Ks) would have been a horrible way to end.

But storylines can quickly change in baseball, so here we were, in a critical Game 1 vs. Tampa Bay, and Kershaw with the chance to erase those pesky doubts once and for all. Kershaw once again delivered a quality start, for the third time in four post-season starts this year. Tonight's gem was not only on the biggest stage, it was a particularly nice line in the box score: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 8 Ks, his only mistake being a home run to Kevin Kiermaier with two out in the fourth (Kershaw then proceeded to strike out Mike Zunino to curtail any momentum).

Seven of Kershaw's 8 Ks tonight were on sliders; the other was on a curve that was not used too much but still used effectively. Kershaw owned the Rays tonight; ESPN's Tim Kurkjian and Mark Teixeira said the Rays "had no chance" with Kershaw's slider in full force. And with the Rays unable to break through in the first six innings, the Dodgers (who had scored eight runs through six) were rolling.

With 201 postseason Ks, Kershaw is now second all-time behind only Justin Verlander for postseason Ks. And Kershaw might have a chance to surpass Verlander...but I'd be just fine if he didn't need to go out there again.

Let's just savor this one. Kershaw is a World Series game winner, deserving of the postseason accolades that complement his outstanding regular-season heroics. Now let's make Kershaw a World Series winner as well.

GO DODGERS!

UPDATE 10/21 12:04a: Yikes, I just noticed that ESPN's Jeff Passan used a similar lede and theme to his post-game article.. Like Passan's article after NLCS Game 7, this one is a good read as well. And though I didn't see Passan's piece before posting this one, I suppose I had better take a different tack next time...

World Series Game 1 Thread: Oct 20 vs Rays, 5p

Some say JT is still floating there, waiting for a teammate to complete the low-five.

Clayton Kershaw vs Tyler Glasnow.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat is going on??? How did the Boys in Blue go from staring elimination in the face (sans mask, no less) to barreling into their third World Series in four years?

Let us count the ways:

1. Timely hitting. And just enough of it. The Dodgers' margins of victory in their four NLCS wins: 12, 4, 2, 1. In Game 7, both Kiké Hernandez's and Cody Bellinger's ABs went like this:

  • pitch #5: foul
  • pitch #6: foul
  • pitch #7: foul
  • pitch #8: crucial HR

The Barves' pitching tightened up and somehow our bats, as Dr. Ian Malcolm might say, found a way.

Oh yeah, congrats to NLCS MVP Corey Seager! Keep mashing, Corey.

2. Pitching. While our starters have been variable, the bullpen has been the best we've seen lately. Let's hope Clayton can go deep into tonight's game and preserve those relief arms.

3. De-fense! De-fense! De-fense! Mookie Betts! Justin Turner (above)! Defensive Runs Saved might not be as sexy a stat as, say, dingers, but it all adds up (or subtracts down).

4. Managing. Let's credit Dave Roberts when he pushes the right buttons. Our first two openers in Game 7 (Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin) weren't great but Doc made the adjustments to settle the pitching down. He PHed Kiké at the right time and trusted Julio Urías to finish the game. No Clayton or Kenley in sight.

5. Luck. Finally, that last ingredient that no amount of money can buy. In Game 7 it came in the form of the double TOOTBLAN courtesy of Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley. We suuuuuure could use a few more of those types of plays by the Rays.

Will this finally be our year? Will the small-market Rays triumph over our clever, moneyed overlords? In 1988, both the Lakers and Dodgers handled their business. 32 years later, we're thisclose to it happening again.

GO BLUE!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Dave Roberts Made All The Right Moves Late In The 2020 NLCS

Dave Roberts.

In the 14 years since starting this blog, there has not been a Dodgers manager whom I've wanted to win more than Dave Roberts. He is calm, cool, collected; cerebral, measured, thoughtful; effusive and unselfish in praise to his team and front office, while willing to take the blame from his team all along.

Roberts has always struck me as someone who wants to play the game the right way, win or lose. And there's an admirable nobleness in that pursuit. I've had the pleasure of meeting Roberts once, in a brief conversation on the field before a game. And he was every bit of class and personable nature and authenticity that I expected him to be.

Over Roberts' five years as Dodgers manager, particularly the heartbreaking unjust robberies of the 2017 and 2018 World Series, the narrative has shifted from a manager coping with teams lacking all the right pieces, to a manager unable to make the right decisions in the clutch situations. No matter that Houston was banging trash cans and likely buzzing under-jersey signals; or key reliable components to the engine deciding to falter or have that one off-day in exactly the wrong moment, dooming the team's chances. The burden and responsibility fell squarely on Roberts. And he took it.

After the loss in NLCS Game 4, I had also abandoned hope. It was a very flimsy argument to posit that Dave Roberts erred by putting Clayton Kershaw out there in the sixth inning, after Kershaw pitched one-run ball through five frames. Sure, maybe Kershaw could have been on a shorter leash in the sixth--Kershaw's ERA is 4.31 in the postseason vs. a 2.31 in the regular season, and Kershaw's postseason ERA from the sixth inning onwards is 7.31, the worst of a minimum of 20 innings in that scenario, according to ESPN. Maybe five innings is all that we should have asked of Kershaw, and we should have collected our chips then and just moved on.

But even though Roberts yanked Kershaw rather quickly, three batters into that fateful sixth inning, in a game where the Dodgers would ultimately lose 10-2 (evidencing more about issues with the bullpen, and the Dodgers' inability to solve Bryce Wilson, rather than Kershaw's shortcoming)--the talk was about whether Roberts should have ever let Kerhsaw trot out for the sixth in the first place. And yes, maybe Roberts himself left a slight crack open to second-guessers and Monday morning quarterbacks:

"I'm not going to take Clayton out after a weak ground ball and another ground ball off the bat of Freeman," Roberts said, adding that Ozuna's batted ball "wasn't hit very hard," even though it traveled at 108 mph.

"I felt really good with Clayton at that point in time."

So there you have it: Doc allowed what he was seeing in the game to color his opinion of how long to leave Kershaw in maybe longer than he should have. Maybe, right there with that admission, the leash was a millimeter too long. Which played to the crystallizing narrative that Roberts sometimes lets his emotional loyalties obscure the analytic objectivity required to make the tough decisions (also see: Jansen, Kenley).

Down 3-1 in a best-of-seven, we looked like toast. Fangraphs gave the Braves an 82.8% chance to win the NLCS. And, discouragingly, I started coming to grips that if the results were to play out as statistics were leaning, that there would be no other objective choice than to move in another managerial direction this off-season.

And this realization actually pained me, like a punch to the gut. I'm talking physical pain in my stomach, seriously.

Sure, I want the Dodgers to win. But I want Dave Roberts to win as well. And Clayton Kershaw. And Justin Turner. And all those guys in the clubhouse, especially those who have battled through self-doubt and admitted cheating and major injuries and boo birds and doubters and haters and mean people.

I want Dave Roberts to win.

So bad.

And now, we are going to the 2020 World Series, and we have a shot at all of that.

So before we get ahead of ourselves, I also want to take time to offically explode the narrative that Roberts' eyes are clouded by loyalty and appreciation of legends in his midst. We need to take the breath and recap how we got from down 3-1 to a World Series ticket.

Roberts' management of NLCS Game 5 was impressive, running a bullpen game and letting Will Smith and Corey Seager tee off to achieve a 7-3 victory. Roberts also allowed Kenley Jansen to work a three-strikeout ninth inning, in a non-save situation, to secure the victory in an elimination game, and boost Jansen's confidence knowing that we'd need it.

In NLCS Game 6, Roberts again managed to mastery, allowing the Dodgers' early strikes on Max Fried to hold up through a gutty Walker Buehler performance, but also making the right bullpen decisions in Blake Treinen (one ER), Pedro Baez for the eighth, and then Jansen again for the save in a three-batter ninth.

And then, for a culminating Game 7, Dave Roberts played a hand free of any aces and face cards, and still proceeded to run the table. Roberts' momentous and correct decisions in this game were multifold. Yanking Dustin May after one nervous inning (one might criticize the team for only informing May of his starting role hours before game time, but that's another topic altogether). Pulling the plug on Plan B, Tony Gonsolin, after two equally nerve-racking frames. Trusting Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol for three no-hit innings. And the biggest pitching decision of all, allowing Julio Urias to pitch the last three innings of no-hit ball to ice the game, and the series, for the Dodgers.

Which is not to forget the biggest decision on the other side of the game: pinch hitting Kike Hernandez for Joc Pederson to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Hernandez' game-tying pinch-hit HR, an eight-pitch AB that bounced off the second deck, was a backbreaker.. (And later that evening, following Cody Bellinger's equally majestic go-ahead, game-winning HR to right, Hernandez was a shoulder-breaker, as well.)

And also, Roberts rightfully trusted crafty veterans like Justin Turner, whose 2020 postseason has paled in comparison with prior heroics, to make amazingly heady plays like the momentum-shifting fourth-inning double play. Or letting Mookie Betts--whose bat has also not yet risen to postseason stage expectations--shine like a supernova in right field with three straight nights of game-saving defensive web gems, ranging from shoestring catches turned double plays, to over-the-wall grabs to deny potential home runs.

Roberts is trusting Max Muncy, who even when not hitting to form, is grinding out key walks (Muncy had nine in the NLCS). And A.J. Pollock, whose 2019 postseason was disastrous but has come up big this year. And Corey Seager, 2020 NLCS MVP and postseason juggernaut, who is finally shining on the postseason stage after prior seasons of average performance. Even Bellinger, who has spent the entire 2020 season tinkering with his batting stance and approach (to mixed results), has been given patience in the six-hole--a strange spot for someone who won the MVP award last year--but obviously this trust paid off huge in Game 7, when Bellinger won the game for us with his solo shot.

The Dodgers win Game 7. We're going to the World Series, in improbable fashion. It's unbelievable.

Which brings us back to Dave Roberts. He made all the right decisions in Game 7. He did not allow allegiances to get in the way, forgoing a third-straight Jansen appearance in the ninth or a hail-mary feed to Kershaw in the late innings of a tense winner-take-all game. And we should take stock and acknowledge this, contradicting the narrative that has percolated of late.

This 2020 NCLS, Roberts rose to the moment. Sure, Roberts probably has more potent weapons on this year's team than in prior seasons. But it still takes a skilled operator to play to victory, not to mention victories in three straight elimination games.

And afterward, on stage, emotional and voice cracking, you could FEEL Roberts' understandable emotion about the game and series victory. (Go ahead and watch the video @ the top of the post. I'll wait.)

The very ingredient that many of us Dodger fans wished Roberts would exhibit less--emotion--was now on full display and it was wonderful to see. Roberts was able to channel it in Game 7 (if not Games 5 and 6, as well), not let emotion cloud his vision, and only let it out here at the end, on the post-game stage, accepting the Warren C. Giles National League Championship Trophy.

"This is OUR YEAR!", said Roberts. I sure as hell hope so.

But I'm so proud of Coach Roberts, and for everything he did for the team in this game, this series, this year--not to mention the four years before this. I really am grateful and thankful he's our manager.

Let's go win this one for Doc.

The Mookie Factor

photos by Robert Gauthier/LA Times

Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020 NLCS Game 7 Thread: Oct 18 vs Barves, 5p

Will this become the Dodgers' iconic image of 2020?

Mystery Man #1 Dustin May vs Mystery Man #2 Ian Anderson

Game 7!

I am by nature a cynic, so I admit when the Boys in Blue went down 3-1 in this series I thought they were toast. But Mookie & Co. have so far proven this asshole wrong and soon we'll find out if the 2020 Dodgers can be called comeback kids.

The winner of tonight's tilt will advance to the World Series against the team with the AL's best regular-season record, the Tampa Bay Rays, who first went to the World Series in 2008. The Dodgers have the NL's best regular-season record, so how about some symmetry, boys?

As a bonus, Joe Davis will be calling tonight's action on Fox.

GO BLUE!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

2020 NLCS Game 6 Thread: Oct 17 vs Barves, 130p

Buehler vs Fried

They say don't judge a man's tight pants until you've Walkered a mile in Buehler's tight pants. Or something like that. The Dodgers' season is in Walker Buehler's hands — specifically, hands that are calloused with two critical blisters that tend to affect his delivery. The Barvos counter with Max Fried, who blew the Dodgers away in Game 1. Must-win? You bet your tightpants. GO BLUE!