Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 Dodgers Rookie Hazing, Part 3

...because you just can't get enough!

Ramon Troncoso is Disco Blondie.


Rookies on the Tarmac.


Troncoso.


Cory Wade as a belly dancer, A.J. Ellis as Carmen Miranda and James McDonald as Disco Stu.


Clayton Kershaw as Little Bo Peep, complete with (pitching?) staff.


Scott Elbert (?) is a clown.


Blake DeWitt as Marilyn Monroe, Hiroki Kuroda as a pimp, maybe-Elbert, McDonald, Ellis and Troncoso.


Even one of the trainers had to dress up as a jockey, complete with stick-horse. The veterans are in the bus to the right, laughing as the rookies walk the streets of San Francisco.

Russell Martin's Tattoo

Someone keeps Googling it, so here you go. No, we don't have more pictures. No, we don't know what it means. Enjoy!

Why The McCourt Markup?

This is the shirt.

This is the shirt that I saw in the Team Store tent at Dodger Stadium this Rally Sunday. The one that I saw retailing for $35 (see the paragraph right after the opening bullet points).

So why is it listed here at mlb.com's shop--for only $25? What is going on here? What kind of McCourt Markup is this?

Five Answers for Kurkjian's Five Questions

Tim Kurkjian over at ESPN is breaking down the Dodgers-Cubs NLDS series, which means he's posing five questions about the series.

Rather than link to "Dodgers won't be a pushover for favored Cubs" outright, here are the cliff notes answers to go with their corresponding questions:

  • 1. More offensive power, clubhouse relaxed fun, and dreadlocks.
  • 2. I don't know, but there is an X-Factor.
  • 3. Really, really good.
  • 4. He makes up the lineup for one of the teams playing, and he also decides when to substitute players during the game.
  • 5. Yes.

Heyman Votes Manny Ramirez for NL MVP

I know this has been much discussed as of late, but I hadn't seen any sportswriter of note actually take the plunge on this. But here comes SI.com's Jon Heyman, voting for the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez for NL MVP:

In the National League MVP vote, which should be fascinating, the question the voters will have to ask themselves is whether two players who came to the party late can qualify for that coveted seasonal honor.

That is, was a half season of CC Sabathia's dominance and heroics enough to carry him to this year's award? And was less than half a season plenty for that savant turned savior, Manny Ramirez?

My answer is an enthusiastic yes to both questions. Both candidates are deserving. I don't care that they were late arrivers to the National League this season. Sabathia (11-2, 1.65 ERA in 17 starts for Milwaukee) and Ramirez (.396, 17 homers, 53 RBIs in 53 games with L.A.) easily made the biggest impacts.

Ramirez is the MVP and Sabathia the runner-up on my ballot. Although the reverse works for me, too.

Ryan Howard still looks like the probable winner to me, as he had a big finish and bigger numbers (48 homers, 146 RBIs), which will sway a majority of voters. But just like Ramirez and Sabathia, Howard did almost all his real work over the final few months of the season.

Howard's season stats are larger. But the performances of Ramirez and Sabathia are more remarkable.

But hey, Manny isn't the only Dodger mentioned by Heyman!

NL LVP: Andruw Jones, Dodgers. He hit .158. What can you say? The worst ever. And at $18 million, no less. The anti-Manny.

McCourt Jumps On Bailout Bandwagon

LOS ANGELES -- Salivating at the thought of handouts from the federal government, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has decided to take advantage of the current congressional impasse and submit a Los Angeles Dodgers bailout plan, requesting relief from the "toxic contracts" of Andruw Jones (2 years, $36M), Jason Schmidt (3 years, $47M), and Juan Pierre (5 years, $44M).

"The Los Angeles Dodgers have a mounting credit crisis due to $127M in sub-prime contracts," said McCourt. "I'm hoping to get a piece of that $700 billion before Hank Paulson gives it away on superfluous pursuits like maintaining stability in the global capital markets."

McCourt went on to argue that the contracts were on the verge of default given a range of different factors (low batting averages, meager on-base percentages, and microscopically small cumulative win totals), which in aggregate threatened to destabilize the entire LA Dodger payroll. With capital in short supply following a highly-leveraged purchase of other non-revenue generating assets, and maximum limits already reached on beer and parking prices (some of the highest in the league), McCourt sought governmental relief to compensate for the failures of his high-risk, high-leverage contracts.

The fact of the matter is, these contract instruments, including those known as Boras-backed (offensive-woe-in)securities, were just too complicated for the average MLB GM to process," explained McCourt. "The complexities of these derivative instruments were simply too great, and the risks too high. And when those adjustable (pant waist) rates exploded, we were just not in a place to cover the (team snack table) payments." When asked a follow-up question asking for clarification on whether McCourt was insinuating Dodger GM Ned Colletti was an "average GM," McCourt refused to answer the question.

Other MLB teams did not understand why the Dodgers should be awarded federal relief when their own risks were not eligible for bailouts. "As if I didn't want to revoke that Zito deal," muttered Giants owner Peter Magowan. "What the hell do you think?"

"I have never wanted to fleece (blanket) the American public," explained McCourt, "which is why we only award that stadium giveaway to the first 50,000 rather than to every fan. But come on, someone's gotta help me out with these three toxic contracts. Anyone? Anyone?"

NLDS Game 1 Dodgers' Lineup

Dodgers released their lineup for game 1.

Rafael Furcal, SS

Russell Martin, C

Manny Ramirez, LF

Andre Ethier, RF

James Loney, 1B

Matt Kemp, CF

Blake DeWitt, 2B

Casey Blake, 3B

Derek Lowe, P

Interesting to see Furcal back in the swing of things (no pun intended). I guess Torre is hoping Ethier will protect Manny this time around. And how about Blake (DeWitt) batting in front of (Casey) Blake - How psyched would you be as a rookie who is taking the place of an All-Star and Hall of Famer at second base and starting your first playoff game. Hope we are well rested. GO BLUE!

Playoff Roster in Easy-to-Read Format

Martin Loney DeWitt Furcal Blake Kemp Ethier Ramirez Ardoin Berroa Ozuna Pierre Garciaparra Kent Billingsley Lowe Kuroda Maddux Kershaw Park Troncoso Wade Beimel Broxton Saito

Oh-Yeah

(updated at 6pm PT: now with even more humor!)

Earlier: Uh-Oh

Off-Day Puzzle Grand Finale (#13): Solution

Well folks, thanks for sticking through the Grand Finale Puzzle. Based on both your comments and emails, I understand solving it was quite an exhausting endeavor, not only to decipher the Riddle, but perhaps even more so in executing what it instructed. I admit that to some degree this was intended, as I wanted to put together a puzzle that was both worthy of the grand finale and that, unlike the past few puzzles, would result in only a handful of correct solutions.

In anycase, on to the solution. In the hints I alluded to three stages of solving the Riddle. This is what I meant:

  • Stage I - Figuring out what the Infant Boys lost in the crowd of 3,000 are (Riddle lines 1-4)
  • Stage II - Finding the Infant Boys out of the crowd of 3,000 (lines 5-17), and
  • Stage III - Figuring out what to do with the Infant Boys once you found them (lines 18-20).

With that in mind, here is a line-by-line analysis and explanation of the Riddle:

Ten little infant boys scattered in a crowd; the faces of the chosen ten 3,000 others cloud.
    ->The crowd of 3,000 refers to the approximately 3,000 posts on SoSG since its inception (actual number is 2,931 at the time of this writing, including unpublished drafts). The infant boys are ten 'chosen' posts that must somehow be picked out of the 3,000.

Not from seven brides were the infant boys begotten; but rather from their seven grooms (two all but forgotten).
    ->The seven brides and their grooms represent, via the "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" reference, the seven brothers (i.e., Sons of Steve Garvey) who author this site and thus beget the posts ('infant boys').

All within the past two years the infant boys were born; but from minds and not from wombs the chosen ten were torn.
    ->SoSG (and its posts) is two years old. And the posts were created from the collective minds of SoSG's seven authors.

Your first task is to find each one but understand what’s sought (a literal interpretation serve you well will not).
    ->I didn't want anyone running around their neighborhood literally looking around for little infants.

Read the following ten lines from a famous book; and if they’re kept close to your heart you’ll know for what to look:
    ->To save you the trouble of scanning through all 3,000 posts to find the chosen ten, I included the excerpt from a favorite childhood book, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. By sheer luck, almost every line in the novel's central poem corresponded very well with one of SoSG's past posts (or more accurately, with a photo from one of SoSG's past posts). It was almost as if Agatha Christie had SoSG in mind when she wrote it (although I cannot yet prove this). In anycase, her poem thus serves as a roadmap to help you find the ten chosen posts, as follows:

“Ten little infant boys went out to dine, one choked his little self and then there were nine;
    ->Refers to this post.

Nine little infant boys sat up very late, one overslept himself and then there were eight.
    ->Refers to this post.

Eight little infant boys traveling in Heaven, one said he'd stay there and then there were seven;
    ->This is one of the few lines from Christie's poem I had to slightly alter. She wrote it as "Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon" largely because the novel took place in the UK. Thankfully, by substituting "Heaven" for "Devon" I was able to maintain the rhyme, allude to death, and match it up with this post.

Seven little infant boys chopping up sticks, one chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
    ->Refers to this post.

Six little infant boys playing with a hive, a bumblebee stung one and then there were five;
    ->I was almost at a loss for a matching post here (as a search for "bee", "bumblebee", and "hive" turned up nothing), until I faintly remembered this post involving the Blind Melon bee girl.

Five little infant boys going in for law, one was not allowed back out and then there were four.
    ->I also changed the original wording here. It was originally "Five little Indian boys going in for law, One got in Chancery, and then there were four," another UK reference. I re-worded it so it could allude to this post.

Four little infant boys going out to sea, a red herring swallowed one and then there were three;
    ->Refers to this post.

Three little infant boys walking in the zoo, a big bear hugged one and then there were two.
    ->Refers to this post.

Two little infant boys sitting in the sun, one got frizzled up and then there was one;
    ->Refers to this post.

One little infant boys left all alone, he went out and hung himself and then there were none.”
    ->Refers to this post. Yes, that is possibly the worst play-on-words involving William Hung ever.

Gemini, Pisces, Aries, and Virgo the first four; Leo and Aquarius, then Virgo comes once more.

Cancer and another Cancer bring us up to nine; the last one who hangs from a noose, Pisces was his sign.
    ->To further help you weed through all 3,000 posts, the astrological signs narrow down when each post was made. The first chosen post, for example, is a Gemini and was thus posted (or 'born') between May 21 and June 20. These astrological signs coupled with the Agatha Christie poem hopefully made the hunting process manageable.

But once you find the chosen ten you’re only halfway done; next you must extract the truth harbored by each one.
    ->There is more to each of the chosen 10 posts than meet the eye. Even after you identify and find each of them, you have to figure out what to do with them.

For while the boys’ cherubic faces cast a mirthful spell, peer behind each one’s fa├žade and secrets he will tell.
    ->If you click on the relevant image in each chosen post (again as clued by Agatha Christie's poem), the hidden binary clue will be revealed.

Ten secrets from ten infant boys your task it is to purge; and if you do as they instruct the answer will emerge!
    ->In the 10th clue, it will give you specific instructions as to what to do with the 9 previous clues. Follow the instructions (convert binary sequence to text, than create a tinyurl from the result) and the answer will emerge...Cory Wade!

Congratulations to Jose, Fanerman, Steve, and Mr. Customer for solving the puzzle (in that order). As always I'd be interested in hearing anybody's thoughts on the puzzle, whether or not you solved it. Thanks again for your participation, I will post the final Puzzle Season I Rankings soon (although I guess the season champ is a foregone conclusion). And Sax and I will soon be sharing our future puzzle plans with you!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Uh-Oh

Then again...

Recapping Rally Sunday at Dodger Stadium

Not sure who is recording those strikeouts. Maybe Steve Lyons, sequestered in center field for the event?

SoSG Alex Cora and I made it out to the Dodgers' Rally Sunday at the Stadium yesterday evening, and the event was kind of like a kids birthday party at Chuck E Cheese:

  • abundant availability of cheap food and drink;
  • an atmosphere that was a little bit more chaotic than it should have been;
  • a couple of nice moments when everyone chered in unison (except, instead of singing "Happy Birthday," everyone ended up saying "I Love The Dodgers!" at Tommy Lasorda's behest);
  • a goofy, out-of-place guy walking around in a ratty / furry costume;
  • and a couple of people (including myself) who walked away with a tchochke item or two, as if they had been playing skee-ball for two straight hours just to amass the tickets.

Not that I didn't have other options, but I just couldn't spend $35 on a gray NL West Division Champions t-shirt, even if the shirt logo and design looked a heck of a lot better than the oversized Coliseum pre-season game logo shirts that still aren't moving, even at 50% off. So cheap tchochkes it was, they would have to satisfy.

But let's get to elaboration on the five bullet points above.

Food and drink was offered at prices so low, you'd think Frank McCourt was CRAZY. Or, that he was trying to get rid of excess hot dog and nacho inventories from the 2008 season (at least, I hope it was the 2008 season). Nonetheless, we got our share of nitrates and cokes despite the fact that we were in the slowest queue at the counter (I took a picture of the woman serving our line, intending to post her visage on the site, but realized today that that wouldn't be very nice). Kudos to the stadium for not selling beer, which would have been a disaster because...(see next paragraph)

$2 Dodger Dogs, do mine eyes deceive me?

This Dodger Dog was not on sale, however; in fact, she wasn't allowed into the rally and had to wait outside the gates.

...the logistic planning was woefully poor for this event. The Dodgers had set up a stage in front of the first base side field level, apparently thinking that only four or five sections full of fans would come to an empty stadium to rally for the team. Well, they were off, by magnitudes of 4-5x. Not only were almost all of the sections of the field level filled on the first base side (I'm guessing, from about aisle 10 and up), but they also had to start shepherding incoming crowds to the loge level, which was also filling up. I don't even know if there were concession stands open up there (SoSG readers know I'm an elitist), but the crowds were clearly more than they had expected from a seating perspective. This was exacerbated when the Dodgers staff simply did not know what to do when their initial sections could not meet the overflow crowd. Ushers forced everyone into the main concourse, forbidding people from taking seats in other sections until they officially "opened up", which led to mass claustrophobia and a stampede of squished people. Fans at the rally with kids in tow had a particularly tough time standing there, with no movement, squished in place for 15 minutes. I kind of expected to see Drew McCourt leading crowd control from a booth in the press box, as it was a logistic disaster.

Field level seating; I know it looks orderly, but remember this was about a half-hour before the event even began! (See the stage in the distance?!)

A sea of humanity starts to crowd into the concourse (it got MUCH worse than this).

Hey look, there is still no line drawn on the ground! Fire code violation???!!!

Once the festivities started, though, it was nice to see people on Diamond Vision (since viewing the stage, from our section, was impossible). Tommy Lasorda of course led off the list of guest speakers, and he was in fine form. You think he sounds angry in the Aamco radio commercials? He sounded pissed off and furious here. Tommy is so pumped for this series, that he did all but guarantee the World Championship title (heck, I'd take a playoff series win, at this point). I expected the bombastic delivery and propaganda, but there were two weird parts, though. First, he called out the few strange fans who wore Angels stuff. Why you would wear Angels gear to a Dodgers rally is bizarre, true; but why waste the time firing up the people by screaming, "the only angels I know are up in heaven, and they're all ex-Dodgers?" I'm not sure where Mike Scioscia ends up, given that logic; perhaps he's a ghost. Secondly, as Tommy was being asked his opinions on each position, when he got to Andruw Jones there was an understandable chorus of boos from the crowd. Lasorda took it upon himself to admonish us for booing Jones ("He's trying his hardest, and as long as he wears a Dodger uniform, we need to pull for him"), which I guess proves the point that obesity loves company (and food).

Lasorda ended up giving way to Don Newcombe and other Dodger legends. I confess that I wasn't able to stay much later, so I missed the arrival of the team and the rest of the show.

But about that goofy mascot guy...Bernie, the Inland Empire 66ers (Dodgers' minor league affiliate) mascot, was roaming around Dodger Stadium, and if I ever needed a last shred of proof that the Dodgers do not need a mascot, here it was. Bernie was not only the mangiest mascot I've seen since Palos Verdes' Marineland closed in the 1980s, he scared the bejeezus out of many small kids with his over-aggressive antics and unprovoked yelping sounds, the latter of which sounded like a sealion about to attack. I saw one child shrinking in horror from Bernie, as the poor kid was too scared to take a picture with the furry weirdo armed with shrieking screams and herky-jerky seizure-like movement. And later on, I saw this clown pretending to eat the head of another kid (the line for Dodger Dogs got worse as the evening went on), and the kid came out dazed and shocked. I thought the first rule of mascot behavior was to not maul children? This guy needed to get the Dodger Stadium security staff treatment, as Bernie was a liability lawsuit waiting to happen. Go send him to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, and let him duke it out with Crater to the death. And who decided it was a good idea to bring Bernie, a bright red sorespot, to a Dodgers rally in the first place?

Stop this mascot before he kills again.

Our early departure allowed us to enjoy sundown at the Stadium, which was nice, and I was happy to support the Dodgers' rally and cheer a couple times for our team. I was sorry that I couldn't stay for the full event (I had other commitments), but it was nice to take part in the rally, I'm glad that the Dodgers did an event like this, and thankful that Merrill Bank Lynch of America sponsored it, even if the execution was a little flawed. We walked out with a Dodgers fleece blanket and a 50h anniversary pin. Leaving early also allowed me to witness this nutjob who parked smack dab in the middle of the aisle.

Maybe Bernie drives a PT Cruiser.

Congratulations Cubs, NL Central Champs and SI Cover Subject

Hey, is that the Chicago Cubs on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated? With Aramis Ramirez on the cover in a victory trot?

Wow, that's great! Congrats, Cubbies!

UPDATE: Oops, looks like 6-4-2 had this exact same idea, and beat me to press by two hours. I could sputter about how I thought of it last night but didn't want to boot the computer back up, or just do the honorable thing and admit defeat. Nice job, Rob.

Off-Day Puzzle Grand Finale (#13): The Riddle

You've dealt with The Prophecy; now try your hand with The Riddle. And just FYI, I had originally penned an elaborate backstory involving the Sphinx, but after reading it back to myself I decided it was too ridiculous even by my standards. So here, free of any contrived set-up (and as a tribute to a favorite book from my youth), is today's Grand Finale Puzzle:

(click image to enlarge)


Puzzle Note: The answer to the riddle is a Dodger. And as usual, if you think you might have the right answer but are not sure, then you almost certainly do not have the right answer (or at least not the right reasoning).

Puzzle Rules: Comment freely in the thread, but if you have the solution, please don't give it away to everyone in the comments section. Instead, do the following:

  • Email us with the name of the Dodger player who is the answer, along with your reasoning (answers arrived at via luck or the wrong reasoning, even if correct, count for participation credit only). And please include your screen name somewhere in the email; and
  • Post a comment simply saying you have emailed your solution attempt. I may not be able to reply to your original email promptly, so please do be patient and check back on the comment thread for the latest news; I will confirm correct answers there.

And remember, today's puzzle is worth 130 PCS Points vs the standard 100. Good luck!

______________________________________________________

Hint #1 (9:02am PT): This isn't a word puzzle in the sense that the Nostradamus Prophecy puzzle was a word puzzle. In fact it's pretty dissimilar to any previous puzzle. And every line of the riddle is fairly significant.

Hint #2 (10:21am PT): I sort of envision this puzzle being solved in three stages. If we were to number the lines of the Riddle from 1 to 20 (i.e., the book quote would comprise lines 6 through 15), roughly but not exactly speaking, lines 1-4 apply to Stage I, lines 5-16 5-17 to Stage II, and lines 17-20 18-20 to Stage III.

Hint #3 (11:27am PT): Once you get Stage I, the rest should flow more easily. The key is to figure out who/what "the infant boys" are and what "crowd" they are scattered in. Anyone who visits this site is certainly familiar with the "crowd" and likely has seen one or more of the "infant boys" before (cryptic enough for ya?) There should be enough clues in the riddle (particularly lines 1, 2, and 3) to figure this part out, and once you do it'll all make sense.

Hint #4 (11:50am PT): The infant boys are not people, although they may have people in them.

Hint #5 (12:54pm PT): Maybe you should focus first on figuring out what "the crowd of 3,000" is. So to paraphrase the first 3 lines of the Riddle: what consists of approx 3,000 things (although I doubt anyone's counting...) that are no more than 2 years old (if you do the math it works out to about 4 or 5 'newborns' per day) and were begotten from "the minds of 7 grooms of 7 brides", and that visitors to this site would be familiar with? And forget that the ultimate answer is a Dodger - although that is true, it won't help you solve the puzzle.

Hint #6 (2:08pm PT): For those who have figured out what the crowd represents and are looking for the 10 infant boys (i.e., you are in Stage II), there are two separate sets of clues to help you here. One set is related to the book excerpt (you don't have to know anything about the book itself) and the other set is from the zodiac signs. But don't neglect lines 18-19 or even if you find the infant boys it won't mean anything to you.

Hint #7 (3:38pm PT): For those looking for the infant boys: Agatha can help you with the keywords

Hint #8 (3:38pm PT): Peer = click

Answer: Click here

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kuo Out for the NLDS

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before...

Hong-Chih Kuo is definitely off the NLDS roster, following a difficult warm-up session in San Francisco this weekend which left Kuo feeling numb:

Kuo, the Dodgers' top middle reliever with 96 strikeouts in 80 innings, warmed up in the bullpen to pitch in relief Saturday night at San Francisco but said he couldn't feel his fingers and didn't enter the game. He then threw for about 15 minutes in the indoor cage and still was having problems with numbness -- and his skin became red.

The Dodgers didn't want to take any chances Kuo, who has a long history of injury problems, might have a blood clot. He will undergo more tests in the coming days, then head to instructional league in Arizona to determine whether he might be available if the NL West champions advance to the National League Championship Series.

After the game, athletic trainer Stan Conte took Kuo to the emergency room at a local hospital, where the pitcher underwent a doppler ultrasound to check how his blood was circulating. The test was negative, signaling that his blood was flowing normally.

"I couldn't feel the ball," Kuo said, noting he's not overly concerned and hopes to return soon. "I'll do my best. It's sad, but I've just got to get better. What can I do?"

Well, to answer your question Hong-Chih, I suppose all we can suggest is "Don't move, don't talk out of time; don't think, don't worry--everything's just fine. Just fine." Seriously, feel better soon and we hope to see you in the NLCS.

Notes on the Puzzle Grand Finale

Hello all. As the Grand Puzzle Finale lies in wait less than 17 hours away, I thought this was a good time to share a few notes regarding the past, present and future of the SoSG Puzzle Championship Series (not necessarily in that order):

Present

  • Much like the multi-colored moneyball in the NBA All-Star 3-point shooting contest, tomorrow's Grand Finale will be worth 130 points instead of the standard 100. So no heavy drinking tonight.
  • After point totals are tallied, the season champion and runner-up will be declared (along with the rest of the rankings). As described in more detail here, the season champ receives his or her choice of one of two prizes: a) the power to create a puzzle to be used in Puzzle Season II, or b) a Rafael Furcal Bobblehead similar to the one shown here. The runner-up will get the unchosen prize.

Future

  • Fear not - puzzle points earned in Season I will carry over to Season II.
  • Beyond that, the SoSG Board is currently holding a series of meetings to discuss the future of the puzzle series, including such issues as when next season will begin, any potential changes to puzzle style, point system, frequency, etc. Your feedback as always is welcome. We will share the outcome of those meetings with you all soon.

Past

  • I think I speak on behalf of both Sax when I say we both highly appreciate your participation and hope you have enjoyed tackling them as much as we have enjoyed creating and hosting them.

So anyways, be sure to carve out enough time and brain cells tomorrow to tackle the finale - this one will definitely take some out-of-the-box thinking. And perhaps more importantly, I hope you're back next season with your pencil, paper, scissors, boy band fact sheets, and blue rubber bands at the ready!

And the Dodgers' First-Round Opponent Is...

BREWERS 3, CUBS 1

MARLINS 4, METS 2

Game 1 starters: Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24) vs. Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96)

Game 162 Thread: Sept 28 @ Giants, 1p

Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.84) vs. Tim Lincecum (17-5, 2.66).

COMMENTS: This is it, folks. Game 162. The last regular-season game of the year. The Dodgers' last tune-up before they take a breather and head into the playoffs on Wednesday against an opponent yet to be determined.

Honorary manager Nomar Garciaparra and his bench coach Mark Sweeney have decided to give catcher A.J. Ellis the first start of his career, according to Diamond Leung. Note to Nomar: Pull Kuroda after three innings, please.

Giants phenom Lincecum—already the holder of the San Francisco-era single-season strikeout record and the majors' leader in strikeouts—tries to bolster his Cy Young case today. It doesn't matter that he plays for the Giants; this kid is a pleasure to watch. We're just glad his start against us today is meaningless.

UPDATE:

Tanyon Sturtze is today's pitching coach, according to Dodger Thoughts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ross Newhan Starts Beating the Manny Drum

"Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira are keepers" by Ross Newhan at the LA Times

UPDATE:

for: T.J. Simers

against: Bill Plaschke

Playoff Rotation Set

From Tony Jackson:

As we already knew, Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley will pitch the first two games. As we suspected, Hiroki Kuroda will pitch Game 3. Joe was non-committal on Game 4, but it sounds like Lowe will come back on three days' rest. There would be an off-day before Game 5, so that likely would be Billingsley on regular rest. If Lowe isn't the Game 4 starter, it likely would be Maddux, as Joe confirmed that Kershaw will come out of the bullpen for long relief.

It's Not All Beer & Skittles at Dodger Stadium

Things are swell for the Dodgers on the field, although the same might not be said for fans who accidentally end up there with them. Erin of Robots Took My Medicine recounts a security incident she witnessed at Dodger Stadium last Thursday, when a female fan fell onto the warning track going for a baseball—then decided to pursue the ball:

A security guard finally saw the woman when she started to run. [...]

I figured he would just grab her and stop her, but this guy, apparently deeming the woman a huge threat to national security, tackled her by the neck, pinning her against the wall. [...] My fiance kept watching and said that then, with his arms still around the woman's neck, the guard threw her to the ground. By the neck. I looked back and saw that, at this point, three of his coworkers had come over to help, and they decided that they needed three of them to hold this woman down and cuff her, then drag her off the field.

While acknowledging the Dodgers' zero-tolerance policy regarding fans on the field, Erin is sure of one thing: "This was violent. This was unnecessary. And it was just plain mean." And Erin is acting on her conviction, vowing to boycott Dodger games next year if the guard is still employed by the stadium.

We weren't there to witness the incident, but SoSG shares Erin's concern about the potential use of excessive force by Dodger Stadium security. Players must be protected, and fans on the field should be dealt with efficiently. But guards should be able to use discretion; was a verbal warning issued, for instance?

Erin has contacted several members of the Dodgers front office, including VP of Public Relations and Broadcasting Josh Rawitch. "I was planning on buying a season ticket package for next season," she writes. "That won't happen now, unless I hear something about this man being fired for his actions." We look forward to hearing from Erin what management has to say—and where she will be watching the Dodgers in 2009.

Game 161 Thread: Sept 27 @ Giants, 6p

Greg Maddux (7-13, 4.31) vs. Matt Cain (8-13, 3.80).

COMMENTS: Is anything more inspiring than potential? This post-clinch glow is akin to the beginning of the season, when every team is in first place. Right now, the Dodgers could win the World Series. And what Dodger fan isn't loving that?

Meanwhile, back in the rest of the National League, the Phillies, Mets and Brewers are squabbling over the two remaining playoff spots. Who will the Dodgers play? Keep watching the scoreboard!

Watching the Final Weekend of Baseball

Okay, I'm trying to wrap my head around all of these playoff possibilities, so I know for whom I want to root as a Dodger fan to allow for the most favorable matchup in the NLDS. If anyone else wants to weigh in on this, please comment, as this sort of thing usually makes my head hurt.

As of this second, Philadelphia has a two-game lead on New York for the NL East title, and Milwaukee has a one-game lead over New York in the Wild Card race. All three teams have two games to play. First pitch for the Mets is in 10 minutes, so I've gotta get cracking here.

My logic:

  • The Dodgers will definitely end up as the division winner with the worst record, making us third in the pecking order. Normally, this means we would play the second-best division winner, which would come from the NL East.
  • However, if Milwaukee wins the Wild Card, then the Cubs can't play Milwaukee (as they are in the same division), and would instead play the Dodgers for the NLDS. I don't want the Dodgers to play the Cubs in the NLDS. The Cubs frighten me, Sports Illustrated cover this week (and jinx?) notwithstanding. They're rested, they're good, they're streaking, and this could be their year. And it would be nice for the Dodgers to win a playoff round, for the first time since 1988.
  • Instead, I want the Dodgers to play a NL East team, which means we want the Mets to overtake the Brewers in the Wild Card race. And, I want the Phillies and Mets to have to play a tie-breaker game against each other, sending their #1 pitchers to the mound in a winner-take-all game rather than having that #1 pitcher go up against Derek Lowe in Game 1 of the Dodgers' NLDS. In fact, all the way around, I'm hoping for more ties than Brad Pitt at Father's Day, so that all opponents' pitching staffs are thrown off and/or depleted.

So I think what I'm rooting for is follows:

  • New York to win its next two games and Philly to lose its next two games, forcing a tie atop the NL East and a one-game playoff;
  • Milwaukee to lose one of its next two games, which could force a second winner-take-all playoff against the loser of the Philly/New York NL East playoff, or just forces a Milwaukee/New York playoff, but then has the Mets prevailing;
  • Both one-game playoffs to go to 45 innings each, using all pitchers possible. And maybe the ground opens up and swallows up a key player or two from each team.

I've gotta write this down for my own sake, but also to test the logic with all the SoSG readers. Is this the right gameplan, folks? I could use your help sorting this out...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mariners ConsideriNg

Kim Ng and Nomar Garciaparra.


Dodgers assistant GM Ng considered an option for 'gender blind' Mariners (AP/ESPN.com)

Game 160 Thread: Sept 26 @ Giants, 7p

Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.29) vs. Brad Hennessey (1-2, 8.65).

COMMENTS: A meaningless weekend series in San Francisco kinda takes the air out of the balloon for the Dodgers, but it should give Joe Torre a great chance to rest key players, well-deserved after a long 159-game grind, and also test out the potential of players like Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal, both recently reactivated from the disabled list, to see if they're fit for the Dodgers' NLDS roster. (Psst, Torre! If you leave .132 "hitter" Mark Sweeney off the roster, taking into account he has ONE hit in his last NINETEEN GAMES (he struck out last night), that would gain you another spot for either Kent or Furcal!)

But back to the other scrubs that Torre will surely be playing this weekend, despite the fact that we may incur the Braff of Giants manager Bruce Bochy for not suiting up Manny and Friends (after all, Giants fans aren't exactly flocking to see John Bowker play). It's not like Delwyn Young (30 H in 81 AB; Sweeney has 12 H in 97 AB) won't have his game Faison, as will Pablo Ozuna and Ramon Troncoso, as they also vie for a postseason spot. And Chin-Lung Hu has been hustling down the Chalke lately, with a double on September 24th and couple of hits (and an RBI) in last night's game. I don't want to unfairly Reyes expectations about how competitively the Dodgers might battle this weekend, but remember, our boys will be on a plane back home for a celebratory rally, McGinley whoopee back with the Dodger fans!

It's Time For McCourt To Draw The Line

We've now gone through an entire season of the much-ballyhooed field level stadium renovations, which basically resulted in two added private baseline clubs (compensating for the poor folks now sitting in foul territory with poor sightlines), revamped concession stands, new lighting and cleaner fonts throughout, and secret rooms with treasure troves of mens urinals. Being a field level season ticket holder, I have to admit the gutting of the field level over the 2007-2008 offseason was a great idea, and these are all nice improvements...

...except (and you know there was going to be an "except"!), the widened concourses are still just as crowded and unnavigatable as they were before. Simple physics should have one believe that this cannot be true; the concourses are wider, so the fan with a tray full of Dodger Dogs, beers, and nachos should have no trouble balancing this on the way back to his/her seat, right?

Wrong. It is still a mess, and even at games like Wednesday night's game, with only 45,000 people in attendance (far short of a sellout crowd), one felt like a salmon swimming upstream to get through the hordes of people. There are a number of reasons for the claustrophobia, namely:

  • The lines extending from any concession stand (on the perimeter) back toward the playing field still run perpendicular to traffic, cutting off any traffic flow (there is one Dodger Dog stand on the odd-numbered side that sometimes snakes a Disneyland-like line of people, allowing the people in the queue to more efficiently go to the first available register--but the snaking queue extends so deep into the concourse, it's still a major logjam);
  • The concession carts with mustard, ketchup, napkins, etc., are positioned poorly, as if to purposely impede traffic in the circumference of the concourse;
  • I swear to god, most men haven't figured out the locations of the secret urinal rooms, resulting in lines of surly, full-bladdered men which creep out into the concourse, just as they used to do pre-renovations;
  • And, most importantly, most fans are simply standing around, sipping their beers, right behind the last row of field level seats. And throngs of policemen, Dodger Stadium staff, and Dodger ushers don't do a damn thing about it.

Before they gutted the concourses, there used to be a line that extended about two feet back behind the last row of field level seats, with a notice "NO STANDING IN THIS AREA." This area, once painted red and marked off with a white line, prevented people from congregating behind the last row, and allowed the seatholders to actually make it down the aisle to their seats. What's more, the ushers used to enforce this rule strictly, making sure loitering people moved back behind the painted area; if you wanted to stand around in the concourse, you could, but you'd have a restricted view of the field.

Well, someone forgot to re-paint that line and "NO STANDING" area, which directly contributes to the foot traffic mess that is further exacerbated by an apparent cut in the number of ushers altogether (when you can find one, which is rare, they wouldn't be able to enforce this rule as there's nothing on the ground in the first place, and they'd probably be overrun by the hordes of congregators in the mob anyway).

As if the traffic outside the stadium isn't enough--there's a mess of traffic inside the stadium as well. At the some of most expensive seats, I might add.

I have to think that this painted area was there for a fire code reason or something, but to my surprise, we've lasted all year without this line and painted area being restored to the concrete. I'm going to shoot this post off to the LAFD as well, since no one else at the Fire Department seems to have caught this.

But hey, I'm not altogether salty all the time. I'm psyched we won the NL West and I'm riding the wave of euphoria. So let me say this, Frank McCourt: You've got one week to go before the first playoff game hits Dodger Stadium on Saturday, October 4. If you can sport me the paint and the brush, I will personally come out to Dodger Stadium this weekend and paint the line on the concourse. I'll even write "NO STANDING" a couple of extra times, too (and my penmanship is pretty good, I might add).

You buy the materials, Frank. I'll provide the labor. You avoid the fire code citations and fines from crowd control violations (that's right, Frank--you could lose money here if you don't take action).

And Dodger ticket holders on the field level get to access their seats--the ones with prices that you've jacked up over 100% since your highly-leveraged purchase of the team--quickly and efficiently, allowing them to fully enjoy the game and the whole Dodger Stadium experience.

Ball's in your court, Frankie! Time for you to draw the line.

Let's Aim A Little Bit Higher, Boys

From the game recap on Wednesday's penultimate Dodgers/Padres game, here's Nomar Garciaparra (my emphasis added):

"Everybody is contributing right now," Garciaparra said. "For us to be in the position we are in and doing what we are doing right now, with putting that many runs up, everybody is doing their job. That's what we have to do if we are going to reach our ultimate goal, which is getting to the playoffs."

Wait a second here, reaching the playoffs is our ultimate goal? What about winning a playoff round or two? Or reaching the World Series? Come on, Nomar! Aim high!

Luckily, only 24 hours later, in the recap of last night's pennant-clinching game and post-game revelry, one of the Dodgers' grizzled veterans reset goals appropriately:

The Dodgers waited nearly eight hours to express themselves after clinching their first NL West championship in four years. They made up for the delay with a wild celebration on the field and in the clubhouse.

"We're not done yet. We have an objective," champagne-soaked pitcher Chad Billingsley said. "It's just been a great year, with all we've gone through."

Thanks for restoring order, Chad! And for the kids at home, let's play "count the cliches with Frank McCourt" (from the same game recap):

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was in the middle of things in the clubhouse, being drenched by several players. "I'm happy because of all we went through this season," McCourt said. "It was a battle, with all the injuries. At the end of the day, this is all about the fans. They stuck with us through the entire year, and we were scuffling for a while. It was a fantastic finish."

I count five, maybe six.

It Ain't All Roses

SoSG: The Morning After...

STEVE SAX

OREL

ERIC KARROS

ALEX CORA AND LASORDA

PEDRO GUERRERO

DELINO

Dodgers' PR Department Hits Home Run: Sunday Postseason Rally Comes With Free Parking, Discounted Dogs

I never thought I'd see the words "free parking" in a twelve-mile radius of Frank McCourt's name, yet here it is, much to my shock, as the Dodgers host a postseason rally at the Stadium on Sunday (from the press release):

Fans are invited to a free “Postseason Rally presented by Bank of America” this Sunday evening, September 28, at Dodger Stadium from 6-8 p.m. The event includes Dodgers alumni, musical entertainment, special pricing for Dodger Dogs and other popular items, and the welcome back of the National League West champions after their afternoon game in San Francisco (provided the game and travel circumstances allow).

"This is an important first step towards our ultimate goal," said Dodger Owner and Chairman Frank McCourt. "The entire organization, from Ned Colletti and his staff, to Joe Torre and his coaches and all of the players and staff members throughout our front office and minor leagues deserve tremendous credit for their hard work and dedication over the last eight months. We expect that this culture of winning will continue and that today is just the first of many exciting days in the month to come."

“We cannot possibly thank the fans enough for their constant support,” said Dodger President Jamie McCourt. “They have come out to Dodger Stadium all season long, through thick and thin, and they continue to embrace the team in ways that surely contributed to the team’s terrific home record.”

Sunday’s rally includes free parking, free admission, and special pricing of $2 for Dodger Dogs, soft drinks, peanuts, and nachos.

Bank of America, the official bank of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will determine the “Fan of the Rally,” who will win four tickets to one game of the 2008 National League Division Series.

The Sunset gate and turnstiles at Dodger Stadium will open at 5 p.m., and merchandise commemorating the title and the anniversary will be on sale.

FSN Prime Ticket and Dodgers flagship KABC 790 Radio will present the event live.

I'm going to try my hardest to be there. I've gotta see this free parking thing for myself.

All kidding aside, great idea, Dodgers PR department!

Rookie Hazing Nationally Documented

A.J. Ellis.


Hiroki Kuroda and interpreter Kenji Nimura.


Blake DeWitt and Kuroda.

photos by Mark J. Terrill/AP

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When Playoff Celebrations and Rookie Hazing Collide

...the whole world gets to see.

Mark Sweeney, Clayton Kershaw as Little Bo Peep and Patrick O'Neal.


Kershaw, some unidentified clown, O'Neal.


Hiroki Kuroda and interpreter Kenji Nimura in the always-popular pimp get-ups.


O'Neal interviews Cory Wade as a belly dancer.


Hiroki and Kenji mad pimpin'.


Blake DeWitt is Marilyn Monroe.


Thank goodness the Dodgers clinched the division before rookie hazing.


Kudos to all the rookies for having a good attitude *cough*JeffKent.


Enjoy San Francisco!