Monday, May 31, 2010

Post-Game 51 Thread: Balk-off

DODGERS 5, DIAMONDBACKS 4

"The D-backs, like a last place team, always find a way to lose."

—Vin Scully

All you need to know is this: Bills was awful, then he was great. The Dodgers were down 4-2 going into the eighth, but tied it up on two unearned runs courtesy of D'backs second baseman Kelly Johnson. The Dodgers had first and second with nobody out in the ninth, but Loney tried to pull a Johnny Damon by stealing an unattended third base. Didn't work. Martin advanced Casey Blake to third and...remember when Blake called out Ted Lilly for balking? This time he baited D'backs reliver Esmerling Vasquez into balking in the game-winning run. Walk-off balk. All hail the Beard!

Game 51 Thread: May 31 vs. D'backs, 6p

Chad Billingsley (6-2, 3.63) vs. Rodrigo Lopez (2-3, 4.57).

COMMENTS: Does anyone actually read these things? Let's find out. The Dodgers return from their six-parsec intergalactic Kessel Run, having dropped two of three to the Jupiter Cubs but taking two of three from the Venusian Rockies. Although pitcher Vicente Padilla was alleged to have had a run-in with Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon Six, no files were charged. Meanwhile, Chad Billingsley prepared for today's start by pitching a simulated game of Blernsball, striking out Turanga Leela a record 16 times. And Manny Ramirez fulfilled a lifelong dream by auditioning for and getting a role in the next Predator movie. Multipass!

UPDATE: Today's hats, via @DodgertownUSA:

Strange Goings-On at Coors Field

Petting the dog.


Walking the dog.

photos by Jon SooHoo/Dodgers

Memorial Day Notes

Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away....

photo by Jon SooHoo/Dodgers

Memorial Day

California’s War Dead: Military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2001-Present (LA Times)

Thank you. That is all.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Post-Game 50 Thread: Grinding It Out

DODGERS 4, ROCKIES 3

It wasn't sexy, but the Dodgers ground out a tough win at Coors Field to take the series against the Rockies and stay in second place. Kershaw fanned nine, but threw 97 pitches over only five innings — which was good enough for the W. The Dodgers chipped away at the plate, scoring on an RBI-double and an RBI-sac fly by Loney, an RBI-single by Paul, and an RBI-groundout by DeWitt.

Loney, Paul and Kemp each contributed fine defensive plays, with Kemp's diving catch ending a bases-loaded threat in the fifth. The bullpen's usual suspects of Troncoso, Kuo, Belisario and Broxton once again held it and closed it out, with Broxton withstanding some poor defense to get the save.

The Dodgers return to home sweet home field tomorrow, with a special Memorial Day start at 6 p.m. against the Diamondbacks. Welcome home, boys!

UPDATE: Add Reed Johnson to the defensive heroes. Manny who? Dodgers' bench shines (Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com)

Game 50 Thread: May 30 @ Rox, 12n

Clayton Kershaw (4-3, 2.90) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (3-2, 3.09).

COMMENTS: Last time Chacin faced the Dodgers, we made fun of his name. He responded with 7 1/3 shutout innings. Touché. At least the Dodgers go into today's rubber match with growing confidence in the young Kershaw, who will have his string of four consecutive quality starts tested in the thin air of Coors Field. Speaking of which, how cool would it be if Kershaw were wiping his brow in the dry Denver heat and a silver train came slamming in from the bullpen? Clayton all over the mound, throw strikes, start a win streak, win streak. Sing it!

Brian Akin, Five-Tool IT Consulting Analyst

Brian Akin, author of Dear Tommy John Letters, has been chronicling his path in the minor leagues on his blog. Akin is blessed with being a solid writer, and his blog has been an enjoyable read. Friday, though, Akin announced that he is writing his final post for DTJL, as he will be ending his pursuit of a major league career, having taken a job as an analyst for a IT consulting firm.

My first thought was to write a quick piece about how Akin brings a solid set of tools to IT consulting; he's got great velocity on his powerpoint skills but his excel macros still need work, et cetera.

But it's a pretty serious and important change for one to shift career and life tracks like this, so I don't want to trivialize Akin's decision (even though the concept is admittedly kinda funny). And I was really struck by what he wrote in his last paragraphs:

Any disappointment I'm feeling is not because I no longer get to play baseball, it's because I didn't achieve my goal of pitching in the Major Leagues. And since I have no regrets about the way I chased that goal, this disappointment has been a surprisingly easy pill to swallow.

There is one thing though.

As a minor leaguer, you often daydream about getting called into your manager's office and finally getting that amazing news. When I had this daydream, I never envisioned myself trotting out to the mound at Dodger Stadium, or signing autographs for adoring fans. I didn't think about the paychecks or the chance at fame. I always thought about making the phone calls to my friends and family. I dreamed of calling my parents, who have been so amazing and supportive my entire life, and sharing the good news. I thought about calling my brother, Justin, who has always been willing to do anything for me. And I thought about calling my wife. She has sacrificed so much, and has never made me feel even a sliver of guilt for pursuing my dream at the price of a 'normal' relationship. I love all of you... thank you.

Brian, I never had a chance to become a major league player; heck, I never even had a chance to become a little league player, thanks to a stunted childhood. So I never got that opportunity to make those calls home like the ones you had hoped to make. And I think I can imagine how gratifying those calls would have been for you and your wife and family and all of the people who supported you along your journey.

But the cool thing is, they're supporting you not because you're chasing a dream in baseball; they're supporting you because of you. Because you're passionate and dedicated and they know how hard you've worked. And they're going to continue to support you as you pursue this job in IT consulting and other jobs after this.

I've never gotten to make those calls like you've mentioned. But I have gotten to make the calls home to my parents and my wife in those times when I've gotten promoted. Or gotten into graduate school. Or had a good presentation. Or even got a nice pat on the back from someone I admire at work. And it probably can't compare with striking out the side, or hitting a game-winning home run--but their support of me was there all the same, and it was gratifying to share my little joys with them, to know that they are proud of me and they support me.

I have a feeling that you'll have many calls home to your loved ones in your lifetime, and I wish you the best in your new career, and your pursuit of your new goals and achievements (both of which I'm confident will come). Best of luck on this new journey.

And go knock one out of the park.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Padilla Accused of Domestic Violence, But Not Charged

I wake up from my Saturday Memorial Day Weekend nap, and I find this: "No evidence Dodgers pitcher was involved in assault". Oh, great. So Vicente Padilla technically wasn't involved with a police proceeding, but it doesn't sound like he was at Bible study last night in Denver, either:

DENVER - Police say they are not charging a pitcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers after allegations of domestic violence were made at him early Saturday morning.

Attorney David Lane told 9NEWS pitcher Vicente Padilla was accused of attending a club with a woman and then slapping her when they went back to his downtown Denver hotel.

Denver Police say the incident happened just before 4 a.m. at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Denver.

Denver Police say the investigated the allegations and did not find enough evidence to recommend that charges be filed against Padilla and say he will not be arrested.

Flashbacks of Joe Beimel's late-night carousing flashed through my head. And then there was that whole gunshot wound incident for Padilla this off-season.

But Padilla wasn't charged in Denver, right? So hopefully it was like he wasn't even there. Or at least, the Padilla that wasn't there won't be out a 4 a.m. again, not slapping women.

Thanks to Mr. LA SF for the headsup earlier today.

Game 49 Thread: May 29 @ Rox, 5p

Hiroki Kuroda (5-2, 3.03) vs. Aaron Cook (1-3, 5.40).

COMMENTS: Once again, the sweet fruit of first place tantalizes us, but the reward will be hard fought. Kuroda is the Dodgers' most consistent starter, but Coors Field promises to be a Cold-Activated Battle. "In his only previous Coors Field start, he was pushed around for five runs in six innings. In four career starts against the Rockies, Kuroda is 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA," Dodgers.com tells us.

Meanwhile, only a Dodgers win combined with a Padres loss to the Nationals will make this a first-place Saturday night, but the Nationals are basically flipping a coin to decide which of two Triple-A pitchers will start for them. Why couldn't they start Stephen Strasburg a little earlier?

Also: Lakers @ Suns, 5:30p PT on TNT. Go Purple & Gold!

Danica Patrick vs Milka Duno

Danica Patrick
Milka Duno

In preparation for tomorrow's Indy 500, it's time to settle once and for all: who's better, Danica Patrick or Milka Duno?

Let's break it down:

Category
Edge goes to:
Current IRL Rank:
Danica Patrick
(16th vs 23rd)
Avg IRL Rank (career):
Danica Patrick
(8th vs 23rd)
Current IRL Points:
Danica Patrick
(86 vs 56)
Avg IRL Points (career):
Danica Patrick
(364.6 vs 101.4)
Career IRL Earnings:
Danica Patrick
($5.8m vs $1.9m)
Career Top-10 Finishes:
Danica Patrick
(45 vs 0)
Avg Indy 500 Finish:
Danica Patrick
(9th vs 23rd)
Who's Hotter:
Milka Duno
   
Winner:
Milka Duno

Saturday Note Fever

June 4
July 20

UPDATE: From @Buster_ESPN: "It's confirmed: Buster Posey has been called up by the Giants."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Post-Game 48 Thread: Manny Picks A Winner

DODGERS 5, ROCKIES 4

Manny Ramirez hit a go-ahead two-run HR in the sixth inning, completing a five-run comeback after the Rockies thrust out to a 4-0 lead off of Carlos Monasterios through four innings. It was a good time for the Dodgers' offense to wake up, and Manny's capper--no matter how unfazed he might appear in the screenshot above--was huge; it puts him ahead of Mike Schmidt on the all-time HR chart with 549 HRs, good enough for sole possession of 14th place, and it gave Ramirez his first career home run in Coors Field. Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Ronald Belisario each got holds, while Jonathan Broxton worked a 2-K save in the ninth, to secure the victory.

With the news that Andre Ethier went 1-for-2 with a single in his minor-league rehab start in Memphis, things might be looking positively for the Dodgers this holiday weekend. If nothing else, the team's mettle to not be discouraged after being down by four, and holding on to a one-run lead at Coors Field, is worth memorializing.

Game 48 Thread: May 28 @ Rox, 6p

Carlos Monasterios (1-0, 1.90) vs. Jeff Francis (1-0, 0.68).

COMMENTS: That, my friends, is a short leash. Which Monasterios is likely to be on due to his relative inactivity of late. Which means the bullpen better be ready, which is a concern because you don't want to burn your bullpen in the first game of a series at Coors Field.

Worse, the Rockies are hot hot hot right now, winners of five straight. The Dodgers aren't exactly slacking themselves, having won 17 games in May. Losing two of three to the Cubs kinda stung, but at leash we miss ÜberUbaldo this series. Woof!

Frinotes

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ted Lilly Cheats; Casey Blake Notices; Rob Neyer Investigates; John Hirschbeck Yawns

The Beard's eagle eyes caught the Cubs' Ted Lilly balking all over the place today, but nothing was done. And it was up to Rob "MacGyver" Neyer to piece this mystery together, using only tweets, the LA television broadcast, a rubber band, chewing gum, and a couple of highway emergency flares:

First, this from GreenLantern411: "pretty sure CJ is talking about lilly's left foot being nowhere near the rubber ... was pretty blatant"

And a few moments later, this from (Rangers fan) jcooksey04: "Lilly's foot was about 6 inches from the rubber in his last start vs the Rangers. Umps never saw it."

Thus armed, I went back and watched the bottom of the sixth inning again, but this time the Dodger broadcast with Steve Lyons and Eric Collins.

The fun begins with two outs and Blake on first base. Reed Johnson fouls off one pitch, then another. Blake, leading off, is one of the two people in Chicago with the best look at whatever Lilly's doing (first baseman Derrek Lee is the other). Before throwing his third pitch, Lilly steps off the mound. We don't know why. A moment later, he steps off again and finally we see Blake standing on first base, complaining to John Hirschbeck about something.

Lyons says, "I think Casey Blake maybe thought he saw a balk, and he's over there chipping at the first-base umpire about, why aren't we calling it?"

Nice sleuthing, Rob! And hat tip to Jon Weisman for the link.

Hooters Sponsors Upcoming Bleacher Beach; Can Spearmint Rhino Be Far Behind?

The latest "Boys In Blue" eNewsletter had this interesting piece of information:

Perhaps our prediction of almost 18 months ago might finally materialize! One can only dream.

Post-Game 47 Thread: How To Waste an Ely

CUBS 1, DODGERS nil

John Ely notched seven scoreless innings, but the Dodgers strung him along until the eighth inning before Xavier Paul (0-for-4 from the plate) finally told Ely that we weren't going to give him any runs this game. What's more, Paul added, I will fumble around like a blind man in right field to allow two triples in the eighth (one time of which saddled Paul with an error), so the Cubs will get the one measly run it will take to win. Then Paul added a Nelson Muntz "Ha, ha!" and gave Ely a wedgie.

Somehow, Ely did not lose composure when confronted with this news, but anyone could connect the dots between Blake DeWitt's 0-for-3-with-3Ks performance, James Loney's 0-for-4 outing, and Joe Torre's fruitless use of three pinch hitters in the ninth, all of whom generated outs (thanks Rafael Furcal, Manny Ramirez, and Garret "GAARP" Anderson). Cubs take two of three in the series, and the Dodgers slip to 2.5 GB pending the Cardinals @ Padres game (first pitch, 3.30p).

UPDATE: The Padres actually lost a game to the Cards, so we remain two games back. The Rox, winners of five in a row, are lurking in third place now...

Ethier Targeting Monday's Homestand for Return

Tony Jackson just wrote that Dodger right fielder Andre Ethier, splinted on his right little finger and on the DL since May 15 due to the fracture, may be back Monday after a two-game rehab stint:

Ethier, who has a broken bone in the first knuckle of his right little finger, will first do a two-game rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday at Memphis.

The key word, of course, being "tentatively."

"It's open," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "If he feels he needs more, we just want to make sure we get him back and he has no hesitation. It's a matter of what he can deal with and what he feels he can do. Whether he goes 0 for 10 or 5 for 10 [in the rehab], it's just a matter of what he feels he can deal with."

Ethier is wearing a tiny splint on the finger, recommended to the Dodgers' medical staff by Los Angeles Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

The splint immobilizes the affected knuckle but allows full range of motion in the rest of the finger. Ethier took batting practice on the field with the rest of the team Tuesday and Wednesday -- the Dodgers didn't take BP before Thursday's afternoon game -- and appeared to be taking his normal swing.

"He has no issues taking BP outside," Torre said. "As far as what I saw with his swing, he was very free."

Free? Free! Free Andre Ethier!

Ramirez Reciprocally Unhappy With Dilbeck's Blogging Effort

Oh no you didn't. It looks like this Steve Dilbeck/Manny Ramirez furor isn't going to die down any time soon.

Never mind the fact that Dilbeck, the resident LA Times Dodgers blogger, leads all print media Dodgers bloggers with five posts in the last 24 hours (raising his On-Blog Percentage by sixty-eight points); now Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez is not happy with Dilbeck's lackadaisical blogging Wednesday evening:

Dilbeck posts to his Dodgers blog like he's a beat reporter left in the dark. Early in the game, his blog ran two posts of four paragraphs or fewer about the same tired topic, the electrical power outage at Wrigley Field. And if you look closely, both blogposts were actually written by Bill Shaikin, not Dilbeck himself.

And early this morning, Dilbeck himself takes the time to write a 15-paragraph post--but seven of those paragraphs are one-sentence "paragraphs".

The other eight grafs are a herculean effort more, being two sentences in length. Dilbeck just sort of leans back in his chair, cracks his knuckles, types a couple of words, then hits the period key and the carriage return.

Any kind of effort, and it's a real article, a thoughtful piece that provides meaningful insight into the back-office workings of our team. Instead, we've got Dilbeck letting Dodger GM Ned Colletti off the hook of any sort of responsibility, by giving Colletti effort points for "making inquiries" about Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, without investigating to determine how far or serious or realistic those inquiries could have been (or even if the phone call was effectively connected in the first place).

All this blogging ugliness has forced non-media-funded bloggers everywhere to sharpen their criticism of Colletti and his likely-hamstrung lack of quality roster additions this year. MSTI has felt forced to bring up Oswalt in obligatory posts, almost to remind Colletti that other starting pitchers who might be available even exist, always a tad dangerous since some people can't discern sarcasm from deadpan facts, and Buster Olney had to post just to make sure the Rangers weren't a viable Oswalt destination.

Sure, Dilbeck's blogging has devolved into Plaschke-like paragraph sizes. We still got the topics of Oswalt and Lee back in the forefront again, where they belong as the team looks to contend for a division title. And as for Dilbeck's not writing two of his last five posts himself--is that any different from us linking over to others' information and putting their words in italicized blockquotes? Sure, Dilbeck's blog is no SoSG and he's not going to post any off-day puzzles, but his Dodgers news snippets come with the territory; that's how it goes.

Yes, we can't use Dilbeck's blog in isolation on any night. But that's all right. There are other sites to satiate Dodger fans who want to read, process, and interpret facts, opinions, observations, and sarcastic humor. Click on a couple of extra blog links. Or better yet, bookmark them.

Maybe Ramirez needs to go back to doing VIP Tickets radio commercials, and stop reading and overanalyzing every blogpost about his play.

Earlier: Dilbeck Unhappy With Ramirez's Defensive Effort

Game 47 Thread: May 27 @ Cubs, 11:20a

John Ely (3-1, 3.41) vs. Ted Lilly (1-4, 4.30).

COMMENTS: The Doc Savage-esque Ely brings his nifty 7.00 K/BB rate to Wrigley today, and if form holds, he will be good for at least six innings. That's not all: It's a homecoming for Ely, but fear not — he grew up a White Sox fan. "I had no other choice," he said. "My dad would have disowned me if I was a Cubs fan." Hopefully this fistful of incentives will be enough to keep the Elymaniacs satisfied. Let the Man of Bronze do right to all Dodgers and harm only Cubs!

UPDATE 9:10a (SoSG Sax): It's much too early in the morning for any sort of coherent wit, but given DB made the Ely-Lilly comment last night and J Steve reminded us this morning, here's your morning dose of pharmaceutical references. Take two of these, and call me in the morning. Or in a couple of hours, when first pitch happens.

Dilbeck Unhappy With Ramirez's Defensive Effort

Manny appears to chase a Mike Fontenot double in the second inning, but Steve Dilbeck thinks Ramirez isn't hustling enough.

Never mind the fact that Ramirez is second on the team in OPS (only to Andre Ethier, on the DL), batting average, and OBP: the LA Times' Dodgers blogger Steve Dilbeck is not happy with Ramirez' lackadaisical play in left field Wednesday night:

Manny played left field like he was auditioning for designated hitter. Like he’s already decided he is one. Unless that toe he injured trying his ballerina move in the training room is hurting him worse than is being let on.

In the second inning, a little looper hit by pitcher Tom Gorzelanny fell for an RBI single when Manny went after it by way of Denver. He started back, slowly went forward, circled Lake Michigan, and then kind of stuck out a belated glove.

Which was a herculean effort compared to the eighth, when pinch-hitter Jeff Baker sent a fly to the wall. Manny looked at it like it was going to land 16 rows into the bleachers. He just sort of strolled back, almost admiring the drive -- until it bounced about 6 feet off the wall.

Any kind of effort, and it’s an out. Instead, it went for a two-run triple. He also bobbled another ball for an error.

All this ugliness forced manager Joe Torre to use his ace relievers more than he would have preferred. Hong-Chih Kuo had to go 1 1/3 innings, always a tad dangerous with his fragile elbow, and Jonathan Broxton had to throw a five-out save.

Sure, Manny went 0-for-5 yesterday, and maybe he caused two runs in the eighth by misjudging a ball. We still won by three. And as for his circuitous route in the second inning on a fly ball--is that any different from Gold Glove winner Matt Kemp's bizarre routes at times in center field? Sure, Ramirez is no Kemp and he's not going to win any Gold Gloves, but Ramirez's defense comes with the territory; that's how it goes.

Yes, our bullpen got used a bit more and differently Wednesday night, as Tony Jackson indicated in his column. But that's all right. Take a breathing exercise. We were okay, at least Wednesday night.

Maybe Dilbeck is hanging near Bill Plaschke's desk a bit too much.

photo: AP / Nam Y Huh

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Post-Game 46 Thread: Dark Wrigley

DODGERS 8, CUBS 5

The lights went out in the fourth inning at Wrigley Field Wednesday night, but the Dodgers had brought the curtain down much earlier that evening, scoring five runs in the first two innings to give Chad Billingsley (5.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks) some breathing room in which to operate. Casey Blake went 2-for-5 with 2 RBI and a solo HR, and James Loney was a HR short of the cycle, having gone 3-for-5 with an RBI. Jonathan Broxton earned a five-out save, entering with one out and a runner on first and getting Ryan Theriot to hit into an inning-ending double play, and then had a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the win.

Padres and Giants are each still in play in their respective games this evening, but second place was secure for us irrespective. Let's see if we can pick a game up pending these outcomes.

photo: AP/ Nam Y Huh

Game 46 Thread: May 26 @ Cubs, 5p

Chad Billingsley (5-2, 3.66) vs Tom Gorzelanny (2-4, 3.09).

COMMENTS: Fine. I hereby banish the 1980s music references, as the last two GameThreads both resulted in defeats for our Dodgers. Or was that our Dodgers playing at all yesterday? I thought Rafael Furcal was making his return appearance to the starting lineup, but with an 0-for-4, 2K performance in the leadoff spot, coupled with a two defensive errors (fielding AND throwing), I'm sensing the balls yesterday must have been "wriggly" indeed.

So today we go at it again, the Dodgers starting the eleven-letter Billingsley (coming off a big win vs. Dontrelle Willis; however, winless (0-2) lifetime at Wrigley Field), vs. the Cubs' ten-letter Gorzelanny, who was hit on the left hand in his last start vs. the Phillies (he still got the win, with 6.2 IP of shutout ball). Accuscore in today's WSJ says we're going to lose today, 4.7 runs to 4.2 runs, but given yesterday's blanking, I'd almost take it just to see a number other than "0" in our box score line. And how about we make fewer than three errors this time? And try and overcome the Collins Curse?

Wednesday Afternoon Notagé

If Jackie Chan isn't throwing out pitches for the Dodgers, he's throwing out pitches for the team playing the Dodgers.

photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Dad Needs a Logo

Via Baseball Musings (via VSIMH) comes the exciting news that Steve Garvey's official website is soliciting entries for a new logo. Above is a sample logo from the information page; note that the design brief is requesting a blue and white color scheme. Not mustard and brown.

Additionally, the intended logo scheme is supposed to be "simple, fun and masculine." Like a Pet Rock.

And before you go running to boot up Photoshop, please note that for all intents and purposes (a phrase a college friend of mine always thought was "for all intensive purposes"), the contest is over. My design:

New PCS Rankings

Curious Gene got this far

Here are the updated rankings:

(500 possible points)

Current
Rank
Previous
Rank
Player
PCS Tour
Points
1
2
UBragg
413
2
1
Mr C
396
3
3
Jason
370
4
6
QuadSevens
296
T-5
4
J Steve
292
T-5
7
Drewdez
292
7
8
Keven C
291
8
5
Mr F
257
9
9
Nicholas
224
T-10
T-10
Matt
220
T-10
T-10
LLCoolL
220

Others receiving votes: dusty baker 210, dunkhawk 189, steve dittmore 184, greg finley 173, josh s 173, mlasf 170, golem 163, curious gene 160, dusto magnifico 130, loney fan 123, lauro 123, berkowit28 110, wicks 104, jose 100, the trite fantastic 100, bryan 100, rbnlaw 70, midnight drive 60, neeebs 55, danielle 50, erin 30, karina 20.

Anyways, gotta go check my email - UBragg just sent in his answer for next week's puzzle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game 45 Thread: May 25 @ Cubs, 5p

Furcal's back! (Get it?) Batting leadoff tonight!

Clayton Kershaw (4-2, 3.23) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-4, 3.73).

COMMENTS: I could have been at this game.

It pains me to write those words, especially since I've been to Wrigley Field before (and loved it), and the good friend who offered me to join him in the first row behind the Dodgers dugout would have made a hell of a roadtrip buddy (there will be other opportunities, I'm sure). But life gets in the way--I have a meeting Wednesday morning; I travel enough that I don't want to be away another night; it just didn't make practical sense.

So I passed on this opportunity.

Instead, I'm spending this Wednesday like (most of) the rest of you: firing up your radios to listen to the game on the drive home, trying not to hear the 16-ounce cans of Old Style cracking open and pouring beautiful nectar to happy fans in the crowd, or the Cubs' Dixieland band playing songs in between innings, or Eric "The Curse" Collins' voice from the television broadcast. I want to hear Kershaw, who has two runs in 22 1/3 innings over his last three starts, keep up his great work and roll past Dempster, who has lost his last four decisions but is 6-3 with a 2.52 ERA against the Dodgers (almost two full runs lower than his career ERA of 4.42).

Maybe I'll just sit at home and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the #1 Billboard chart position of Wham's classic hit, "Everything She Wants". But hey, I don't want to celebrate alone, so now you can enjoy it too (make sure to check out how desperate and frustrated George Michael gets during the bridge, at around 4:50. GEORGE MICHAEL ANGRY! GEORGE MICHAEL SMASH!).

P.S.: Suns / Lakers, 6p tip-off.

Yeah, I know it's the 33rd anniversary of the debut of Star Wars. It's not like we didn't plug the hell out of Empire Strikes Back night. Oh, and that photo is via Harry How / Getty Images North America.

Random Bits As We Wait For The Game

Yes, there's a John Ely reference in this post. Elymania!

Man, these Monday off-days are brutal. Coming out of a weekend, and having to go 48 hours without the Dodgers is a major case of withdrawal. Which makes me an addict, I suppose. But that's another story.

Here's some random points, some even from the weekend, to help give us a temporary fix:

  • The Grand Rapids press had a nice quickie mentioning Vin Scully, Jim Leyland, and Ernie Harwell:

    The Dodgers have framed photos of all their announcers on the wall along the walkway to the broadcast booths, and there is a great black and white shot of Harwell and former partner Connie Desmond in the booth at Ebbets Field.

    The Dodgers played a recently-recorded, five-minute segment of Harwell and Scully, 82, discussing one another on the scoreboard during batting practice as a tribute to Harwell. Scully said a sign held up by a Tigers fan last year when Harwell addressed the Comerica Park fans one last time was perfect in describing his dear friend.

    “The sign said, ‘How a man should be,’ “ Scully said. “I thought that summed it up perfectly for Ernie Harwell.”

  • Buster Olney over at ESPN.com thinks the Dodgers should join the Roy Oswalt fray, but thinks resident LAT hack Bill Plaschke needs to start trumpeting the point, in order for it to happen:

    The Dodgers have gotten strong starting pitching in recent weeks. John Ely has issued one walk in his last four starts and has been a revelation -- more on him tomorrow -- and Chad Billingsley's command has improved. But on paper, L.A. could certainly use a frontline starter like Roy Oswalt, who could take pressure off Clayton Kershaw and Billingsley and stabilize the rotation.

    The Dodgers' payroll has been on lockdown, however, diminished by about 40 percent in recent seasons, and with the McCourts' divorce proceedings in the slash and hack phase, ownership might not approve a significant midseason expenditure, such as Oswalt.

    The truth is that maybe the best chance for the Dodgers to get some money freed up by midseason would come if the leading columnists in L.A. were to generate a daily drumbeat of sentiment for the team to spend some money. In other words: T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke, the eyes of Dodger Nation might be turning to you in the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes.

    Like anyone reads Plaschke anyway (a point that I just realized, after writing my snarky comment, that MSTI echoes).

  • Baxter Holmes of the LAT chronicles the Dodgers' improvement in starting pitching, starting with Clayton Kershaw's outdueling of Ubaldo Jimenez, and hinged together with the surprising maturation of John Ely:

    Everyone is crediting the pitching, and everyone is right.

    In those 14 games, through Sunday, the Dodgers' pitching staff posted an earned-run average of 2.79, best in the majors, and limited opponents to a .217 batting average, tops in the National League.

    What happened? Plenty. It had a lot to do with the May 9 pitching showdown between Clayton Kershaw and baseball's best, the Colorado Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, but it also had to do with a fair-haired rookie from Illinois who had never pitched in the majors.

    Manager Joe Torre recalled feeling momentum sliding his way on the day of Kershaw's gem, thinking, "We've got something going here," he said.

    He was right.

Okay, that should be enough to last you a couple more hours, right?

photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A Week Into Smonk

After a week, SoSG Smonkstakes seems to have become a two-man battle of wills: Mr F vs MLASF. There are only 180 episodes of Seinfeld and around 13 hours of Star Wars footage, so this'll have to end sometime.

Here's a graph of the comment distribution (747 comments total in Week 1):

And remember - your level of past participation has no bearing on future likelihood to win. So break the duopoly and jump into the Smonkstakes!

RIP Martin Gardner

I missed a lot this weekend: first Jose Lima, and now Martin Gardner, whose work helped foster my early interest in puzzles, a love I have carried through my life. As a young boy, I used to spend hours going to the library to read his books on mathematical puzzles and his columns in Scientific American. From the NYT:

Martin Gardner, who teased brains with math puzzles in Scientific American for a quarter-century and who indulged his own restless curiosity by writing more than 70 books on topics as diverse as magic, philosophy and the nuances of Alice in Wonderland, died Saturday in Norman, Okla. He was 95.

He had been living in an assisted-living facility in Norman, his son James said in confirming the death.

Mr. Gardner also wrote fiction, poetry, literary and film criticism, as well as puzzle books. He was a leading voice in refuting pseudoscientific theories, from ESP to flying saucers. He was so prolific and wide-ranging in his interests that critics speculated that there just had to be more than one of him.

His mathematical writings intrigued a generation of mathematicians, but he never took a college math course. If it seemed the only thing this polymath could not do was play music on a saw, rest assured that he could, and quite well.

PCS contestants are probably familiar with Gardner's general puzzling writing. Gardner also intersected with baseball in other ways, including editing a book of essays which annotated the famous Thayer poem "Casey At The Bat".

RIP Martin Gardner.

photo (including domino art in the background) swiped from this site

Off-Day Puzzle #5: Solution

Single solver today who got it before any hints posted. Anyhow, the answer to yesterday's puzzle is Belgian-born Athletic, Mariner, and Blue Jay Brian Lesher.

Here's the unscrambled image:

It reveals three things:

  1. The following poem in blue letters (capitalization and punctuation added):

    To solve this here's what you will need:
    Unlearn how you learned to read.
    Left to right then high to low,
    From your mind those thoughts must go.

    Here it's Red, Rose, Steel, Foley,
    Derek to Pockets Kelly,
    Next go Grove to David then,
    Write it out and that's the end.

  2. Photos of four people, and
  3. A bunch of green letters which still don't seem to spell anything.

Let's first turn our attention to the poem (although you may have solved the elements of this puzzle in a different sequence). What it says is that we've all learned to read by a hierarchical algorithm comprised of two priority levels:

  1. Left to right
  2. High to low
But here you must learn a new algorithm of reading comprised of three, new priority levels:
  1. Red, Rose, Steel, Foley
  2. Derek to Pockets Kelly
  3. Grove to David
Seems nonsensical, but let's look at each level individually:
  1. Red, Rose, Steel, Foley. Some of these words might look familiar. Isn't that Axl Rose in the lower right? And isn't that Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop - a.k.a. Axel Foley - in the lower left? Some of you may have even recognized Axel Steel from Guitar Hero in the upper left. And the becoming redhead in the upper right, why she must be Red!
  2. Derek to Pockets Kelly. If you don't know Hall-of-Famer High Pockets Kelly, a googlesearch of "Pockets Kelly" will quickly uncover him. Once you figure out that reference to the word "High", clever deduction should lead to Derek referring to Derek "Low"(e). So essentially the line reads "Low to High".
  3. Grove to David. Similarly, these are references to Left(y) Grove and David (W)right. So the line reads "Left to Right".

Put it together and your new algorithm is:

  1. Red, Rose, Steel, Foley
  2. Low to high
  3. Left to right

So read the green letters according to the new algorithm - by starting in the bottom left of the photo of Red ('O') then going to the bottom left of Axl Rose ('F'), then same square in Axel Steel ('T'), then to Axel Foley ('H'). Then, moving one square up in the photo of Red, as per the algorithm ('E'), and so on. It will ultimately spell the following:

Of the players born in the same country as Red, the one with the most career RBI's

And how are you supposed to know where Red is from? I don't expect anyone to actually recognize who she is. BUT...at this point you've probably realized the commonality among the other three photos: Axl Rose, Axel Red, and Axel Steel (a further hint embedded in the puzzle title). A googlesearch of "Axel Red" will reveal who she is: Axelle Red, Belgian chanteuse.

Looking at baseball-reference will show there's only one MLBer born in Belgium, Brian Lesher (38 career RBI!).

(Note: I know it was sorta weird that I asked for the Belgian player with the most career RBI's when there's only one player born in Belgium. My original question was something like "the only player in MLB history born in the same country as Red." But then I realized that someone could have figured out the final question without ever identifying that 'Red' is Axelle Red, and he could just go to B-R and find a country in which only one player was born. And although there were several such countries, based on the redhead's looks, most could be reasonably eliminated as her birthplace.)

Congratulations to UBragg (solved in 49 minutes!?!), Jason, Keven C, Drewdez, QuadSevens, Mr C, and Dusty Baker.

Next puzzle in a week: Monday, June 14, 7am PT!