Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I Love Me Some Wichita State

D.E.L.I.N.O and the family DeShields witnessed the Wichita St Shockers mop the floor up with the Buckeyes, give the game back to them in minutes, and eventually prevail while dropping the proverbial deuce on brackets near and far.

Between my kids getting hopped up on the free Lemonheads and my avoiding the bread-based Staples Center treats, I fell madly in love with those scrappy Kansas kids.

Reason One - Their mascot.

From the NY Times - For the uninitiated, the team’s nickname is the Shockers, shortened from Wheat Shockers. The Shockers have a mascot, WuShock, which is a cluster of wheat with arms and legs.

He reminds me of my beloved Delaware Blue Rocks' equally as brilliant mascot - CELERY!!!

Reason 2...

Is It Time for Dodger Baseball Yet?

Let's see: [Click Here]

Breaking News: Yahoo Discovers Dodgers Have High Payroll For 2013

Witness the following infographic, from this story (yep, that's the Dodgers at the top):

(click on image for moderately larger view; or, click on the article linked above)

Thanks for this breaking news, Yahoo.

Baseball Predictions, Part 9: Jon Paul Morosi

The taller of the two Fox Sports baseball analysts, Jon Paul Morosi, also doesn't have the Dodgers winning the NL West in 2013. Unfortunately, he's got the Dodgers all the way down at third place in the NL West, behind the Diamondbacks and Giants:


Diamondbacks: The late-spring injury to Adam Eaton will make the lineup less dynamic, but there’s more than enough outfield depth to compensate. The organization is pitching-rich, with Daniel Hudson set to return from Tommy John surgery at midseason.

Giants: They pitch superbly, they play together, and they score just enough runs to win. Tim Lincecum’s performance in his contract year will be fascinating to follow.

Dodgers: Profligate spending has yielded a roster of ill-fitting pieces. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will keep the Dodgers in contention, but this team needs an MVP-type season from Matt Kemp to reach the playoffs.

Padres: The momentum from last year’s second half has stalled, between Yasmani Grandal’s PED suspension and spring injuries to Chase Headley and Casey Kelly. The good news is that Jedd Gyorko will have ample opportunity to establish him as an everyday player.

Rockies: Four-man rotation, five-man rotation, six-man rotation — it wouldn’t matter. The Rockies don’t have enough good pitchers. But they will be watchable if Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy.

Morosi starts out the article claiming that he correctly predicted the Giants over the Rangers in the 2010 World Series, a claim that might be true (I'm too tired to find it online) and is dated anyway. But if he's right?

Morose, I.

Matt Kemp, Poised For A Breakout Year As Team Leader

Everybody's talking about the Dodgers' payroll, and whether all those dollars are going to breed chemistry. I hate this argument. I think winning is just as responsible for creating chemistry as chemistry creates winning. But in any event, Mark Saxon gets through the muck of this bullshit argument by hitting this truth: if Matt Kemp can continue to emerge as the clubhouse leader he deserves to be, the Dodgers will flourish:

Matt Kemp is checking items rapidly off his career bucket list.

He has had an MVP-caliber season, even if the voters disagreed in 2011. He has gotten rich beyond anything he could have imagined as a kid back in small-town Oklahoma. He signed an eight-year, $160 million contract the same month Ryan Braun beat him out for the MVP by a handful of votes.

He has lived the celebrity lifestyle. He couldn't stay off TMZ's radar a few years ago.

He has played in four postseason series, been named to two All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves.

There is one box left unfilled: Lead a team to the World Series.

For the Dodgers to become more than a traveling collection of pricey talent, Kemp, 28, might need to take command of the clubhouse, to be the stand-up, take-all-questions conscience after tough losses, to police the team for selfishness and lackadaisical play. He might have to keep things loose when they are starting to get tense. He might have to bring the team into focus when it's drifting.

There's a lot riding on whether he can do it or not.

"I think I can get the best out of everybody," Kemp said earlier this spring. "I think I'll try."

The Dodgers have other respected players. Jerry Hairston Jr. and Mark Ellis have more service time and have had more varied experiences in the game. Adrian Gonzalez, because he is perfectly bilingual, moves more freely between the two main subcultures of a clubhouse.

But there is one overriding reason why Kemp needs to be the leader of this team.

"He is our best player," Hairston said. "I don't think it's 'arguably.'"

As Kemp does, the Dodgers figure to do. As Kemp goes, the Dodgers figure to go. Manager Don Mattingly recognizes that and has had a long-standing dialogue with him about how to comport himself around the team.

"We've talked in general and I've given him my thoughts on great players, how they go about their business and how they play," Mattingly said. "Matt plays every day. He's got the respect of the guys in that clubhouse. That instantly makes him a leader.

"He just has to recognize that he has an effect. That means if he doesn't come to play, it sends a bad message."

photo: AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez

Baseball Predictions, Part 8: Ken Rosenthal

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal is not the tallest of reporters, a fact which is totally cool by me. But it's kind of funny that his writing (mostly tweeting, by the way) is pretty short-form as well. If I'm reading his capsule factoids correctly, he's got the Giants ahead of the Dodgers this year (but it's kinda hard to tell from his words):


Giants: Need Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito to extend 2012 postseason magic; otherwise, back of rotation becomes real concern.

Dodgers: Train-wreck potential. And then they’ll sign Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Diamondbacks: Chance to surprise due to their pitching, potential of Paul Goldschmidt to explode.

Padres: Will be better in second half than first once Chase Headley, Yasmani Grindal return and rest of pitching gets healthy.

Rockies: Actually like their offense. Their pitching is a threat to public safety.

The Rockies got only 12 words from Robothal. The Snakes only got 13 words.

But we only got 11 words. At least he didn't say "highest payroll in baseball", I suppose.

Baseball Predictions, Part 7: Jayson Stark

Jayson Stark polled 18 MLB executives and scouts (I assume they're from the MLB; to be fair, he didn't specify). And based on his poll and his gut, Stark has the Dodgers achieving one of the eight 2013 playoff spots:

Los Angeles Dodgers

Why they'll win: In case you hadn't noticed, they're all in. Heck, in the history of all-in-ness, there might never have been a team more all in than this. They have a $217 million payroll. They can run a Kershaw/Greinke/Ryu/Beckett rotation at you in a short series. They have a bunch of potential impact bats in Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and (one of these months) Hanley Ramirez, with the dazzling Yasiel Puig lurking. And as one NL scout so eloquently put it, "they've got more money than anyone. They can go buy anything they need to buy in July. So it's hard to keep them off the list." Exactly. Maybe the most fascinating team in the sport.

Why they might not: One after another, the folks I polled talked about how much this mix of players and personalities basically terrifies them. Among the reviews: "They're like an All-Star team, except they'll be together for 162 games. Can that much money and that much ego fit together on one team?" … "Too many stray pieces thrown together for me." … "Not the kind of team you'd think you'd see for $220 million. They're like the land of misfit toys." … "A lot of different personalities and a lot of different injuries. I just don't see it working." … And, finally, "They scare the hell out of me," said one exec. "But if they win 97 games, I'd totally believe it."

Stark also has the Giants sneaking in with a playoff spot, too. And the Nationals to win it all.

Baseball Predictions, Part 6: Keith Law

More punditry from ESPN! And Keith Law predicts the Giants repeat as NL West champs, with 92 wins, three ahead of the Dodgers (a reverse of what Dan Szymborski predicted (link insider only):

The San Francisco Giants brought the same crew back for 2013, usually not an ideal strategy but likely to prevent enough runs to at least win one of the wild-card spots with just an average offense. Tim Lincecum could be the difference between a division title and a spot in the play-in game. (In case you missed it, I discussed Lincecum's outlook on this week's podcast with Giants beat writer Andy Baggarly.)

The Los Angeles Dodgers have pitching depth, with seven viable starters if you believe Chad Billingsley can avoid Tommy John surgery (I don't), and when their lineup is healthy, it's one of the better ones in the league. However, Hanley Ramirez was probably the position player they could least afford to lose other than Matt Kemp.

Law also predicts Stephen Strasburg gets the Cy Young over Clayton Kershaw.

I don't want to fight the Law, but I don't agree.

Baseball Predictions, Part 5: Jim Bowden Goes Bold's Jim Bowden always puts up some bold predictions for what might take place this season. And one of them involves the Dodgers (link insider only):

5. Yasiel Puig comes up as an injury replacement, and “Yasielmania” ensues.

Puig was the most dynamic player I saw all spring and reminded me of a cross between Bo Jackson and Yoenis Cespedes. I wrote about his tremendous abilities in my blog last week. A Matt Kemp/Puig combination has a chance to be the best power/speed tandem in the game. Puig’s at-bats will be must-see events, and he will electrify Dodger Stadium, bringing back the memories of “Fernandomania,” when Fernando Valenzuela routinely sold out Chavez Ravine during his starts.

I wish no ill will or injury toward any of the Dodgers' three starting outfielders. That said, I'm jealous that my fellow son AC got to see Puig in action this spring...I sure would love to see Puigmania ensue, too.

photo: Mark Duncan / AP

Baseball Predictions, Part 4: ESPN the Magazine

ESPN the Magazine's baseball preview was very confusing; in the print edition, instead of breaking down the playoffs by round, they just say the Nationals will beat the Tigers (going out on a big limb there, guys). That said, ESPN also fess up that they made 378 preseason picks of pennant winners in the period from 2007 to 2012, and only 5.8% of them (22) were correct; the best ESPN talking head only got two guesses correct in that six-year period (tie: Enrique Rojas, Jayson "Not Werth" Stark, and Jim Caple).

So maybe I should be worried to read that ESPN the Magazine picks the Dodgers to win the NL West:


98 wins if … All the pieces fit like magic: Adrian Gonzalez drives in a career-high 130 runs in his first full LA season, Matt Kemp's hamstring is forgotten as he again vies for MVP, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke combine for 42 wins, and Kenley Jansen and Brandon League deal without falloff for a stacked bullpen that held opponents to a .221 batting average (fourth in MLB) last season.

83 wins if … The pieces fracture and the clubhouse melts under high expectations as Hanley Ramirez -- who hasn't had a plus UZR/150 at short since 2008 -- sorely misses playing third base, Kemp gets hurt again, and Josh Beckett comes nowhere near matching his full-season bests of a 1.03 WHIP and 2.89 ERA, set in 2011.

Unpredictability score -- 1.81: While the rotation has depth, the question-filled lineup is a muscle pull away from too much Skip Schumaker and Juan Uribe. Odds of a thrilling ride are matched by a nightmarish scenario in which the rebuilt rotation finds itself, yet again, as a great engine on a car missing a wheel.

Here's two other things that were in the Mag but not I can't find the link online (think of this as a SoSG BONUS!!! Not to mention a typing refresher for Sax here):

Dodgers: While the rotation had depth, the question-filled lineup is a muscle pull away from too much Skip Schumaker and Juan Uribe. Odds of a thrilling ride are matched by a nightmarish rotation finds itself, yet again, as a great engine on a car missing a wheel.

Carl Crawford: The Dodgers made a $100 million gamble on Crawford, whose two injury-plagued seasons in Boston produced far less than his nine in Tampa Bay. His OBP with the Sox was .292, a full 45 points less than with the Rays. LA needs the Ray of hope back.

Giants are picked for second, followed by the Snakes, Pads, and Rockies.

Hey Ladies...

Here's what the women's restrooms at Dodger Stadium look like, courtesy of DoSG BJ Killeen:

Baseball Predictions, Part 3: ESPN's Szymborski

Dan Szymborski does his zippy little ZIPS projections (million simulations, Monte Carlo method (because the Venetian and Bellagio methods are too expensive), and he's got the Dodgers winning the NL West with 90 wins, three ahead of the Giants (link insider only):

The projections do reflect the hit the Los Angeles Dodgers take from losing Hanley Ramirez and a grumpier innings estimate for Zack Greinke in light of his recent arm soreness, so no need to mentally chop off a couple wins. The Dodgers won't win any awards for thrift (that would be an odd award), but they've put together a solid, if overly expensive, team for 2013. They are slight favorites, but there's plenty of room for an unhappy end to the season.

The San Francisco Giants remain in the thick of it, about the quality of last year's team. Last year's team won the World Series, so that's not necessarily a bad thing, but the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are likely to be better than they were last year. Warning: ZiPS is assuming that Brandon Belt won't continue to be benched for weeks every time he goes 0-for-4.

Szymborski gives the Dodgers a 41.5% chance to win the division (Giants are at 29.7%). The Dodgers are a 60.9% chance to make the playoffs and a 6.4% chance to win the World Series (the Nationals lead the NL with 7.8% and the Reds are at 6.8%; Atlanta is also at 6.4%).

* Bunting Is Up!

* Not an actual team statistic

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers

Baseball Predictions, Part 2: Sports Illustrated (Again)

Here's why SI thinks the Dodgers won't win the World Series in 2013 (a photo essay in which each of the 30 teams has an entry):

Los Angeles Dodgers

As the Dodgers take over the major league lead for payroll, it's worth noting that the Yankees are just 1-for-their-last-12 in converting the biggest bucks to the big prize. The Dodgers have over $300 million worth of future commitments to an outfield that features two players coming off major surgeries and one who can't hit lefties -- so of course they're likely to farm out the guy hitting .526. (SI's Experts Predictions)

photo: Paul Sancya, AP

Baseball Predictions, Part 1: Sports Illustrated

Clayton Kershaw was featured in one of six regional covers to this week's SI.

Tomorrow, as Nomo put it, REAL baseball begins! (That's right, the Houston season opener tonight doesn't count, particularly as I get used to having them in the AL and f'ing up interleague play to persist all season long in 2013.) Here's the first in a series of prediction articles: Sports Illustrated, in which three of the seven writers polled picked the Dodgers to win the NL West. Here's Ben Reiter's comments:

The most financially lopsided World Series of all time -- LA's 2013 payroll could exceed Tampa Bay's by a factor of four -- will be won by the penny-pinchers. The Rays match the Dodgers in depth and quality of pitching (they could have seven above-average starters if you count Roberto Hernandez, eight if you count Fausto Carmona, which you shouldn't) but exceed them in fielding, versatility and relentlessness.

Tom Verducci picked the Giants, who finished with two votes; the Snakes and Padres stole one vote each. Of course, everyone picked the Nationals or Tigers to win it all...except the aforementioned Reiter, who picked the Rays. Hmm.

Meanwhile, four of the seven picked our man, Clayton Kershaw, for the 2013 Cy Young:

Joe Lemire: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Aside from one being a lefty and the other a righty, Kershaw and Justin Verlander are essentially mirror images. They are of similar height and effectiveness, both won their league's pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young awards in 2011 and finished as Cy runners-up in '12. Look for the Dodgers' southpaw to lead the majors in ERA for a third straight season.

Jay Jaffe: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. It's tempting to say Stephen Strasburg here, but he has yet to reach 162 innings in a professional season, let alone the 200 or more that Cy Young contention essentially requires. Kershaw already has one Cy on his mantle from 2011, and was nearly as good last year.

Cliff Corcoran: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Sure, Stephen Strasburg is the sexy choice, but Kershaw, like Verlander, won this award in 2011 and finished second in 2012, a year in which he finished second in the voting and was every bit as good as the man who won. I want to see how Strasburg holds up over a 200-inning workload before I'm willing to pick him over a 25-year-old stud whose career ERA (2.79, 138 ERA+) is better than Strasburg's was in 159 1/3 innings last year (3.16, 125 ERA+).

Joe Sheehan: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Kershaw won the award in 2011 and was arguably the best pitcher in the NL last year as well. In the NL right now, only Cliff Lee approaches his performance level and durability.

In the "Free Agent Flop" category (which Red Sox acquisition and former Dodger flop Shane Victorino won in a landslide with four votes), Verducci picks the Dodgers' Zack Greinke:

Verducci: Zack Greinke, Dodgers. Any elbow issue in spring training is a red flag, and even when healthy he has yet to put together back-to-back very good seasons of 200 innings.

photo: Brad Mangin, SI

The Killeens Do Dodger Stadium, Part 2

The Dynamic Dodger Duo of BJ & Scott Killeen have struck again. Here's their take on "A Whole New Blue" Dodger Stadium (pictures and captions by Scott, grades by BJ):

"New box seats area."

"New scoreboard."

"Ethier rotation."

"Paco winning pitch."

Here's BJ:

Food Service: C
Still too slow, but Dodger Dogs were warm, albeit stuck to the buns. Jumbo Dodger Dogs, although posted on the sign, were not available, nor were the fries ready. And you could only get the commemorative cup size of sodas. This is something we hope will be remedied by Opening Day. Seriously, no fries? When did you realize there was a game that night??

Stand Vendors: D
I've never seen so many men so close to death selling peanuts, popcorn and pizza. We were waiting for them to keel over, drop dead, or break a hip. No wonder we didn't see them often; took them 15 minutes just to walk up and down the stairs.

Knowledgeable staff: D
Seriously, we were at the entrance gates on the reserve level, looking longingly out at the back side of the new giant bobblehead and asked the woman at the gate if there were any more around that were inside (we read about the new playground with them). She had NO idea where they were. Then we walked 200 feet and they were right there. Um, how about a stadium tour for the employees so when someone asks a simple question, you might be able to answer it!!

Merchandise: C
They sold out of blankets immediately, and didn't seem to have the ability to find out which stands had them, or even call some down from storage somewhere. Really? This is about some type of online system that let's you know where fans can BUY and spend their money on your items. Also, the stands stuck out in the walkways way too far, causing bottlenecks. One guy also asked a seller how come the Dodgers were wearing the gray/blue hats on Thursday. She had no idea, yet again.

New Overhead TVs: B-
Sure, there were a lot of them, but they were really small. If you're going to put them up high in the concourse, at least make them large enough to see.

New Screens: A+++++
This was the highlight of the evening. When we first got there, the screens were the same old size video, with the old-looking dot matrix on the scoreboard. Then a few innings in, they exploded glass on the screen and the all-new monitors appeared. All we can say is WOW WOW WOW..Amazing detail, awesome graphics and a couch potato's dream.

Bonus photos!

Thanks as always, Killeens! Can't wait to see it for ourselves!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Killeens Do Dodger Stadium, Part 1

The Dynamic Dodger Duo of BJ & Scott Killeen have struck again. Here's their take on "A Whole New Blue" Dodger Stadium (except where noted, pictures and captions by Scott, grades by BJ):

(BJ sent us this bobblehead picture as a teaser.)

"Dodgers win!"

"AJ's grand slam. Not as good as spring training but I got it....shot from the bull pen section, thirteen rows up."

"Dodger dog artwork."

"Stadium still missing some screws. But it is better...."

"Dodger pizza. Might have been the youngest concession hawker we saw!"

From BJ:

I did a report card from last night's experience. Here's our results:

Parking: A
They opened the gates on time and guided us to parking spots with lots of people, just like at Disneyland. Efficient and well done.

Bathrooms: B
Men: lots of urinals, but only 4 or 5 sinks, and they were at the back of the bathroom, so they were lined up at the sinks waiting to wash hands. How about a bunch of hand sanitizer stations??

Women: New and nice, but again, only 4 sinks, no mirrors over the sinks, but one full-length mirror: not enough for women to share. Also the sinks were on one side but paper towels on other side, so water was dripped and the floor was getting dirty and slippery. Hand sanitizer stations would work here as well. Plus have them around the stadium throughout on the concourses.

They also pump sound in the bathroom but it's so loud it would make you pee in your pants...if you weren't already peeing.

New Decorations: A
Big Bobbleheads are only on the Reserve level (that we saw). Two are outside the gate, so be sure you see them before you come in (cuz you can't go in and out), and two were inside at the play area. Play area was nice, but a concrete area. Also new signs at entrance to bathrooms for anniversaries of things.

Eating areas: A
They removed some seats under the overhang on the Field level, and replaced them with tables to stand and eat and watch the field. Much easier than sitting at your seat. Some tables and umbrellas to sit at when entering at the field level.

Police Presence: A
I think there were more cops than fans. Tons of regular security as well, with patrol cars in the parking lot.

Elevators: D
Still incredibly slow and old.

Thanks, Killeens! More to come!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Freeway Exhibitionism: Chavez Ravine Edition, 7:10p

Vin Takes a Break from Putting the Finishing Touches on the Stadium Remodel to Describe the Size of Uribe's Ass

Tonight the Dodgers begin to round out their final Spring Training/Exhibition Season with a game at Dodger Stadium (the next day's game will be played at Angels Stadium in whatever city that is). This will mark the first time that Dodger fans will have a chance to experience a game in the newly-remodeled stadium, so hopefully SoSG readers who are out at the Yard will check in with reports on new/changed elements of the stadium.

Let's work on getting into mid-season commenting form, SoSG readers!

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Jackie-ize Yourself!

Cool "42" the movie tie-in:

Here's the link:    42

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dodgers Mentioned In The 2013 ESPN Fantasy Top 100

From the 3/18/2013 issue of ESPN the Magazine, here's the Dodgers that rank atop the fantasy charts:

#6 Matt Kemp OF
#14 Clayton Kershaw SP
#23 Hanley Ramirez 3B/SS
#40 Zack Greinke SP
#41 Adrian Gonzalez 1B

The Dodgers are well-represented. Another article gives Kershaw a 16% chance of getting to 20 wins (Yu Darvish leads that category with a 21% chance); a 87% chance of having an ERA under 3.00; a 91% chance of having a WHIP under 1.2; and a 88% chance of reaching 180 Ks. Oh, and Kershaw leads those last three categories (based on ZIPS projections). That's an awful lot of pressure!

Why My Dentist RULES

The Cape Is Entering the Cave

Remember Thomas Roberts? We interviewed him and he became one of the lucky nine to make it into this season's MLB Fan Cave. (Not saying there's a direct correlation, but it does make one wonder....)

Somewhere along the line "Thomas" became "Aaron," but he's still the same ol' cape-wearing Dodger Blue fan representing L.A. in the Cave. Check out his official profile:

Aaron Roberts, 28, is a Los Angeles Dodgers Fan from Huntington Beach, Calif., where he recently picked up a guitar and started a pop/punk band with his best friend. Aaron will be leaving behind his life as a substitute high school teacher to join the MLB Fan Cave. He graduated from Cal State Long Beach where fellow alumni include current MLB players Evan Longoria, Jason Vargas and Jered Weaver. During his MLB Fan Cave campaign, he trotted around Los Angeles on his motorcycle with a giant Dodgers flag fashioned into a cape.

Congrats again, Aaron!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wow: Dodger Stadium Facelift Revealed

Via @Dodgers:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Insert Secret Urinal Joke, Or Juan Uribe Joke?

A minor league baseball team in Pennsylvania will become the first professional sports franchise to offer urine-controlled video games in its restrooms when the season starts in April.

Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley IronPigs will debut the "Urinal Gaming System" in its men's bathrooms—the custom urinals feature a "pee controlled" video screen that will entertain fans as they use the restroom.

The system is designed by a British company called Captive Media—in a demo for the urinal, the company shows a snowboarding slalom game in which the character is controlled by where the player pees.
While an intriguing idea, it seems destined to increase already long bathroom waiting lines.

Image: Captive Media

Puig Will Have to Wait

Just This Once You're Allowed to Feel Good About Something Giants-Related

Shawon Dunston is an instructor for the Giants, and his son Shawon Jr. is a prospect for the Cubs. The two teams faced off in spring training yesterday and Shawon Jr. got a single off Sergio Romo. Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly summed it up:
A hit. In a major league exhibition. Off the guy who threw the clinching pitch in the last World Series. And with your dad watching it all in the other dugout.

After the game, father and son embraced on the field. And Dunston Sr. had to reach up and stick a finger under his wraparound sunglasses to wipe away tears.

By the time we reporters were through getting the postgame update from Bochy, Dunston Sr. already had boarded the Giants bus. Bochy, who had his own son in camp earlier this spring, knew what a special moment this was. So he went on board and told Shawon Sr. to come out and give us a comment.

"I can't make the bus late," he told us.

We just wanted to know what that was like, one of us asked.

"I'm very proud ... very proud," Dunston said.

Then he started to lose it. So without warning, he turned and sprinted back onto the bus.

And that pretty much said it all.

The whole story's worth a read. Then...the HATE can resume!

Kemp Makes Sesame Street


Kershaw Makes SI Cover

Monday, March 25, 2013

Thank You, Ben Howland

After their disappointing first-game, "second-round" exit in this year's NCAA tournament, it was certain that UCLA would fire coach Ben Howland after his tenth season.. Opening up his career with three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008 was a distant memory, and the pressure of having this year's #1 recruiting class, compounded by the successive transfers of too much key talent over the last five years, made this move unfortunate but not unexpected.

What was not unexpected, however, was that Howland left UCLA, and Pauley Pavilion, with total class. Courting the press during a press conference that allowed him to bid farewell, it was telling that Athletic Director Dan Guerrero didn't even have the balls to attend, having fired the man with the most conference championships since John Wooden. Because even though the move to fire Howland was predestined and probably appropriate at this time, and the opportunity was there to present UCLA with grace and dignity, it was only Howland who rose to the occasion.

Guerrero, as expected, was absent in both presence as well as class.

Now, I will admit, I am biased. I have had the opportunity to meet Howland one on one and found him an engaging and compelling individual, a hard-nosed yet fair coach, and a man of integrity. I hoped this season would have ended better, and I truly believe that if not for the fateful broken foot to Jordan Adams in the PAC-12 tournament win vs. Arizona, it likely would have ended better. And though the last seven seasons have been underwhelming for the Bruins, i have appreciated Howland's hand as coach.

Only a class act like Howland could remove the absolute anarchy of Steve Lavin's tenure. As disappointing as Howland's era ended, I would not want to see the streetball lack of coaching that constituted his predecessor's reign.

So I rooted for Coach Howland, and hoped he would have achieved more, but it didn't turn out that way. And I couldn't watch Friday night's game, but I'm disappointed to have read (from Plaschke, so I won't be linking) that the Bruins didn't even put up much of an effort against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota (who promptly lost their next game against Florida, AND fired their coach as well).

I'm sorry that things didn't work out for Howland at the end. I'm appreciative of his leadership and unwavering integrity, not putting up with bullshit from Reeves Nelson, and not taking the easy path to trash people on his way out the door.

And though I'm disappointed with the end result of late, but more so in the school's administration, who should have treated a class act accordingly. I know Bruins Nation is killing Howland on his way out, and I tip my hat to the commenters over there who are trying to maintain decorum and treat Howland with the class he deserves, the respect he has earned.

So thank you, Coach Howland, for your decade at UCLA and for some great times. You've got a fan here no matter where you end up next.

New "42" Movie Poster

I was driving along 6th Street in LA today and noticed a new movie poster for the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic, "42". I started getting teary-eyed and damn near wrecked the car. I didn't have time to snap a picture but I found a hi-res version online:

There are more here.

Image courtesy of Warner Brothers

ST Tidbits

  • Carl Crawford hit his first spring training homer yesterday (above). But Yasiel Puig went 0 for 2. What the hell, Yasiel?
  • WBC insurance will cover Hanley Ramirez's salary while he's on the DL. How WBC insurance works (Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports)
  • Adrian Gonzalez is recovering from a HBP-generated forearm bruise. Adrian sits out with bruised right forearm (Ken Gurnick,

photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dream Pre-Season Continues

Friday, March 22, 2013

NCAA Tourney GameThread: UCLA vs. Minnesota, 6.45p

What could be Shabazz Muhammad's last collegiate game tips off tonight, with Ben Howland's team undermanned due to departures (including one obese player who never lived up to potential--listen up, Juan Urine!) and a late-season broken foot of Jordan Adams, the Bruins' second-leading scorer. Only six deep (not including freshman Tony Parker), we'll see if the Bruins can successfully play Whac-A-Mole against the Golden Gophers.

All three other Pac-25 teams won, by the way; two of them were twelve seeds upsetting five seeds. No pressure, Bruins!

We've Got the Biggest Balls of Them All!

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

And With That, I'm Done With The WBC

With yesterday's deflating news that Dodgers 3B Hanley Ramirez won't be playing until almost June, I'm not only deflated as a Dodger fan. As a baseball fan, I'm wondering what the hell we are doing with this World Baseball Classic in the first place.

I get that MLB wants to expand and globalize the fan base for baseball, and that supposedly there were a couple of nations who really cared about the composition of their country's compulsory-compiled rosters. Even if the fans don't show up (see photo, above), and tickets for the finals are discounted to as low as $5, the individual countries give a damn, right?

Not the US, that's for sure. And sure enough, when the US team's brightest star, David Wright, went down with a rib injury that might impact the start of his 2013 season, one had to wonder why Wright had chosen to participate in the first place, rather than try to focus on the improving the state of the woeful Mets. Yankee Mark Teixeira also went down with a Team USA-triggered injury, imperiling the chances of the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball.

These injuries hearken back to the 2009 season when Daisuke Matsuzaka, the MVP of the tournament, was sidelined with arm fatigue in April of that season. What is the point of risking injury in a meaningless competition?

Some may argue that injuries could just as easily occur in spring training games, equally meaningless and equally overseen by capricious baseball gods. But I have to think that the nationalistic sentiments of the WBC tournament amplify the perceived stakes beyond a spring training exhibition (which, unlike the WBC, can still end in a tie). Factor in some minor leaguers, for whom the WBC will be their shining athletic moment, gunning at 100%, and the potential for injury seems to be greater.

Watching the Ramirez injury happen (see link with attached video): sure, it seemed innocuous enough of a defensive dive. Maybe that could have happened at Camelback Ranch, too. Maybe Ramirez was destined to get hurt.

But for pete's sake, now we're forced to consider Juan frickin' Uribe as a starting 3B again, an idea that has never made sense for the Dodgers even when Ned Colletti was dreaming this up over whisky one evening, and yet has persisted attempts like a recurring nightmare. So here we are, our lineup royally screwed before the season even begins. Yes, I'm bitter.

I don't know, guys. I'm not down with WBC (yeah, you know me).

Get well soon, Hanley!

photo swiped from here

TripAdvisor Not High on Dodger Stadium

Thanks to BJ Killeen, who is fast becoming an honorary DoSG, for this item:

TripAdvisor Announces America's Top 10 Ballparks

TripAdvisor®, the world's largest travel site, today announced the top 10 ballparks in the U.S., according to the TripAdvisor Popularity Index™. With baseball season in full swing starting on March 31, travelers can enjoy America's pastime in all its glory at these celebrated hardball havens.

The list?

    1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    2. AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
    3. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
    4. Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts
    5. Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
    6. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    7. Petco Park, San Diego, California
    8. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
    9. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington, Texas
    10. Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

No Dodger Stadium, which is disappointing but hardly surprising. More shocking is the omission of both New York City ballparks, famous for their sumptuous appointments and high ticket prices.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chardonnay Sippers Now Mock Us

Seriously, our own moscato? If anything, I'd rather we had our own mezcal.

Seen at Alvarado and Glendale Boulevard

Thumb Downs Hanley, Juan Uribe No Longer Emo

Per everybody (though I think Ken Rosenthal broke it first), Hanley Ramirez has a torn thumb ligament requiring surgery. The Dodgers announced he will be out eight weeks.

Barring any panicked acquisitions (and one thing this ownership does NOT do is panic), that means our Opening Day lineup will consist of either Juan Uribe at 3rd and Luis Cruz at short or Cruz at 3rd and Dee Gordon at short. No, it does not mean Yasiel Puig will be converted into a 3rd baseman.

Despite the mountains of crap we give him, I'm leaning toward Uribe, if only for the defense. (And, OK, the comedy factor.)

We now return you to your "I guess money doesn't buy thumbs! DERP!" narrative.

Ken Gurnick: "Needing surgery, Hanley likely out two months"

Matt Kemp Surges Through Best Buy

Taken in the West Hollywood Best Buy, 3/16/13.

In Which I React to an iPad Billboard While Waiting at a Stoplight

Hey, a new iPad billboard. Guess this one's for the Mini. Does this mean we shouldn't buy the big one? Anyhoo, looks like the woman who owns the biggie sent the Mini owner her vacation picture. Sunglasses underwater, cute. And he's sending her picture back to her, waste of bandwidth — wait, he also set her picture as his wallpaper? That's...kind of creepy. Is Apple marketing to stalkers now? Oh wait, those are a woman's hands. Does that make the wallpaper any less creepy? A little, I suppose. But still, who puts a non-family member as their — whoops, light's green!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Catching Up With Former Dodger / Continued Malcontent Russell Martin

Remember that great Dodgers success story, who spent five years with the Dodgers overcoming the (not-so-large) shadow of Paul LoDuca? And then after an injury-filled 2010 in which he played only 97 games, Martin up and left town for the Yank-Mes, who were able to find use for his .224 BA over two years?

Well, now Russell Martin has been exiled to Pittsburgh for the 2013 season. But just to make his new digs feel even more comfortable, Martin went out and pissed off his entire country of Canada by jilting their World Baseball Classic team. It's old news, but in the leopard-not-changing-spots category, it's still worth a snicker:

Canada's moment in the World Baseball Classic may have come and gone. But Russell Martin found out Wednesday that his newfound villain status among Canadians lives on.

The Pirates' catcher, who withdrew from Team Canada's WBC roster at the last minute, was booed lustily by the Canadians in the crowd during his team's 5-4 win Wednesday over the Blue Jays.

So afterward, he found himself defending his decision not to play in the WBC yet one more time.

"When people boo, they're just having fun with it. I don't think they really, truly hate me," said Martin, who was born in East York, Ontario, and did play in the previous WBC. "Maybe they're a little emotional about the fact that I didn't go, but I had my reasons. And I know my reason is a good one because it's a reason that made me feel good inside.

"It's not the reason that everybody expected. But my decision was a good one because I felt happy about it. And it's not about what everybody else expects me to do. That’s not the right decision. The right decision is the one that makes you feel good inside. So people can debate all they want. The only person that really needs to know if it was the right or wrong decision was me. And I’m happy, because I've been here. I've been working with the pitchers. And I feel like my preparation is where it needs to be."

Martin’s true interest in playing in the WBC had been a topic of much debate north of the border even before his decision to withdraw. After being named to the team, he said he wanted to play shortstop instead of catcher because he wanted to allow his body to ease into the grind of catching.

He finally backed out once and for all after being slowed this spring by an inflamed throwing shoulder. He didn't play in the field for the Pirates, in fact, until after the WBC had already begun. But he was criticized by several members of Team Canada, most prominently Justin Morneau. And clearly, Canadian fans haven't forgotten.

"It's part of the game,” Martin said Wednesday. “If they boo me forever, so be it. I'll get over it. … I've seen guys be booed, and some take it personally. And some others know that it's just part of the game. It's just the crowd getting involved. I think it's kind of fun. I use it as motivation, to be honest. The more people who don’t believe I can do something, that makes me want to do it even more. You find out how strong you are when people say you can't do this or do that."

You go get 'em, Freddy!

Keri Yawns (My Wayward Son): Dodgers To Finish Under 92 Wins

Jonah Keri over at ESPN's Grantland has run the numbers. And he's taking the Vegas bet that the Dodgers will finish under 91.5 wins:

I don't hate the Dodgers, honest They've certainly got a chance to compete for the NL West crown this year, and with all their riches they stand a good chance to be contenders for the foreseeable future and hopefully build a strong farm system to increase their chances at longer-term success.

But there are holes on the 2013 roster, and they're not easily fixed. Luis Cruz was a fun story last year, going for .297/.322/.431 and delivering a bunch of big hits in his first crack at semi-regular playing time in the big leagues. But there are reasons he toiled so many years in the minors: He has minimal power, never walks, and doesn't run particularly well. He isn't a championship-caliber everyday player by any stretch, and replacing him would be a bear. Think of the best third basemen in the league. Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre aren't going anywhere. David Wright's signed to a long-term deal. So's Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman and Aramis Ramirez. In theory, it's not impossible that the Dodgers could try another Adrian Gonzalez–style deal, in which they absorb an ungodly amount of salary via bad contracts for the sake of landing one player they really want. But that trade came with unique circumstances, and it's tough to find any team with a top third baseman (or a top shortstop, if you wanted to move Hanley Ramirez to third) that would offer similar parameters to pull off that kind of deal.

Outfield talent might be easier to find. But then you run into what we've called the Curse of Plenty, or if you prefer, the Carl Crawford Conundrum. The Dodgers owe Crawford $102.5 million over the next five years. Unfortunately, we don't know when Crawford will be fully healthy and ready to play in games that matter; he's starting to see some spring training action, but he's been out so long that it's hard to tell when he might be ready for regular-section action, much less if he can return to the high performance levels he showed in Tampa Bay, or even moderately productive levels in an everyday role. If Crawford's out, a platoon of Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr. would cover left field, which again doesn't qualify as a championship-level combination by any stretch. It's possible that the Dodgers could pursue a big-time replacement, even being on the hook for nine figures with Crawford and another $42 million for Yasiel Puig, the Cuban prospect with lots of talent but also a very raw approach and just 23 games of minor league experience, none above Single-A. But you have to figure that even the Dodgers might have their limits.

There are other problems. Some are potentially terrifying, such as Greinke's injury proving to be more serious than first believed; some are smaller but still relevant, such as the injury histories of Mark Ellis and Chad Billingsley, Andre Ethier's struggles against left-handed pitching, and new closer Brandon League not being particularly good. These and other issues could potentially be addressed if the Dodgers had a bunch of good prospects close to major league–ready. They don't. Promising pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa went to Boston in the Gonzalez deal, while former top prospect Zach Lee has, at least for now, seen his development stall. The team's best hitting prospects are likely years away from making a splash in the majors. That lack of options hurts the Dodgers in two ways: There's not much there to call up for this season, and there aren't many players other teams would covet so intensely that they'd consider trading an established star to get them.

Again, this isn't to say the Dodgers are a bad team, or that they can't vie for a playoff spot. A full season of Gonzalez (and no James Loney) will be great. Kemp's an MVP candidate if he plays 150-plus games. Clayton Kershaw's probably the best pitcher in the National League. You get your first full year of Ramirez in a Dodgers uniform, and another one for A.J. Ellis, L.A.'s very good and underrated starting catcher. If you buy spring training stats, Hyun-Jin Ryu has looked promising in Arizona after the Dodgers nabbed him over the winter.

But the team's multiple question marks, combined with its likely inability to address its holes this year, point to something fewer than 92 wins. Like last year's Tigers, there's a window here for the Dodgers to be pretty damn good and still not make their number. After poring over 29 other possibilities, and considering the vig was only -105, the Dodgers under 91½ was the only bet I was willing to bet with confidence. It's not a 2012 Tigers-style lock, but it was the best of a really tough bunch.

91.5 wins is a lot, I admit. But man, all that hating, Jonah. There'll be peace when you are done. Lay your weary head to rest!

photo: AP / PAUL SANCYA (Sancya very much, indeed!)

Spring Training Pics, Killeen-Style, Part MXCLVIII

One more! Thanks to BJ & Scott!