Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dodgers Add LHP Kazmir, RHP Kenta to K Krew

And these guys should actually pass their physicals!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Adventures Of Kiké Hernandez, Twitter Farter

Thanks to SoSG reader Mr. F for this nugget (probably not the right word to be using here, but you get the idea).

Dodgers utility infielder tweeted this, which made people think he was traded (not to mention the comment, below):

Yikes! So Kiké then tweeted this:

Whoops. Don't fart and tweet, Kiké!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Free) Review

If there is one movie that we've mentioned most during the course of this blog's nine-year journey, it's Star Wars. And with the first Star Wars movie release during this fine blog's tenure, it's only fitting that we give Episode VII: The Force Awakens a little bit of love.

Through manipulating the space-time continuum, I was able to watch this movie early...and came away not disappointed whatsoever.

All of the foundations that we fondly recall from the original trilogy is there, in Episode VII: the epic scope of the story; the evil villain and his legion; the prevailing hope of the light side of the force. The space battle scenes are dizzying, with amazing camera angles and speeds. The fancical creatures nonchalantly wandering through the background, unlike in the prequel trilogy less dependent upon CGI wizardry, seem believable and almost comfortable. The planet landscapes fill the viewer with awe (especially in 3D). The primary droid character, BB-8, is adorable. And all of the main actors: Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo, have solid acting chops that surpass the expectations from their short resumes (Rey and Finn, in particular, were both really strong and extremely believable).

I loved the fact that there are multiple winks back to the original trilogy, from commonly said lines to a cantina scene that echoes Mos Eisley, to humorous turns used to cut the tension at appropriate times. Having familiar characters like Han Solo, Leia Organa, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Nien Nunb, and even Admiral Ackbar re-take the main stage, is a wonderful throwback (and I imagine, for the seven people who haven't seen the original trilogy, might be a little hard to follow). But it's like the Han Solo line from the early Episode VII trailer: when he says to Chewie "we're home", one can't help but feel nostalgic and warm and fuzzy inside just like we did 32 to 37 years ago.

And one gets that feeling right from the opening sequence, which dutifully follows the opening horizon-line fading words canon, into a pretty fast-paced, J.J. Abrams-typical quick-character development scene. One understands good and bad right from the start, and your introduction to two key characters comes effortlessly. And the pacing isn't always quick from then on in, but it does find the right places to crescendo.

If there's any complaint I had--and it is a mild one--it's that Episode VII plays it extremely safe. On many of the scenes, you can tell far in advance where they are going, often because the sets are either deliberately derivative or the constructs seem way too obvious (for example, as one planet starts to crumble, the earth is obviously going to separate two warring characters). It doesn't hurt the tension any, or make the dramatic parts any less meaningful or impactful. But there didn't seem to be many of those killer world-rocking twists like we had at the end of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (that said, Episode VIII is perfectly set up for at least one, if not two, killer plot reveals and / or twists).

But I guess the most important thing is, J.J. Abrams (and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt) successfully reignited all of the majesty of the original trilogy, almost making one forget the dramatic and plot-dragging missteps of the prequels. They've been able to put together a good story that should spark imagination, curiosity, and excitement in a whole new generation of fans, while paying great reverence and respect to the past. I can't wait to take my kids, and see if their eyes light up just like mine did back in 1977.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gospel Of Stan Kasten Decrees Utley Signing Might Not Be Complete Off-Season Panacea

As we adjourn the Winter Meetings, with the Dodgers having done nothing of note while divisional rivals place big bets, one might think that the Dodgers are settled with merely their Chase Utley signing. Not so, sayeth Stan Kasten:

Bottom line

"The big picture is not complete yet." -- CEO Stan Kasten

And there you have it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dodgers Prepare For 36-Year Old Utley's Return By Extending Safety Netting Around Home Plate

Hours after re-signing Chase Utley to a one-year deal, the Dodgers announced they will extend the safety netting around home plate. Coincidence? I think not:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Dodgers will extend the netting at Dodger Stadium in accordance with new safety recommendations issued by Major League Baseball, the club announced on Wednesday.

The screen behind home plate will be extended to cover the seating area between the ends of the dugouts closest to home plate and within 70 feet of home plate. [...]

Said President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, "There's just no way Utley is catching up to big-league fastballs, not at his age. We want to make sure our fans don't get clocked in the noggin by a late-swing foul ball."

Fans with field level seats behind the Dodgers' third-base dugout will also be asked to stay alert during Utley ABs.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Utley Deal Complete: Dodgers Confident About Strong Core

In the same article that speaks of the official signing of Chase Utley's $7M, one-year deal, Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said the Dodgers, even less Cy Young runner up Zack Greinke (and possibly also sans Howie Kendrick), were still "solid":

As Friedman talked about the composition of his roster, he offered this reminder: The Dodgers still have a solid foundation.

Their roster remains stocked with several players with All-Star experience, including Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson.

"We're really excited about the core we have in place," Friedman said. "The core group of guys, we feel, is a championship-caliber core."

Even if the Dodgers don't make any significant additions over the remainder of the off-season, Friedman believes their nucleus is strong enough to lead them to another NL West championship.

"Yeah, definitely," he said.

Yeah, okay.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Samardzija Signs With Giants, Saving SoSG From Inevitable Typos Every Fifth Day

With Jeff Samardzija going to the Giants, San Francisco picks up a starter who went 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA for a stretch of last season:

The San Francisco Giants landed a top-tier starter to complement ace Madison Bumgarner, agreeing with free-agent right-hander Jeff Samardzija on a five-year, $90 million contract Saturday, a day after losing out on pitcher Zack Greinke.

The Giants said a formal announcement will come once Samardzija passes a physical, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Samardzija chose the Giants over the Dodgers and Cardinals, a source told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

This marks the third large contract for a pitcher this week. David Price joined the Boston Red Sox on a $217 million, seven-year deal, then on Friday night Greinke chose the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Giants and three-time defending NL West champion Dodgers, his former team. Greinke's deal is for six years, according to ESPN and media reports, and is worth a total of $206 million, a source told ESPN's Pedro Gomez.

Samardzija joined the White Sox via trade at the 2014 winter meetings to take over as the club's No. 2 starter, only to have an inconsistent 2015 season.

Heading into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, he delivered 10 consecutive starts of at least seven innings. After not being traded at the deadline, he immediately went 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA over his next nine starts.

To their credit, I suppose, at least the Giants have deployed Plan B (post-Greinke). I'm sure we've got something up our sleeves. Unless Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are into short-sleeved shirts, that is.

Uh oh.

Iwakuma Set To Fill Greinke Spot

Okay, that may be a bit much. But early reports have Hisashi Iwakuma headed to the Dodgers, right before the Nashville Winter Meetings:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Scrambling after losing Zack Greinke to the D-backs, the Dodgers on Sunday reportedly agreed to terms with free-agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and free-agent infielder Chase Utley, and were trying to trade for Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman on the eve of the annual Winter Meetings.

The Dodgers did not confirm any of the reports, and the free-agent agreements would be pending physical exams.

Reports have Iwakuma agreeing to a three-year, $45 million deal, a response to the loss of Greinke, as it will mean forfeiture of the Dodgers' first-round Draft pick because Iwakuma rejected a qualifying offer from the Mariners. He was 9-5 with a career-high 3.54 ERA in 2015, and he will be 35 years old next season. The Dodgers did receive a compensatory pick after the first round for losing Greinke. [...]

Iwakuma would join Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood in the rotation, with Hyun-Jin Ryu a question mark as he tries to return from shoulder surgery. The Dodgers are expected to continue shopping for starting pitching, most likely via trade, and have already been rumored to be interested in Miami's Jose Fernandez, among others.

Many of the better free-agent starting pitchers (David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey) have already gone to other clubs.

[oooh, snap!]

Because the needs are now so great, management might have no choice but to fill holes through trades, perhaps involving outfielder Yasiel Puig or Jansen. Outfielders Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, as well as infielder Alex Guerrero, could also be shopped.

The right-handed Iwakuma battled injuries the past two seasons -- a sprained finger in 2014 and a strained lat muscle in 2015 -- limiting him to 179 and 129 1/3 innings, respectively. But when healthy, he has pitched well, going 47-25 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in four seasons with the Mariners after a 12-year career in Japan. He also tossed a no-hitter this past season.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Dodgers In The Hunt For Chapman

Not this Chapman, I hope.

On the eve of Nashville's Winter Meetings, the Dodgers are apparently close to signing Aroldis Chapman in a trade with the Reds:

There is growing confidence in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization that the team will be able to finish a trade for Cincinnati Reds All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, a source told ESPN's Buster Olney.

Fox Sports earlier reported that the sides were progressing on a deal, with sources saying the Dodgers would be sending prospects to the Reds for Chapman, the hard-throwing 27-year-old from Cuba.

Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said last month that he hoped to move the closer before the winter meetings, which will take place this week in Nashville, Tennessee. [...]

Los Angeles already has an established closer, with Kenley Jansen recording 36 saves in 2015 and 44 in 2014.

And there's the kicker. I'm not sure what the benefit of adding Chapman is; it certainly has seemed like the Dodgers tend to bulk up in areas where we have too many options already (see: outfield). But assembling a team shouldn't be like going to Costco, in that 100 lbs of mayonnaise doesn't mean much if you don't have any bread.

Not that Chapman is a bad piece, however. Would be interesting to have him on the staff. Don't we have bigger holes to fill, though?

Dodgers Off-Season Is Complete: Utley Coming Back

Dodgers fans are treated to another season of creaking bones (pending no injury, of course)

Chase Utley, a career .281 batter who batted a torrid .202 for the Dodgers down the stretch last year (career OPS+: 121; Dodgers OPS+: 81), has reportedly signed for another year.

The Dodgers and second baseman Chase Utley have agreed to a one-year deal, according to Yahoo Sports.

The club has not confirmed the deal.

Utley, who will turn 37 this month, was traded to the Dodgers from the Phillies this past August and batted .202/.291/.363 during his time in Los Angeles.

The move gives the Dodgers another option at second base. Los Angeles adds Utley back into the mix alongside utility man Enrique Hernandez and Jose Peraza, whom they acquired from Atlanta in a three-team trade in July. Hernandez hit .307/.346/.490 in 76 games for Los Angeles last season, and Peraza is ranked by as the club's No. 4 prospect but is only 21.

Adding Utley could also be an indication that the Dodgers are unlikely to re-sign free agent Howie Kendrick, who hit .295/.336/.409 in his first season with the Dodgers after coming over via trade from the Angels last offseason.

Who needs Greinke?

Or, as SoSG Dusty coined in the SoSG staff room: "Utley will slot in nicely at the two spot in the rotation, with Dave Roberts pencilled in for the three spot."


(h/t SoSG Orel for the headline) photo: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Friday, December 04, 2015

Once More, with Feeling

photo: @thkbleu

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Bowden Predicts Greinke Back, Puig Gone

Jim Bowden over at ESPN had ten bold predictions for December (link insider only), and two of them involved the Dodgers:

2. The Dodgers re-sign Zack Greinke

I feel the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants or Chicago Cubs have the best shot at signing Greinke to a long-term deal, in part because he likes to hit and thus prefers the National League. But in the end, I say he remains with the Dodgers. He enjoyed pitching at Dodger Stadium and established a very good working relationship with catcher Yasmani Grandal. Plus, the Dodgers allowed him to be in their draft room during the 2015 MLB draft, which might seem like a small thing, but for the cerebral Greinke, it was definitely appreciated. I can't see the Dodgers letting him get away, especially to the rival Giants.

9. The Dodgers trade Yasiel Puig to either the Rays or Indians

Many Dodgers players have had enough of Puig's antics and lack of focus; they're tired of waiting for him to figure it out. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are desperately in need of young, controllable starting pitching, and have to consider moving him if the offer is right. Los Angeles has the resources to replace Puig's talent either in free agency, trade or international signings, and replacing Puig production's is a lot easier than getting top-notch starting pitching. The Dodgers match up well with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians, as both teams have quality young starters to deal and both are in need of an affordable power bat.

I'd be okay with both of those moves.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

MLB Commissioner Manfred Hoping Dave Roberts Counts As Two Minority Hires

Okay, that joke is a lot funnier ten days ago, but I've been pretty busy with Thanksgiving holiday and all that.

More on Dave Roberts, who was introduced in a press conference today:

FWIW, we Sons are pretty excited.