Monday, July 30, 2007

Games 104 and 105: The End?

I know there is still plenty of baseball to be played.  I also know that it's strange to feel an incredible sense of panic when one's team is tied for the lead in its division.  But, still, things feel weird.  And I feel like this weekend was only a sign of things to come, and that is not good.

I don't want to go into a lot of detail on the games from Saturday and Sunday.  They sucked, if you want me to be blunt about it.  Brett Tomko sucked badly early on Saturday, then settled down a bit.  But it didn't matter.  The Dodgers could only score two runs, and they lost 6-2.

Chad Billingsley sucked even worse on Sunday.  He couldn't get out of the fifth, throwing 110+ pitches in just 4.1 innings.  Not a good sign.  The Dodgers staged a late rally, even loading the bases in the ninth, but there's only so much an offense can do when a pitching staff lets it down.  The Dodgers managed six runs on Sunday, which is often enough in the National League (or either league).  The problem is, Dodger pitching could never keep it close.  The Dodgers lost 9-6.

Trade rumors are flying everywhere, and I hate every one of them.  Yes, I know our pitching is suffering.  But there is a bright future to be had for a team that features Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Martin, maybe even Betemit.  And to give up any piece of that future is irresponsible and even disrespectful to the fans who watch this team all year long.  I'm not going to address every trade rumor I've heard, but a lot of them just don't make sense.  Let's say Gagne does come back.  Then what?  He won't be a setup man; he'll have to be the closer.  So then what about Saito?  He goes to the eighth inning?  Okay, then what about Broxton?  Sometimes I wonder if these rumors have any basis, and then I have to wonder what the hell management is thinking by even considering them.

Anyway, the Dodgers haven't finished a month this season with a sub-.500 record (they were 14-14 in June).  They are 12-12 right now in July.  Only one game left.  You know what that means. 

It's Brad Penny vs. Noah Lowry on Tuesday, to begin a three-game set with the Giants.  I won't be at any of these games.  Part of me is glad about that, and part of me is a little upset that I could be missing history.  If Barry Bonds hits the tying and/or the winning runs in Dodger Stadium, though, I think I'll end up being glad I wasn't there.  I don't think the ensuing chaos will paint Dodger fans in a positive light (and, frankly, a lot of Dodger fans deserve that portrayal; it's often a pretty rowdy place to watch a game).  I would just rather see Bonds leave here still sitting on 754.  Let him go down to San Diego and hit the two home runs he needs off of his peers, Greg Maddux and Davd Wells.


No Pierre Watch.  No players of the games.  Can't do it.  I'll be back to my regular in-depth analysis on Tuesday.


Record: 57-48 (tied with Arizona for the NL West lead)




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/30/2007 02:52:00 PM

The good news is that even with the D'Backs playing out of their mind you are still tied for first...
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/30/2007 02:55:36 PM

True.

I'm just getting to be convinced that the Diamondbacks will continue to play out of their minds while the Dodgers (and maybe even the Padres) fall by the wayside.  The Dodgers' hitting has greatly improved over the last two months, but the pitching has become wildly unpredictable, largely thanks to injuries.  So that's a "wait and see" sort of scenario.

It will definitely be a nerve-racking last two months of the season.
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rainout/Trade Deadline Worries

If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time the Dodgers have been rained out this season.  It hasn't happened at home, I know that.  But there was a storm in Colorado and it wasn't looking good, so they called the game.  Apparently there will be a makeup game during the September 18-20 series between the two teams.  I certainly hope the Dodger pitching staff is in better shape by then, because no one wants a doubleheader with pitchers running on fumes.

Wolf had a rough rehab start in Single A, which is definitely not encouraging.  Derek Lowe seems to be okay, but is now complaining of pain in his hip, which is apparently a bad sign.  Guys often need surgery for that problem.  Brad Penny is still feeling the abdominal pain a little bit, but no one seems too nervous about that one.

Tomko was supposed to go on Friday night, then Billingsley, then Hendrickson on Sunday.  The rainout is a blessing, though, for this run-down team.  Tomko will now pitch on Saturday, with Billingsley going on Sunday.  Hendrickson will be available in the bullpen on Sunday.  I like that setup much better.

I hate the trade deadline.  It makes me nervous for days.  Three years ago, on July 31, 2004, I walked into a local restaurant for lunch, and happened to glance into the bar area at one of the TVs.  It was tuned to ESPN, and there was breaking news.  When I read the headline, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  Nomar Garciaparra had been traded to the Cubs in the middle of his ninth season with the Red Sox.  I went to my table and, I'm not ashamed to admit, cried a little bit.  This is why I hate the trade deadline.

I don't want to see Ned Colletti make a desperation move for this season that will screw the team for the future.  There is no reason right now to give up Kemp, Loney or Ethier.  I know the pitching staff is having some problems, but let's think about the future, okay?  And the rumors of the Dodgers acquiring Kei Igawa are especially troubling.  We shouldn't get him at all, but if we do, we should get him for free.  He's not worth the effort, and he's certainly not worth anything the Yankees would want in return.  Also troubling are the rumors about getting Mark Teixeira from Texas.  I don't understand that at all, since we have a strong first baseman in James Loney. 

I just want the deadline to come already, so I can stop panicking at every rumor I see. 

Oh, and the Diamondbacks won again on Friday night, which puts them only one game back of the Dodgers.  The Padres also won, so they sit at 1.5 games back.  The Dodgers face the Diamondbacks August 3-5, after a three-game set with the Giants.  Both series are at home, which helps, but the Diamondback series is especially important.  35 of the remaining 59 games are against teams in the NL West, so there is plenty of time for a lot of flip-flopping.  It would be nice to see the Dodgers create a little room at the top with a sweep of their closest competitors.  I have tickets to the last game of the season for the Dodgers, which is against the Giants, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it come down to the results of that game.  And I thought the trade deadline was making me nervous.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yuck

I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating.

I hate (HATE!) the on-air guys for the Chicago White Sox.  That one guy in particular.  You know who I mean.  That guy "they" call "Hawk."

Here's what I hate:
               
  • "Stretch! Stretch!"  This is what he says when someone hits a fly ball and he wants it to be a home run.  I literally just heard this seconds ago, when a White Sox player hit a ball that just barely made it the warning track.  Guess what, man?  That ball wasn't going to stretch.
            
  • "You can put it on the board...YES!" This would be his home run call.  I always picture the scoreboard operator holding a number in his hand (in my mind, it's an old-fashioned scoreboard), hesitating until "Hawk" says the "YES!" part of the call.

  • "He gone!"  This is his strikeout call.  Why must you use improper grammar, Hawk?

I don't mind broadcast guys who are "homers" for the team.  It is that team's television station, so why not?  Pretty much every team has some guys that obviously root for their team.  If they're on YES or NESN or whatever, they're allowed to root for their team.  It's not like they all have to be as objective as Joe Buck is when he does national coverage. 

But this guy goes way beyond that, and is so unbelievably annoying that it's actually painfu.

"Hawk" really, truly makes me skin crawl.  Am I crazy?  Am I the only one? 


UPDATE:  I'm not the only one, because I just found this site.  Awesome. 




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/26/2007 05:29:26 PM

I couldn't agree with you more. The guy is a real douchebag. He even used to be the GM for the Sox, but was fired.
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AUTHOR: Rickhouse

DATE: 07/26/2007 07:08:26 PM

Oh come on, the Hawk-a-roo is awesome!! I guess he's an acquired taste, but as a white sox fan i love him. He really is the biggest homer ever, so if your looking for unbiased journalism, he probably isn't your type. But he keeps things entertaining (even if it's sometimes unintentional). The best thing he does is if the sox are getting hammered the other  team hits a dinger, he wont even say anything. The broadcast will just sit in silence for about 4 minutes until the next batter comes up. Its fantastic. And as Cobra mentioned, he was once their GM and one of the worst ones ever. He traded Sammy Sosa for George Bell.
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/27/2007 01:20:17 AM

There is more dead air during a White Sox game than at a funeral. If I ever need to take a nap I just turn them on.
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AUTHOR: Rickhouse

DATE: 07/27/2007 02:02:27 AM

creative.
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/27/2007 02:18:40 PM

Sorry Rickhouse.  Maybe I'm just spoiled because I get to listen to Vin Scully, but I just can't see any value (even comedic) in a guy like Hawk.
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Game 103: Dodgers 5, Astros 4

The Dodgers won, but this game was not without its scary moments.  While legging out a single during the seventh inning, Brad Penny, who ranks second only to Jonathan Broxton on the "Dodgers Fattest Pitchers" list, came up gimpy.  He certainly looked like he was grabbing near his groin area, and I immediately saw the season go up in flames.  It's bad enough that Derek Lowe is nursing an injury in the same location (still no word if he's going on the DL).  If they were to also lose Penny, there would probably be no hope.

The official news at the moment is that it's just an abdominal cramp.  Which is surprising because, as Bruce Paine said in the comments, ther ain't a lot of muscle there, and you can't pull fat.  Perhaps the abdominals are cramping because of all the fat, though.  It's likely.  Hey pitchers (and many hitters), you guys are professional athletes, right?  Just checking.

Anyway, the game.  It started very well, with the Dodgers jumping out to a 5-0 lead.  Penny got into some trouble in the sixth (literally seconds after I called for him to pitch a complete game) and gave up three runs on three hits and two walks.  But he got out of it, and when he left the game in the seventh, he had the lead.

Beimel came in for the seventh, and left after recording two outs.  He had runners on, but the inning would have already been over, if not for an error by James Loney.  I don't know what Loney was doing.  He caught the ball, and it looked like he had plenty of time to just step his foot onto the bag.  Instead, he tried a weird tag of the runner.  He tagged him, but not until the runner had already touched first.  That's normally not called for an out.

So, Broxton came in and got Matt Holliday to strike out.  Then Broxton returned for the eighth, and ran into some problems.  He gave up a double to Helton, then got Atkins to line out.  But Brad Hawpe followed with a single, and suddenly it was a one-run game.  Broxton got the next two outs without a problem.

The Dodgers' offense came only in the fourth and fifth innings.  In the fourth, Furcal struck out, and then Pierre hit a single.  He stole second, then advanced to third on a wild pitch (see how things happen whenever he gets on base?).  Russell Martin walked, and the Gonzalez hit a sac fly to score the first run.  Garciaparra followed, and hit a single to center, which scored Martin and Gonzalez.  3-0, Dodgers.

It climbed to 5-0 in the fifth after Brad Penny hit a single and Furcal hit a home run to right field.  Very surprising, but it turned out that they needed it.

I was wondering whether Saito would come into the game.  We had been told he was available, but I didn't know if Grady would immediately put him in a one-run game, in Coors Field, of all places.  But the ninth inning came, and there was Saito.  He got a flyout and a groundout, then walked a guy.  Matt Holliday came to the plate, and Saito struck him out on three pitches.  In all, Saito only needed twelve pitches to record his 26th save of the year.  I've heard nothing yet about how he feels after that, so for now I'll assume that no news is good news.

The Padres lost again.  Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have played well of late, and after a walk-off home run from Eric Byrnes last night, suddenly find themselves in second place in the West, only 1.5 games out of first.  This one is going to be a dogfight.



Pierre Watch:  2-4, 1 run scored, 1 SB (42)


Player of the Game:  Brad Penny.  He gets this in a lot of games that he starts, and with good reason.  Not only did he pitch six fairly strong innings (5H, 3ER, 3BB, 3 Ks), he als went 2-3 at the plate with a run scored.  Compare that to a guy like Mark Hendrickson, who is 0-40 as a Dodger, and you can see why I like to give Brad Penny some love.  His average this year is .293, for god's sake!  With a better OBP (.326) than Juan Pierre.  Also, this was Penny's 13th win of the year, which ties him for the major league lead.


Record:  57-46



My brother and my good friend Stacey had birthdays on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.  Neither of them ever read this blog, but I'm wishing them happy birthday, albeit belatedly, anyway.  See how nice I am?

Game 102: Astros 2, Dodgers 1

I can see it slowly starting to unravel out here in Dodgerland, and it's not a good feeling.

Remember when I said that there was no way the Astros should be able to beat Derek Lowe and Brad Penny?  Well, when I said that, I wasn't expecting this.

Derek Lowe left the mound before recording an out in the fifth inning.  It was the first time he's ever left a game due to an injury, and it's not looking good.  He's having some problem with his groin (who isn't?) and he says he first felt it on Sunday when he came in to pitch a relief inning.  I guess it didn't get any better between Sunday and Wednesday, which can't be a good sign.

Still, though, he didn't hurt the team in this game.  He only gave up one run on a solo shot.  When he left, the Dodgers were down 1-0.  D.J. Houlton came in to pitch some relief innings, and was fairly solid.  Jeff Kent led off the seventh with a huge home run.  The Dodgers' commentators couldn't stop talking about how long that home run must have been.  It's bounced off a beam behind the left field seats, but it was really high up as well.  The official estimate is 413 feet, which is absurd.  That ball would have gone a long way had it not been for the wall stopping it.

Anyway, that home run made it 1-1.  Houlton came back out for the seventh and immediately gave up a home run to Carlos Lee to make it 2-1.  Houlton was pulled for Beimel, but the damage was done.  Neither team would score another run.

The Astros' pitching staff is not good, and the guy who went on Wednesday had an ERA of more than 5.  Please explain to me why the Dodgers couldn't score more than one run. 

The Dodgers cannot lose Thursday.  They just can't.  With Lowe likely to go on the DL, and the rest of the pitching staff questionable at best, Penny is the only one they can count on.  Sure, that's a lot of pressure, but so what?  He needs to perform.  And he has to do at Coors Field in Colorado.  So, good luck Brad.



Pierre Watch: 0-4 (I know you've gotten some hits lately Juan, but I'm still not seeing that spectacular second half that everyone claims you always have)


Player of the Game:  Jeff Kent (2-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI)


Record:  56-46 (still a one-game lead in the West)




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/27/2007 12:34:06 PM

shame about the abdominal.  penny has a magnificently cultivated beer gut.  i would think that might help him avoid those.  you cant pull fat
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Game 101: Astros 7, Dodgers 4

The Dodgers really should have beaten Jason Jennings of Houston on Tuesday night.  They really should have.  All the odds were in their favor, and until the sixth inning, it looked like they were going to do it.

The Dodgers scored three runs early, and then took a break for the next few innings.  Mark Hendrickson pitched well for five innings, only giving up a run.  But then, in the sixth, he let the first two runners get on base.  He walked off the mound with runners at second and third, and Grady handed the ball to Rudy Seanez.

Seanez has been dependable this year, no question.  I don't know the stats, but I feel like he's done a fairly good job of not letting inherited runners score.  That was not the case Sunday, however, and it would not be the case on Tuesday night either.  To be fair, I've already mentioned that the bullpen is tired, and Seanez is an old dude who's probably been pitching above his abilities this season (if my memory of him as a member of the Red Sox means anything).  But, still.  A lot of bullpens are tired.  It's flown by, but we're getting to be late in the season.  So, this is when professionals buckle down and get the job down.

Alas, Seanez did not get that memo.  Before I could blink, Morgan Ensberg (who sucks this year) hit a double down the line, scoring two runs.  The game was tied at three.

Let's all remember now that Tuesday was the day that Craig Biggio announced he will retire at the end of this season, after 20 years in the majors.  So I suppose it was only fitting that he be the hero for this game.  Sure enough, with a runner on, Seanez walked a guy, then got a fielder's choice and a foul out, and then walked another guy.  Bases loaded.  Biggio walked to the plate and hit a home run to the short porch in left.  That was the first pitch he saw from Seanez.  Guess he liked it.  7-3, Astros.

The Dodgers would add one more run when Pierre walked and Martin doubled him home.  But that was it.

It's Derek Lowe on Wednesday night.  Let's all hope that his struggles are behind him.  With Lowe and then Penny, there is no reason for the Astros' lineup (21st in the majors in BA, 19th in OBP) to be able to beat the Dodgers' pitchers (knock wood).



Pierre Watch: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 run scored


Player of the Game: James Loney (2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI)


Record:  56-45 (San Diego won; the lead is back down to one game) 

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Game 100: Dodgers 10, Astros 2

I have a lot of work to do today, and I was considering holding off on writing this one until later tonight.  But I happened to stop by Cobra Brigade before starting work, and Jack Cobra has written some really nice stuff about me.  I mean, really nice.  Possibly the nicest ever, at least in terms of compliments on my writing ability.  So, of course I had to buckle down and write today's blog.  Thanks Jack!

Besides, this was game 100, baby!  It doesn't really mean much, but hitting the century mark implies some sort of threshold, so I'm going to give it more meaning than it actually deserves.  Oh, but the Dodgers won by eight runs.  So, I guess it does deserve a little extra hype.

This is exactly the type of game you hope a team (particularly one with quite a few young players, like the Dodgers) can have after a disheartening loss.  The Astros were never really in this game, thanks to some fine offense and a downright spectacular pitching performance by one Mr. Chad Billingsley.

We all know the Dodgers' pitching staff is hanging on by a thread.  The bullpen has been faltering, and, on top of that, has been overworked.  Saito needed an MRI, but thankfully the results were negative.  We can only hope we'll be seeing him again soon.  The point is, the team needed some innings from its starting pitcher.  And, oh, did Billingsley give them some innings.  Nine, to be exact.  And it was nearly a shutout, if not for a hard ground ball that Loney couldn't quite handle (it went as a hit), followed by a home run.  Those two hits came with two outs in the ninth.

Way back when Billingsley was a reliever, I had him on a fantasy team.  I kept him there when he began starting games.  He's done pretty well, and I haven't regretted leaving him on the team, but yesterday was extra special.  Thank you, Chad, for only giving up two runs in nine innings.  That was helpful.

Anyway, it was Billingsley's first complete game, and it was just ever so close to a shutout.  But let's talk offense for just a quick second.  A few Dodgers had some good games.  Yeah, half the team is young (Loney, Kemp, Ethier, Martin), but I don't know if you've noticed, there are a few veterans as well.  And they did a nice job on Monday night.  I'm speaking of Garciaparra, Kent and Gonzalez.  Combined, they went 9-14 with  6 RBI and three runs scored (one each).

Jeff Kent and Gonzalez have both been hitting well lately, and Nomar is starting to heat up.  I'm hesitant to say that he's getting back to normal, but he did have two home runs in four games against the Mets.  And, this season, he's been not so great on the road and great at home.  But, last night's game was on the road, and he was 3-5.  Maybe there's a little spark there?  I hope so.

I especially hope so because if the veterans can keep up with the young guys a little bit, this lineup is just the slightest bit formidable.  The team batting average is .279, which is good for fifth in the majors.  They're fifth in OBP, even with guys like Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal.  The hitting is going well, and the pitching staff, though faltering, has an ERA of 3.92.  That's sixth in the majors, and third in the NL.  The rotation right now is Penny, Lowe, Billinglsey, Tomko and Hendrickson.  I like the first three, and Tomko  has surprised me in his last two starts.  We'll have to see if that will continue.  As for Hendrickson, I don't know.  He goes tonight, and I just hope he can get through six.  The Astros are throwing Jason Jennings out there, and the due has lost something like his last six starts.  This lineup should be able to massacre him, and give Hendrickson a little breathing room (fingers crossed).



Pierre Watch:  1-4, 1 run scored.  BA holding at .286, OBP climbing all the way to .317, which is just remarkable. 


I just want everyone to know that when I was creating the Pierre-o-meter, I spent some time researching true Dodger blue.  It's Pantone 294, in case it matters to you.  And guess what color the blue is for the Pierre-o-meter?  Yes.  Officially, that is Dodger Blue.


Player of the Game:  Chad Billingsley.  Yes, I know Kent had a 4-4 night, but what we needed was some good pitching.  And look at this line:  9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks.  You want to give "Player of the Game" to someone else?  Yeah, I didn't think so. 


Record:  56-44 (the Rockies came from behind to beat the Padres, which means a two-game lead for the boys in blue.  Nice.) 



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/24/2007 03:55:42 PM

You have a great site, so you deserve the praise. Hopefully we pushed some new readers your way....As for Nomar, I wonder if his hot streak possibly coincides with better sleeping habits for his twins?? I don't have kids so I don't know how that goes.
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/24/2007 04:38:38 PM

The twins are about four months old now, which means they could be sleeping a little bit better.  I don't know what the situation is in the Garciaparra/Hamm household, but I'd be willing to bet they're not going it alone.  Still, though, I'm sure he gets more sleep on the road, so you'd think his road numbers would be better.  I don't know.  I just hope he continues hitting.

On June 30, he was hitting .276, with a .314 OBP and .339 SLG.  Through yesterday, he's at .283/.327/.356.  Not amazing improvements, but they're improvements nonetheless.  His July numbers are good (.317/.388/.433), so that's something.

I'd volunteer to babysit if Nomar would just get a few more extra base hits.
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AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/24/2007 05:06:03 PM

When he was with the Cubs his power numbers weren't extraordinary but he always had his share of doubles and his ob% was good. I'd be willing to bet that he'll have a nice August.
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/24/2007 06:00:32 PM

Nomar's wife was part of something that happens every once in a while in sports and really takes off.  Somebody somewhere really did their homework and put exactly the right kind of team together with exactly the right kind of talent and had them playing exactly the right way at the exact time they needed to be at their best when the USA women won the soccer world cup.  I don't really like soccer and have never had fun playing it but I can appreciate what they did there.  I have often thought that women's sports are a better barometer for where the USA stands in worldwide sports competitions as far as depth of athletic ability and nutrition and all that stuff because women's sports are so recent (within the last 30 years or so).  I find that, though i detest women's basketball, women's soccer, softball, volleyball (beach and court), and tennis continue to capture my attention.  I will watch a Williams sister play tennis at any time of the day and only NFL football and the occasional airing of Red Dawn can tear me away from the women's college world series.
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/24/2007 07:20:35 PM

I was probably the biggest fan of women's soccer circa 1999.  I remember every detail of the day they beat China in the World Cup that year (and most of the games preceding it).  I could probably write a minute-by-minute account, though that would be boring.  I own a program from that World Cup (though I didn't go to a game), and I have every major magazine published with the women on the cover (Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, whatever).  They're prized possessions.

I don't know what it was about that team, but you're right--they were playing exactly when they needed to be. 

And I worship the ground that Mia Hamm walks on.

I agree about women's basketball, at least professionally.  I'll watch college, but I kind of detest the WNBA (without ever having watched a game). 

But, obviously, I am a woman, so my experiences in (and reasons for) watching women's sports are going to be different than any man's.
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/24/2007 09:08:39 PM

The little town I call home in Indiana has a population of about 2400.  Our gymnasium at the high school, and this is no joke, seats 2350.  Basketball is serious stuff around here, girls and boys, and the game is still coached with a very disciplined style.  I think that is part of the problem.  I have watched a lot of girls basketball games and it just doesn't catch attention the way it should.  I don't buy into the crap that it is because they can't dunk or because girls aren't as fast.  It is coached and taught differently.  Some pro and college teams are sloppy, lots of turnovers and ballhandling mistakes, but I don't see a whole lot of that around here.  What aggravates me around here is that they play such a controlled style it is boring.  It can be exciting.  My senior year of high school our girls team won the state championship, and they were a fast paced offense with an aggressive defense and a lot of fun to watch.  I just don't see that enough.  My daughters will all play soccer when they are eventually born, and I will use soccer to give them the footwork their father and aunts lacked, then their grandfather will teach them to shoot freethrows and they will all go to college on scholarship to play point guard.  That is how I am going to save for my retirement.   
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Games 98 and 99

I can't do it, guys.  I can't give you an in-depth analysis on these two games because it hardly seems worth it.  Sure, the Dodgers won on Saturday.  But not before having to climb out of a four-run hole that Brad Penny (Brad Penny!) had given them.  They scored eight unanswered, and then the bullpen made it interesting again.  But they won.

And then came Sunday.  Here are the basic highlights:

-Eric Stults made his first major league start of the season (and maybe only his third overall).  He did well, going 5.1 innings and giving up no earned runs.  But then he left with two on and nobody out, and Seanez let both runs score.  So, Stults actually gave up two runs.

-Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run home run in the sixth to break the tie and give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead.  Seemed like a great thing at the time.

-Grady Little had no more help in the bullpen, so he called on Derek Lowe to pitch the seventh.  Lowe got three outs on ten pitches.  He should have stayed out there for the eighth, too.

-Roberto Hernandez, whom I really do not like, gave up a run in the eighth, to cut it to 4-3.

-Never fear, though, because Jonathan Broxton is pitching the ninth.  Nothing to worry about, right?  Right?  Wrong.  Broxton struggled, and eventually gave up the tying run.

-You know how he gave up that tying run?  With one out and a runner on third, Matt Kemp dropped (dropped!) a shallow fly ball.  The run scored and the game was tied.

-The Mets won when some guy named Ambres, who hadn't had a hit since 2005 (he was put in as a pinch runner in the ninth) got a hit off of D.J. Houlton in the top of the tenth.

-The Dodgers threated in the tenth, and had two on with two outs.  But Nomar, he of the great home run earlier, struck out to end the game.

The Phillies massacred the Padres again, so the Dodgers had a chance to get a little more breathing room at the top.  But they couldn't do it, and it was depressing.  Now they're on the road against the Astros and Rockies, two teams they should beat.  But the pitching is in shambles, and now it looks like Takashi Saito might be suffering from more than just a sore shoulder.  The MRI results are pending.  Things are not looking promising at the moment, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see what this road trip brings.


Pierre Watch:(for both games)  2-8, 1 BB, 2 RBI.  No energy for a Pierre-o-meter today.


Players of the Games:  Saturday goes to Matt Kemp, for the big three-run blast that gave the Dodgers the lead at 5-4.  Sunday, he was the goat, and the player of the game was Nomar.  Sure, he struck out with the tying run ninety feet away.  But we might not have been it at all without him.


Record:  55-44 (one game ahead of the Padres)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Game 97: Mets 4, Dodgers 1

There's just no predicting this game, is there?  Derek Lowe went to the hill on Thursday night and pitched terribly, going against virtually everything he's done this season.  He was awful.

Meanwhile, Brett Tomko has been pitching terribly all season.  But in his last start, he went five innings and gave up one earned run (three runs total) against the Giants, and he got the win.  Okay, so maybe that was a fluke.  I certainly didn't have much confidence in him on Friday night.

But then he started pitching.  And before we knew it, he had gone six innings and given up no earned runs.  He probably could have gone seven, but he hadn't done that since pulled him.  It also didn't help that, in the first inning, Tomko got Marlon Anderson (recently picked up by the Mets after being released by the Dodgers) to pop up to center field.  It was routine, but Pierre and Gonzalez got crossed up, and the ball dropped in for a double.  Tomko then struck out Beltran.  The inning should have been over.  But, the error meant that David Wright got to come to the plate.  He hit a single, scoring Anderson.  1-0, Mets.

Kingman over at Loge 13 asked me if Dodger fans miss Marlon Anderson.  But, you know, the guy only played in a combined 48 games for the Dodgers over the last two seasons.  He never really got a shot to be anything that we would miss.  So far, though, in his short time with the Mets, I think he's proving he's a valuable addition to a team.  

In the second inning, Nomar Garciaparra hit a home run to dead center field to tie the game.  It was only Nomar's third homer of the year, so that was nice to see.  The game remained tied at one until the eighth inning.  Tomko had come out, and Beimel had pitched the seventh.  Oliver Perez pitched the seventh for the Mets, and then came the top of the eighth.

Roberto Hernandez, who was released by the Indians (who ate a $6+ million contract in the process, which should have told us something) was recently acquired by the Dodgers.  He pitched a perfect inning in Thursday's blowout, so I guess Grady thought he could handle holding the tie.  Well, he couldn't.  He gave up a double to Reyes to lead off the inning.  Marlon Anderson (there he is again) came up and laid down a sac bunt.  Hernandez picked up the ball and promptly threw it into the Mets' dugout, which allowed Reyes to score.  2-1, Mets.  Then, as if that weren't bad enough, the next batter was Carlos Beltran, and on the first pitch he saw, he hit a two-run homer into the left field pavilion.  4-1, Mets.

The Dodgers had a shot in the bottom of the ninth, when Martin and Kent hit consecutive singles with one out.  But, Luis Gonzalez grounded into a fielder's choice, and Nomar flied out to center.  Billy Wagner got the Dodgers in order in the bottom of the ninth.  Game over.

Tomko pitched well, but the bullpen blew it.  I don't think Roberto Hernandez is the answer to the problems the Dodgers have been having with middle relief.  At this point, it's looking like the Dodgers have a chance to win one, maybe two games out of every five.  Those would be the games that Brad Penny and Derek Lowe (assuming Thursday was an anomaly) start.  And that won't get them into the playoffs.

At least Penny goes on Saturday.  That could be a good thing.



Pierre Watch:  1-4, one really costly error in the first freakin' inning.


Player of the Game: Nomar Garciaparra (for getting the game's only run)


Record: 54-43 (San Diego lost, so it's still a tie at the top of the NL West) 




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/22/2007 11:55:47 PM

why are to dodgers sucking now?  Theycan't seem to do anything right.
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AUTHOR: JJ

DATE: 07/24/2007 03:07:22 PM

Hi Erin,

I see your comments on Depressed fan and SML and thought I'd stop by for a visit. 

And also wanted to let you know you kicked ass in the discussion on SML on the whole Mike Vick thing...you present a compelling argument and I agree with you. 

PS... as a Phils fan, how is Randy Wolfe doing?  I saw Liebie get a rare start vs. my Phils last week and he did well.  Even if he had one arm and one leg, he'd be an improvement over the dog we have behind the plate now (Barajas, who unfortunately is still a Phil).  I also really enjoyed the Juan Pierre O'Meter....you ROCK!    
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/24/2007 04:43:59 PM

JJ,

Thanks for stopping by.  I appreciate the support in the Michael Vick debate.

Randy Wolf started pretty well, then struggled, before finally revealing a shoulder problem.  He's on the DL right now, and he just threw off a mound on Saturday.  He's supposed to rejoin the team in Colorado this weekend after a rehab start, but I don't think that means he'll be back in the rotation right away.  We'll have to see.

As for Lieberthal, I like the guy.  He's batting .280 in only 24 games with the Dodgers, so that's good to see.

It's unfortunate for him that he plays behind a workhorse like Martin.  But Martin has been slumping recently, and some are attributing that to him just being tired.  I'd be all for a couple games off from Martin, with Lieberthal in there. 

Martin's not doing much offensively, and Lieberthal is a veteran catcher, so I don't think the Dodgers would miss a lot by taking Martin out, and the potential gains are great.  If the Dodgers make the playoffs, I'd like Martin to be somewhat fresh.
-----

Friday, July 20, 2007

Game 96: Mets 13, Dodgers 9

I just don't know what to say about this one.  Derek Lowe was absolutely terrible, and gave up six runs in the first inning.  His team cut it to 6-4, and then he gave up three more runs, making it 9-4.  The Dodgers showed some fight most of the night, but just couldn't get over the hump.  They had 19 hits in the game, but only nine runs to show for it (a stat that normally would indicate a win in most games, I guess).

The bullpen is suffering, and at some point, a starting pitcher has got to give the Dodgers some innings.  The next day off is quite a long way away (two more weeks or something) and things can't keep going the way they are.

Want to know more about the Mets?  Head over to Loge 13.  Kingman will tell you everything you need to know.



Pierre Watch:  2-5, 1 run scored.  No Pierre-o-meter this time.


Player of the Game:  Matt Kemp (2-5, 2 RBI, 3 runs scored; he had the home run that cut it to 6-4 early)


Record:  54-42 (ostensibly tied atop the west, .001 behind the Padres in winning percentage) 

Oh Lord

The sad part is, she might have been better than Derek Lowe was last night:

"When Posh's assistant told her she was going to throw out the first pitch at the Dodgers game, Posh responded with a straight face: 'What if I make them lose?'"

Cheating

There's a report out today that the NBA and FBI are investigating a referee for betting on games in which he was an official.  This referee, who sources say is Tim Donaghy, allegedly made calls that affected the point spreads of games.

Earlier today, when the name of the referee hadn't yet come out, I was ready to put the blame on Joey Crawford. 

This is pretty big, though, right?  I think the NBA has a problem on its hands.

Read the (brief) ESPN article here:



Thursday, July 19, 2007

Question

I'm watching the much delayed White Sox/Red Sox game right now.  They put up a stat for A.J. Pierzynski, and that stat was "highest percentage of swings."  That's all it said as a title.  A.J. was somewhere in the 60s.

The question is, what the hell does that mean?  Highest percentage of swings?  Do they mean he swings at 60% of pitches?  If so, why didn't they say that?  Maybe I'm missing something obvious here, but does anyone know what this stat is supposed to represent?


P.S. I want you all to know that I guessed at the spelling of A.J.'s last name, and I got it right on the first try. 




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/20/2007 10:54:26 AM

It is my understanding that this stat represents the number of pitches the hitter swings at during an at-bat. It is supposed to show how selective they are and a lot of times they run it with the pitches per at bat stat.

They showed this a few times last year when Pierre was with the Cubs because he rarely took pitches, yet rarely struck out. I think they were probably trying to do the same with Pierzynski in this situation.
-----

AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/20/2007 12:10:48 PM

Thanks Jack. 

That's what I thought, but "highest percentage of swings" doesn't seem like the best title for that stat.

It reminded me of an awesome bar graph I saw in The Onion once.  On the y-axis, there were numbers going up and they represented "towels."  On the x-axis, the numbers were meant to represent "Catholics."  It made no sense, but it's still one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

Anyway, thanks for the help.
-----

Game 95: Dodgers 5, Phillies 4

I went to this game, and it was hot out, but because it was a day game on a Wednesday (apparently the 14th annual "Camp Day"), I was able to snag a seat in the shade.  My season seats do not have any shade on them at all during the day, which is a shame.  But, no one ever came to claim the seat.  In fact, when I got up to get a Dodger Dog, I noticed a guy come along and sit down where I had just been.  After I got my food, I went back to the seat and said, "Excuse me.  You're in my seat."  And he apologized and got up.  It was pretty awesome.

Oh, and the Dodgers also played a ball game.  Chad Billingsley got the start, and somehow managed to come away still undefeated (he didn't factor in the decision, however).  He went five innings, and he was well over 100 pitches by the end of the fifth.  He gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks.  He never looked sharp, and he's lucky he only gave up those four runs.

He's also lucky that Andre Ethier is swinging a hot bat.  With the Dodgers down 3-1 in the fourth, Betemit and Loney both singled.  Ethier came up, and on the 1-2 pitch, he launched a home run into right center field.  Dodgers lead, 4-3.  That meant that Billingsley had the chance for the win, if he could hold the lead in the fifth inning.  Of course, he couldn't.  He gave up a single, threw a wild pitch, walked a guy, then gave up another single to drive in the tying run.

Gonzalez saved the day by leading off the sixth inning with a solo home run.  Rudy Seanez, who has accumulated a great record this season by coming off the bench in just these situations, got his sixth win out of the bullpen.  He, Beimel, Broxton and Saito each pitched an inning to finish off the game and get the Dodgers the series win.  They are now 5-1 since the break, and still hold a one-game lead over the Padres. 

The Mets come to town now, and it starts with Glavine versus Lowe.  Should be interesting.

Also, to anyone who was reading the comments section on this post over at Stop Mike Lupica, you should know that I'm done with the whole debate, and not because I don't have a valid response to the points made.  I just should never have gotten involved with Pacifist Viking, since I should know that arguing with a vegetarian is a futile thing.  I'd like to think that as I've become an adult, I've learned how to pick my battles a little bit better, and so that's what I'm doing.



Pierre Watch:  1-4


Player of the Game:  Andre Ethier (1-2, 2 BB, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs scored)


Record:   54-41

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Game 94: Phillies 15, Dodgers 3

This one isn't even over yet as I begin to write this entry, but I can't take it anymore.  After more than three hours, the Dodgers are down 14-3.  The Dodgers' pitchers have given up 26 hits to the Phillies.  That ties an L.A. Dodgers' record.  The franchise record of 27 was set in Brooklyn in 1958.  And now Nomar just had an error at third, and the score is 15-3.  We'll see if that's the final score that goes in my headline.

Not much to say about this one.  Hendrickson pitched, and he certainly set the tone.  He went 3+ innings and gave up seven runs.  The seventh came on a two-run home run given up by Eric Stults when he came in to relieve Hendrickson.  That was the first batter Stults faced, and it made the score 8-0, Phillies.  Stults would give up four total, then Seanez would give up two.  Broxton pitched one scoreless inning, and then Beimel gave up two in the ninth for good measure.

Aaron Rowand, on a night I didn't start him on one of my fantasy teams, had three doubles and a home run.  He wasn't the only one who had a big night for the Phils, but he's the one that hurt me because I didn't want to start him against my Dodgers.  Shows what loyalty will get you.  Everyone else in the lineup for the Phillies had a hit, and by the ninth inning, even Vin Scully was rooting for the Phillies' catcher, Coste, to get a hit, since he was the only one who hadn't gotten one yet (obviously he got it).  The pitcher (who had an ERA of 13.50 coming into the game, so the Dodgers really screwed this one up) had three hits, which shows you how it went.

Tony Abreu, the pinch hitter,  just got the fourteenth hit for the Dodgers, leading off the ninth.  Forty hits total in the game.  Furcal and Loney are the only Dodgers without hits, and yet they still only managed to score three runs.  

This one was a laugher, and it's not fair to pick on Juan Pierre when everyone sucked so badly.  So, no Pierre Watch tonight.

I really hope the Dodgers got this kind of thing out of their system.  I can't sit in the sun at noon tomorrow and watch a game like this.  Please don't do it to me, Chad Billingsley.  We need at least seven strong from you.  Do it for your bullpen. 

This is why the team might need to find another starter, though I don't want to give up any young guys.  I don't know what they're going to do.

Game over.  Thank the lord. 



Player of the Game:Mike Leiberthal (3-4 against his former team; he rarely gets to play, so I'm rewarding him for a nice effort in one of his few starts)


Record:  53-41




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/18/2007 09:04:02 AM

Interesting stat for you:

Juan Pierre has had exactly 31 hits in each month so far this season (he has 20 in July)
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Game 93: Dodgers 10, Phillies 3

I'm starting to become a believer of whatever it is that Bill Mueller is doing to get these Dodgers hitting.  I like it, and I hope it continues.  Whether it's the change in pitching coaches, the influence of Kemp and Loney hitting more often, or a combination of both, it's working.  The Dodgers have been hitting like crazy since sometime in late June, when Mueller took over.

And that ball kept rolling on Monday night, when the Dodgers' bats and Brad Penny's arm combined to give the Phillies their loss #10,001.  Penny worried me a bit in the first inning, when he threw six consecutive balls to begin the game, and ended up giving one run.  But, that would be the only run he'd allow, as he pretty much cruised through seven innings, giving up four hits, three walks and striking out eight.  Any doubts about the blister on his finger that caused him to switch places with Lowe (Penny was supposed to start on Saturday) were put to rest, thankfully.  Hopefully it's a sign that Brad won't be dealing with the second half problems that he faced last year.

The Dodgers scored three in the first, thanks to a hit, a sac fly, and an RBI double by, of all guys, Nomar Garciaparra.  In the third, Pierre got an infield single and then stole second.  Martin walked, and Jeff Kent came up and knocked them all in with a three-run shot to left field.  6-1, Dodgers.

Penny loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, which was pretty much the only real scare he faced.  He then retired the last nine batters he faced, six of them on strikeouts (including striking out the side in the seventh, his last inning of work).

The sixth was another big inning for the Dodger offense, as Loney and Garciaparra singled, then Loney scored when Ethier reached on an error.  Matt Kemp came to the plate and smacked his own three-run homer to left field.  10-1, Dodgers.

I stopped watching the game at this point, because I wanted to finish a great HBO documentary that I had started, called Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush.  It's probably still airing on HBO, so you should check it out.  It's really great, and it probably made me tear up about a dozen times.  There's some really great footage, and it's just well done all the way around.  Highly recommended.

Hendrickson makes another start on Tuesday night.  For now, I guess the back end of the Dodger rotation is Billingsley, Hendrickson and Tomko.  We know how I feel about Tomko, and I'm on the fence about Hendrickson still, though he's been encouraging of late.  Billingsley has proven himself, and I want to send him as much love as possible, since he's pitching the day game on Wednesday, and I'll be there.  So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Hendrickson on Tuesday.  The Dodgers are 4-0 since the break, and have a five game winning streak overall.  Let's make it six, shall we? 


Pierre Watch:  2-4, 2 runs scored, 1 SB (38).  Batting average is up to .286, and more importantly, his OBP has been steadily increasing, all the way up to .316; maybe Jack Cobra is right, and I will be wanting a Pierre jersey one day soon.  Get that OBP above .320, and we'll talk.


Player of the Game:  Brad Penny (7 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 ER, 8 Ks; moves to 11-1)


Record:   53-40 (best record in the NL)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Game 92: Dodgers 5, Giants 3

So, maybe Grady Little knew something about Brett Tomko that I did not.  Or maybe Tomko just got lucky on Sunday.  I'm more inclined to believe the latter, because I can tell you right now that one game will not be changing my opinion on this shaky Dodger pitcher.

Nonetheless, he got the job done.  He went five innings, gave up four hits, walked two, and only allowed one earned run.  The Giants scored three runs total, two of them unearned thanks to a first inning error by Jeff Kent.  The Dodgers showed some pretty shoddy defense in this weekend series with the Giants, but the scoreboard showed them on top all three times, so I guess I'll to forget that part.

The Dodgers got thirteen hits against the Giants, scored twice on squeeze plays, and overall just showed they are the better team (and most definitely the younger one).  It's not eleven straight wins at AT&T Park, and that's a good feeling.  Now maybe we'll be able to beat them at home, too.

You may have noticed that I neglected to mention the man who plays left field for the San Francisco Giants.  That was not some sort of person vendetta against him or anything (even though I could be accused of having one); it's just that Barry Bonds didn't do anything the entire weekend.  Seriously.  Nothing.  He went 0-12 with three walks (I don't remember if any were intentional, but I don't think so).  It seemd like there were men on base every time he came up, and he ended up leaving fifteen stranded over the three games.

It was a good series, and now the Dodgers head back home for a seven-game homestand against the Phillies (they of the 10,000 losses) and the Mets.  The Phillies are beatable, I think, and the Mets are streaky, so we'll have to see where they are when they meet the Dodgers.  A nice three-game winning streak is a good way to start the second half, though, so I'll take it.


Pierre Watch: 1-3,  1 BB, 1 run scored, 1 RBI


Player of the Game:  3-4, 2 runs scored, 1 RBI, 1 3B


Record:  52-40




COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/17/2007 02:47:46 PM

nice game last night, penny was vicious
-----

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/17/2007 03:15:25 PM

With the way Mr. Pierre is playing, it can't be long before you head out and get yourself his jersey, no?
-----

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Game 91: Dodgers 8, Giants 7

This one certainly got interesting after I left the house.  I watched the first six innings, then left to go see a friend's new baby.  The Dodgers had a 7-2 lead, but ended up having to play twelve innings, thanks to a grand slam given up by Tsao, and another blown save from Saito.  What's going on, Saito?  Why do you look puffy and tired all the time, and why do you blow saves?

Anyway, the story of the year for Derek Lowe has been run support.  Or, rather, the lack thereof.  Coming into the game, he had eight losses.  In those eight losses, the Dodgers had scored nine runs.  Total.  So, when he left with a 7-2 lead, he was probably thinking, "Finally!"  And then he got a no decision when the team found another way to ruin a great pitching performance.

I didn't see any of that, of course, except in the highlights.  All I know is that the Dodgers finally got the win, thanks to a double by James Loney, a single that moved him to third, and a sac fly from Rafael Furcal.  Rudy Seanez came in to get the save, and it's now a ten-game win streak for the Dodgers at AT&T Park.

Brett Tomko, for some reason I really cannot understand, is the starting pitcher on Sunday.  Apparently, Hendrickson will now be coming out of the pen (as he did on Saturday) and Tomko is a starter.  I guess a 1-7 with a 6.18 ERA and 1.63 WHIP is better than I thought, especially when there has been no show of anything close to improvement in the last few games in which he has appeared.  Hendrickson, meanwhile, has been great, making two consecutive solid starts.  Seems like that would get him the job.  Shows you what I know.

So, the Dodgers lose on Sunday.  I'm just going to go ahead and say it right now.  At least they got the series win out of the way before letting Tomko take the hill.



Pierre Watch:  2-7, 2 runs scored, 1 SB (36)


Player of the Game:  Jeff Kent (2-4, 4 RBI, 1 HR, 1 run scored)


Record:  51-40 (one game ahead of the Padres, thanks to a come-from-behind win on Saturday from the Diamondbacks)

Game 90: Dodgers 9, Giants 1

Here it is, the start of the second half, and I'm already behind on my daily blog entries.  Sorry, guys.  It's been a busy few days.

I have to say, I enjoyed watching this game.  Coming in, the Dodgers had won eight straight against the Giants at AT&T Park.  Sure, the Giants swept the boys in blue down in Los Angeles earlier this year, but that's long gone.  It's time for a clean slate.

This one was a pitcher's duel until the ninth inning.  Chad Billingsley was superb for the Dodgers, giving up only four hits, and allowing one run over six innings.  He's surprisingly undefeated as a starter (with a few no decisions thrown in for good measure) and seems to be adjusting to the role quite nicely.  Broxton gave up the only Giants' run in the eighth inning.

The Dodgers managed two runs in the third, thanks to an RBI and then a run scored by one Mr. Juan Pierre.  They got one more in the fifth when Russell Martin drove in Rafael Furcal.  Going into the top of the ninth, it was a 3-1 lead, so it was still a pretty close ball game.

The Dodgers decided they didn't want a close game, so they break the whole thing wide open.   Here's how:  single, double, single (run scores), single (run scores), single (run scores).  Now it's a 6-1 lead, and the Giants bring in Taschner.  Here's what he was able to accomplish: single, double (three runs score), fly out, ground out.   9-1, Dodgers.  Game over.  Seanez pitched the ninth, and the Dodgers were the owners of a nine-game win streak at AT&T Park.

This was an especially great way to start the second half, because it means they might be able to continue the hot hitting they were showing before the break.  They showed the ability to string together some runs, even if it was late in the game, and that's a good thing to see from this bunch.



Pierre Watch:  2-4, 2 runs scored, 1 RBI, 1 SB (35)


Player of the Game: Andre Ethier (3-4, 3 RBI, 1 run scored)


Record:  50-40 

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bonds

I guess since I am the resident Dodger blogger, it makes sense that I weigh in on the whole Barry Bonds' controversy.  He is, after all, a member of the San Francisco Giants, a hated rival.

Now, I am a hardcore Dodger fan.  The problem is, I have only claimed that title for the last two and a half years.  In that time, Barry Bonds has done very little to harm my team (the last two seasons, the Padres have been the much bigger threat).  I therefore cannot find reason to hate him merely because he is a member of the Giants.  I don't like the Giants, certainly, but my distaste for them is nowhere near the levels at which I detest the Yankees (I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan, so I've had time to cultivate and nurture that hatred).

That being said, I still don't like Barry Bonds.  But in the last year or so, my reasons for not liking him have shifted considerably.  He seems like an ass, and I don't think that's ever been disputed.  But, until recently, I tended to hate him because I considered him to be a "cheater" who was tainting the game.  I was probably a little too ignorant, like most of the American public, when it came to the prevalence of steroid use among athletes.  So, I took my dislike of the steroid era out on Barry Bonds, mostly because he was the public face of it.  I also spent a lot of time being angry with Jason Giambi, once evidence of his steroid use surfaced.

It's pretty obvious that there were a lot of guys using steroids, and for whatever reason, Barry Bonds has taken the brunt of it.  For my money, he's getting the most attention because he's about to break one of the greatest records in sports.  No one really cared about Jose Canseco because 1) he wasn't even playing when he admitted to using, and 2) he was trying to sell books and everyone knew it.  And Giambi can hit, but he's nowhere near the number of Barry Bonds, and is somewhat irrelevant as a result.

So, the onus falls on Bonds.  There are those who believe that race plays a factor, but I'm just unwilling to accept that.  It actually seems too easy to me for the race card to be played in this issue.  If it were a white guy chasing Hank Aaron, maybe things would be different.  But if that white guy were widely known to be a jerk who barely tolerated even the fans who loved him, would he be revered?  I don't think so.  I don't think we can simply call it a matter of skin color and be done with it.  After all, he is breaking a black man's record.  And yes, Aaron suffered through racism when he broke the record, which is terrible.  Some days I think the world has changed in the 30+ years since then, and some days I'm convinced it hasn't.  Either way, though, if you're racist, do you really care if Barry Bonds, a black man, breaks some sacred record set by another black man?  If you're stupid enough to judge people on skin color, then you probably just still think of Babe Ruth as the home run champion anyway.

Lefty Malo asked if an asterisk is necessary for Bonds' record.  I think not.  It starts baseball down a slippery slope of being the moral judge and jury, based purely on assumptions and rumors.  I don't think anyone wants to see things go down that road.

I hope that the steroid era is over, and I wish that Bud Selig (or anyone) had done something about it sooner.  But a lot of people have pointed out that you can't punish one man for circumstantial evidence, particularly when we all know (also circumstantially) that others were doing the same thing.  Who would you start with, and where would it end?  No one could answer that.  We just have to hope that they can get it right from now on.

I don't want to see Bonds break the record, mostly because I think he's a jerk.  But, who am I to judge?  I won't be happy when he does it, but I don't know if I'll be as mad as I would have been had it happened a year ago.  Frankly, I just wish the whole thing would end soon so that we could focus on the actual game of baseball.

I will, however, be really pissed if he does it in August in Dodger Stadium, which is apparently what they (whoever "they" are) are predicting. 



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/13/2007 04:45:36 PM

Can we move the people commenting on my story over here? What kind of money would I need to give you in order to make that happen?
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/13/2007 05:09:38 PM

Listen, I don't want any of that riff-raff over here.  I would prefer to ignore the Bonds thing, too, but it's an issue, so I made a little comment.  But there will be no debates on my blog, damn it!
-----

First Half Roundup

Okay, here it is.  My first half analysis of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I've been writing about them all season, but that certainly does not make me an expert, so you can take all of this with a grain of salt.

I'm not going to go through and address every game, or even hand out awards for specific players and/or events.  Except, that is, to say that it's obvious that Russell Martin is the MVP of this team for the first half, with a strong possibility that he will remain in that position come October.  Other guys getting consideration:  Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Takashi Saito (notice a theme here?).

So, we'll just talk about the things I consider to be vital to the team's success and/or failure.  Naturally, at least for my purposes, that starts with Juan Pierre.

We know the deal:  Colletti signed him to a five-year deal this past off season.  It's worth somewhere near $50 million.  Most people with a brain thought that was a little excessive and, as Juan as shown so far this season, those people were probably right.

He hasn't done well.  His OBP is low (.311 for the first hallf).  Still, though, somehow he is leading the Dodgers in hits with 105 (Martin is second with 94) and runs scored (Martin again comes in second in this category).  When he gets on base, he steals, so he has 34 on the season (guess who comes in second in that category as well?).

For the first nine games of July, Pierre started to show some improvement.  He has his BA up to .282, which is the highest its been since one day early on when it stood at .286.  His OBP for those nine games is .342; he hasn't finished a month yet this season with an OBP better than .311, so we'll see what that .342 turns into.  Even his SLG his higher than normal, at .459.  Small sample, yeah, but it could mean something.

If Pierre can step it up a bit in the second half, I might lay off him a little.  Maybe.  Let's see what the Pierre-o-meter says about Pierre's first half performance...


**ORIGINAL FILE MISSING**


For the Dodgers, there are obviously other issues besides Juan Pierre.  The pitching staff has been hit with several injuries lately, but the team ERA is still second in the National League.  They also lead the NL in strikeouts, are tenth in walks allowed, second in saves, have the fifth best batting average against, and are third best in earned runs.  If the injured pitchers can come back doing well, and the guys stopping the bleeding (Billingsley and Hendrickson, namely) can continue to show decent stuff when they start, the pitching should be fine.

Hitting is another issue.  For most of the season, the Dodgers won games primarily because of solid pitching.  But, towards the All-Star break, they got a little better at hitting.  Not quite enough, though the upswing (pun intended) is encouraging.  As much as I love Bill Mueller, I'm not completely convinced that offically hiring him as the hitting coach (after firing Eddie Murray) has much to do with the recent success.  But, maybe it does.  What do I know?

The point is, the Dodgers are still nineteenth in the majors in runs scored, and eighteenth in RBI.  They're in twenty-eighth place in home runs.  But, their team batting average is eighth overall, and they're also eighth in OBP (.340).  In short, they aren't scoring a lot of runs, even though they're getting men on base.  There's no question, though, that the addition of Matt Kemp and James Loney into the lineup has been somewhat of an energizer to the team.  Look for that to continue, and pray that Ned Colletti doesn't get crazy come July 31.

When we talk about hitting, I think the main thing to focus on is Nomar Garciaparra.  He's certainly not the only one who has had his struggles this season, but he's the most important in my book.  He's a fan favorite and, last year, he was the heart and soul of the team.  Maybe he's being replaced in that category by Russell Martin this year, but I still think it's absolutely essential to the team's success that Nomar figure it out in the second half and put up some good numbers. 

He's got an OBP of .319, and SLG of .334.  His batting average is .276.  More important than all that, he only has twelve extra base hits on the season.  Two of them are home runs.  He's batting .329 at home, but only .224 on the road.  I'd like to see those numbers get closer together, preferably with the road average going up.  He is still succeeding with runners in scoring position, hitting a great .402.  With RISP and two outs, he's hitting .500.  Of course, he's only had four chances at that.  Twice he struck out, and twice he hit singles (that last stat is Nomar's season in a nutshell).  He might come close to his 93 RBI of last year, but nowhere near the 20 home runs he hit.  And he's just striking out too much.  With 31, he already has one more strikeout than he did all last season.

Nomar is not Nomar, and I don't know the reason.  I just want him to figure it out.


That's my wrap-up.  You want a summary?  Okay.


-Russell Martin is the MVP.

-Juan Pierre needs to find his way to first base more often.

-The pitching staff has to try to maintain the status quo, which means fighting through some injuries.

-The hitting needs to continue to improve, particularly when it comes to hitting with runners on base.

-Nomar has to snap out of it.


At the beginning of the season, I picked the Dodgers to get into the World Series.  Now I think there's a solid chance they get into the playoffs, but without some more improvement, it's hard to see them making it all the way.  But I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


89 games down, 73 to go.




COMMENTS:



AUTHOR: Juan Pierre

DATE: 07/12/2007 09:48:02 AM

I scoff at your 60 rating and guarantee I will be your hero by the end of my contract!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All-Star Thoughts

It's been a long time since I sat and watched an All-Star Game.  And even now, I'm watching a recorded version, since I'm about an hour behind.  This way I can fast-forward through anything I don't want to hear from Tim McCarver and Joe Buck (you can imagine how much I'm having to fast-forward, and therefore rapidly catching up to the live show).  So, it's not exactly a live blogging of the event, but it's similar.

-I liked the Willie Mays introduction, though it did take a bit of time.  It was sweet, and I liked seeing him throw a ball to one of the on-field cops.

-Fox is possibly the worst broadcast television station in the history of the world.  Last night, during the Home Run Derby, most of the time it was like no one knew what the next step in the show was, so there was a lot of silence, at least before the home run hitting actually started.  This happened again before the game tonight, namely when the guy tried to hit a ball off the tee (what a lame swing that guy had, right?).  After he finished swinging exactly like a small child would, there was nothing, and he just walked away, and I wasn't even sure it was over.  And finally they cut to Zelasko and The Simpsons tie-in promotional thing that really wasn't very funny.  And also, maybe my TV is just so good that it's extra sensitive, but where in the world does Fox have their microphones placed?  The sound is going along, perfectly normally, and then a guy gets a hit and I am temporarily deaf because the sound is so insanely loud.  I guess MLB really doesn't care about the qualities of its broadcasts.  They just go with the highest bidder, and Fox must pocket that money, because they sure aren't putting it into the show.

-They had a flyover from four jets at the beginning (using my knowledge of planes, and not commentary from anybody at Fox, since they said nothing, it looked like two F-18s and two F-16s), and it was the worst coverage of a flyover ever.  It was a close-up on the planes, and then a pan down to the American flag.  Then a wide shot of the field, and in center field, you could see the planes still on the big screen.  There was zero perspective, and I'm not even sure in which direction those planes were actually flying, or if they even flew over the stadium at all (there was no sound either, which was strange).  Flyovers are spectacular, and you'd think Fox would want to show it properly.

-Now, of course, no treatise on the poor quality of Fox would be complete without some jabs at Tim McCarver and Joe Buck.  I admit, I have fast-forwarded a lot, but I still heard this from McCarver, after Suzuki's second hit, a bloop into left field:

"It looked like he hit that with a violin."

What?  Where are you from, McCarver?  I can't even begin to explain the things wrong with that statement, but I find it not even a little bit possible to discern what you were trying to say.

-Oh, and speaking of the microphones, they didn't do a very good job of turning them down during the introductions before the game.  Right before Brad Penny was introduced, Carlos Lee (who was standing next to Penny) said, I think, "Oh shit, it's coming."  He was referring, of course, to the boos that subsequently rained down on Penny and Saito, since they are Dodgers.  Nicely done, Fox.

-And this is what I just saw on Fox, which is a perfect example of the gems they throw out for the big productions.  An actual on-screen graphic, which was titled "Separated at Birth?" and apparently was all about how Russell Martin and the guy who plays "Turtle" on Entourage look alike.  First of all, no they don't, except that they both happen to be men.  Second of all, what?

-I may sound callous, but I'm totally against singing "God Bless America" in the seventh inning of games.  Did this start after 9/11?  I know they've done it Yankee Stadium since then, but most stadiums don't do this for every game.  It turns the game into something else entirely, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a Rupert Murdoch owned entity is to stooping to that kind of stunt.  Politics aside, why was it Paula Cole singing?  Do they realize when she was last relevant (if she ever really was)?

-Maybe Tim and Joe mentioned this, but Fox apparently lost the capability to put the score at the top of the screen.  I think it started in the sixth inning.  What happened?  Oh, looks like it just came back with two outs in the eighth.

-Papelbon has a "wonderful and whimsical sense of humor" because he voted for Hideki Okajima in the All-Star balloting.  What are you talking about, McCarver?

-Dane Cook is not funny.  Not even a little bit funny at all.  His "humor" is dreadful, in fact, and watching him for thirty seconds, even in a commercial about baseball, is utterly painful.  I loathe the idea of dealing with seeing commercials featuring him all the way until October.  Thankfully, I don't watch a lot of Fox.

-I taped the game itself, and then the episode ofThe Simpsons, thinking that would be enough to get the whole game.  Unfortunately, I just finished watching the top of the ninth to find out that I am 28 minutes behind live TV.  I am now watching Aaron Rowand fly out with the bases loaded.  Game over.  5-4, American League.  What happened?  Guess I'll never know.  Oh, wait.  I guess I'll go read about it now.

Can we please get back to some real baseball now?  One more day.

-Wait, one more thing.  I just caught several seconds of the post-game coverage.  In a quick montage, I saw a great shot of the flyover.  It was literally over the credits.  Way to save it for the big audience, guys.  Good stuff.  Can't wait to watch the World Series on your network for the rest of my life.



COMMENTS:

AUTHOR: Jack Cobra

DATE: 07/11/2007 03:02:47 PM

Awesome insight on the game. It was actually a competitive game for once!
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/11/2007 05:01:22 PM

I think they do it at games because in the 2000 series (i think) a drunken Tony Bennett was supposed to sing the national anthem and blacked out and sand God Bless America instead.  I watched the game when he was slated to sing the anthem and sang GBA instead and believe it was during that subway series.  I have always looked for someone else that remembers it and every once in a while I catch one.  Still, it wasn't nearly as calamitous as Namath tried to lay the moves on that Suzy Kolber .  
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AUTHOR: Erin

DATE: 07/11/2007 09:52:13 PM

Cobra, thanks.  And, yeah, it was competitive at the end  there, but I guess I missed most of the good stuff.

Bruce, interesting tidbit.  I feel like I vaguely remember about that Tony Bennett thing, but thanks for refreshing my memory.

I found this interview with him about it online, which shows that it was intentional on his part:


Q: You sang the first game of the World Series the other night, here in New York, Yankees against the Padres. You did not sing what we think of as the national anthem. Instead you sang "America the Beautiful."



TONY BENNETT: Yeah, well, I‚'m not being unpatriotic, but I dislike that song, the national anthem. See, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern, they were crafty enough to, if you hit an E at the very top of the range, you know, when you're hitting a high C, if you're hitting a high E, it's a terrible sound. You know? It's like your fingernails scraping on the blackboard or something, or glass or something. And it just makes your skin craw" l. And it breaks me up whenever‚ (sings) "And the land of the free.' It's just‚ it closes your vocal chords, you know? But the master composers, they know how to write songs like (sings) "I love you," you know, they‚ and a nice vowel sound, an "ah" sound and an "oh" sound on the top. But "America the Beautiful" is what I dream about America. It's the great experiment. It's the greatest country you could ever live in, because it's every nationality. It's not just one philosophy; it's every philosophy.


Q: Now did anyone say to you, Look, Mr. Bennett, this is the World Series. Everybody sings the national anthem'?


TONY BENNETT: I'd just say, Have someone else do it. They just agreed to have me sing it.
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AUTHOR: Bruce Paine

DATE: 07/12/2007 02:15:08 AM

Okay, I missed the song, but I still think he did it because he was blitzed and forgot what the heck he was doing and I totally don't buy the interview bit.  Maybe he didn't have the chops anymore to pull it off.  regardless, I am calling bull$#!*  Not only that, but I was a choir kid.  Cobra likes to give me crap about it whenever we are in front of women or participating in some sort of athletic event because when I was in high school I was part of the choir.  I received voice lessons from pros for over 10 years and minored in music in college.  (My parents made me sing in the choir but I don't regret it.  I am/was good so it doesn't bother me, if I sucked it might have been different.  they wanted me to be well rounded and it worked.)  Anyway, I have performed the Star-Spangled Banner as an individual or as part of a group probably 200 times.  I can say, it is a tough song.  Sing it like its written (use the Navy version and it puts the singer through a little over an octave and a half) and its tough.  but I never disliked it.  NEVER.  It is the national anthem and it  is a great performance piece because of the crescendo and decrescendo.    It was based on a drinking song, so it possesses the natural desire to be roared out the same way you drive a sports car.  I guess I am a little disappointed in Bennett.  I always liked him as a crooner and use his version of "I've Got the World On a String" to set the mood with my lady (she likes it), but I am starting to think he might have been in over his head and bailed out.  Sorry if I drug your blog in a bad direction.  But that irked me just about as much as people that "interpret" the anthem for "their audience" because they have never had enough formal musical instruction (or lack the talent) to handle a piece as technically difficult as the anthem.  As a season ticket holder to the Colts for several years I have had to endure some crappy anthems, and it drives me bugnuts.  At Indiana University basketball games they use a professor (doctor actually) from the music school to do the anthem.  He doesn't screw it up.        
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