Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Home Away from Home

I spend a lot of games chatting in the game threads over at Sons of Steve Garvey. That place has turned into a nice little online community. Sort of like a virtual Cheers, in which everyone knows your (pseudo)name. Well, in my case, it's my real name, but still. You want to have a good time and talk Dodger baseball with a bunch of real fans who also happen to be knowledgeable? SoSG is the place for you.

I started reading shortly before I met a couple of the Sons at the Dodger Blogger Night last season, and I have been a regular reader/commenter ever since. I'm not going to on and on about how great it is over there, or how privileged I feel to know the true identities of three of the Sons. That would be boring. Instead, I'll tell you a little bit about what we do over there, and end with a visual representation.

When you spend a ton of time talking (writing) with the same people virtually every night for six straight months, trends start to develop. Certain phrases catch on, and one might even begin to call them catchphrases.

One such phrase is "Rancho Ardiendo," brought to the Sons by Venezuelan reader--and eternal optimist--Karina. It essentially translates to "burning house" in Spanish, and is a term used (I assume in Venezuela, but maybe all over the Spanish-speaking baseball world) when the bases are loaded. Karina taught it to us, and we all use it constantly whenever the occasion arises.

Sometimes, as a baseball fan, you need to keep your expectations low. So, when the bases are loaded, for instance, one might just hope that a team's weak-hitting catcher can work the walk to drive in a run. Or hit a ball that should be a double play to end the inning, but instead results in an error that scores a run and/or keeps the inning alive. Often on SoSG, the commenters respond the same way: "I'll take it." As in, "it wasn't really the best outcome, but I will deal with the results anyway." The other night, Orel deemed it the SoSG catchphrase, and I'd have to say that it certainly is, at least for the 2009 playoffs.

Finally, you've probably seen that Juan Pierre wears a shirt that reads "Beast Mode." The readers at SoSG took this term and ran with it, using the "[noun] Mode" format for other players. I don't know when it started with Casey Blake, but I do know that for most of the season, the Dodger third baseman has been referred to most often as "Beard Mode." Simple, yet genius.

You may recall that I told you a few posts ago that I have a button maker. When life presents one with catchphrases, what else can one do but put those catchphrases on some buttons? So, conceived by me, designed by Christine, and handmade by both of us, I present you with the next wave of Robots Are Everywhere Dodger Buttons (mixed in with some of the old ones):





Also, just to remind the Dodgers what they're playing for tonight:





One game at a time. Just bring it back to L.A. and go from there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Surviving Broxton

I spent my morning reading stories from various Dodger blog writers, all of whom are--rightfully--heartbroken and confused. How could it be? We were one out from tying it, one out from showing the Phillies that we aren't the same team they kicked around last year.

And then Broxton showed he was afraid of Matt Stairs, all because last year Matt Stairs hit a home run that changed last year's series. I don't want to be Bill Plaschke, talking about the ghosts of years past or whatever, but why was Broxton afraid? Matt Stairs has a below-.200 average, and he hit all of five home runs this year. With no one on base, even if Stairs did knock one out, the game would only be tied. And I'm sorry, but Stairs was not hitting it out of that park last night. So you pitch to him, and you get him out. Then there are two outs and maybe Broxton isn't so nervous that he hits Ruiz with the pitch, putting the winning run on base.

I can't not blame Broxton here. I'm sorry. I know he was a great closer all year, and that some people were too soon to jump on him when he had a couple of bad games. I don't care about all that. What I care about is him coming into a must-win game in the playoffs and not being chickenshit about a 40-year old who can count his home runs this year on one hand. And if he's going to be chickenshit about that, then I care that he better be damn sure he can get the next two outs with a runner on base. And if he can't, and he instead hits a batter, then manages a line drive out, I care about him not grooving a fastball over the heart of the plate to a leadoff hitter who is just looking for a pitch to drive.

This is not a matter of Broxton making just one mistake. A home run to tie the game would have been one mistake. An "unintentional" walk, followed by a hit batter, then followed by a ball scorched to the gap, those are a lot of damn mistakes. You blew it, big boy. And it's totally on you.

I don't really want to talk about the strike zone, which absolutely, positively sucked. But I will encourage you to go look at this image. Look how many pitches right in the middle of the plate were called balls. Now, sure, there are a few from Phillies' pitchers in there, but the majority are pitches thrown by a Dodger pitcher for strikes, but for whatever reason called balls. I don't want to be the one who whines about bad umps, but there are moments in games when those calls matter. And in a close game like this, it matters that the ump is not calling strike three on obvious strikes. The guy was a joke, and if he is behind the plate again in these playoffs, MLB has some explaining to do.

So, I spent my morning reading what the Sons have to say about this, along with Dodger Thoughts and Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness. And then I thought some more about how I felt last night, about how Christine went into the kitchen to heat us up some spaghetti (we had been afraid to eat during the game), and had to ask me to stop ranting because she was sick of crying. I wanted to cry. I felt like sobbing. But it just wouldn't come. I seethed with anger instead, and that continued into this morning, especially the more I read about how everyone else felt.

Then I went over to Surviving Grady, just to get away from the outright sadness everywhere in the Dodger world. That's when I read this, and I felt just a little bit better. Now, I realize that most of my readers are not Red Sox fans. But that's not really the point here. Just think back to 2004. Think back to game three of that ALCS, and how the Red Sox had their asses handed to them in a 19-8 romp. Then remember game four, where they were down going into the ninth against Rivera. But then came the walk from Millar, the steal by pinch runner Roberts, and the tying hit from Bill Mueller. And a little while later, the win. Just one game, but the Sox were back in it. And they came all the way back, shocking the Yankees and moving on to the World Series.

I know that these Dodgers are not the 2004 Red Sox. But do you really think the 2009 Phillies are the 2004 Yankees? No way. Look, I'm not saying I fully believe the Dodgers can come back from this. And if they win tomorrow night, we might just be setting ourselves up for seeing the Phillies celebrate on our field. But do we want to root against our own team tomorrow night just so we don't have to have see a Phillies celebration? Do we want to really see the baseball season end so badly that we're willing to ignore any possibility of a miracle?

Yes, I know we'll have to see Cliff Lee in a game seven, should it get there. But if we force a game seven after going down 3-1, don't you think we'll have the Phillies against the ropes a little bit? And wouldn't you like to see the boys in blue at least try to make that happen?

I'll tell you right now, I do not give a flying fig about a Phillies/anyone World Series. So the season will be over for me the second the Dodgers are out of this. That means that I just have to keep reminding myself that the Dodgers are not out of this. Sure, I'm going to go through some moments in the next 30 hours during which I will be completely convinced that the Dodgers are toast. But I'm going to push through those, and the subsequent nausea, and I'm going to tell myself to believe.

Because just remember--if we take this back to Dodger Stadium, we'll get a little of this:



And as corny as we've all thought the "Don't Stop Believin'" song has been all year, it's pretty much the most important message we, as Dodger fans, can hear right now. If the Dodgers lose this series, you can be negative and angry and sad and all of that, and you can bet I'll be right there with you.

But for now, let's just try to focus on how good it will feel if we can make the Phillies sweat this one a little bit. Send those positive vibes out into the world and see what comes back to us. It can't hurt, right?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Onward

If I were a Philly phan, I would probably be writing about last night's shellacking of the Dodgers as though it were an obvious sign that the better team finally showed up and proved itself. After all, 11-0 is about as one-sided as you can get, so I'd be pretty proud of my team and ready to say this series is over. Of course, I'd write that the Phillies haven't won yet, and that they still have games to play, perhaps try to act a little humble; but in my heart of hearts I would know how this will all end.

As you know, I am not a Phillies' phan. And that sense of complacency might be exactly where I want those phanatics to be right now. I was seriously depressed last night, from the first inning on, and I was watching my team feeling like there really was a chance that this was the best they could do: a slugfest in game one, a "gift" win in game two, and a beatdown in game three. But there are, as they say, two sides to every story, and after I got over (well, okay, not quite over it yet, but I'm getting there) the game, I realized there's another way to look at this.

Game one, Clayton Kershaw was off, but so was Cole Hamels. The Dodgers won the battle of the bullpens (just subtract Sherrill from that conclusion), and showed a lot of heart in coming back from a 5-1 (and an 8-4) deficit to actually make it a close game in the end. Game two, sure, the Chase Utley error helped us. But, Vicente Padilla had only given up one run, and the bullpen took care of the rest of the game. Utley might be the goat of that game, but it wouldn't have hurt if his team could have scored some more runs so that error could have been meaningless. And yeah, okay, we got our asses handed to us in game three. There's no question about it. But, as many commenters on Sons of Steve Garvey pointed out last night, that beating couldn't have come at a better time. Kuroda was going to suck, so why not let it happen in a game we sort of expected to lose anyway, considering the Phillies' ace was on the mound? Any Phillies' pitcher could have beaten the Dodgers last night with the way Kuroda pitched, so now we just have to forget about it and move on to games we can expect to at least make interesting. Besides, as commenter "rbnlaw" on SoSG pointed out this morning, "losing 11-0 is better than losing 2-1 when you've led most of the game...right Fillies?"

So, yeah, momentum (whatever that means) is on the Phillies' side for a few hours. But I believe in Randy Wolf's ability to come out and shut down Philadelphia's offense while our boys go to town on Joe Blanton. We win tonight, and it's 2-2. That makes it a best of three, and two of those remaining three will be played at beautiful Chavez Ravine. Of course, winning tonight and Wednesday makes it less likely that we'll have to see Cliff Lee in a game seven with the World Series on the line, so I wouldn't hate that outcome.

As for what I'm doing to help the team, I've yet to decide on tonight's wardrobe. Last night, I wore my blue Dodgers jersey over my "not right now. I'm watching the game" shirt, and look what happened. That jersey is what I was wearing when the Dodgers clinched the West, so I thought it would work, but it's retired now, at least for tonight. So now I'm thinking I'll wear the Dodger pajama bottoms from game one (since they obviously helped to spark the offense), and my Dodger hat, but no Dodger top. Just a normal shirt of some kind. Perhaps that will be the right combination to get things heading in the right direction.

GO DODGERS!!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

That Old Blue Magic

I did not like last night's game, but I don't really want to talk about it, either. It was a game of blown opportunities, to say the least, and if you'd like to read a compelling recap, Dodger Thoughts has got you covered.

On Wednesday, Christine and I pulled out my button maker (that's right, I have one) to make something for a friend, and we decided to make some Dodger buttons, too. So, we made a bunch. I wore four of them on my Dodger shirt last night, and completed the outfit
with my hat and Dodger pajama bottoms. Even my socks had some blue on them. I have only just realized that I own no Dodger blue underwear, but I'll get that fixed soon enough. The point is, none of that mojo worked. So, right now I'm wearing some normal old shorts and flip flops (because it's effing hot out again), along with my Dodger hat (because I always wear that), and my 1959 All-Star Game t-shirt (which features this image). Gotta switch it up in the hopes that my clothing choices can have an effect on the outcome of a game in which I am not a participant.

The Dodgers showed some fight last night, but the agony still felt all too familiar, since this is what happened in last year's NLCS. The question now is how the Dodgers will come out today. Only about sixteen hours separate the end of game one from the beginning of game two, which means the Dodgers need to forget about last night and concentrate on today. Vicente Padilla is on the mound today, and no matter how good he's been for the team this season, there is still reason to be concerned. So the Dodgers need to get to Pedro Martinez (not exactly used to rooting against him in the postseason) early and often.

Christine once predicted that Vicente Padilla would do something big for the Dodgers in the playoffs. She thought perhaps game three against St. Louis was that big thing. But if he pitches well today, that could be even bigger, and maybe Christine's prediction really meant that Padilla would be a hero throughout the postseason.

Here's hoping.


P.S. There's a chance the picture of the buttons won't open larger in a new window if you click on it. I don't know why that's happening, but hopefully you get the gist with the smaller photo.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Before We Begin, A Look Back


The Dodgers begin NLCS play in just under seven hours, and I'm just sick with anticipation. Christine is worse off, and is insisting we go out to the stadium today before the game, just to take a picture and walk around. So, that's where we're headed in a few minutes.

But first, the long-awaited pictures and videos. Christine and I were at almost all the last home games of the season, and at all three on the final weekend. So we got to see the clinching of the N.L. West on Saturday, October 3. But enough of my words. I'll let the pictures (moving or otherwise) do the talking.

First up is the video of the dude who sits in the loge section along the third base line, and sings along to "Don't Stop Believin'" in the eighth inning. He's pretty funny, and I saw him at almost every game I went to this season, except for game two of the NLDS (the Dodgers couldn't get this guy to the game? He's a crowd pleaser). Here he is, for your amusement:




As you surely now by now, the Dodgers won the game. And the celebration afterward was pretty awesome. Christine and I made it down to the front row near the left field foul pole, and watched on DodgerVision as the players sprayed champagne in the clubhouse. Then they came out to party with the fans. This video is raw, but in it you will see Clayton Kershaw, Juan Castro, and Andre Ethier, all giving me and Christine high-fives (while Matt Kemp snubs us):




Then Manny took to the microphone to speak to the fans, thanking them for supporting him and promising to bring the championship to L.A., before handing the mic off to Belliard:




Just two more pics from that night:




And then, there was game two. I've already done my write-up of that game, so here's your photo essay. Please note that the excitement level of this game was turned up to eleven, and the lack of focus on some of these pictures is just a byproduct of that. I hope you'll forgive Christine her sins.

Slash performs the national anthem.


Slash performs "God Bless America."


Skipping right ahead to the good stuff. Bottom of the ninth, Blake at third, two outs, Mark Loretta at the plate.


The face of a calm, cool veteran.


Loretta steps into the box. Blake stands at third.


The ball drops in the outfield. Blake scores. Pandemonium.


Aaaaahhhh!!!!


(more indecipherable screams)


Hail the conquering hero.


Loretta in the spotlight.


GO DODGERS!!!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

WTF ESPN?

I believe I've mentioned this before, but I really hate the Angels. Thanks for showing up, Red Sox. That was a blast.

A few days ago, Sons of Steve Garvey noted an ESPN poll about Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, and how their color choices for that poll were totally unintuitive. Today, I happened by ESPN and found an entirely different poll, but with the exact same problem:




I'm not lying about giving you pictures and video from the NL West clinching game (which I attended, and neglected to mention) and from game two of the NLDS. Soon.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Story of A Crazy Girl

In August 2006, when Mark Loretta was playing with the Red Sox, he tossed Christine a ball after the pre-game warmups in Anaheim. She marked the ball with an "ML" (which made it more complicated when Mike Lowell tossed her one the next year) and kept it with our other autographed balls and assorted souvenirs. After Mark Loretta's game-winning hit on Thursday, she pulled the ball out and insisted that we sleep with it (no jokes, please). And so, Thursday and Friday night, that ball was between our pillows in the bed. Today, Christine put it in her purse and took it with her on our errands. As we watch the Dodgers play in game three in St. Louis right now, the ball is sitting on the coffee table, positioned so that the "ML" is facing the television, with one of our "This Is My Town" towels from Thursday night placed in front.


This, my friends, is what we call obsession.

I know I promised pictures (and I've got videos, too), and you'll get them soon, but right now I'm watching the game (ignore the part of that song that mentions the Cardinals; apparently Billy Bob Thornton is a St. Louis fan).

Thursday, October 08, 2009

You've Got to Be Kidding Me

When Matt Kemp grounded out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning, I thought the Dodgers were done. Sure, Ethier and Ramirez were coming up in the ninth, but it just felt like that moment in the eighth had been our shot, and we weren't going to get another one.

And when Ethier and Ramirez made two quick outs in the ninth, it really felt like the end. We were on our feet when Loney got to a 2-2 count. The rally towels were out (more on that later), Vin was talking to us indecipherably on the helmet radio, and though we wanted to believe, it just all seemed so unlikely.

Then the ball left Loney's bat, and it looked like Matt Holliday would have an easy catch. It looked like the game was over, the Dodgers had lost game two, and they would have a long flight to St. Louis for game three. Looking back now, I feel like the stadium went completely silent when that ball was in the air. But that's probably not what happened; it's probably that what happened next caused some hearing loss, and I'm still recovering.

Because Holliday dropped the ball. He appeared to lose sight of it, and before we knew it, the ball had bounced off of him and Loney was standing on second. Holliday's teammate, and tonight's starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, blamed the drop on the white rally towels that the Dodgers handed out, calling it "unfair" that the Dodgers give them to the fans. There are a number of things wrong with that statement, the first of which being that it defines the idea of a "sore loser." Secondly, it's not as though fans were only waving those towels when the Dodgers were batting. I was there; there wasn't some big conspiracy to distract Cardinal players. I waved my towel while hoping for a strikeout of a Cardinal batter more than once. Third, the Dodgers aren't the first to use white towels, and they won't be the last. Fourth, as Jon Weisman points out, fans weren't waving their towels when the ball was in the air. I know I wasn't. I dropped my towel in disgust and despair, and almost started the long walk to my car before the ball even got to Holliday. But to put in another--and more succinct--way: shut up, Wainwright.

I've lost the point here, which is that Loney was standing on second base with two outs and the Dodgers down by a run. I won't lie; I still didn't think we had a shot to win this game. I thought this would be the one little bit of false hope that the Dodgers would give us before the game ended. But Blake came up and had one hell of an at-bat, walking on nine pitches. That at-bat might be lost in the rest of the story, but it kept us alive and it was nerve-racking as all get-out, but so fun to watch. And then came Belliard. In stark contrast to Blake's patience, Belliard swung at the first pitch and knocked a ball up the middle. Pierre, who was pinch running, came around to score.

I don't know that the word "pandemonium" can accurately describe the stands at Dodger Stadium at that moment. I thought we couldn't get louder or crazier. I would turn out to be wrong about that, but at the time it just felt impossible that things could get any more extreme. I hugged Christine, we high-fived strangers, we waved our towels, and at that point I might have started to believe that we were actually going to win this game.

Russell Martin walked, and then Loretta came up to pinch-hit. And I knew he would do it. I just knew that the veteran Loretta would know what was necessary to get the job done. Now, maybe it was just lucky that he hit a bloop that landed in short center field, but I think he knew what he was doing. Put the bat on the ball, and see what happens. That's what Loretta did, and that's what won the damn game.

That ball took forever to finally drop in the outfield, and even though I could tell it was going to drop long before it did, I couldn't go crazy until I saw it hit the grass. And when it landed and Blake came around to score, it made the previous craziness that had followed the Belliard single seem like high tea at Buckingham Palace. I went nuts. More hugging, more high fives. I screamed forever. I sang "I Love L.A." then stopped singing when they stopped the audio so we could hear Mark Loretta speak to TBS (though I don't know who in that stadium could hear a word Loretta said). The crowd didn't start filing for the exits. We stayed, and we watched the celebration, and we cheered some more. When we finally started to make our way out, the "Let's Go Dodgers!" chant was ringing down the concourse. Guys were standing in the middle and high-fiving anyone who walked past. Strangers screamed at each other as they walked by. In cars all across the parking lot, people were playing "I Love L.A." on their stereos. I did the same when I got to my car and drove past hordes of people walking to theirs.

I went to lot of Dodger games this year, and a lot last year and the year before. I was there when the Dodgers clinched last year, and when they finished off the Cubs in game three of the NLDS. But I have never been a part of something like this game. And I wasn't even going to get to a playoff game this year, but some tickets fell into my lap at the last moment. And so now, when this game gets played in highlight packages about the Dodgers over and over again for years to come, I can say I was there.


Want to feel like you were there? Watch this video of the ninth inning (starting with Loney's at-bat), combined with Vin Scully's call, courtesy of MLB. I'll post some pictures tomorrow.