A #DADLAP, butt-chin, mullet combo conveniently bundled up into a ridiculously catchy 80s pop song. How could you possibly resist? Something tells me that few did, and Huey spread “the news” and other things, before/during/after this video shoot. What a guy. And how great is that song?! #DADROCK

That said, after 38 years of existing on this planet, I have finally realized that Huey Lewis is fucking awesome … which means that I’ve almost completed my transition from rebellious eternally-teenaged band dude to becoming my dad. Pretty soon I’ll be delivering State of the Union addresses at the dinner table, citing W-L records in baseball conversations and wearing my pants pulled up to my tits.  #DADLAP

On a less depressing note …

Farewell, friends.

It is with great sadness that I announce that this is the final installment of “The Battle of Los Angeles”. The Score/Getting Blanked are “headed in a different direction” (a quote that I’ve learned has several possible meanings after being a musician and freelance writer for the past 10-plus years). While sadness is undoubtedly there, it’s overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I’m grateful that Drew asked me to be a part of a baseball blog that I read daily. I’m grateful that The Score was OK with him asking me to be a part of said baseball blog.

And I’m beyond grateful that so many of you read this column, shared it with friends/family and that you wrote/tweeted/commented so many kind words about it. I’ve had an absolute blast doing it. There’s really nothing better than watching a game you love so dearly and being able to justify that three-hour time-sucking vortex as “work”.

What a treat.

So … Thanks. So much.

Now … let’s roll through this week’s column as we usually do and go out in a blaze of glory whatever.

The Week That Was

LAA – 3-2 (Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds as of 8/13: 0.0%.)

Yup. Still zero. Yup. Still blowing it.

LAD – 5-2 (Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds as of 8/13: 99.8%.)

Indeed.

SoCal’s Pissing Contest That Never Really Was: The Leader In The Clubhouse

The Dodgers, of course. They’re damn near perfect, aside from the sweater I posted last week, and … uh … whatever this Tommy Bahama lead designer’s fever dream-meets-Hawaiian mushroom trip-meets-a six-year-old with a box of Crayolas is.

LOLgers

Box Score Of The Week

LAAGarrett Richards vs. SEA on 8/23: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K on 89 pitches.

Could this be a sign that Richards is finally ready to jump into the Halos’ starting rotation for good? Could it mean the end of Tommy Hanson and/or Joe Blanton in an Angels uniform? Could it be “a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season”? Have I written that last bit in 75% of these columns? Does any of this matter? What color is the wind? If Mike Trout is perfect, is God jealous?

LADClayton Kershaw (AGAIN) vs. MIA on 8/23: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Yeah. AGAIN. Kershaw’s having another ridiculous year, and sure, this start came against the fanciest MiLB team in Florida, but still. He’s out of his gourd this year. He’s got a 1.72 ERA (207 ERA+), an ungodly 0.857 WHIP, he’s struck out over four times the number of batters that he’s walked, thrown two shutouts and has posted a ridiculous 2.20 ERA and sub-1.000 WHIP over the past three seasons. And in case you missed it last week, he’s 25 years old. He also looks like he’s Amish, but this might not be the place or time to discuss his chinstrap.

kershbeard

Buuuuuuut … I will never understand why MLB players are so averse to mustaches. Ever. They’ll grow the shit out of a beard (see: basically all of the the 2013 Red Sox), but shave their upper lip with a straight razor. It’s like building a house without a roof. To me (and I know I’m probably alone here, but) it looks just as ridiculous as growing a beard and shaving the entire left side of your face clean. Are you in, or are you out? Are you growing a beard or just some sloppy chowderpouch underneath your face?

All I’m saying is … more of this. Less of this.

If you prefer the latter, hand over the goddamned iPhone. I’ve got a horse and carriage that you can take back to your barn.

AL & NL West Standings Update

LAA – 58-71 (4th place, and 17 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers)

LAD – 77-54 (FIRST place and 9.5 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks)

Headline Of The Week

From Bill Plaschke’s latest and greatest All-You-Can-Eat pile o’ word bile, “Dodgers’ benching of Yasiel Puig: Good move, bad follow-through“ for the Los Angeles Times on 8/20.

We haven’t really had a proper Plaschke-reaming since this column was born, so let’s have a little fun with this one, shall we?

The message, it seemed, was as powerful as one of his rocket throws, and as painful as each of his reckless blunders.

If Yasiel Puig was going to continue to ignore the Dodgers‘ coaches, then he would sit next to them.

You hear that, Puig?! That’s not a threat. It’s a GODDAMNED PROMISE … you young, raw, exciting hooligan of a great baseball player who also has shortcomings! Why can’t you be more Jeterian?

That’s where the increasingly aggravating phenom began Tuesday’s game in Miami against the Marlins, Puig being sent to the bench like a six-year-old being placed in timeout.

Or maybe he was slumping, needed a day off and got one, but let’s not research that because we’ve built a narrative and we’re sticking to it. Just like …

… the Dodgers didn’t stick to the lesson plan. In the sixth inning of a tie game, Manager Don Mattingly relented by allowing Puig to enter the game as part of a double switch.

THE HORROR! How dare he put his best player into a high-leverage situation that the Dodgers should absolutely not have lost under any circumstances?

School was out and so, too, was the baseball, as Puig led off the eighth inning with a first-pitch home run to propel the Dodgers a 6-4 victory.

I’m not following that sentence at all, but speaking of school … It guess it just started. And if you’d like proof, I have a Facebook timeline brimming with photos of sad kids whose parents sent them to their “First day of (insert grade) for (name … probably a Skylar or Cordly, or Makayleigh or something of that sort).”

Yeah, right — crazy, silly, troubling, triumphant, all of it, all at once. In that one moment, Puig picking a pitch off his ankles and crushing it off the top of the left-field fence, one could see the Dodgers’ dilemma in dealing with their frustrating young star.

HOW COULD WE POSSIBLY LET THIS FREAKISH JUGGERNAUT OF A PLAYER PLAY BASEBALL AND TURN AROUND A SEASON THAT WAS EMBARRASSINGLY LACKLUSTER BEFORE HE SHOWED UP TO REVITALIZE A TEAM THAT WAS DEAD IN THE WATER?

They need less of Puig’s reckless on-field behavior. They need less of his arrogant refusal to listen to instruction. They need less of an attitude that infuriates umpires.

But they also need more production, more game-changing plays, more energy and enthusiasm. What a horrible dilemma. They need a 22-year who never, ever makes mistakes. Think about that for a second. Know any? Didn’t think so.

But they love the victories that the reckless, arrogant attitude produces.

I’m saying.

They needed to bench him Tuesday.

Why? (Answer: Because he was struggling, not because of some faux-disciplinary bullshit and an overwhelming desire to preserve baseball’s tradition of stodginess.)

He needs to learn. But Mattingly showed that he’s unwilling to possibly sacrifice a victory to finish the lecture.

“Don, you missed the playoffs, but boy oh boy did your teach that Puig kid a lesson. Here’s an extension.”

Puig’s antics are the sort that will cost a team in a close game in October.

Uh, maybe his “antics” will cost the Dodgers a game, but more often than not (according to WAR) they will win them games. Did I miss a column about playing Skip Schumaker often? About Nick Punto sliding into first base like there’s a bonus clause in his contract for SIFB?

For every playoff game that Puig wins with his bold arm or crazy legs, he could cost them two.

I mean … that’s not even true or quantifiable at all, but go on.

With one swing Puig won a game, but, in playing him, the Dodgers risked losing much more.

The joy of an amazing season. The destruction of a storied franchise. The tenets of baseball as we know it.

Mattingly initially said the reason for the benching was “simply baseball,” but it was anything but simple. It was part educational, part punitive, and 100% necessary. It was the Dodgers attempting to teach Puig that, even at its most dazzling, imprudent play has inherent consequences.

Or maybe he needed a day off. It happens, ya know.

Puig’s energy sparked one of the hottest streaks in baseball history — the Dodgers are 48-20 in games in which he’s played — but his accompanying swagger is becoming a detriment and distraction. The Dodgers needed to temporarily derail him before he permanently derails them.

Are we even watching the same team? Puig has injected an energy and intensity that the wayward Dodgers didn’t have a shred of during the first two month of the season. If what we’re seeing in the dugout on a nightly basis, I’m fairly certain that his teammates appreciate and feed off how raw and exciting he can be.

In a three-game series against the Phillies, he was picked off, he was thrown out trying to advance on a short pop fly, he missed two cutoff men, and he fought with an umpire. On Monday night in Miami, he melted down in the dugout after striking out, storming through uncomfortable teammates while shouting and gesturing at home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck.

It was shocking that Hirschbeck didn’t throw him out. It was not shocking that a day later, the Dodgers finally sat him down — the first time he’s been benched for what could be considered disciplinary reasons.

Shocking that a 22-year-old with less than three months of MLB service time made some mistakes. HOW DARE HE?!

Of course, their decision was made easier by the fact that in the previous seven games, he was hitting .167 with seven strikeouts, no walks and only one run batted in.

It’s so convenient to bury this tidbit under hundreds of words of admonition.

That decision seemed to make even more sense when, shortly after the lineup card was posted, Puig showed up 30 minutes late and was promptly fined.

I’m all for being punctual, but calling a guy out for getting stuck in traffic in a godawful city (Miami) that his family lives in (a family he probably hasn’t seen much at all over the past couple of years) seems awfully petty, but hey, deadlines and page views.

It appeared that the Dodgers were done talking about his issues and were finally going to act.

“Have we addressed this with him pretty much every day? Absolutely,” General Manager Ned Colletti said Tuesday in a phone interview, later adding. “It’s something that needs to be addressed — it’s vital.”

Context is crucial here. Notice that there is none. Is Colletti talking about being late? Being “reckless” (read: aggressive), the language barrier, a combination of all of those things? Let’s not provide context, because OBEY THE NARRATIVE.

Colletti noted that Mattingly makes out the lineup card, so he couldn’t comment on the actual benching, but he understands the problems.

“Some days he thinks he can outrun any baseball, and his arm is good enough that nobody can outrun him,” Colletti said of Puig. “But that’s not how it always works in the big leagues. He needs to understand how good the other players are.”

Colletti said Puig is constantly reminded that not only do other teams have good players, they also have good scouts, and that opponents are now counting on capitalizing on his bold bloopers.

“We tell him, ‘Teams are now playing us in a way that they sense you’re going to make a mistake,’” Colletti said. “You would think that anybody’s pride would get tested at that point.”

He has played roughly 75 game in the big leagues. He’s young. He’s learning. Show me a 22-year-old who has played ~75 big league games and I’ll show you a unicorn that is fluent in three languages.

Turns out, on Tuesday, it was the Dodgers’ pride that was tested. After what happened, do they have the fortitude to bench him again?

Sure. Let’s sabotage the season and teach the guy – who is arguably their best player – a lesson. Let’s pat the back of Abner Doubleday. Let’s make a mountain out of a molehill.

There is one easy way out of this problem. That would be Matt Kemp. The Dodgers desperately need the return of the injured Kemp — giving them four outfielders for three spots — so Puig can be benched more often down the stretch and be allowed to grow more slowly into the game. Kemp could be back as soon as Sept. 1, and for Puig’s development, it will not be soon enough.

WHAT IN THE EVERLOVING MOTHER OF CHRIST ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Until then, they will have to carefully navigate this Yasiel Puig tightrope that stretches between the daring and the destructive.

What a dangerous tightrope it is, having this fucking incredible player under contract who is amazing and exciting and as must-watch as anyone in baseball. This is so much ado about nothing, I can’t even wrap my head about it.

On Tuesday, they walked about halfway, then fell on their faces. Dodgers win. Dodgers lose.

One game. One lineup decision. One shitpile of a column.

#ONEMANFIVETOOLS

Confession: I owned the domain, firebillplaschke.com, for two years. I did nothing with it., but I’d like to think that the last two minutes the time you spent reading the last section of this column made that totally worth it. Probably not, but humor me. Please?

Quotes Of The Week

LAA

From Scott Miller’s “Angels’ tense times nearly included Pujols, Hunter fight in 2012” for CBSSports.com on 8/23.

“Clubhouse leader” Albert Pujols to former Angels outfielder and “clubhouse leader” Torii Hunter, during a trainwreck of players-only meeting last season.

 “Shut up, Torii,” Pujols snapped.

It was then that Hunter, from across the clubhouse, lost it and charged Pujols. Hawkins and outfielder Vernon Wells had to restrain him.

Later in the story, we learn that Hunter punched Justin Morneau in the face when they were teammates in Minnesota. Every day on AngelsTalk, Angels message boards and blog comment sections, we learn (via Angels fans and media types) that the loss of Hunter might be a big reason why 2013 has been so disappointing. They lost their leader. They’re rudderless.

Solution: Everyone should punch everyone in the face. It’s a surefire way to build your leadership qualities and a  fantastic way to solve problems. Having a rough day at work? Punch a co-worker in the mouth. Wanna bring your family together? Punch an uncle. Live alone and need a kick in the pants? Punch your pants in the face.

LAD

From Bill Shaikin’s “It’s official: Vin Scully will return in 2014” for the Los Angeles Times on 8/23.

Scully on said return:

“It has been such an exciting, enjoyable, wonderful season — the big crowds in the ballpark, everybody is talking about the ballclub, and I really respect, admire and love the management — so everything just fell into place,” Scully said.

“I really still enjoy it immensely. My health is good, thank God. So why not? And my wife said, ‘Why not?’ as well.

“Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement — and looking out the window or something? It’s just too good. As a baseball man, and someone who has always loved the game, the situation and the conditions are perfect.”

Winning streaks and hopefulness aside, this is just the best news. As someone whose late father was raised on Vin Scully calling Dodgers games, and was (of course) raised on Vin Scully calling Dodgers games, I’m so grateful that I’ll get to hear another season narrated by the greatest broadcaster in professional sports history.

The amount of nostalgia I feel when listening Vin call a game is chill-inducing, not only because of the quality of his broadcasts, but because those broadcasts remind me of being a kid – enamored with a game I knew so little about about, eager to experience it and soak it up on every possible level. Vin played a huge role in helping me fall in love with the game, and he’s done so for countless people, spanning three generations. That’s just amazing.

DERP Of The Week: Brian Wilson

wilsonbearderp

Ever since Wilson started ponytailing his beard, I haven’t been able to see a picture of him without thinking that his beard would look much more “normal” if it were on top of his head rather than below it. Whelp. This is the actualization of that in photo form. And no, it doesn’t look even remotely more “normal”.

SciosciaFace Of The Week

sadsosh

What caused this version of SciosciaFace?

  1. This article by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
  2. Being the man in charge of a very good team that has missed the playoff four years in a row.
  3. Accidentally wiping his underbutt with the tail of his jersey. Again.
  4. He has a tragic illness.
  5. Nothing. Nothing at all.

MattinglyFace Of The Week

pumkinly

Well, do ya?

Who Controls The Future

Fare thee well, So Cal baseball fans. As the season rumbles and stumbles to a close, know that I’ll inexplicably be watching every Angels game that I possibly can (because I’m a masochist and a sucker for punishment) and as many Dodgers games as I can (because WHY WOULDN’T YOU?). Please hit me up on Twitter: @rileybreck or @productiveouts, and know that just because The Battle of LA is no longer, we can still have fun with this beautiful disaster.

Be well, friends.

Comments (12)

  1. Finishing on a strong Mat-O-Lantern. Great job, Riley.

    • Good on ya Riley for another great read. It’s been a very entertaining blog and it will be greatly missed, coming from an O’s fan, and I’ll especially miss the snarky humor and Faces of the Week. Good luck with whatever it is you pursue, given your track record, you’ll be just fine. Try and get the Thrice boys back together for another tour, we all know you want to…

      • Haha. Thanks for the kind words re: the column. Re: Thrice – A reunion is something that is entirely outta my hands, my man.

    • Thanks, Brian. I owe that whole section of the column to you.

  2. I really enjoyed these, I’m sad to see it end.

  3. “Punch your pants in the face.” I will be sending you my dry cleaning bill for that one, sir.

  4. i can’t believe you’re leaving. you’ve been great to read.

    • Thanks, Jay. They’ve been a blast to write. It’s not so much that *I’m* leaving, as it is the Score/Getting Blanked refocusing. I trust that the content here will be better than ever. It’s been a must-read/must-follow of mine for years. You’re in good hands.

  5. Getting Blanked headed in a different direction?

    Well, if it means no more posts like this, then I’m done here as well.

  6. Thanks for the great reads Riley.

    While I am sad there won’t be any more of these, I am consoled that I will still get my fix of your delicious humour from the Prodcast.

    -Sent from the mouldy base of Wade Boggs’ empty can beeramid

  7. Bummed to see the column go. It was a blast to read each week.

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