Archive for the ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’ Category

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

Update! Right on cue, the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw agreed to a seven-year, $215 million contract extension with an opt-out option after five years – the highest annual average value contract in baseball history.

It doesn’t matter how much money your cable deal is worth or how much equity your billion dollar franchise earns each year – $300 million is a lot of money. For one baseball player, that is an unbelievable amount of money on one contract.

If that contract stretches into the range of ten or twelve years, it is understandable if even the gun slingingest general manager blanches at the thought. For a pitcher? Heart attack territory.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the eye of the storm right now. They have the money and they have the desire and, most importantly, they have the player. The Dodgers stand poised to ink Clayton Kershaw to a record-setting deal – a deal that could smash previously held standards for dollar amounts, term, everything. As easy as it might be to question the wisdom of a such a contract given orthodox thinking on the volatile nature of pitchers, one niggling thought stays in the back of my mind: if Clayton Kershaw isn’t good enough to throw conventional wisdom out the window, then who is?

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers

The 30-for-30 doc “Broke” offers a telling look inside the spiral that lands highly-paid athletes in bankruptcy mere months after their careers end and the paychecks stop. More than anything, it is the inability to make lifestyle adjustments that seems to trip these jocks up the most.

Spending is easy. When the money flows in so freely, why not just throw more money at your problems? It’s the perfect solution!

The Dodgers had a great season in 2013, though it started slowly. A lightning bolt by the name of Puig shocked the Dodgers back to life (though his arrival in the big leagues coincided nicely with Zack Greinke rounding into form after missing a month with a collarbone injury) and they rode high into the playoffs, eventually falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.

Though they didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, the season was a good one for LA. Well positioned as they might be in the NL West, their roster is not without question marks. Sure, they have too many outfielders right now, but is this is a blessing or a curse? The outfield situation is quite the opposite of the conundrum on the infield, where the talent is abundant but razor thin.

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Oakland Athletics

One name consistently flying around in trade rumors is that of Matt Kemp. So frequent is his name popping up in trade coverage that his agent, former big leaguer Dave Stewart, says he “expects” the Dodgers outfielder to be moved.

The Dodgers current roster features too many outfielders and not enough places to play them. Not only are there too many fielders, there are too many dollars tied up in that overcrowded outfield. After taking on the expensive contract of Carl Crawford and the explosive debut of Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers “old guard” suddenly counted two bodies for one spot.

This isn’t ordinarily a bad thing – too much depth in one spot is a great way to address shortcomings in other places on the diamond. But the Dodgers free-spending ways complicate this matter, as both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both signed pricey extensions before reaching free agency.

Of the two, Matt Kemp remains the more desirable option. Or does he?

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MLB: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers

Brian Wilson‘s exploits rub a lot of people the wrong way. Brian Wilson’s beard and Brian Wilson’s oddball behavior eclipsed Brian Wilson’s baseball production about halfway through the 2011 season.

Then, early in the 2012 season, Brian Wilson went down injured, requiring a second Tommy John surgery, ending his time with the San Francisco Giants (who won the World Series with Wilson’s beard taking up space in the dugout as he rehabbed his elbow.)

After a short but incredibly successful stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, Wilson netted hims a one-year contract with a player option for a second. Hard to believe that after facing just 49 batters in the regular season (and another 24 in the playoffs) that a player could net more than ten million guaranteed dollars.

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Aren't you tired of this by now?

Aren’t you tired of this by now?

It is easy, in the aftermath of a 9-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Cardinals juggernaut, to point fingers inside the Dodgers clubhouse. To blame the series loss Yasiel Puig‘s outfield adventures or Clayton Kershaw for picking Game Six of the NLCS to have his worst game of the year. It isn’t much more complicated that. The Cardinals won Game Six handily and won the series, having beaten Clayton Kershaw twice. Once, they didn’t beat him as much as outlasted the Cy Young shoo-in. Last night he was bad and the Cardinals pounced.

The lame storylines grafted on top of this series only succeed in distracting from the immutable truth – the Cardinals were the better team over the last week. The Cardinals triumph should be recognized for what it is: nothing short of a player development miracle.

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MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers

The best British soccer announcers have a way of making any random match seem important. If not important, a posh accent at least lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. An English-language soccer broadcaster without an accent is one I am unlikely to suffer for long, in all honesty. The best announcers — like the great Martin Tyler to name one — have delightful little phrases and terms they pepper into their call to add color to the game.

“A turn of the screw” or “turning the screw” is one you hear often, generally when the team with the lead dominates possession and continually forces the opposition onto “the back foot.” Watching the Cardinals slowly, methodically, surgically beat the Dodgers tonight, I can think of no other phrase to better describe the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers might have better players – Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig are better than any one position player on St. Louis and Clayton Kershaw likely gets the edge over Adam Wainwright in a popular vote – but the Cardinals are just a better team. Top to bottom, one through 25, in all facets of the game, the Cardinals look better. Their non-stars are performing, cumulatively, better than the Dodgers stars and scrubs approach. The veteran Dodgers are racked with injury concerns while the Cardinals, outside of Allen Craig, are healthy and productive.

Last night, the Cardinals facade of perfection cracked and the Dodgers seized upon the opportunities. Not tonight. St. Louis didn’t blow the game open tonight, pushing over four runs on two homers and a Matt Carpenter double. They staked a small lead and then politely nursed it like a beer in the new neighbor’s garage. St. Louis snuffed out rallies with key double plays and an astute pick off in the eighth inning which felt like the game ended right that second.

The Cards didn’t make the same kind of mistakes they made 24 hours earlier. Instead of giving away extra bases and extras chances, the Cardinals played a tight “crisp” game. They turned to their excellent bullpen after Lance Lynn battled his way through 16 outs. Mike Matheny‘s bullpen got the next 11 on their own (with an assist to Nick Punto, of course.)

Without Ramirez the Dodgers look top-heavy, calling on Michael Young to play shortstop after a series of double switches removed Hanley’s replacement Nick Punto – not long after he made the base running gaffe featured above. They seem unable to solve the Cardinals pitching staff, but then again it is October 2013 and most pitching staffs are now unsolvable puzzles.

They turned the screw. Slowly yet steadily increasing the pressure on the Dodgers. The Dodgers have their own ways of reliving that pressure, of course. Knowing two starts from Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw is all that stands before LA and a Game Seven coin flip offers a brief respite from the pressure. But it is there. The Cardinals just keep turning the screw, with their timely hits and efficient relief pitching.

All that remains to be seen now is if they can finish the job. Or, just like one year ago, will a team from California disrupt the coronation of Baseball’s Greatest Franchise. Pressure’s on.

MLB: NLDS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers

As Drew wrote prior to postseason play last week, the playoffs are about results. To take it a bit further, the playoffs are about magnification. Events taken for granted during the 162-game slog due to the constant repetition — and, lest we forget, the absurd ability and reliability of the major league ballplayer — suddenly jump to the forefront.

This October, and specifically in the Los Angeles-Atlanta NLDS, the magnifying lens could be on one of the littlest of the so-called little things: the pitcher covering first base on ground balls hit to the right side.

In Sunday night’s Game 3, Hyun-Jin Ryu’s shakiness carried over to his play in the field. In the third inning with the Dodgers up 4-2, nobody out and the bases loaded, Ryu went to cover the bag on a potential 3-6-1 double play. The 3-6-1 is probably the second-hardest double play to turn, only behind the 3-6-3. In both cases, the difficulty is in orientation — finding the bag with a foot and the ball with a glove at the same time can be dizzying, and that sure looks like what happened to Ryu here.

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