Dodger Stadium brawl aftermath

By Mason Nesbitt

Major League Baseball handed out suspensions on Friday for Tuesday Night’s fight between the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.

D-backs starting pitcher Ian Kennedy headlined those suspended. The right-hander received a 10-game-ban for sparking the brawl by beaning Dodger pitcher Zach Greinke near the head.

Greinke had hit D-backs catcher Miguel Montero in the previous half inning as retaliation for Kennedy plunking Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig in the head with a pitch in the sixth.

During the scrum, Puig responded to a push from D-backs reserve infielder Eric Hinske by punching him in the back of the head.

Surprisingly, Puig wasn’t suspended.

ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon suggested in a column that Major League Baseball might’ve been gracious to Puig because his actions stemmed from the fear generated by being hit in the head.  

But if that’s the case, why didn’t MLB show such grace to Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin when—after being hit with a pitch—he attacked Greinke.

If Puig’s blow had seriously injured Hinske, like Quentin did Greinke, would Puig ‘ve been suspended?

Probably.

It seems then, Puig didn’t receive a suspension because Hinske isn’t headed to the disabled list.

But Hinske’s health doesn’t excuse Puig’s cheap shot; the 22-year-old right fielder should’ve been suspended. In fact, his punch was equal to or worse than the misconduct of Dodgers who were suspended.   

The four biggest offenders in Dodger blue seem to have been relievers Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell, as well as Don Mattingly and Puig.

Belisario was punching people and probably deserved more than his one game suspension.

Howell pushed a D-back halfway over the camera-well railing and rightly received a two game ban.

Mattingly received a one game suspension for going Pedro Martinez-Don Zimmer on D-backs bench coach Alan Trammel, throwing him to the ground on his way to yell at an umpire.

And Puig’s fist connected with the back of Hinske’s skull, resulting in nothing but a fine.

On the other hand, it’s hard to tell exactly why utility-man Skip Schumaker was banned for two games. And it might be even harder to discern what hitting coach Mark McGwire did to deserve a two game absence from the Dodgers’ dugout—since when is it a crime to yell in someone’s face?

McGwire yelled and Puig punched. Who should’ve been suspended?

MLB did the Dodgers a favor in suspending McGwire and not Puig; Big Mac’s days of hitting home runs are over, and Puig’s are just beginning. 

The Dodgers are alive and (they might just be) well

By Mason Nesbitt

 Finally the Dodgers showed signs of life.

 Sure it took Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy beaning Zach Greinke, but if that sparks a winning streak, like it sparked a fight, it’s worth it right?

 Too many times this season, after disappointing or embarrassing losses, Dodgers players looked as if they didn’t care. While that probably wasn’t the case, guys like Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker interviewed like nothing was wrong, making the frustration of underachievement feel even more frustrating for fans.

 Even after Monday night’s 5-4 loss, a travesty, there was little visible exasperation from Don Mattingly’s club.

Someone please throw a helmet or break a bat. Do something; anything that would make people believe you’re not okay with the way things are going. 

Tuesday night was different.

 It all started in the top of the fifth when Greinke hit Cody Ross on the hand. Kennedy then hit Yasiel Puig in the sixth with a pitch to the head; a pitch that may or may not’ve been intentional.

 The game of tag continued in the seventh when Greinke pegged D-backs catcher Miguel Montero square in the back, sparking the first scrum. Fortunately, Dodger catcher Tim Federowicz was more proactive with Montero than A.J. Ellis had been with Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, and Greinke escaped the ordeal with a healthy collarbone.

 Then Kennedy plunked Greinke on the shoulder, just below his neck, in the seventh. Both benches cleared.

 The commentators on MLB Network may’ve said it best when they referred to it as a fantasy brawl—Mattingly, Dodgers’ hitting coach Mark McGwire, Gibson and D-backs bench coach Alan Trammell all verbally jousting.

 Not all the jousting however, was purely verbal. Mattingly and Trammel got into it. McGwire had to be restrained. Dodger reliever Ronald Belisario, who reportedly isn’t completely healthy, looked spry as he went after guys. Even Clayton Kershaw mixed it up in there. 

Puig was in there too, but for once he didn’t make the Dodgers organization proud, punching a D-back player in the back of the head and reminding everyone he’s only 22-years-old after all. 

 And while suspensions may be coming, it’s safe to say the Dodgers are alive. They were feisty, ornery and looked like a team rather than individuals.

 But anybody can fight. It’s great the Dodgers had each other’s backs. But when the fight was over they still had to play the game, and that’s what counts. 

Thankfully, the Dodgers’ fight didn’t end when the brawl did. 

 Federowicz dug the Dodgers out of a 3-2 hole with a three-run double in the eighth and then in the ninth Kenley Jansen made everyone wonder why he hasn’t been closing all season, needing only 10 pitches to retire the side.

And while the side was retired, the Dodgers certainly aren’t. Though they’ve often looked old, unenthused and boring, Tuesday they were anything but.

The 2013 season may’ve just begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Puig’s moving in then Ethier’s moving out (eventually)

In a season that has gone so terribly wrong, something is finally going terrifically right.

The last few days make you wonder what took the Dodgers so long to call up Yasiel Puig. Sure it’s a small sample size, but in four games, he’s made a case that his gaudy spring training stats were more than spring training stats.

The guy can play.

As Vin Scully  emphasized repeatedly on Tuesday night’s broadcast, Puig did just about everything in his first two games.

He hit for average and hit for power. He showed speed and a cannon of an arm. He brought excitement to a team that was hard to watch.

The guy is must see TV.

After Wednesday the naysayers said, “He isn’t that great. He went hitless.” His supporters responded, “He’s human.”

But Thursday’s grand slam brings that into question again.

The real question is what do the Dodgers do with Andre Ethier.

Wait, that’s not fair.

The question now becomes what do the Dodgers do with their crowded outfield.

Carl Crawford isn’t going anywhere with his contract and injury history. Matt Kemp is arguably the face of the franchise, if not a little below Kershaw. And if Puig keeps it up how could they possibly justify benching or demoting him. So the logical choice is… Ethier.

What a conundrum. The Dodgers have $429 million dollars invested in four outfielders.

Only three can play at a time mind you.

It’s a shame Puig doesn’t play third base. Or even better if he was a relief pitcher–a 100-mph-throwing closer. Then the Dodgers could talk about getting rid of Brandon League (something they should be talking about anyway).

Reality check, Puig plays right field. So does Andre.

It has been reported teams would want the Dodgers to eat a large portion of Ethier’s contract in any trade, which wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Dodgers hadn’t signed him to an $85 million dollar deal. But money doesn’t seem to be an issue in LA anymore, so anything’s possible.

Enough about Ethier.

The whole thing’s a nonissue anyway until Kemp and Crawford come off the DL.

And until then, everyone should sit back and enjoy what Vin is calling the Yasiel Puig Story.

Here’s to hoping it’s an 800 page bestseller.

Overshadowed

By Mason Nesbitt

Clayton Kershaw stole the spotlight and the headlines following the Dodgers’ 4-0 win over the Giants Monday. And rightfully so.

But one player’s Dodger debut may have gotten lost in the hoopla.

Carl Crawford, coming off a season lost almost entirely to injury, went 2-for-4 with a double. He recorded an infield single, struck out, grounded out to second–hitting the ball right on the screws–and lined a double the other way in the eighth before scoring on a passed ball.

Two years in Boston make it easy to forget Crawford’s talent. He was a star in Tampa Bay, hitting over .300 in five seasons and stealing more than 40 bases seven times. The 31-year-old also hit for some power, highlighted in 2010 with 19 home runs and 90 RBIs.

Then he shipped up to Boston.

Crawford played 130 games after signing with the Red Sox in 2011, batting only .255 with 18 stolen bases. He played only 31 games in 2012 (also played 11 minor league games) before Tommy John surgery in August ended his season.

He didn’t run down any more fly balls in 2012, but he did cover lots of ground. Boston sent him to Los Angeles as part of an August 25 salary dump;  Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett headlined the deal.

Most perceived the Dodgers to be doing Boston a favor, taking on Crawford and the $100 million plus that was still owed him. But if Monday, and a Spring Training that saw him hit well over .350 are any indication, the Dodgers may not have overpaid after all.

The price may be right. As the Mariners, Tigers and Giants will agree, $100 million dollars is a bargain for an all-star. 

 

Opening Day

Dodgers-Giants is tomorrow.

Months of speculation will finally play out on the field. Obviously we won’t know how good the Dodgers are–or aren’t–until summer. But after tomorrow, we may be able to counter Giants’ fans with something other than, “Wait till next year.”

Assuming of course, the Dodgers win. If not, we’ll be mocked. 

“Money can’t buy wins!” they’ll tease. “I told you they wouldn’t be good!” they’ll boast. 

It’s only one game. True. The knowledgeable baseball fan won’t panic; there’ll be 161 games left. Heck, the Dodgers could win their first 20 games and still finish in last place. Tomorrow means nothing in the big picture. But honestly, it means something. 

It means–even if just for a night–being able to combat the overbearing Giants’ fan in your life. 

Most Dodgers’ fans have one. That guy who, for the last two plus years, hasn’t let you forget that the Giants are World Series Champions.

“Oh, and in case you forgot, they did it twice,” they say.

A victory tomorrow would be the equivalent of a few Tylenol to the pain Dodgers’ fans have endured the past three years. Any real healing would require the Dodgers to pile up around 94 more. And then some. 

Otherwise, what can Dodgers’ fans say? We have a payroll of over $230 million, a lineup with five all-stars and arguably the best one-two punch of any starting rotation in baseball. 

If that doesn’t equal a playoff appearance, then we ought to be mocked. 

 

Big Puma a Fit for the Dodgers?

cbssports.comPhoto by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

cbssports.com
Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Mason Nesbitt

The Dodgers are still reportedly looking for corner infield depth and with the number of guys on the roster that can play third base it seems most likely that it will be a first baseman.  What about Lance Berkman? Juan Rivera (nine home runs), who had the most power off the bench for LA last year, is gone and Nick Punto, Juan Uribe, Skip Schumaker, Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon, and Tim Federowicz combined to hit six home runs last year.

Picture this…it’s the bottom of the ninth…game seven of the 2013 NLCS against the Giants…the Dodgers trail 3-2 with the bases empty and two outs…the pitcher’s spot is up to face Sergio Romo. Who do the Dodgers send to the plate? Schumaker…Punto…Uribe? (not the Uribe of 2010) None of those options should give any Dodger fan in their right mind confidence that they could tie the game with one swing. Berkman on the other hand, with the exception of an injury shortened 2012, has not hit less than 20 home runs in any but one season since 1999. Berkman would give the Dodgers the first base depth they need and would bring a .303 career batting average against righties, .259 against lefties and over 300 career home runs to a bench light in the round-tripper department.

And with the signing of Carlos Pena by the Astros it looks as if the team most linked to Berkman this off-season may be less likely to sign the “Big Puma” although according to MLB.com’s Richard Dean the Astros have said otherwise.  Is Berkman still looking to be an everyday player? Could the Dodgers pay him enough to persuade him otherwise? Brian McTaggart of MLB.com quoted Berkman as saying, “A lot has to do with compensation…I’m not going to come back for a song, but depending on what kind of offer they (the Astros) talk about, I’m really considering anything right now.”

The Dodgers should at least consider bringing in the 14 year veteran to give a little pop to a bench in desperate need of it…unless…Colletti wants Mattingly to send Punto or Schumaker to the plate in the ninth inning of game seven…with an aluminum bat.

Stats from mlb.com and fangraphs.com

Hanrahan an Upgrade?

Hanrahan

sportingnews.com

By Mason Nesbitt

For the last couple of weeks the Dodgers have reportedly been linked with Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer Joel Hanrahan.  John Perrotto reported that the Pirates would want Chris Capuano along with another player in exchange for the hard-throwing closer.  Capuano (12-12, 3.72 ERA) is certainly expendable considering the Dodger’s stockpile of starting pitchers after the signings of Greinke and Ryu. It is hard to believe the Dodgers would include another major league ready player in the deal with the exception of one of their bench utility players: Punto or Hairston maybe.  That said, would it be an upgrade for the Dodgers to bring back the six foot four pitcher they drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft.  If they brought Hanrahan back it would be to close; is he a better option than Brandon League or Kenley Jansen?

Hanrahan over the last two seasons has appeared in 133 games (127.4 innings)  with ERA’s of 1.83 and 2.72 respectively…saving a combined 76 games while blowing only 8 such opportunities. In 2012 he made a little over $4,000,000 while striking out 10 per nine with a .184 batting average against.

Jansen who’s first year as the Dodger’s closer was cut short by heart problems saved 25 games in ’12 with a 2.35 ERA striking out nearly 14 batters per nine with a k/bb ratio of 4.50.  On a sour note the 6’5 righty blew seven saves, however, opposing batters hit only .145 against Kenley who made a little under $500,000 in ’12.

Finally, there’s Brandon League whom the Dodgers have named as their closer entering the 2013 season after signing him to a 3 yr./$22,500,000 deal this offseason.  League was acquired from the Mariners at the trade deadline in ’12 and saved 15 games between the two teams with an ERA of 3.13.  In 2011 League saved 37 games with an ERA of 2.79 while blowing 5 saves (6 blown saves in ’12).

League’s strikeout to walk ratio is worrisome (1.64) and his batting average against (.243) definitely doesn’t blow your socks off.  I think it’s safe to say that Hanrahan would be an upgrade over League, however, I’m not so sure that Hanrahan is a huge upgrade over Kenley, if at all.  This leads to the question, why isn’t Kenley closing?  Why did the Dodgers agree to pay League $7,500,000 a year when they already had arguably a better closer on their roster who is making over $7 million less.

Last season Kenley had a better ERA, better k’s per nine, a much better k/bb ratio, lower batting average against, and more saves than League (keep in mind that Jansen’s season was cut short).    It will be interesting to see how Mattingly uses Jansen to start the season….7th inning…8th inning…which inning will Belisario pitch?  In the end, Jansen deserves a shot to close again for the boys in blue and if League doesn’t consistently shut the door he will certainly get that opportunity.

Stats from fangraphs.com and mlb.com

Salary info from spotrac.com and mlb.com

Ryu Not Lacking Confidence

mlb.com

mlb.com

By Mason Nesbitt

Listening to the Hyun-Jin Ryu press conference, I can’t help but be awed by his confidence. Through his translator he spoke of attaining a two point ERA (he most likely meant an ERA somewhere between two and three not two on the dot), double-digit wins and recording more wins in a career than Chan Ho Park’s 124. High aspirations for a pitcher who has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues, in America that is, Ryu posted a 2.66 ERA and nine victories while striking out 210 batters in South Korea as a member of the Hanwha Eagles.
The goals Ryu has set for himself would certainly be welcomed by the Dodgers who signed him to be a number three starter; some scouts however see him as a bullpen guy. Ryu definitely has the stuff to be an effective major league starter with an above average fastball for a lefty, good change and curve, but whether or not he will live up to his own expectations is yet to be seen.
Stats from Dodgers.com and fangraph.com

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At All Costs

By Mason Nesbitt

If the Dodgers go on to win the World Series this season with the highest payroll in baseball history will it feel at all tainted for you? I know that I personally won’t hear the end of it from all my non-Dodger-fan friends, “best team money could buy”, “of course they won with all the money they spent.” While it’d be nice to not have to deal with all that…at this point I don’t care how much money the Dodgers spend if it brings a World Series to Chavez Ravine. Being born in 1991 I haven’t even had the opportunity to see the Dodgers play in the WS (thanks in large part to the Phillies and Frank McCourt)…so just seeing them play in the Fall Classic would be well worth the hate (much like I’ve dished out to Yankee fans over the years because of payroll) that would rain on their…our parade. Are the Dodger’s deep pockets an unfair advantage…maybe…but after years of disappointment I want to see the Dodgers win “at all costs.”

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