Posts Tagged ‘Chase Utley’

What Went Wrong with the Dodgers?

October 18, 2015

As a diehard Dodgers fan I was saddened, but by now inured to their inevitable fate. So I asked myself, “Self, what went wrong this time?” Let me point out a number of things.

1 The Mets are pretty good. In a lot of ways the Dodgers didn’t lose, the Mets simply won (and congrats to both Bill and Glen). It’s a good team and good teams tend to win. So in many ways the answer to what went wrong with the Dodgers is that the Mets played better ball.

2. An over reliance to two pitchers won’t, as a rule, get you a championship. Yeah you can pull it off if you’re the ’63 and ’65 Dodgers (Koufax and Drysdale) or the 2001 Diamondbacks (Johnson and Schilling), but you’re not going to do it very often. All the other team has to do is beat your big guys once or twice (in this case the Mets beat both Kershaw and Greinke once each) and your team has nothing to back up the big guns. On point the ’65 Dodgers were in trouble until Claude Osteen turned things around in game 3. This year’s Dodgers didn’t have an Osteen.

3. It helps if you know how to trade something other than ball cards. The Dodgers pickups and losses before the season began and after it started weren’t inspired. They got rid of Dee Gordon. You know Gordon, don’t you? He hit .333, stole a league high 58 bases, had a league high 205 hits, had 4.9 WAR (BBREF version). In 2014 he played for LA. In 2015 he played for Miami. And the Dodgers got Howie Kendrick who hit a reasonable .295 but with 137 hits, six stolen bases, and all of 1.1 WAR. They also got Jimmy Rollins. I don’t want to imply he’s old, but he has to remember where he was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (and he probably shouldn’t have won the MVP he won). His numbers were .224, 12 stolen bases, 116 hits, and -0.1 WAR. Then there was the Latos deal. Seriously? They expected Matt Latos to put them into the World Series? Heck, I coulda done that bad and would have done it a lot cheaper. Then they traded for Chase Utley. I like Utley but he’s as old as Rollins and equally over the hill.

4. This is a team that doesn’t hit all that well. In a fifteen team league that led in home runs, but were 13th in hits. They were second in walks, but 11th in doubles and fifth in total bases. They were tenth in batting average. Kershaw and Greinke had a WAR over 7.5. Next on the team was Adrian Gonzalez at 3.9 tied with Justin Turner.

I could go on, but I’m tired and I’ve vented long enough. There are a lot of things LA has to fix (not least of which is resigning Greinke) in order to repeat as West champs. I’ve been a Dodgers fan so long I know better than to hold my breath.

Random Thoughts for the Midpoint of the 2012 Season

June 13, 2012

As I will be gone for the period leading up to the Fourth of July, I decided to post my midseason thoughts a little early, realizing that they may be out of date by the Fourth.

1. The American League East is starting to come around to what we expected. Tampa and New York are in first, Toronto is falling back. The strange teams are Baltimore and Boston. Did you really think Baltimore would be only one game out this late in the season or that Boston would be last? Both fooled me. Of course if you think about it Buck Showalter is a heck of a manager and the Red Sox are really starting to age. So maybe I shouldn’t have been fooled.

2. Whatever happened to Detroit? Weren’t they supposed to run away with the AL Central and then pummel the opposition in the playoffs? There are three aspects to baseball: offense, defense, and pitching. Someone forgot to tell Detroit you had to be able to catch and throw the ball. Oops. I’m not surprised by what’s happened to the Twins, but I’m saddened. They traditionally do more with less than anyone else and it’s finally caught up to them. Joe Mauer has his average back above .300, but the power seems to be gone. He’s 29 and that’s getting into the age range where catchers start imploding. And Justin Morneau seems to suffer a power drought also, although his average has begun climbing in the last month. Even Ron Gardenhire, a really good manager, isn’t going to get this team into contention.

3. So Albert Pujols was a bust was he? OK, he’s no longer Superman, but he’s not Clark Kent either. It looks like he’ll keep the Angels in contention and maybe get them to either a division title or a wildcard. Can Texas be stopped? Maybe. They remind me a lot of the 1950s-1960s Yankees. The ’50s-’60s Yankees had a series of good enough pitchers who could hold the other team down until the hitters simply bashed the opposition to death. Sound like the Rangers? The difference is that Texas has no Whitey Ford and I don’t know how much that will hurt them when the season draws down. Right now, Josh Hamilton is my MVP.

4. Does anyone understand what’s going on in the National League East? I’m not surprised that Philly is in trouble. Other than their pitching they weren’t all that strong anyway. The team is aging and Chase Utley can’t stay healthy. Hunter Pence isn’t going to be able to carry them and Jim Thome is apparently through (although I’d like to see him catch Sosa on the home run list). It seems the Mets have peaked (sorry, Bill) but maybe I’m wrong on that. I say that because I’m not really sold on either Washington or Atlanta so it’s possible the Mets will come back to win the division. If either they or the Nationals do, it will be one of the season’s great stories. And R. A. Dickey, my current Cy Young favorite is another great story for 2012. I’m not certain a knuckleballer can maintain the pace Dickey is setting.

5. OK, tell me you had Pittsburgh. Sure you did. Me too. I think the Pirates will fall back, but maybe they’ll finally finish over .500 this season (and I’ve got this great bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll let you have for a song). I still think the Cardinals take it, but Cincinnati might prove me wrong. Geez, is Joey Votto having a great season. I guess he’s my MVP right now, but then Lance Berkman was my MVP midway through last season.

6. The Dodgers are in first. Read that again. The Dodgers are in first. See what happens when you get rid of Frank McCourt and his wife. Maybe Magic Johnson is really “magic”. Actually it’s a really weak division and Arizona was a fluke last season. Maybe San Francisco can catch LA (please, God, anybody but the Giants) but they’ve still got to learn to hit. I’ve never been a particular fan of Tim Lincecum, but I’d hate to think he’s through already. So right now, is Don Mattingly manager of the year?

7. As of now my choice for biggest surprise of the year is LA and Detroit gets the nod as the biggest disappointment.

8. There used to be a saying that whoever was in first on the Fourth of July would win the pennant. As we’ve gotten more and more playoffs that saying has gone the way of the dinosaur. My guess is that about half the teams currently in first will win the division and maybe one or two others will get a wildcard. Don’t ask which because I don’t have a clue.

A Hole in the Lineup

May 17, 2010

Did you ever notice how certain teams breed great or really good players at some positions and end up with less sterling players at others? I wonder why that is. It can’t be just a team having lousy scouts or dumb management, because it’s too widespread.  A couple of examples are in order.

The Yankees have produced an inordinate number of truly great catchers and second basemen. Take a look at Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada. The first two are in the Hall of Fame, the last one has a good chance of joining them. Now take a look at Yankees second basemen. There’s Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon, both Hall of Famers, and Bobby Richardson, Billy Martin, Willie Randolph, Robinson Cano, all of which would get support in some quarters. Not the greatest set of second basemen ever, but a heck of a good quality set. We could do the same for the outfield (minus left field) and on the mound.

Now  contrast those positions with the rest of the infield. At first base there’s one all-time great (Gehrig), one really good player (Mattingly) and the rest of the crew. Shortstop is the same way with Jeter and Ruzzuto being way above the rest of the pack (except for Bucky Dent for one afternoon in Boston). Then there’s third base. I guess I’d go with Graig Nettles (What, momma couldn’t decide if she wanted Greg or Craig?) and Red Rolfe as the cream of the crop, with maybe a nod to Clete Boyer’s glove, but you gotta admit any of them is a real step down.

I’m a Dodgers fan. They have the same problem. An outfield of Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Zack Wheat, Willie Davis, Tommy Davis isn’t bad; and Campanella, Piazza, Scioscia, and Al Lopez is a pretty good collection of catchers; and the pitching staff can be great. But look at the infield. At short there’s PeeWee Reese and Maury Wills, and little else. At second there’s Jackie Robinson and  Jim Gilliam (who could play anywhere, but I’ve put him at second) along with a bunch of decent, but unspectacular other guys. First has Hodges and Garvey who are OK, but not true top rung players (and, yes, I’m a supporter of Hodges for the Hall). And again there’s third base. I suppose I’ll take Ron Cey as the best of the lot. He was a good enough player, probably the best of the 1970s infield crew, but if that’s the best you can do, well…

I can go through team after team and do the same thing. Look at the Phillies at first base. Howard may be their best ever and he hasn’t played 10 years yet. Ditto Chase Utley.

I have no idea why this is so. Maybe there’s just a lack of really good quality players at certain positions. Maybe it’s the chance in emphasis in the way a position is played (take a look at the difference in second and third basemen between 1915 and 1965). Maybe some teams really aren’t very good at spotting talent at certain positions. I don’t know the answer, I merely point out the phenomena.

Best of a Decade

January 1, 2010

Yesterday I commented on a variety of the top baseball things of the 200’s. Today I give you my all-decade team. These are my choices for best of the decade. One proviso, no one tainted by the steroids scandal can make the team, so no Bonds, no Sosa, no Palmeiro, no Clemens, no Rodriguez. I’m making no judgement on guilt or innocence, but exclude the player until such time as we can determine if his numbers are bogus. If they aren’t, I’ll be glad to change the list, but until then, here they are. The outfielders are designated A, B, and C. The order is alphabetical and nothing else should be construed from the order.

1b-Albert Pujols. This may have been the easiest choice of all. Maybe the greatest First Baseman I’ve ever seen and I can go back to Gil Hodges and company. It’s been a great era for First Basemen and Pujols is clearly the best.

2b-Chase Utley. It’s not been a great era for Second Basemen, but Utley is the best of the lot. He’s a good fielder and a first rate hitter with some speed and power. He does have a tendency to tail off a bit at the end of a season and gets hurt a lot.

ss-Derek Jeter. Yankees captain and sparkplug. Not as good as some people seem to think (he is not the second coming of Honus Wagner) but still one heck of a shortstop. Seems to be on the downside of his career, but still putting up excellent offensive numbers. He may be next to 3000 hits.

3b-Chipper Jones. The Braves seem to want to move him to the outfield but always end up putting him back at third. Good bat, but now in the decline phase of his career.

Outfield A-Torii Hunter. Superb centerfielder. Also a good hitter. Seems to be a positive influence in the clubhouse.

Outfield B-Manny Ramirez. I get a little tired of his act and I cringe when the ball is hit his way, but wow can he hit the ball. World Series MVP and major contributor to breaking an 80 years plus championship drought in Boston.

Outfield C-Ichiro Suzuki. An absolute hitting machine. Most hits in one season, speedy, good fielder, helped make Japanese players more acceptable to US audiences. Between US and Japan he may end up with 4000 hits.

Catcher-Joe Mauer. May become the greatest hitting catcher ever. Certainly already among the best. Also a fine defensive backstop. Has 3 batting titles (no catcher has more and only 1 has as many as 2) and an MVP.

DH-David Ortiz. Dominent DH for much of the decade. Lots of power, little speed, not much of a fielder, but crucial to Boston winning in 2004 (when he was league championship MVP) and in 2007. Seems to be deeply on the downside of his career.

Pitcher-Randy Johnson. I saw Spahn, Koufax and Carlton so it’s tough to call him the greatest left hander I ever saw, but he is very, very good. Three Cy Young Awards in the decade, one World Series win and the MVP to go with it, and lots and lots of wins and strikeouts. He’s through now and I hope he hangs it up (I’ll get to see him in Cooperstown quicker).

Closer-Mariano Rivera. The best postseason closer ever, although he botched game 7 of the 2001 World Series and 2 chances to close out the 2004 AL championship. Still he’s just better than anyone else, and he’s not bad in the regular season either.

There they are, team. So who’d I forget?