Dis and Data
When my Dad became a beat writer for the Dodgers in 1958 (the team's first year in Los Angeles), he labeled the notes at the end of his articles "Dodgers Dis and Data." This section was in agate type and in the format of what I call dot, dot, dot. By December of that year, he shortened the title to "Dis and Data" and it remained as such for ten years until he changed jobs and became Director of Public Relations and Promotions with the Angels.
In honor of my Dad, I hereby dust off his creation for today's version of Baseball Beat with opening comments on, who else, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With all the talk, finger pointing, and second guessing about the lack of team chemistry and wins this year, has everyone forgotten the recent past? The Dodgers won 93 games last year, the most since 1991 when they were victorious the same number of times...That's kinda interesting but not my main point here. It turns out dem Bums of yesteryear went 63-99 the following season...Sound familiar? Well, as poorly as this year's team has performed, the Dodgers have already won 61 games...Look, things tend to ebb and flow in life, and the Dodgers, whether under Branch Rickey (63-91 in 1944), Buzzie Bavasi (71-93 in 1958), Al Campanis (73-89 in 1986), Fred Claire (63-99 in 1992), Kevin Malone (77-85), or Paul DePodesta (61-72 in 2005), have had their ups and downs over time. More than their fair share of ups than downs, mind you...Dan Evans, in fact, was the lone Dodgers GM who escaped a losing season. In fairness, he was also the only one--other than Malone--never to win a division, league or World Series championship.
Speaking of general managers, J.P. Ricciardi obviously got dumb in a hurry last year when the Toronto Blue Jays went from 86 to 67 wins. With the team playing .500 ball this season, I guess he is somewhere between genius and idiot...Funny how Billy Beane had his comeuppance three months ago--or so his detractors thought. Now that Oakland is right back in the thick of things, I can hear the same folks blaming him if the A's fail to make it to post-season or lose once again in the first round of the playoffs...I mean, you can take that one to the bank...If Beane and John Schuerholz aren't Executives of the Year in the AL and NL, respectively, you may as well ditch that award.
I think it is safe to say that Eric Gagne's streak of throwing 82 1/3 innings for three consecutive years won't be extended to a fourth...Despite his arm troubles, Gagne amazingly struck out 22 batters this year in just 13 1/3 innings. His K/9 rate of 14.85 was the second highest of his career (only behind the 14.98 per nine in his phenomenal season in 2003, which just might be the greatest year ever by a relief pitcher)...Gosh, I wonder if Gagne's presence in the bullpen all year might have made the tempestuous clubhouse more like the A's and Yankees of yore rather than the misfits we're bombarded reading about today?
Jay Payton made one of the best plays I've ever seen on Wednesday night. Unless you saw it live or on the highlights (a rarity for a west coast game at night), it would have been easy not to notice. Here is how ESPN's play-by-play report described it:
M Izturis singled to center, D Erstad scored, M Izturis out at second.
Hold on here. Izturis out at second. That's it? How did that happen? Sit tight and I'll tell you...The Angels third baseman hit a dunker into shallow center field that fell between Mark Ellis, Marco Scutaro, and Payton. Payton fielded the ball on a hop, looked up, and noticed that nobody was covering second base. He ran with the ball like a running back heading for the endzone and slid in front of the base feet first to tag out the hustling Izturis in the nick of time. That's 8-U (as in unassisted) on your scorecard...Payton's awareness, athleticism, and tenacity were such that I don't think there is another CF in the game who either could have or would have made that play.
Payton followed up one spectacular play on Wednesday evening with another on Thursday night. He gunned down Chone Figgins, one of the fastest runners in the league, trying to score from second base on a single to center. Payton's throw was breathtaking, an absolutely perfect strike from medium center field to home that Adam Melhuse caught chest high. You could have hung the laundry out to dry on the clothes line Payton created with that throw. It beat Figgins by such a wide margin that the Angels speedster tried to reverse course before getting tagged out by the A's catcher...Oh, here is how it reads in the play-by-play report:
G Anderson singled to center, C Figgins thrown out at home.
Sheesh, what's a guy gotta do to get a little respect (or recognition)? By the way, did I mention that Payton also made a nice, running catch near the warning track earlier in the game?...For one series, Payton looked like a Gold Glove outfielder to me. Who knows, he might even look like a Shannon Stewart-style MVP to Jayson Stark when the season is over.
Not sure if this qualifies as Department of Useless or Useful Information but Florida's Jeremy Hermida became the second player to hit a grand slam in his first plate appearance and the only one to do it as a pinch-hitter when he connected in the seventh inning Wednesday night. Only two players -- William "Frosty Bill" Duggleby in 1898 and Bobby Bonds in 1968 -- had previously hit a grand slam in their first major-league game. Duggleby is the only other player to do so in his first at-bat...I had the good fortune of watching Bonds do his thing at Candlestick Park against the Dodgers in a game televised to the Los Angeles market. Bonds hit his grand slam in his third at-bat, a shot in the sixth inning off Dodgers reliever John Purdin...Thanks for bringing back those memories, Jeremy, who, at 6-4 and 200 pounds with power and speed to burn, could put up a whole bunch more Bobby Lee Bonds-type numbers before his big-league career is out.