Tanaka negotiations continue, Nyjer Morgan and Todd Coffey make major-league comebacks, and Don Mattingly nears an extension.
An update on the race to sign Masahiro Tanaka
With the holiday season in the rearview mirror, the bidding for recently posted Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka should pick up as soon as this week. Interested teams have until January 24 to come to a deal with the right-hander, and most big-market clubs are expected to make a strong effort to do just that.
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October once again becomes the Beltran show, Greinke is great, and Mattingly makes mistakes.
Friday’s NLCS opener offered most of the qualities we want in a playoff game. An impressive pitching performance. Three big plays by a perennial postseason hero. A play at the plate to preserve a tie. Extra innings. A walk-off win. Ernie Johnson summed up Game One well when he called it “a top-step night,” even if it was more of a “lying in bed with my laptop” night where I was.
Don Mattingly's message to the Dodgers yesterday might have fired his team up for a victory over the Brewers. Tonight, Ervin Santana matches up against the Angels.
The Dodgers are underperforming, and Don Mattingly blames a lack of #want. Currently helming the cellar dwellers of the NL West, Mattingly laid into the team’s work ethic yesterday, and the quotes are dripping with vitriol and tobacco.
“We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have talent,” he said before his suddenly inspired club walloped the Brewers, 9-2, on Wednesday afternoon. “There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,” Mattingly said. “It's not, ‘Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.’”
I was flabbergasted when I heard the news today, relayed by Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk, that Keith Hernandez was considering shaving his mustache. It's not that facial hair is invariably a good thing, but it does give its wearer additional texture and makes him more interesting. Hernandez's soup-sopper has been a part of his face since the 1970s and has been an iconic representation of the man and what he stands for. Let's be honest, without the mustache, Keith Hernandez would be no more loved and appreciated today than his baseball doppelganger, John Olerud.
Both are undeniably fine ballplayers. Smooth-swinging lefty first basemen with line drive swings, excellent patience, and slick gloves. Heck, they played the same number of years, finished within 60 hits and 15 runs scored of one another, and are separated by one point of OPS+ (Olerud 129 vs Hernandez 128).
A tough test ahead for 'a Dodger team that is a wonder.'
The Thursday Takeaway
A week ago, when the Dodgers put the finishing touches on a 7-6 win in their series opener against the White Sox, broadcaster Vin Scully was as captivated by their continued success as the fans watching on TV. That win was the 41st of the season for Los Angeles, then a league high, and after it, Scully—with all the eloquence you’d expect from the game’s best broadcaster—described “a Dodger team that is a wonder. You wonder how they do it.”
With his roster ravaged by injuries—most notably Matt Kemp’s hamstring, which has sidelined him essentially since mid-May—manager Don Mattingly fielded a lineup that could have made even the most optimistic fan cringe. Leadoff man Dee Gordon entered with an on-base percentage of .279. He was followed by Elian Herrera, a minor-league veteran getting his first look at the age of 27. And yes, that was indeed Jerry Hairston, Jr., of the .702 career OPS, batting fifth.
Don Mattingly's affinity for the bunt could be keeping the Dodgers from scoring more runs.
Like many a Dodger fan, I found myself pulling out clumps of hair on Tuesday night. The Dodgers—a first-place team at 19-10 to that point, surprisingly—were facing the Giants (14-15) in L.A. Despite having Clayton Kershaw on the hill, they were on the short end of a 2-1 score, because with a man on base in the second inning, their ace left a high fastball to Brett Pill a bit too far out over the plate, and Pill drove it 384 feet into the left-field bleachers. The Dodgers had plated a run against Ryan Vogelsong in the bottom of the second thanks to a pair of doubles, but they could get no more, and as the innings passed, the situation grew more desperate.
Are teams asking the right questions about pitcher injury prevention, or are they just guessing along with the rest of us?
Thanks to Jerome Holtzman, inventor of the save, and Bruce Sutter, the first fireman used like a 21st-century closer, Chicago is quite literally the birthplace of the modern reliever. So it seems almost tiresome that in the Windy City, baseball news over the last week has been dominated by the vagaries of relief pitching.
Before last Friday's game against the Dodgers, Carlos Marmol sat hunched over in the folding chair in front of his locker, all by himself. No one was talking to the normally happy-go-lucky reliever, or even sitting nearby. We soon learned that Marmol was processing some bad news.
The Padres and Dodgers met for their opening series last week, bringing to mind their intertwined histories.
Every now and then, someone not from these parts makes the mistake of calling San Diego a suburb of Los Angeles. I'm not very familiar with the East Coast, but my guess based on relative proximity is that this would be like calling Philadelphia a suburb of New York. We are a gentle people, and so just as folks from Hawai'i bristle but remain silent when some guy with a comb-over nursing an umbrella-laden drink loudly proclaims his intent to “go back to the States,” we blink and smile while being offended in a manner that might cause a riot were that same guy to refer to a person from Philadelphia as a New Yorker.
That being said, when the Padres first joined the National League in 1969 they were, in many respects, an offshoot of the Dodgers to the north. Not quite “The Jeffersons” to “All in the Family,” more like “After M*A*S*H” to “M*A*S*H.”
The new JAWS runs up against players from the Steroid Era to determine their Hall worthiness.
As with comedy, timing is everything in baseball. "Hitting is timing," Hall of Famer Warren Spahn said famously, finishing the thought with the complementary observation, "Pitching is upsetting timing." A good chunk of both the game's traditional and advanced statistics, the ones that we spurn and those that we celebrate, owe plenty to being the right man in the right place at the right time—wins, saves, and RBI from the former camp, leverage, run expectancy, and win expectancy from the latter. ERA owes everything to the sequence of events. For better or worse, MVP votes are won and lost on the timing of a player's productivity, or at least the perception of it that comes with being labeled "clutch." Timing is a major part of how we measure the game, so it should matter when we look over the course of a player's career in evaluating his fitness for the Hall of Fame.
Due to reader response, the annotated list continues with 21st through 31st best seasons of all time, featuring Mike Piazza, Ernie Banks, and more third basemen of the 1970s.
Our collection of BP-flavored single-season WARP scores currently goes back to 1950. Now that we’ve added fielding runs to the sortable choices, you can easily see the combination of offense and defense that made the top players during this period so valuable, and in some cases dragged them down from even higher perches.
On Monday, I used the newly revised list to take a look at the top 20 seasons of the last 60 years. Due to reader enthusiasm and the fact that I find this kind of thing to be tremendous fun, I’ve expanded the scope to include the top 50, continuing today with the player-seasons that rank 21 through 31.
21. Frank Robinson, OF, 1966: 11.0
Robinson, newly arrived with the Baltimore Orioles after the Reds called him “an old 30,” won the triple crown, joining Mickey Mantle ’56 and Carl Yastrzemski ’67 in the top 50. He picked up a unanimous MVP award, Given how much grief the voters have deservedly taken over the years, it’s reassuring to see how many of these great seasons have won. Of the top 11, the voters rewarded all but three, and one of those was Sammy Sosa's ’01, who the voters passed over in favor of Barry Bonds' ’01, which was even better. Here are the other occasions to this point in the rankings where the voters failed to reward one of the 20 best seasons in history: