By Jon Weisman
With the MLB playoffs comes the national spotlight for the Dodgers. With the national spotlight comes the attempts to tell the story of the Dodgers by those who only have a passing acquaintance to them, to those who only have a passing acquaintance with them.
So for the benefit of baseball’s fans and media galaxy-wide, here are three storylines that are sure to be shared about the 2014 Dodgers — and the reasons why they are largely bogus.
KLAC AM 570 has signed a multiyear agreement with the Dodgers to renew their radio broadcast rights for the team’s regular season games, select Spring training games and potential postseason games.
The deal, subject to MLB approval, includes an equity position in the station for Dodgers owners as well as the opportunity to collaborate on programming.
KLAC will also continue to provide pregame and postgame shows to the entire Dodger Radio Network, which includes 22 stations across the state and country.
— Jon Weisman
It didn’t take a glove or a bat to secure George “Shotgun” Shuba’s place in baseball history, rather a handshake. The Ohio native, who today passed away at age 89, didn’t think anything of extending his hand and offering congratulations near home plate when his Montreal Royals teammate hit a home run on Opening Day 1946 at Roosevelt City in Jersey City.
But the teammate was Jackie Robinson, the African-American infielder who that afternoon was breaking the sport’s color barrier. Photographers captured a smiling Robinson shaking hands with Shuba after Robinson’s three-run home run in the third inning against Jersey City pitcher Warren Sandell. Only seconds before the handshake, the Montreal third-base coach conveniently turned his back and walked away from the base. Shuba didn’t give his actions a second thought.
“Our teammate hit a home run, so I shook his hand,” he said. “It didn’t make any difference to me that Jackie was black. He was a great player, and I was glad to have him on the team.”
NLDS Game 1 is sold out. Extremely limited tickets are available for Game 2.
Fox Sports 1 will televise Game 1; MLB Network will televise Game 2. Both games will be aired on ESPN Radio and KLAC AM 570.
On 570, Vin Scully will be on the air for the first three innings and last three innings of every Dodger playoff game, including road games. Charley Steiner and Rick Monday will handle the middle innings.
Jaime Jarrin, Fernando Valenzuela and Pepe Yniguez will deliver the Spanish-language radio broadcasts on KTNQ AM 1020.
Times for the remaining NLDS game(s) will be announced later this week.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
It’s inevitable that at some point before this week’s playoff rematch against St. Louis begins, Clayton Kershaw will be characterized as a postseason failure who comes up small in big games.
The reasons for this will be 1) one victory in nine postseason appearances, 2) his pedestrian 4.23 career postseason ERA and 3) his disastrous outing against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2014 National League Championship Series.
It’s one of the dwindling dividing lines between Kershaw and Sandy Koufax, even though Koufax himself didn’t win his first World Series game until he was almost 28.
So here’s a little quick perspective:
Kershaw’s first five postseason appearances (three in relief) were a mixed bag, but all of those came before his 22nd birthday. In his first postseason start — and first postseason showdown with the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright — he held St. Louis to two runs over 6 2/3 innings in 2009 NLDS Game 2, the game the Dodgers eventually won, after Matt Holliday’s ninth-inning error, on Mark Loretta’s walkoff single.
Subsequently, the 21-year-old lefty shut out Philadelphia over four innings in Game 1 of the 2009 NLCS before a meltdown in the fifth that led to five runs on three hits, three walks and three wild pitches.
Move forward to 2013: Kershaw is about a month away from winning his second Cy Young Award as he heads into the playoffs.
- In Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS against the Braves, Kershaw allows one run on six baserunners while striking out 12 in seven innings.
- Coming back on three days’ rest in Game 4, Kershaw gives up no earned runs on four baserunners in six innings while striking out six. Two errors by Adrian Gonzalez deprive Kershaw of the lead and the chance at the victory.
- Then in Game 2 of the 2013 NLCS, Kershaw again allows nary an earned run on three baserunners while striking out five.
- Starting 2013 NLCS Game 6, Kershaw shuts out the Cardinals for the first two innings.
To this point, in his first postseason opportunity since entering his prime, Kershaw had thrown 19 innings and allowed one earned run (0.47 ERA) and 13 baserunners while striking out 23. His career postseason ERA, even including the foibles of his youthiest youth, was 2.73.
He had only one win to show for it, thanks to how little offensive or defensive support he was given in those games. But in the three biggest games of his 2013 season, Kershaw stood tall in each one.
Over the next three innings of Game 6, Kershaw allowed seven runs, in the kind of meltdown we have only seen once in 27 starts since (against Arizona in May). Kershaw has been the first to take on all of the blame for this. No past event has loomed larger for the 26-year-old lefty this season, and certainly this week, than the Game 6 catastrophe.
More than ever before, the 2014 playoffs will shape the perception of what caliber of postseason pitcher Kershaw is. It has become customary to expect something close to perfection out of Kershaw, especially since he expects the same from himself. But the absence of perfection does not mean failure.
Now let’s get ready for @Dodgers Playoff Baseball!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 28, 2014
With home runs by Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Roger Bernadina, the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers ended their regular season with their 94th victory, defeating the Rockies, 10-5.
The last year the Dodgers won 94 games: 1988.
– Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
Well, the opponent sure looks familiar, but things aren’t quite the same.
Starting Friday, the Dodgers will have a second consecutive postseason showdown against the St. Louis Cardinals. Here’s a quick first look at how the Cardinals shape up against the Dodgers heading into the 2014 National League Division Series:
Statistics through Saturday:
- Yadier Molina, C: Molina was sidelined from July 10 through August 29, but still managed to deliver a .333 on-base percentage in 445 plate appearances, a slight decline from his .359 OBP in 2013. His power took a steeper drop, from a .477 slugging percentage last year to .386 in 2014.
- Matt Adams, 1B: This is really Adams’ first full-time season, and he had a .321 on-base percentage while slugging .455 in 525 plate appearances. But he had a serious platoon split: .851 OPS vs. righties, .528 OPS vs. lefties. Allen Craig, Adams’ main alternative, was sent to Boston in the John Lackey trade.
- Kolten Wong, 2B: Wong, who turns 24 on October 10, managed a .294 OBP in 430 plate appearances. Former Dodger Mark Ellis was the primary backup, but the 37-year-old struggled to a .253 OBP and .213 slugging in 202 plate appearances.
- Jhonny Peralta, SS: Imported from Detroit, Peralta had a .336 OBP and .443 slugging with 21 home runs and 38 doubles. He was adequate against righties (.751 OPS) and strong against lefties (.879 OPS).
- Matt Carpenter, 3B: Truly a thorn in the Dodgers’ side since 2013. Remember that endless 11-pitch at-bat in Game 6 of the NLCS that precipitated Clayton Kershaw’s downfall? It was no fluke — Carpenter led the NL this year in pitches per plate appearance (4.37), as well as walks (95). Moving from second base to third base for St. Louis this year, Carpenter’s power went down (from an MLB-leading 55 doubles in 2013 to 33 this year), but he remains a tough out.
- Matt Holliday, LF: A veteran of the Dodger-Cardinal playoff battles, Holliday had a .370 OBP while leading St. Louis in OPS (.811). In the second half of the season, his OPS was .882.
- John Jay, CF: Like Carpenter and Holliday, Jay boasts a .370-plus OBP, boosted not insignificantly by an NL-high 20 hit-by-pitches. Also grabbing playing time in center is defensive standout Peter Bourjos, who only had a .297 on-base percentage but hit a game-tying, two-run home run off Clayton Kershaw on July 20.
- Randal Grichuk, RF: Right field has been a bit of a grab bag for St. Louis since the Craig trade, though Craig himself was hardly lighting it up. Jay sometimes moves over to right when Bourjos is in center. Grichuk, 23, is OBP-challenged but has shown some power with 10 extra-base hits in 106 at bats. He appears to have supplanted 22-year-old Oscar Taveras, who with a .598 OPS hasn’t been much of an answer.
- Daniel Descalso, UT: What appears to be a fairly meek Cardinals bench is led by Descalso, who has a .333 OBP while slugging .310. He reached base 16 times as a pinch-hitter, but that was in 54 plate appearances (.302 OBP).
Summary: St. Louis does get on base at a decent rate (.321 OBP, fourth in the NL), but the Cardinals are 10th in the league in slugging percentage and 15th in home runs. Carpenter, Holliday and Peralta lead an offense that doesn’t appear that strong top to bottom, but its peskiness remains a threat.
By Jon Weisman
Deciding the Dodgers’ first playoff opponent came down to the final day, but not the final game.
Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto shut down Pittsburgh on one run in eight innings today, but it was his unlikely RBI single in the bottom of the eighth that broke a 1-1 tie and put the Reds ahead to stay in 4-1 victory over the Pirates, handing the National League Central title to the St. Louis Cardinals and setting up a playoff rematch for them with the Dodgers.
Here’s the schedule for the best-of-five NLDS:
- Friday: Game 1 at Dodger Stadium
- Saturday: Game 2 at Dodger Stadium
- October 6: Game 3 at St. Louis
- October 7: Game 4 at St. Louis (if necessary)
- October 9: Game 5 at Dodger Stadium
For more photos from Saturday, visit LA Photog Blog.
By Jon Weisman
Bullet points seem like a nice way to go for Game 162.
- Don Mattingly said everyone is optimistic that Dee Gordon, who left Saturday’s game with a sore hip and had an MRI, would be ready Friday for Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
- Hanley Ramirez had no ill effects today after fouling a ball off his knee Saturday.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu had a successful bullpen session today. Assuming no setbacks Monday, he would be set for a midweek simulated game and on track to start Game 3 of the NLDS on October 6.
- Mattingly was a bit coy about what manager-for-the-day Juan Uribe would actually do today, but one thing he was clear about was that nothing would be done to embarrass any players or umpires. Any arguments, for example, Mattingly will handle. But while Uribe will be given guidelines about who to play and for how long, it does appear strategic decisions will be left in Uribe’s hands. Uribe himself will not play.
- Similarly, pitching coach du jour Clayton Kershaw will have a schedule of who is supposed to get work behind Zack Greinke, but he presumably will be the one going to the mound to make any moves or talk shop.
- Kershaw himself threw about 30-odd pitches in a simulated game to keep himself fresh.
- Mattingly joked that he was going to check to see if he and Uribe would be switching salaries for the day.
- Going into play today, Gordon led the MLB stolen-base race by eight and in triples by two. Adrian Gonzalez led Mike Trout in the drive for the big-league RBI crown by two. Stephen Strasburg and Johnny Cueto did end up passing Kershaw on the NL strikeout list.
By Jon Weisman
Scott Van Slyke had four stolen bases in his Major League career before he added two more on Saturday – both of which were mere prelude to his game-winning dash home on a wild pitch to give the Dodgers a 6-5 victory over Colorado in 12 innings.
So while the baserunning bonanza wasn’t typical of Van Slyke’s contributions to the Dodgers, the sneakiness behind it was. Almost completely under the radar, Van Slyke has put together the top offensive season by a reserve in Los Angeles Dodger history.
Since 1958, among Dodgers with between 200 and 400 plate appearances, Van Slyke has the highest adjusted OPS (158 OPS+) of anyone except Manny Ramirez, Hanley Ramirez and Gary Sheffield, all of whom were starters whose playing time was limited for various reasons. (With a 153 OPS+, Justin Turner is right behind Van Slyke.)